Pellet Stove Buying Guide

Pellet Stove Buying Guide
Interested in alternative heating? Consider a pellet stove. They are easy to install, efficient, cheap to run, and can provide great home heating. Aside from heat pumps, oil or gas furnaces, and wood-burning stoves, what other alternatives exist to help you stave off the cold? If you live in a large city, heating isn’t an issue, but what if you live in a remote location and don’t have access to natural gas? According to the US Census Bureau, about 48% of American homes use natural gas to provide heating. Add to that the growing calls for restrictions on the use of natural gas - Berkeley, California became the first city to ban its use - and you can see why alternative sources of heat are becoming increasingly popular. Also, finding different ways to heat your home is essential if you want to keep costs down. So, what are your options? A pellet stove is easy to install, efficient, cheap to run, and can provide you with all the heat you need.

What is a Pellet Stove?

Don’t confuse a pellet stove with a wood-burning stove. To the untrained eye, they look very similar, but they are a world apart. A pellet stove is a small unit that can either be mounted free-standing or inserted into an aperture or gap.

Pellet Stove Components

Pellet Stove Components
  • Convection Fan - This circulates heat into the heat exchanger, which is then fed back into the room. This form of heat generation is one of the significant differences between a wood-burning stove and a pellet stove. It means that a pellet stove won’t get hot on the exterior, making them safer to install when you have young children.
  • Heat-Exchange Tubes - This is how the heated air gets dispersed back into the room.
  • Hopper - Stores pellets to feed the stove. Most hoppers can hold between 35 - 130 lbs of pellets. The larger the hopper, the longer the stove will burn unattended. Most will burn continuously for between one and two days, depending on the hopper size and the burn rate of the stove.
  • Burn Pot - This holds the pellets for combustion.
  • Auger - Feeds the pellets from the hopper to the combustion chamber.
  • Ash Pan - This is where the residue of the pellets get collected. It acts similarly to the ashpan of a wood-burning stove, except with a pellet variety, you only need to empty the ash pan once a week or so.
  • Grille - Pulls air into the stove via the convection fan.
  • Intake Vent - Pulls air into the burn pot to increase the combustion.
  • Exhaust Vent - Unlike a wood-burning stove, which requires a flue or chimney to draw smoke away, a pellet stove only needs an exhaust vent. It means that they are perfect for smaller spaces and are cheaper to install as they require no major modifications to the walls of your home. It also means that if you live in a mobile home, a pellet stove could be the ideal heat source.

What is in a Pellet?

Pellets are small pill-shaped bits of wood waste, consisting mostly of sawdust. Pellets have a moisture content of around 10%, half that of seasoned wood, so they are efficient when they burn, generating almost zero smoke, hence the need for an exhaust instead of a chimney. The ingredients may vary depending on where you live. Some pellets are made of cornstalks, switchgrass, and even corn kernels. Unlike wood, which can be stored outside undercover, pellets must not be exposed to any forms of moisture, so storing them in the dry is essential. Your garage or basement would be the best place.

Is A Pellet Stove Efficient?

Pellet Stove Efficiency With pellets, around 60-80% of the fuel gets converted to heat your home. Environment Protection Agency certified pellet stoves operate between 70% to 83% efficiency and are considered to be the cleanest solid fuel domestic heating appliances. When you consider that seasoned wood converts roughly 30-50% into heat, you can see that you get a higher heat output from the pellets. This is due to the moisture difference, with the pellets burning hotter compared to the wood. Measuring the efficiency of a wood-burning stove is difficult, because of the variance in the heat output of wood. That is not a problem for a pellet stove. Since they can maintain a controlled burn, a pellet stove can operate much more efficiently over a longer period of time.

Fitting a Pellet Stove in a Mobile Home

Pellet stoves require no chimney, they don’t get hot, and they are 30% more efficient than a wood-burning stove. The other advantage for mobile home dwellers is that whatever material your walls are, fitting a pellet stove is easier, causes less damage, and costs less to install. Also, because the exterior remains cool to the touch, you only need a three-inch gap on the sides and a one-inch gap at the rear. It means that the stove isn’t going to take up much room in your mobile home, unlike a wood burner that needs a much larger area of ventilation.

Sizing Your Pellet Stove

How large a pellet stove do you need to stay warm? Well, it depends. Home layout plays a large role. So does the amount of doors and windows you have, the direction your home faces, insulation, etc. However, we can give you a rough estimate. This chart is a good rule of thumb: Heat BTU Rating to Average Coverage Area Chart

The Cost of a Pellet Stove

According to the EPA, most pellet stoves cost between $1,700 - $3,000. Compared to a cheap wood-burning stove, this may seem expensive. However, don't forget to factor in operating expenses. For example, most families use between 2 - 3 tons of pellets a year. A ton can vary in price from $180 - $250. That equates to around $750 per year for most folks. When comparing this to the price of other fuel sources, a pellet stove can be one of the most cost-efficient ways to heat your home. Plus, installation costs are less than a wood stove (or furnace) because there is less work involved and no expensive chimneys to fit.

Will Your Pellet Stove Require Electricity?

A pellet stove unit does require electricity to operate. On average, a pellet stove will need $10 - $20 per month depending on how frequently you use it. If you are thinking of getting a pellet stove as an off-grid option, you may have to think again, because unless you have access to a constant supply of electricity, it will not work. On the other hand, it doesn't take a lot of renewable energy from solar or wind to keep a pellet stove going.

Government Incentives for a Pellet Stove

There are federal tax incentives available for the purchase of biomass boilers and wood-burning stoves, including pellet stoves. The IRS limits the claims to 10% of the purchase cost up to a maximum of $300. Which is an attractive option for reducing upfront costs. There might also be local municipal or utility incentives, so check your local rebates.

Does a Pellet Stove Require a Lot of Maintenance?

Like any sophisticated appliance, a pellet stove requires regular, routine maintenance. There are daily, weekly, yearly, and ongoing requirements.

Daily Maintenance

  • Check Hopper - As we said before, most hoppers have a capacity of between 35 lbs and 130 lbs of pellets. Check the hopper regularly to ensure the pellet stove operates smoothly.
  • Burn Pot - The burn pot should be checked to make sure there is no build-up of carbon or waste material.

Weekly Maintenance

  • Ash Pan - Typically, your pellet stove ash pan needs to be emptied once a week. This does depend on how often you use the stove.

Yearly Maintenance

  • Professional Cleaning - Get your pellet stove checked yearly as part of a professional cleaning to make sure it is operating safely. Pellet stoves produce carbon monoxide, so any leaks could be dangerous.

Ongoing Maintenance

  • Cleaning Glass - Keeping the glass clean ensures that there is maximum heat output, and Pellet Stove Maintenanceit leaves you with a cozy glow in the stove.
  • Clean the Ash Trap - Making sure the ash trap is fully functional reduces the risk of malfunction, and it ensures the ash is trapped safely to avoid harm.
  • Clean the Heat Exchanger - Keeping the heat exchanger clear of dust and debris ensures that the stove operates at full efficiency.

Is a Pellet Stove Safe?

Pellet stoves have a variety of safety features that wood-burning models don’t have. Because a pellet stove is essentially an electrical device, it also benefits from advanced measures to protect you from harm.
  • Automatic Shutdown - The pellet stove will shut itself off if the pellet hopper runs dry. Typically, a pellet stove also has sensors that monitor the temperature and burn rate for unusual conditions and act accordingly.
  • Pressure Switch - This switch monitors the pressure and knows when the front or ash door is open. It also detects if there is a problem with the venting system.
  • Exhaust Sensor - It shuts the pellet stove down if it detects unusually high temperatures.

Final Thoughts on Pellet Stoves

With a pellet stove, you get the best of both worlds. You get the overall look and feel of a wood-burning stove with that lovely warming glow from the fire. You also get superior efficiency, cheaper running costs, and a more advanced package. Compared to a wood burner, a pellet stove is cleaner, healthier, better for the environment, and above all, safer.

Check out our selection of pellet stoves

Pellet Stove Top Sellers

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Pastor Jeff
Us stove are some of the worse on the market .I have a Bayfront and had nothing but problems. I did not purchase it here.I got a better made one and am looking here for split units.
I bought a pellet stove, and am on my second winter with it. I love it! I had an auger motor fail within weeks of installing the stove and after talking to Customer Service at the manufacturer, they immediately shipped me a replacement under warranty. A company is only as good as thier treatment of customers after the sale. That were very apologetic about the failure and were happy to help. I recommend to anyone considering a smaller, compact stove to heat 1500±_ sq/ft.
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