Pellets On Demand, a system to keep homes supplied with wood pellets, launched in Hay River last month after three years of trials, modifications, and regulatory hurdles.
As the name of Chenard’s company suggests, his business allows residents to purchase a custom-made container that provides wood pellets on demand inside a house.
“By the simple push of a switch, you’ll have the wood pellets transferred from outside to inside your unit,” wrote Robert Chenard, the company’s president, in a letter published to Facebook on December 9.
Chenard just finished installing his second system in Hay River. “They’ve surpassed my expectations,” he told Cabin Radio on Tuesday.
Once the system is installed, Pellets On Demand delivers directly into a one or two-tonne waterproof container, eliminating the use of plastic bags and providing year-round access.
A photo of the first Pellets On Demand system installed in a Hay River house. Photo: Pellets On Demand
Chenard is carefully watching how rollout of the system in Hay River goes.
“If there are any improvements, we can make them as we go,” he said. A patent for the project is pending in Canada, allowing Chenard to tweak the design, and a patent application has been filed in the United States.
Chenard said while he’s relieved phase one of the project is complete – creation and certification of the units – there remains a lot of work to do.
“We have to get the product out there,” he said, saying he must focus on promotion next.
“We have to understand that customers see this as a very new product … people want to see it in action.”
The hopper will be on display at Hay River’s Home Hardware store soon, so residents can see it in person, said Chenard. “Now we need to invest in silos,” he added, to provide more efficient pellet delivery.
If all goes well, he hopes to expand the business beyond Hay River. At the moment, systems can be installed in neighbouring communities but there’s no capacity to begin supplying pellets to those places – meaning pellet bags would still be needed.
A step back to a step forward
Chenard got the idea for the product when he moved to Hay River from Vancouver and questioned the pallets of pellets he saw in people’s yards.
“I learned about carrying bags inside,” he said. “It seemed like a step back because you have to carry your fuel inside. I decided to work on a solution.”
The product is made using a manufacturing process called fibreglass injection, which Chenard says is cleaner and quicker than traditional fibreglass.
He says he’s the first to introduce the process to the NWT, allowing him to make a hopper in one day.
He partnered with a local 3D printing company to fabricate other parts of the system. At the moment, the product is available for around $3,000 including installation.