One of the most common questions from people is how much pellet heaters cost to run and will it help reduce their winter heating bill. To properly answer this you need to look at what pellets cost where you live, the kind of pellet heater you have and how often you run your heater. Generally speaking, most people burn about 60 bags of pellets a year in Tasmania, so if each bag was $9 you’d spend about $500 to $600 a year. However, how many bags you go through a year depends on how long your winters are, how warm you like to be and how much pellets cost where you live.
Paper Napkin Calculations
Pellet heaters burn about 600 grams per hour when running on eco mode. Eco mode is used when the room you are heating has reached the desired temperature and the pellet heater switches to low heat output to maintain the room’s temperature. 80% of the time a pellet heater will be running on low heat. Most pellet heaters would only run on high or maximum heat output for an hour or so to heat up the room. This makes it easy to get a rough idea of how much it will cost you to run a pellet heater. All you need to do is work out how many hours a day and how many days a year your heater runs.
If you run a heater for 8 hours a day, 8 hours at 600 grams an hour is about 4.8 kilograms a day in pellets. Based on this a 15kg bag of pellets would last 2 to 3 days and a bag of pellets costs about $9.50 to $13.00 in Tasmania or $14.00 to $17.00 in Victoria and NSW. So, every 2 days, if heating for 8 hours a day, you would use one bag. If heating for 90 days, 8 hours a day would be 45 bags which is about $450 to $600 depending on the pellets you burn. This is an estimate but you can see wood pellet prices play a big role in running costs.
Heating Duration in Winter
How long and how cold are your winters and how many hours a day will you run your pellet heater? Most parts of Australia have mild winters (I do love the cold but 3 months of -10 degree weather wouldn’t be much fun), so you’ll use your pellet heater less because you won’t need to run it as long or as hot. This obviously means you won’t spend as much compared to someone in Tasmania who may have 6 months of cold weather every year. Where you live and how long your winters are will help give you an idea of what it’s going to cost to run your pellet heater every year.
Even if you do live in a cold place and run your heater often, pellet heaters have many features that help you save money, like being able to set the temperature and switch them on and off when needed. Many people run wood heaters 24/7 because if they go out the house gets cold and it can take hours for the wood heater to warm the house back up again. You don’t have run a pellet heater while you sleep or while you aren’t home. Using the timer to control when your pellet heater heats will help you save immensely on your heating bill as you can switch it on and off as needed, reducing how many pellets you burn.
Obviously if live somewhere that snows you might be running your pellet heater more than 8 hours a day. Also, if you live somewhere that has very long winters, then you might be needing the pellet heater for 6 months or more per year. All of this will naturally affect what it costs you to run a pellet heater but regardless knowing they burn 600 grams an hour you can easily calculate what it’ll cost as long as you know what price your pellets are per 15kg bag.
Pellet price has a huge impact on how much it costs to run your heater. Tasmanian pellet prices vary from $9.50 to $13.00 a bag, a difference of about 30%. That could mean spending anywhere from $570 to $780 a year depending on the pellet brand, a difference of about $210. That’s a considerable amount of money that could be put towards having your pellet heater serviced or even buying more pellets. However, not all pellets are equal (there’s more to it than just hardwood vs softwood pellets) and some brands burn cleaner than others. Also, Tasmanian pellets are generally much cheaper than wood pellets in Australia, so find out prices in your area if you are outside of Tasmania.
Even if you have limited choice when it comes to prices where you live, remember that pellet heaters allow you to control heat output and frequency. This helps you reduce pellet consumption and save money. There are many people who prefer to burn expensive pellets due to how clean they burn and to offset this they don’t run their heater as often, switching it off when they aren’t home and back on when needed. Obviously pellet price plays a big role in determining how much you’ll spend every year but don’t forget a pellet heater is not a wood heater, you don’t need to run it 24/7 and only using it when needed helps you save pellets and money.
A pellet heater can heat most houses but insulation is important. A well-insulated house requires less heat to keep it warm and you’ll spend less on pellets because the heat isn’t escaping from your house as quickly. An older, draughty house with next to no insulation will require more heat to offset the heat escaping and you’ll burn more pellets and spend more money doing so. Regardless of the type of heating you use it is important to do everything you can to make sure your house is insulated as best as possible because in the long run you will be more comfortable, and you’ll save money as your annual heating bill will be lower.
If you are yet to install a pellet heater I strongly recommend you check out your roof insulation. Roof insulation is cheap and very easy to install, if you can do it yourself. I’d actually say that even if you don’t end up buying a pellet heater, at least take a look and put some new roof insulation in if needed. I wouldn’t worry about double glazing if you don’t have it, as this is very expensive and offers very poor return on investment in terms of heat saved. If your house is high set and off the ground, it may also be worth putting in some underfloor insulation. This will save you money and pays for itself very quickly.
European vs Chinese Heater Efficiency
Finally, and the least important thing to consider but worth keeping in mind is that despite all the marketing and information you may see, there’s really no difference between European and Chinese pellet heaters heaters when it comes to running costs. European brands, like Piazzetta pellet heaters or Palazzetti, have some great unique designs and patented technology. Many of these features are meant to improve efficiency and do a lot of other amazing things. The reality is all pellet heaters are about the same efficiency, which is around 90%. European heaters usually cost twice as much as Chinese models and you won’t see any significant savings in running costs.
I’ve got some posts about Chinese pellet heaters and how good they are versus the myth of expensive pellet heaters being better that I strongly recommend you read. I have nothing against luxury European pellet heaters but people need to understand there’s more to a pellet heater than brand. Support offered by the retailer is just as important. Plus, you could literally buy several years of pellets by using the money saved buying Chinese heater instead of European model due to the huge difference in price. In Tasmania, both Bass Pellet Heaters and Pellet Fires Tasmania sell Chinese heaters at about half the price of European models, a saving of around $2,000 to $5,000.
Pellet Heater Running Costs Summary
Hopefully by now you have a good idea or can work out what how much does a pellet heater cost to run. Having so much control over when and how you heat along with providing real heat is why I think pellet heaters are the best alternative to wood heaters. Make sure you read the post on how to save money with a pellet heater to see how easy it is to reduce your winter heating bill by using your pellet heater the right way. Also, read the pellet heater vs wood heater vs heat pump post if you’d like to compare the cost of running a pellet heater with other types of popular heating.