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Thrifty Pellets

In colder climates, heating accounts for about one-third of a homeowner's annual utility bill, which is why many are seeking thriftier ways to stay toasty. Freestanding pellet stoves and inserts that fit inside an existing fireplace are an increasingly popular solution. They look like traditional woodstoves but operate more like a modern furnace. You need only fill the stove's hopper with pellets made from compacted sawdust, set its thermostat, sit back, and get cozy. A mechanical auger deposits the pellets into a burn pot, where they are incinerated at such a high temperature that they create no vent-clogging creosote and very little ash or emissions, which keeps both indoor and outdoor air cleaner. The best part is that they are about twice as efficient at warming your home as older woodstoves that have not been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are vastly more efficient than fireplaces.

Depending on your home's size and layout, a pellet stove could supplement the current heating system or be used as the sole source. And, despite its workhorse reputation, pellet stoves come in a variety of designs to complement any interior style. Read on for This Old House's expert advice on buying, installing, and firing up one of these energy-wise heaters.

Tip: Pellet stoves heat your home much like a furnace does while also providing a flame to gather around.

Lopi AGP, about $3,000;
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