MILFORD - High priced alternatives and shortages of fuel are plaguing hundreds of people locally who heat with wood pellet burning stoves. According to the Pellet Fuels Institute, more than 600,000 North American homes are heated by wood pellets. If your home is one of these, you are probably experiencing the same difficulties as thousands of others on the East Coast in obtaining the necessary processed pellets. Wood pellet stoves became increasingly appealing to many homeowners this winter as the price of other fuels such as gas increased. The efficient system provides a cheap and clean alternative. However, a widespread shortage of pellets has left many of these stoves cold and forced consumers to seek alternatives. Some stoves can use other fuels, but other types cannot be converted. The bags of pellets, normally selling at around $3, have more than doubled in price this year to an average of about $7. Price is not the only problem. Finding the pellets has become another dilemma. In Pike County, it is difficult to find a store that currently has the clean-burning pellets in stock. Most manufacturers in the United States and Canada cannot keep up with the large demand which has been occurring since earlier in the season. According to a Westfall Home Depot store employee, the store has multiple outstanding orders which have not been filled by the manufacturer in the past two months. Consumers inquire about the pellets’ availability nearly “every five minutes.” As to the likelihood of a new delivery, the store manager declined comment. A mile down the road, Lowe’s is also experiencing the same issue in not being able to get their orders filled. The manager at Lowe’s told the Courier that the store could easily sell out a dozen truck loads within a short amount of time. Employees there field 12-15 calls a day on average from anxious consumers. The store is allocated a certain number of shipments for the year making it very difficult to acquire more from the same manufacturer. He said increased sales in alternative heating are apparent, especially wood and propane. Neither Home Depot nor Lowe’s is taking a waiting list due to the high volume of demand. Luhrs Home Improvement, in Milford, is actually receiving shipments, an employee said. “We receive shipments quite regularly. It’s just that there is such a great demand; we are so back-logged, that’s the problem”. He added, “its all sporadic as far as how fast they come in
we have gotten as many as four shipments a week to as little as none.” Luhrs does have a waiting list which currently has approximately 275 names on it. As far as alternative methods of home heating, Luhrs has experienced increased sales of bagged coal. With very few options left for pellet stove owners, some may resort to the internet. A quick search on eBay will provide many sellers, but the majority of these vendors are charging inflated prices and many are not willing to ship.