Today you can choose from a new generation of pellet-burning appliances, like a pellet stove, that are cleaner burning, more efficient, and powerful enough to heat many average-sized, modern homes. Pellet fuel appliances burn small pellets that measure 3/8 to 1 inch in length.
CHOOSING AND INSTALLING PELLET-BURNING APPLIANCES
When choosing a pellet-burning appliance, it’s important to select one that’s properly sized for the space to be heated. When an appliance is too big, residents tend to burn fires at a low smolder to avoid overheating, which wastes fuel and is one of the biggest causes of air pollution. An under-sized unit will not provide sufficient heat. You should discuss your heating needs with a reputable dealer. A good rule-of-thumb is that a stove rated at 60,000 British Thermal Units (BTU) can heat a 2,000-square-foot home, while a stove rated at 42,000 BTU can heat a 1,300-square-foot space.
Pellets may be an economical and environmentally sound heating fuel choice.
Pellet fuel appliances are more convenient to operate than ordinary wood stoves or fireplaces, and some have much higher combustion and heating efficiencies. As a consequence of this, they produce very little air pollution. In fact, pellet stoves are the cleanest solid fuel, residential heating appliance. Pellet stoves that are certified by the EPA are likely to be in the 70% to 83% efficiency range. Pellet stoves have heating capacities that range between 8,000 and 90,000 BTU per hour. They are suitable for homes as well as apartments or condominiums.
Pellet appliances usually require refueling only once a day. However, because the fuel is compressed, the bagged pellets can be difficult to lift. Some models use bulk-filled storage systems and are fully automatic.
Most pellet appliance exteriors (except glass doors) stay relatively cool while operating, reducing the risk of accidental burns. Pellet stoves burn fuel so completely that very little creosote builds up in the flue, posing less of a fire hazard.
To keep your pellet-burning system operating efficiently and safely, you’ll need to maintain it on a regular basis.
Every year, preferably before each heating season, have a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America inspect your pellet-burning system. In addition to cleaning the chimney, a certified chimney sweep should have the knowledge to help make sure your appliance, hearth, connecting pipe, air inlets, chimney, and all other components are functioning efficiently and safely.
Benefits of Pellet Stoves
Clean burning, cost-efficient heating for your home
No hassle: Among the many wood-burning stoves available, pellet stoves are the easiest to operate. You’ll typically need to load these stoves with wood pellets just once every day or two—and loading the pellets is a simple matter of pulling out the hopper and pouring the pellets in.
Smoke free: Pellet stoves don’t produce smoke. This means you’ll never have to worry about “smoking out” a room, or dealing with the subsequent dry air and unpleasant smells.
Heat safe: With a pellet stove, there’s virtually no external heat while it’s operating. You can place a pellet stove as close as one inch away from a wall, and it will pose no fire hazard. It’s the ideal heating choice for households with children and pets.
Environmental and cost advantages
Wood pellets used in pellet stoves are tightly condensed, which makes burning them a low-moisture, highly efficient process. There are less harmful gases released into the air through wood pellet burning than with regular wood-burning stoves.
In addition, wood pellets are not a primary product of the forestry industry. Rather, they are a byproduct made with recycled wood from sawmills—usually formed from compacted sawdust and wood shavings, or the unused tops of trees that are cut down for logging.
But the biggest advantage of pellet stoves is the fuel cost. You can purchase 40 pounds of wood pellets for around $3, which provides enough heat for two days or more. The typical home heating bill for fuel-heated homes is around $250 for the winter months. With a pellet stove, you’ll spend $50 a month or less to heat your home all winter.
Disadvantages of pellet stoves
There are only a few disadvantages to using pellet stoves that you should be aware of, if you’re considering investing in one for your home.
- Wood pellets are primarily manufactured in the Pacific Northwest and a few other colder areas of the country. They can often be found in other areas and online.
- While pellet stoves primarily burn fuel, they have internal components that need electricity to operate—though some models come with battery packs. You’ll have around 100 KWH of monthly electricity use with a pellet stove.
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has banned the installation of pellet stoves in manufactured homes.
- The initial cost of purchasing a pellet stove is a significant investment, typically $1,400 to $3,000. However, regular use of a pellet stove pays for itself, often in just a few months.
On a personal note…I used a Pellet Stove last year in a Tri-Level home and it saved us $500 month in our heating cost. I spent $25 a week on pellets to keep our house warm. My son wore t-shirts and shorts and we were all very comfortable every day.