ST. FRANCOIS XAVIER — Every night before he goes to bed, Philip Fleury opens the hopper to his stove and dumps in about 18 kilograms of switchgrass pellets.
Sweet dreams! Not only is he secure that his home will be heated for the next 24 hours, but he claims to save 20 to 30 per cent on heating costs. His heat bill was less than $4 per day in December, on an 1,800-square-foot house.
It’s called biomass heating. Fleury and his father, Ed, through their company ELF Industries Ltd., manufacture pellet stoves on their farm 35 kilometres west of Winnipeg, on the Elie exchange.
They started out making the pellet fuel, then tried to develop a prototype stove that could withstand Manitoba winters using pellet fuels made from materials like switchgrass, wood, and flax shives.
It took five years, including obtaining safety certification in Canada. The Fleurys did their first production run of 25 stoves last year, and are sold out, most selling to families within a 40-kilometre radius, in addition to a sale to a cottager in Buffalo Point. Another production run begins in a few weeks.
“The interest in pellet fuel stoves is really growing. It’s pretty much doubling every year,” Fleury said.
He doesn’t foresee pellet stoves going over big in the city, yet, but many rural people have them.
“Pellet stoves are a lot more popular in rural areas because natural gas is not always available,” he said.
“The main function of the stoves is as a supplemental heat for a home, or primary heat for a shop, garage or cottage.”
Except when it comes to the Fleury family. Besides Philip, his mom and dad also heat their home with a pellet stove. Brother Denis has a pellet furnace in his basement, replacing his traditional furnace, made by Harman Stove Co., for whom the family was once a dealer. Brother, Rene, installs pellet stoves.
Unlike the traditional stoves, the Fleury stove doesn’t overheat a house. It’s regulated by a thermostat, and turns itself on and off like a regular furnace. “It determines the size of the fire it needs, and the speed of the fan to maintain that temperature,” Fleury said.
The stove blows 7,200 BTUs (British thermal units) and can heat a 2,500-square-foot home, Fleury said.
His parents keep their house heated at a toasty 24 C, and don’t feel a bit guilty about it when it costs just $4 a day. The stoves also run on a 12-volt battery. “If the power goes out, we still have heat,” said Ed. He empties the ash can once a week.
The stoves go for $3,800, before tax.