design & remodel, heating
The first time Brenda Flick fired up a pellet stove was on a cold winter's day in 2005. And her life hasn't been the same since. Within a year, she had quit her job, rented some retail space, and started selling them herself. "I knew it was the right time and the right product for the consumer, the country, and the environment," says Flick, in perfect true-believer fashion.

What convinced her was discovering that a pellet stove could heat her entire 3,000-square-foot ranch house for less than $120 a month. (She paid up to $200 with gas.) Skeptical at first, she set the thermostat for the furnace at 55 degrees, just in case the stove needed some extra help The machinery never kicked on; it didn't have to.

Flick—now the owner, with husband Ron, of Heavenly Hearth in Amelia, Ohio—may be an extreme example, but a lot of homeowners share her enthusiasm. Perhaps it's because of the energy savings these stoves provide, or the fact that they offer an ¬≠eco-friendly heating option. Fueled by pellets made from recycled, super-compressed sawdust, they not only conserve trees, they also burn hotter and cleaner than conventional woodstoves or fireplaces, producing minimal smoke and ash.

According to retailers, sales of pellet stoves are, dare we say it, on fire. The Washington, D.C. based Pellet Fuels Institute says around 67,000 of them were sold to U.S. homeowners in 2004; 118,000 in 2005; and about 200,000 are projected to sell this winter. "This is definitely going to be the year for them. There is no doubt in my mind," says Melvin Fallin, owner of Thomaston Hardware in Thomaston, Georgia. While he's been selling pellet stoves for about a decade, Fallin is seeing heightened demand now as customers try desperately to combat the rising costs of gas, oil, and propane.

"I got a load of them in the week before last, and I've already sold three," says Fallin. Not a big deal until you consider that we talked to him back in August, when the temperature in Georgia was a scorching 99 degrees. The story's the same up north at Berkshire Fireplace in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where owner Joe Galok says sales of pellet stoves have already increased by 25 percent over last year.

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