Hate carrying 20-kg wood pellet bags in the winter? A Hay River, N.W.T., inventor has a solution

A Hay River, N.W.T., inventor and contractor has built a system to automatically bring wood pellets from an outdoor storage container into the home.

Robert Chenard invented a system called Pellets on Demand which uses airtight containers to deliver pellets

Many homes in Northern Canada are heated by wood pellet stoves, but the pellets often come in 20-kilogram sacks that are inconvenient to carry in the winter. (The Associated Press/Pat Wellenbach)

The weekly trip from the garage to the basement, carrying 20-kilogram sacks of wood pellets for the heater in –40 C temperatures is a fact of life for many living in Canada's North.

But a Hay River, N.W.T., inventor and contractor believes he's solved that.

Robert Chenard is marketing what he believes is an original system called Pellets on Demand that transfers wood pellets directly from an outdoor storage container into the home.

"Would you like to carry a bucket of oil to your furnace?" Chenard asked. 

"That's exactly what we do with the bags of pellets. It's very, very inconvenient. There are people who get injured, they fall on the stairs, the bags are heavy."

The system includes an outdoor hopper holding about a week's worth of pellets that can be customized to match the exterior of the home, Chenard explained.

The Pellets on Demand system uses an outdoor storage unit like the one shown here. (Submitted by Robert Chenard)
The airtight containers and pipes funnel the pellets inside the home where they can be accessed by opening a small door cut into the home's wall.

Chenard plans to launch a delivery service in the fall, so pellets will be delivered into the container, such as fuel or propane. 

"For years, I've been thinking about it and this year, right after Christmas, I started working on it and I got it," Chenard said. "You never have to go outside anymore to get your pellets."  

Chenard worked all winter in his garage developing the product, describing the scene as "a big lab" with pipes, containers full of pellets and machines filling his space.

Using airtight pipes, Robert Chenard developed a system for efficiently moving wood pellets inside the home. This prototype was an attempt to see how far the system could transfer pellets. (Submitted by Robert Chenard)
"I do a lot of thinking," he said. "People may think I'm doing nothing, but I'm trying to find a solution to the situation that we have. I've always been like that."  

Chenard has a patent pending on the technology and has built a few systems so far.

He's marketing a demonstration model in Hay River, but plans to expand into other communities in the Northwest Territories.

It's estimated a new system will cost about $2,900 plus installation.

With files from Lawrence Nayally

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