No more wood pellet bags

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Robert Chenard, a Hay River contractor and now inventor, demonstrates a system he has created to conveniently bring wood pellets into a home.

A Hay River contractor has invented a system that will make it more convenient for homeowners to use wood pellets to heat their houses.

Most importantly, Robert Chenard said it will eliminate having to carry 40-pound bags of wood pellets and having to go outside for the pellets.

The new system – on which Chenard has a patent pending – consists of three components.

There’s a bulk container for one or two tons of wood pellets, a smaller container mounted to the side of a house, and access to the smaller exterior container from inside a house by sliding open a small access door and letting the pellets fill a bucket.

Chenard said he has been working on the system since Christmas.

“It took me a good two months to work on it with trials and errors, and try again and try again and try again,” he said. “And I finally got it going.”

One of the unique features is that pellets are moved around parts of the storage system by negative pressure, otherwise known as a vacuum, which eliminates the use of augers and prevents damage to the wood pellets.

“At the push of a button basically you transfer the pellets from the silo to the wall unit, and it contains about 10 bags, which is good for at least a week depending on the use, obviously,” Chenard said.

The pellets flow out of the access door inside a home courtesy of gravity.

A new company to sell and install the systems will be called Pellets On Demand Ltd.

Chenard, who is also the owner/operator of RC Renovations, has lived in Hay River for about seven years.

“When I came here, I was surprised to see during the winter they had big skids of pellets in front of the house or beside the garage or in the carport, and I was thinking, ‘What is that all about?'” he said. “And then I saw people carrying the bags inside the house in the winter at minus 40, minus 30, windy, snowy, rainy, whatever situation.”

Chenard said he will be ready to start selling and installing the systems this summer, beginning in Hay River and hopefully expanding to other communities.

The inventor is not aware of a similar system anywhere else.

“There are different systems that they tried around the world,” he noted. “I’ve been doing a lot of research regarding that. They’ve tried different things. Using gravity with the silo mounted like 10 feet in the air and just flowing the pellets inside the house. Nothing that you could say that is working and convenient for the customer.”
Chenard said his system is very different and very unique. “And extremely simple.”

In conjunction with building and installing the systems, he also plans to start a service to deliver wood pellets to homes using the vacuum system he has developed.

The delivery would be like a fuel truck, he explained. “We just fill up the system the same as fuel.”

Tom Gross, the regional energy project co-ordinator for the South Slave with Arctic Energy Alliance, has taken a look at the new system and is impressed.

“It’s simple, but at the same time it’s really going to help the biomass industry in the North and probably all over the world,” he said.

Like Chenard, Gross noted people currently buy pallets of bagged wood chips, and the new system would eliminate having to carry around the bags, which would be very beneficial for people who just can’t do it or who have difficulty finding a place to store the pellets.

“It would probably convince some people that don’t like the whole idea of the bags and the handling of them to maybe look at the option of putting in a wood pellet stove,” he said.

Gross also noted the system would eliminate the waste of plastic bags.