Pellet Stoves – The First Sparks
In October 1973 the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) proclaimed an oil embargo in response to the move of the United States to re-supply the Israeli Army as it retaliated against Egypt and Syria during the Yom Kippur War. With the price of available oil skyrocketing, the Americans’ eyes were opened to the undesirable implications of their heavy dependence on Arab oil.
One of the consequences of this rude awakening is the shift of the heating industry towards biomass stoves and fuels. Inspiration was drawn from the braziers, barrel stoves, and oil-drum fires where the homeless congregated to warm themselves during the Depression. These used scrap wood and sawdust for fuel and they did manage to provide much needed warmth.
During this period, a number of professional wood oven builders began incorporating sawdust hoppers into their ovens.
In the 1930s, scrap sawdust from the Potlatch pine mill in Lewiston, Idaho, was combined with wood shavings and green waste. This mixture was compressed under great pressure to create the Pres-to-Log, an artificial log used to fuel wood stoves. Eventually, the logs became known as Presto Logs.
Enterprising oven builders soon combined these concepts together and built the first pellet stoves. It is not known who exactly came up with the very first as it is entirely possible that the idea occurred to several inventors at the same time. What is known is that it was in the state of Washington that the first miniature wood pellet stoves emerged in the 1980s.
Probably because oil prices eased somewhat in the mid-80s, the Americans went back to their merry gas-guzzling days and pellet stoves took a back seat. In ten years, however, interest in them was revived and this time researchers and manufacturers, incorporating computer technology into their pellet stoves, were able to produce truly viable and economical heating systems.
Pellet stoves continue to increase in popularity. Not only is their performance greatly improved, but so are their external designs. They have evolved from the ugly black boxes to beautifully crafted decorative pieces enhanced with stainless steel, chrome, or gold embellishments. Some models also come in a variety of shiny and colorful finishes.