Kevin Warnock

Entrepreneurship, ideas and more

Wood pellet stove installs like a window air conditioner

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Window mount pellet stove, as seen at cabelas.com.

Window mount pellet stove, as seen at cabelas.com.

Last week when I was in Oregon, USA visiting my 100 year old grandmother Elsie Battaglia, I stayed in Eugene for two nights, once on the way to Tigard, Oregon where Battaglia lives, and once on my way back home to my house in San Francisco, California.

I stayed in Eugene for two reasons:

The first reason was that my girlfriend Teanna Keller from when I was about 23 years old was from Eugene, and I have always wondered what that city was like. I worked at Newell Color Laboratory (since closed) back then with Jennifer Viksten, who I’m still in touch with thanks to the wonders of Facebook. I also worked at Newell with Hershel Klein, Bobby Ulloa and Shawn Renee Roberts.

The second reason is I have wanted for some time now to see a Cabela’s store in person. Patrick Nolan, a fellow bus enthusiast, introduced me to the Cabela’s catalog, and I was super intrigued when he showed it to me. The Cabela’s catalog is the old school Sears Catalog of fishing, boating, hunting, shooting and camping equipment.

I knew there was a Cabela’s opening up in Eugene because on my last drive to Tigard, this summer, I saw the billboards advertising the upcoming grand opening. The store is now open and I spent some time looking around.

I was shocked at how many models of hand guns they have on display. There were dozens of hand guns in glass cases, some over USD $1,500. There was a sign by the door advising people to declare their weapons upon entry to the store. Weapons were not prohibited to be carried into the store — Cabela’s just wanted you to tell them about them up front.

The store was big and lush, but its dedication to so many hand guns ruined it for me. I don’t see why hunters need handguns. Even if they do need handguns, do they need dozens of handguns?

One product that really caught my eye I discovered on the Cabela’s website. Have a look at this  window mount wood pellet stove. It mounts in a window like an air conditioner. You plug it in to electricity and fill it with 30 pounds of wood pellets and you then can get up to 28,000 BTUs of heat out of it.

This product has the power to change lives, in my mind.

I used to go to Noisebridge, a hacking space in San Francisco somewhat similar to Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, California that I used to be a paid member of in its early days.

Hacker Dojo was too far away for me to visit regularly, and my romantic partner at the time hated me going down there to work because I spent less time with her at home. I investigated Noisebridge, and it showed promise, but the space is unheated. There is no natural gas service to the space, and the space is too large and too poorly insulated to economically heat with electricity. In the winter it’s so cold in Noisebridge you can see your breath and you have to wear a parka and gloves. This made it impossible for me to productively program, so I made other plans.

However, I still love the idea of Noisebridge, and I’m toying with the idea of joining if I can persuade the organizers to heat the space when it’s cold, which could be in the summer given the cool weather San Francisco is known for.

This pellet heater is portable and requires no chimney. That makes me believe that it may be installed just when needed, and without a building permit. I can see it might be impossible to get a permit at Noisebridge to install a fixed wood burning stove, as I rarely see wood stoves in commercial spaces.

At 28,000 BTUs, it would probably only take one or two of these stoves to fully heat the space, perhaps one at each end, where the windows are. Pellets can be delivered in truck load quantities for prices that are much lower than it would cost in electricity to produce comparable heat through resistance heating.

Noisebridge has a large freight elevator and lots of space, so taking deliveries of even tons of pellets would be practical. Their membership should increase if the space is kept warm and inviting. The increased membership fees will pay for a heater or two plus the pellets to feed them. The electricity this heater requires is to run the automated feed mechanism, a trivial amount of power. I understand their lease prohibits space heaters, but I suspect this window mount unit is not legally a ‘space heater.’ Since it’s mounted and secured in a window opening, it can’t be accidentally tipped over, and since it’s not at floor level, it’s more protected than a space heater would be.

I am hopeful Noisebridge will warm up to installing these heaters.

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