Wood Pellet Stoves

By Mark J. Donovan

July 23, 2018 4 min read

A wood pellet stove is an alternative heat system to the direct vent gas stove or traditional wood stove. Wood pellet stoves look very similar to both direct vent gas stoves and wood stoves; however, they burn different fuel and in general are more complicated. While they were invented in the 1980s, their popularity has somewhat waned in recent years and they are not allowed to be used in manufactured homes.

A wood pellet stove burns saw dust or wood shavings that have been compressed into small pellets of wood, which are automatically fed through an electrically controlled auger system. Because of the fact that they require 110 volts to operate, a these stoves are not necessarily the supplemental heat system of choice if you are concerned about a loss of electricity and your main home heating system.

The heat output capacity is measured in British thermal units, as all other heat delivery systems are. These particular stoves are available in a wide variety of BTU output levels, varying from 10,000 to 80,000 BTUs. Prices typically range from $1,500 to $2,000, and they are available in top-fed and bottom-fed models, each with their own unique pros and cons. There are also two main styles of pellet stoves: free standing ones and fireplace insert ones. They are also available with a variety of options, including remote thermostat control.

Compared to traditional wood stoves, wood pellet stoves are extremely efficient and produce little smoke and ash. Therefore, they do not require as big a chimney to expel the smoke and ash. In addition, they produce relatively little ash that needs to be cleaned out of the ash pan. That being said, they should be cleaned fairly often to make sure the mechanical parts do not get jammed.

Because of the number of moving parts and the complexity of these stoves, they are prone to frequent maintenance issues and regular care. When buying one, it's often wise to sign up for a regular maintenance schedule.

They tend to be a bit messy, at least around the hearth area. Similar to dried dog or cat food lying around a pet's dish, pellets end up spilling and lying around wood pellet stoves.

From a cost of operation standpoint, a wood pellet stove's true energy cost saving is debatable. If you were to plan to heat your entire home with this, you could possibly need several tons of wood pellets for the year. Besides the actual cost of the wood pellets, you also need to factor in the cost of delivery. Then there are also maintenance costs that need to be taken into account. In the end, the only way to assess whether a wood pellet stove will truly provide more cost effective heating within your home is to compare your current actual oil, gas or electric heating costs with the expected costs of a pellet stove.

In addition, you need to factor in the storage of the wood pellets, particularly when you are buying them by the ton.

So before running out and buying a wood pellet stove, it is best to first do your math homework and carefully consider all the other nonfinancial aspects of owing one prior to taking the plunge.

Mark J. Donovan's website is at http://www.homeadditionplus.com.

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