If you've thought about purchasing a pellet heater or stove to heat your home this winter, then you'll want to know all the pros and cons, as well as the best stoves on the market to fit your needs. A pellet stove is a great investment for those who don't have a chimney or stellar heating system in their home, but still want the experience of being able to curl up next to a fire.
What is a Pellet Stove?
Pellet stoves burn compressed wood or pellets created from biomass to generate a source of heat within the stove. You can find them in residential settings, as well as industrial ones. As long as you consistently add pellets into the burning pot area, you'll be able to enjoy an unwavering flame and heat source. It's a great option for central heating because it's a renewable energy source, too.
How Does a Pellet Stove Work?
In a pellet stove, the fuel goes directly into the combustion chambers within the stove, where the heat is generated by heated water that flows through the boiler. The hot water in the pellet stove will be saved until needed in a reservoir. Pellet stoves either be lit manually or ignite automatically, depending on the model.
Each pellet stove has a hopper, an auger system or screw conveyor, combustion and convection blower fans, a controller, safety features, including a vacuum and heat sensors, and a firebox to collect the ash. Pellet stoves run on electricity and can often plug into any household electrical outlet. The stove is fed directly with the pellets through the hopper into the firebox where a rotating metal spiral, known as the auger system, will distribute the pellets up the hopper. Then, they fall into the burn pot, where they'll combust and offer heat.
The fans in a wood pellet stove will provide air to help stoke the heat source and keep it burning, while also pushing the exhaust gases into the chimney so they aren't released into your home. Depending on the model that you purchase, your pellet stove might either be hot to the touch or might have a heat-absorbent layer so that you don't risk burning yourself if you brush up against the stove accidentally. There is minimal smoke involved in using a pellet stove because the pellets heat up only within the heat box chamber.
Pros of a Pellet Heater
Many pellet stoves ignite automatically, especially newer models, and will cycle on and off to keep a thermostatic balance in your home. Newer model stoves can also run diagnostic tests of the environment where they're placed and analyze safety conditions. These types of innovations available in newer products allow consumers to purchase with confidence. And these safety features are changing constantly as new technologies are developed.
Ultimately, one of the biggest benefits of a pellet stove is how easy they are to use and integrate into your home. The stoves themselves are fairly small, as are the bags of fuel used to keep them fed, so storing them in your home is a relatively easy task. Plus, all you need to do to light a fire is load the pellets and ignite the flame. Depending on the size of your hopper, you might only have to load it once a day for heat to be sustained.
Another benefit to using pellet stoves is that most states in the United States will offer 30 percent of the cost of the appliance as a tax credit for anyone who owns a pellet stove that is 75 percent efficient.
Efficiency and Environmental Friendliness
Most stoves and hoppers require at least 75 pounds of pellets to be completely filled, so you would need two standard 40-pound bags each time. If you choose to run your stove on a low to moderate setting, this amount of fuel could last for up to 50 hours. This does depend on the model, though, but this is an average.
Additionally, because the pellets are compressed and made from recycled materials, they burn better than traditional wood, as there's less moisture involved. You can also burn grain, corn and wood chips in your pellet stove. This lack of moisture allows the pellets to burn hotter and cleaner than wood does. Many consider pellet stoves to be carbon neutral and also appreciate that the pellets don't emit as many pollutants as a traditional fireplace would.
Cons of Pellet Stoves
Although you'll spend relatively little money on the pellets, when compared to a stack of firewood or fireplace logs, you will need to spend a pretty penny on the actual stove itself, which is the biggest downside to these units. They can range from $1,500 to $3,000 each, and they may also require installation by a trained professional, as well as any relevant shipping costs. Another downside to a pellet stove is the large amount of space that you'll need to house the appliance and the bags of fuel.
50,000-BTU Pellet Stove Heating Capacity
Finding the proper stove size relative to your home is the most difficult aspect of the buying process. If you were to purchase a stove that's too small, or if you place it in the wrong area, you may have trouble heating your home. For instance, a pellet stove can heat a two-story home, but would work best if placed in the basement, rather than on the second floor, because heat rises.
Wondering how many square feet a 50,000-BTU pellet stove can heat? First, know that BTU stands for British Thermal Units and is the unit of heat energy measured. Also, be aware that your annual temperature difference, which is the range between your area's warmest and coldest temperatures, will make an impact on how much space your pellet stove BTU output will heat.
With a 50,000-BTU stove, you could likely heat a home that's 2,400 square feet if your annual temperature difference is 20 degrees. If the temperature range is 40 degrees, then you can expect to heat 1,200 square feet, and if it's a 60-degree difference, then you expect to heat 800 square feet. Very cold areas that have an 80-degree difference or more will only get about 600 square feet of heat from their pellet stove.
Pellet Stove Shopping
Typically, pellet stove output can range between 8,000 and 90,000 BTUs per hour. To put this in perspective, gas log fireplaces typically run between 8,500 and 100,000 BTUs per hour, with newer models allowing for adjustment. Gas log sets cost between $200 and $1,000 and can cost between $.10 and $.50 per hour of use.
According to The Blazing Home's pellet stove review, the top pellet stoves are the Comfortbilt HP22 Pellet Stove, Pleasant Hearth Pellet Stove, Castle 12327 Serenity Wood Pellet Stove, Pleasant Hearth Medium Pellet Stove and the U.S. Stove 4840 Pellet Stove. These are worth a look if you are beginning the shopping process, but be sure to read reviews and ask others for advice before making a decision.
Getting a pellet stove for your space will involve quite a few considerations, but once you figure out your budget, size constraints and other limitations you may have, you'll be better able to determine whether the unit is the right choice for you.
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com), and she enjoys writing home and DIY articles and blogs for clients in a variety of related industries. She also runs her own lifestyle blog, Sweet Frivolity (www.sweetfrivolity.com).