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The rising cost of home heating intensifies

Pellet stoves in particular are seeing a surge in popularity. A fuel of compacted sawdust that bears a striking similarity to hamster food, the pellets are easy to store and are also fairly efficient. Since they are made from recycled materials, they are a more environmentally friendly option that allow for better heat control than straight cord wood.

"They're not as high maintenance as wood, and you can control your heat better," said Jodi Crouse, owner of Countryside Stove and Chimney in Burnt Hills. A pellet stove burns its fuel using an electric heat source, making controlling the strength of the fire a simple twist of the dial.

At Countryside, a ton of pellets sells for $280, and a family can generally get through a winter with three or four tons. They were out of stock when this story was written, however.

"They're very hard to get right now," said Crouse.

The popularity of the stoves means production has been lagging behind demand. The same is true of the stoves themselves.

"It's the stoves that are becoming the problem," said DePalma. "We do have a ready supply of them, but we're hearing from some of the manufacturers that they can't get them out until January."

Wood and pellet stoves at CR run from under $1,000 to $2,500 and beyond, depending on the design and options. Though the operation will likely be less expensive in the long run, DePaula warned that wood or pellet stoves also include added work and maintenance, as they must be loaded and cleaned often.

Rising home heating costs haven't escaped the notice of politicians vying for office in the current election cycle, just as escalating costs at the pump have become a major issue for voters. In the state's 20th Congressional District, for example, both incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand, D-Greenport, and challenger Sandy Treadwell, R-Lake Placid, have both been promoting plans to help families cope with heating bills.

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