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How to calculate wood pellet consumption

Updated February 21, 2017

Homeowners who are considering installing a wood-pellet-burning stove want to know before purchasing it how many pounds of wood pellets the stove has to burn to provide enough heat for a home. This figure determines the cost of operation and any overall cost-savings associated with the conversion. It also helps the homeowner assess the amount of effort required to keep the stove burning. There are several methods for determining the amount of wood pellets the stove consumes.

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  1. Determine the heating method currently used in the home. Comparison formulas exist for heating oil, natural gas, electricity or propane. No formula currently exists for the amount of wood pellets needed to replace a cord of fire wood.

  2. Determine the amount of energy commonly used for heating during the winter. Look at old utility bills to determine the gallons of propane or heating oil used. Natural gas is measured in cubic feet and electricity in kilowatt hours. In some instances, such as electric heat, it may be necessary to subtract the estimated normal household use from the utility bill.

  3. Multiply the average amount of energy used over the previous winters by the fuel-equivalency constants. According to the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources a ton of wood pellets is equivalent to 120 gallons of heating oil or 170 gallons of propane. Natural gas users find a ton of wood pellets is equal to about 16,000 cubic feet of natural gas, while those that heat with electricity can equate a ton of wood pellets to 4,775 kilowatt hours of electricity.

  4. Divide the estimated tons of wood pellets by 50 to determine the number of 40-pound bags of wood pellets required for the winter. You can then multiply the number of bags times the estimated cost per bag to determine the estimated heating cost per winter.

  5. Tip

    Industry trade groups estimate one 40-pound bag of wood pellets can heat a 1,500 square foot home for 24 hours. This is a rough estimate, with actual performance varying depending on the insulation quality of the home and the actual winter conditions.

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Things You'll Need

  • Past utility bills
  • Calculator

About the Author

Keith Allen

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.

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