Pellet heating


We're looking to get some idea on costs for adding pellet heating to a detached house surrounded by land, it's a bit like a farm house but not so much garden/land.

Has anyone had any experience buying and could offer an idea on costs?

We're based around Santiago de Compostela if that makes a difference!



We bought a cheap burner with about 10.5kw output for about 700€ from a German company on eBay. A local builder installed it easily enough. It bangs out the heat and it has made our country house much more cosy. It can be a bit uncontrollable at times but the main problem is that ours is really noisy. Check the decibel info.

It uses 15kg of pellets in two evenings, around 12 plus hours.

We've had a couple of problems with it most of which have been silly faults - a sticking microswitch, an outlet blocked with ash - but getting someone who knows what they are doing to look at it has been really problematic. We had one bloke whose diagnosis was that the chimney had been struck by lightning even though the display was working!

Thanks! We are taking a look today - I didn't know noise was a worry until you posted this.

Not to get too deep into the politics of pellet stoves, before you invest in pellets, you may wish to read this article from Yale:

Wood Pellets: Green Energy or New Source of CO2 Emissions?

As a retired environmental lobbyist, I was constantly battling with industry lobbyists who wanted to portray pellets as carbon neutral. Combustion for heat energy releases carbon. More carbon in the atmosphere means increased pace of climate change.

I live in southern Galicia. We have one that was already installed. As ling as you are not dependent on it, it is fine, but make sure you have a dieseloil or natural gas alternative as well. If you have pets, for sure since the pellets do not last long and it is a constant filling up with pellets.
Also, consider that in rural Galicia it is almost impossible to find technicians who will service or repair it. Already for regular heating it is a problem finding them nowadays. Or one waits a week for one to come in an emergency.
Best to also have a wood shed and a fireplace as triple back up here. Wood teher is plenty here and a fireplace will always work, well.....if it is not stormy. :-)
If you have the opportunity, natural gas is the real way to go. Fenesa is  still installing the connections often for free in towns in Galicia.
Also bear in mind to use the least subsidized heating methods because those will be the least likely to skyrocket in price nowadays.

@paperdetective - thanks for this. We would be pretty dependent in winter as the gas options are only heating water right now and gas for cooking, no other installation. We tried electric heaters and additional gas burners but it did not do too much to keep it warm; we don't seem to have many good options as of the size of the place but I will look into diesel oil.

@Phil722 - I am not sure what options you'd recommend & happy to read your suggestions, I always find when telling someone what not to use that offering an alternative is usually helpful.

ps I just bought 400 l dieseloil  for a nice low price of 240 euro!
Of course it follows market prices but that means one can save money whenever the market allows. I have to note though that heating diesel gets subsidized some by teh Spanish government. Advantage is also that if oien runs out of it, one can just go to the pump and get a container with normal diesel extra in emergencies. Cost a bit more than heating diesel but works as well or even better.
Heats wonderfully provided you have teh radiators in the right place and they work properly.
Galician houses are often not well built, so you may have to ilsolate drafts here and there and lower shutters if it gets very cold and windy. Also make sure to close off the fireplace when not using it. One loses a lot of heat that way.

Lots of people don't like them, they complain about the moisture, but we've always found the portable gas heaters to be really useful for warming smaller spaces, for giving you instant heat in a small area for instance whilst the pellet burner kicks in or whilst you're cooking in the kitchen.

If you do go for gas heaters make sure you get the cylinders legitimately and keep up the checking schedule because if anything does go wrong and you haven't then expect insurance problems.

Thanks for asking. I believe that personal energy choices are deeply important for our planet and future generations. Here are the possible energy sources, noting those that have a relatively low environmental impact:

Solar: With an amortization of 4-7 years (depending on costs of electricity), and a lifespan of 20+ years, solar panels are the lowest price, lowest impact, and easiest energy solution. You could use the electricity to power resistance-heaters or better yet, heat pumps (see below). I do not believe that battery systems make sense yet, but they will soon. And of course, one must be tied into the grid or have a battery. This is what I have.

Wind: Small turbines are very cheap, easy to install, but must be placed to one's north. Furthermore, one most pay attention to local codes and neighbors. If placed between a dwelling and the sun, flicker can drive people crazy. There is also the issue of bird strikes. If you live in a migration path, turbines should not be erected without consulting the local Audubon Society or equivalent. And of course, one must be tied into the grid or have a battery.

Geothermal: (Not to be confused with ground source heat pumps.) this makes sense in geothermal hot zones, like Iceland, or in Spain, in Santiago de Compostela. There are a few other areas in Spain that have hot spots. This is a direct heating solution, and not an electrical generation system, and therefore no grid tie in is needed.

Wood: produces carbon. The ONLY thing that will save the planet from runaway climate change is trees. Burning them works against this. Wood/pellet suppliers say this is from small branches, but burning anything: branches, logs, bark, will increase atmospheric carbon. Allowing them to break down slowly will replenish the soil and not increase atmospheric CO2.

Natural gas: Worse than wood, as natural gas is ~87% methane. Natural gas drilling, fracking, transport, and delivery releases methane, which is 25-50 times more potent a global warming gas than CO2.

Home heating oil, Diesel: All fossil fuels release CO2, but this belches out dirty, particulate-laden smoke. There are 10,000 VOCs in this smoke, but only 3000 have been classified -- and almost all of them are carcinogenic. And while car/truck diesel engines have some filters (albeit poor ones), home heating systems do not.

Coal: There's no such thing as clean coal. There's no such thing as permanent and effective carbon sequestration. Coal "mining" destroys local environments. Coal dust kills.

There are other sources, eg co-generation. If you live in an area that has waste energy, you already know about this option.

How to use energy efficiently:

Heat pumps win the prize for the lowest energy use. There are two types of heat pumps: air-source and ground-source. Air-source is cheaper to buy, ground source is cheaper to run (and thus lower impact).  Both should be evaluated for your specific heating/cooling needs and local climate (air source can be problematic in cold regions).

There are lots of articles about all of these choices. I always recommend looking for one published by a major university, eg Yale, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, etc. But above all, I always urge people to make their decision based not solely on the economics of their choice, but on the greater issues confronting all of us.

Thanks!  That's really helpful.

I am interested in the geothermal option as we are nearish to Santiago de Compostela - it may be possible here but asking around nobody uses it in this town or knows what it is.

Other than that I am not sure solar or wind would be sufficient and due to the kind of power we get to the place, I am not sure we could really have a 'good' energy source as a backup. Definitely a little limited with options here and with the winters here it is necessary... it may end up being better moving to the town into a flat at this rate!

I wish that I could provide more information about geothermal, but my home base, Boston, has zero geothermal  potential. There's probably tons of info from Iceland, the world leader in geotherm. Something like 90% of all houses are heated this way. But then again, everyone there lives on top of a volcano  :-)
Let us know how it works out!

I'm pretty sure there is no geothermal option near Santiago. There are some hot springs around where we live, in nearby Murcia, but they are not exploited for anything other than spa type activities.

I did a quick search under this search:
"santiago de compostela" AND "energia geotermica"
(quotes force inclusion and group the terms in google boolean terms) and found 33,000 hits. While they could be predominently scholarly articles or erroneous hits, my guess is that some could provide action-based information.  Ourense appears to be the center of activity.

Nevertheless, this hot zone is very small.  Murcia otoh appears to be on the edge of a large geothermal zone, Vera and Aguilas are in the center. If you're in a hot zone (eg. there are hot springs nearby), getting a geothermal system could potentially amortize itself quickly, offer low maintenance costs, and have zero environmental impact.