Rising energy costs have prodded Americans and Europeans to buy not only more fuel-efficient cars but also more firewood and wood pellets, which generally are made from sawdust and wood shavings, as fuel to heat their homes. More than 800,000 homeowners in the USA alone are already using wood pellets.

Although you can use pellets (shown) to run a whole-house heating system, the fuel is more commonly used to feed fireplace inserts and freestanding stoves serving as supplemental heating appliances. Turn on an insert or stove when you’re in a room and your gas heater will become redundant and you will start saving money. Converting wood waste (and other biomass, like shelled corn and wheat hulls) into energy-dense fuel results in less waste being heaped onto landfills.

Plus, pelletized wood and more-traditional solid wood are eco-friendly alternatives to nonrenewable fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, and coal.