Best Pellet Stoves For the Money- 2019 Reviews & Buying Guide
The Benefits of Using a Pellet Stove
Pellet stoves were invented in the 1980s and have recently gained much popularity. These are electric stoves that use small pellets of recycled sawdust as their source of fuel. There are many advantages of using pellet stoves. Here is a short list:
1. Pellet stoves are relatively safer for families with children compared to traditional wood stoves. They use convective heat so the outlet at the back or top of a unit stays cool to the touch. This also means that a masonry chimney is not necessary. If you have one, however, you can use it. If not, you can just install your pellet stove anywhere as long as a metal flue or liner can be placed out of the roof or through the wall.
2. Pellet stoves pose a lower risk of damaging their surrounding environments and furniture compared to traditional wood stoves. They don’t require a big installation space like what you need with other types of stoves. Furthermore, they only need as little as a three-inch space from combustible surfaces, depending on the model that you have.
3. Pellet stoves may be horizontally vented through walls or anywhere in your home. Since these stoves are power vented, they can be placed almost anywhere, be it through a wall, into a free masonry chimney, or through the ceiling. The only requirement is that the vertical chimney should be at least three feet.
4. Pellet stoves are very convenient to use and maintain. Unlike in a traditional wood stove wherein you have to chop wood every now and then to feed to it, pellet stoves don’t require their pellets to be prepared in any way. Thus, by using a pellet stove, you’re making the process of heating up your homes less of a hassle.
5. Pellet stoves use pellets as their primary source of fuel. These pellets can be made out of recycled materials, wood, peanut shells, corn, sawdust, and other sustainable and renewable materials. By recycling these materials, they are saved from being dumped in landfills to be left for no other use or from being incinerated in the burners of wood and sawmills. Furthermore, pellets are manufactured without the use of harmful chemicals. The raw materials are merely compressed at very high temperatures and no glue or any other type of chemicals binds them together.
6. Pellet stoves burn fuel more efficiently compared to wood stoves. Most of the pellet stoves out in the market are rated with a high burning efficiency of 85 to 90 percent, making them more efficient than bigger and more expensive heaters. Because of their ability to manage the fuel-to-air ratio, an almost full combustion of the pellets happens. The pellets are burned in such a way that all of the heat in them is extracted. Furthermore, pellet stoves can release heat farther than it would normally go since they have negative pressure processes that further propel the warmed air outward.
7. Pellet stoves produce fewer residues since the pellets are consumed at a steady rate. On the average, a 40-pound pack of pellets create less than one cup of ashes. This makes the cleaning process easier since you can go without emptying the ashes for several months.
Are Pellet Stoves Eco-Friendly?
Cost-efficiency is only one feature of pellet stoves that many people have come to love. Pellet stoves are also environment-friendly hearth products.
Nowadays, caring for Mother Nature through using green product alternatives is among the big issues that are being advocated by environmentalists. As such, an increased awareness in how we could go about protecting the environment has prompted a lot of people to evaluate the commercial products that they are using and switch to those that are safer for the earth. Pellet stoves are one of those environment-friendly products. Here are some of their green features:
1. The wood pellets used to fuel pellet stoves are produced from recycled sawdust. This sawdust would otherwise have been dumped in landfills, thus creating more waste that has no other use. It could also have been incinerated in the waste burners of sawmills. Wood is a natural renewable resource. By utilizing wood pellets as your fuel source, in a way you are helping recycling the waste or by-products of forestry activities.
2. Pellet stoves are a clean-burning home heating product. As opposed to wood stoves that produce a substantial amount of soot and ash even just after a use, pellet stoves can burn for several days at a time and still not create as much residual ash as what wood stoves make in one day.
3. Pellet stoves are very easy to clean. They have ash pans that need to be removed and cleaned every few weeks. Moreover, you don’t have to sweep huge piles of ash and bark scraps.
4. Pellet stoves have an auger that delivers the pellets into the combustible chamber on a consistent and regular basis. This means that your source of heat is steady and consistent for up to three days before you must refill the hopper, which is the holding area of the pellets. Pellet stoves are not like wood stoves that you have to feed chopped wood every few hours with no guaranteed steadiness of the heat, having volatile hot and cold heating cycles.
5. Pellet stoves are efficient home heating products. An average pellet stove has a burning efficiency rating higher than 85%. Because of a pellet stove’s state-of-the-art technology, the fuel-to-air ratio is controlled so a full combustion of its fuel source is guaranteed. It is designed to burn the wood pellets in such a way that it would squeeze all of the heat that it possibly can out of those pellets.
6. Pellet stoves produce minimal wood smoke emissions. A lot of the pellet stoves out in the market nowadays have no problems in meeting strict air quality standards, both local and federal.
What to Consider When Buying a Pellet Stove
Pellet stoves can be a cost-effective and fuel-efficient way to heat any room. However, before you invest in one, you must carefully consider a few factors. Here are a couple of buying considerations for pellet stoves:
The price of a pellet stove ranges anywhere from $1,700 to $3,300. Its installation may cost from $350 to $550. Aside from the price of the stove itself and the installation cost, there are other costs to consider, such as delivery, hearth pad, vent or chimney, fuel supply, and maintenance. When it comes to installation, always bear in mind that unlike ordinary wood stoves that need expensive conventional flues or chimney, pellet stoves only require a vent pipe that can go through the ceiling or wall.
There are two major categories of pellet stoves: high output and low output. This classification is based on the amount of heat that the stove is able to generate, which is known as their efficiency or heat output range. In general, pellet stoves have an efficiency of 75 to 90% and a heat output range of 40,000 BTU or higher. These figures vary from model to model. In deciding what model to purchase based on the type and capacity, take into consideration other factors, such as the following:
1. Size and layout of the house
2. Features of the house that would affect heating
3. Intended purpose of the pellet stove
4. Desired temperature range
The physical size of the pellet stove is one of the most thought-of aspects when considering where to position the stove in your house. Note, however, that the physical size is not as important as size of the stove in terms of its fuel hopper and heat-generating capacity. A smaller stove can keep a large room warm, but it might not last for more than a day because of the small amount of pellets it can accommodate.
Pellets may be made from wood, sawdust, corn, and peanut shells among other recyclable materials. When it comes to the fuel source, take note that the type of stove that you should choose as well as the cost-efficiency of heating your home largely depend on the availability of the different types of pellets in your area and their cost. In some areas, the pellets are generally more expensive. For instance, in New York, a standard bag of pellets usually goes for $4.50 to $8 and can be consumed within 12 hours even when burned at a low setting. Aside from the type of material, pellets are also categorized based on their grade: premium and standard. What separates the two is their inorganic ash content. Using premium-grade pellets translates to less cleaning and maintenance but, of course, a higher annual fuel cost.
Compared to other stove types, pellet stoves require less space to be installed. Depending on the model, they can be placed as little as three to four inches from a wall. Pellet stoves must be positioned a certain distance away from materials and surfaces that are combustible, such as curtains and doors. They must also be placed on a non-combustible material like a hearth pad.
Pellet stoves are power vented so they can be placed almost anywhere in your homes, be through the wall, through the ceiling, or into a masonry chimney, if you have one. The only requirement is that the vertical chimney should be three feet at the least. This chimney is usually stainless steel-lined and three to four inches in diameter.
The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) of the US suggests that people buy from specialty retailers and hire certified professionals to install pellet stoves in order to ensure safety. The professional installers will be the ones to obtain the building permits and to make sure that all of the safety requirements are met, such as the length of the chimney and placement of the stove on a non-combustible surface.
Three types of ignition systems are available: standard, self-starting, and fully automatic. The standard system requires the use of a match and starter gel. The self-starting system provides a button or a remote control which the person uses to start the stove. The fully automatic system is managed by a thermostat that turns on and off depending on the selected heat level. Choose a reliable startup system that would suit your frequency of usage (i.e. intermittent or continuous).
A top-fed stove, which feeds pellets from the hopper down to a tube, decreases the risk of fire burning right back into the holding area of the pellets, but is more likely to get clogged with ashes. This is why top-fed models are recommended to be fueled with high-grade, low-ash pellets. Bottom-fed stove models, on the other hand, deliver the pellets to the side or from behind the burn box. Since the ash is pushed right into the pan during delivery, bottom-fed models don’t require the more expensive premium fuel but they may not be as efficient.
Some models have optional features that enhance their ease of use, convenience, and reliability. Some of these miscellaneous features are self-cleaning burn pots, self-cleaning glass that utilizes an air wash system that channels warm air over it during burning, deep ash pans to accommodate more residue and backup power since stoves require electricity to be run. Check the features or each model before making your decision.
There are many options to choose from in terms of the external design of pellet stoves. From modern to old world, from cast iron to porcelain, you’ll be sure to find one that suits your taste and the interiors of your home.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Pellet stoves contain motors, moving parts, electronic gadgetry, and electrical features. These are easy to maintain, but regular checking and servicing must be done in order to ensure that they perform their functions properly. The routing tasks that must be done include the following:
1. Emptying the ash pan
2. Cleaning the glass, hopper, burn pot, and ash pan
3. Scheduling inspection services yearly as recommended by the HPBA
How to Purchase a Pellet Stove Online
Online shopping was introduced as a more convenient way of buying goods. You can purchase whatever you want at your own time and the transaction will be complete in just a few moments. When you access the World Wide Web, everything is only one mouse click away.
However, buying things online is not as easy as you might think it is. Because you are not in a physical store, there are many aspects that you must consider such as the lack of a salesperson to guide you in your choices as well as the difficulty in choosing from different items without being there in person to check them out and scrutinize them for their features and flaws.
When it comes to pellet stoves, you must do several things and take into account several considerations before you even click on that “Buy Now” or “Add To Shopping Cart” button.
The first thing that you must do is to conduct thorough research regarding what a pellet stove is, what its features are, and what are the different types available. Take into consideration the following:
• The size and layout of your house (use your floor plan since it contains the dimensions of the rooms of your house)
• Features of your house that affect heating (i.e. materials used to build it, kinds of insulation in it, etcetera)
• Intended purpose (primary heating for the whole house or just for a particular area)
• Desired temperature (determine the temperature range you want for both day and night time)
If you go online and do a quick search, the search engine will release hundreds of thousands of results. Check for websites of companies that seem the most credible to you. In general, trustworthy online retailers have a decent website containing detailed information about their products, and contact details, among others. Once you have chosen an online stove retailer, go through their product list, read through the specifications of each model, and make your preliminary decision. After you’ve done this, there are a few more things to consider:
In most states, shopping online will save you 5 percent or even more in terms of sales tax. Most of the time, the only online shops that collect sales tax are those that have a physical store in the state where you are in.
Most online retailers give discounts of 10 percent or even more. They may also offer price slashes in the form of free shipping and credit options. If you’re lucky, you may chance upon a seller that offers no down payment and installment programs.
You will be offered free shipping in some instances. Coordinate with the retailer regarding where and when you want your order to be delivered. Note that stove retailers usually don’t deliver to an APO or Post Office box address.
It would be better if you don’t order your elbows, vent pipes, and other parts from the online retailer where you bought your stove. Since there are local building codes in the US, just let the professional stove installer determine which parts are needed to be ordered. If you don’t know of a certified installer, you can ask companies like Service Magic to help you look for one in your area.
Buying a Second-hand Pellet Stove
If you think about it, spending money on an expensive brand new pellet stove defeats your purpose of saving. Why buy an unused stove where you can get one for a half the price? With these enormous savings, you can even afford to pay for one year’s worth of fuel.
Buying a second-hand item has pros and cons. It is easier because you have limited choices plus you can save more money. However, it is very difficult to assure the quality of what you’re buying since you’re not its first owner. Moreover, there are updated models already out in the market. But if you do decide to settle for a second-hand pellet stove, here are a few tips on how you can make an informed choice.
Do your research first. You can immediately narrow down your choices to several pellet stoves once you’ve determined the following factors: the heating features of your house (i.e. the materials it is made of and kind of insulation), layout and size of your house (refer to the floor plan that has the dimensions of the rooms), intended purpose (heating whole or merely part of the house), and desired temperature range for both daytime and nighttime. Also determine what fuel type you need. Some fuel types are not available in all states. They may also be more expensive in some areas than in others, depending on the supplier. This factor may highly affect the cost-effectiveness of your setup.
Once you’ve identified what kind of pellet stove that you need, you should start searching for the model that would be closest to your preferences and needs. You may check the newspaper classifieds for ads or you may go to retailers that carry used pellet stoves. But if you want a more convenient way of shopping, you may start your search online. Web classified and auctions such as Craigslist and eBay contain a lot of listings. You may narrow down your search based on the brand or model that you want, and your location, among other filters.
Finally, check for the sweet extras that used pellet stove sellers include in the package. These may include the hearth pad, log set, venting pipe, and any leftover pellets. Free shipping may also be included. These small things can add up to a lot of savings on your part.
In general, buying second-hand pellet stoves can save you more money depending on their original retail price. The observed trend is that the higher the original price tag, the more the stove depreciates. No buyer would want to purchase a used item for a high price. Thus, sellers whose stoves originally cost a lot are forced to price their items lower, usually at 50 to 70 percent off.
After you’ve made a deal with a seller, talk with him/her about the delivery setup – how it will be delivered, who will do it, and when. Furthermore, don’t hesitate to contact him/her regarding any questions that you may have about, say, installation and the warranty of the pellet stove.
How to Clean Pellet Stoves
If you are using a pellet stove as your home heating device, make sure that you clean it regularly to ensure its optimal performance as well as safe operation. Here are a few tips on how to maintain your pellet stove.
To keep its air inlets open and unclogged, clean the burn pot regularly depending on the type and grade of the pellets that you are using. Consult your manual on how often to do this.
The burn pot is responsible for controlling the amount of the fuel and air to enable combustion. When your stove is working well, the flame should be bright yellow or white. On high burn, there may be a gray or white buildup of ash, while there may be a darker ash on low burn. However, if your stove is malfunctioning, the flame is usually orange and smoky. There would also be a build up of a brown gooey substance.
Also watch out for a buildup of clinkers, which are from ashes that have melted and re-hardened. If ash in the burn pot starts melting, it can clog the air holes and ruin the optimal fuel-to-air ratio. This can then cause clinkers to form. By using the rake or ash tool that comes with your stove, you can remove these clinkers even while the stove is on.
Before starting a new fire, you have to empty out the ash drawer of the pellet stove. You should also do this occasionally while the stove is in operation. In general, you should empty the ash drawer once or twice per week, depending on the model.
The heat exchanger is located in the combustion chamber. It is the one that is responsible for cleaning the hot air produced in the burn pot and pushing it outside to heat your home. For the optimal release of heat, the heat exchanger’s surface should be cleaned on a regular basis. Again, the frequency of cleaning is based on the model of the design. It may be daily or monthly depending on what is indicated on the manual. In some pellet stoves, this is done simply by moving a rod that rubs against and cleans the tubes inside. In others, professional service is needed.
These are found at the back of the fire chamber. They prevent the excess ash in the exhaust from escaping from the stove. In some models, they can be easily opened and accessed. Some models, on the other hand, need professional service.
When the glass has completely cooled, clean it using a glass cleaner.
Hopper and Auger
Make sure to check for accumulated sawdust materials, which are also known as fines. The pellets in the auger and hopper should also be run out in order to prevent fines from building up and blocking the tubes.
Have the venting system of your stove cleaned and maintained by professionals. But you may do so yourself if you’re knowledgeable about it and if you have the right equipment.
Most owners of pellet stoves avail of professional servicing of their heating gadgets on an annual basis. Moreover, pellet stove dealers may offer service plans that are conveniently scheduled and not too costly.
Pellet Stove Safety
A pellet stove requires our time and attention on a regular basis. They are not self-cleaning and they are certainly not self-repairing. However, if you do these maintenance steps religiously, then your pellet stove will surely keep up its optimal performance and ensure the safety in its operation.
If you’re one of the many who are considering buying a pellet stove, then here are few considerations that you must put in mind while you are in the purchasing phase plus a couple of safety tips to follow after it has been installed into your room:
1. Follow local ordinances.
Go to the Inspection Service Department in your town. You will most probably be asked to apply for a permit for your pellet stove’s installation. They might also hand you some brochures and pamphlets regarding ensuring the safety in the operation of your stove. You might also want to schedule an appointment with an inspector to evaluate the setup of your stove.
2. Choose a suitable place for your pellet stove.
You have to know in advance where you’d want to place your pellet stove. It is not like a couch or a coffee table that you can easily move around whenever you wish to. For venting, you will definitely have your ceiling or wall cut straight through. Be sure that the location that you will choose has a distance of at least three to five feet from combustible materials and furniture, such as curtains and wooden chairs. Moreover, make it a habit to never put gloves or boots on top of the pellet stove.
3. Avoid buying a first-generation stove.
First-generation pellet stoves are nice, but by buying one, you’re opening yourself to possible problems that would only be corrected in the successive models. Don’t let yourself be a guinea pig. Choose a brand that has proven itself over the years.
4. Don’t install your stove by yourself.
It is tempting to install the stove by yourself especially if there are detailed steps included in the manufacturer’s manual. However, professional installers have been extensively trained in this matter. They are knowledgeable regarding what areas to seal, how to piece together certain parts, and so on. Should an accident occur, you can use the fact that you had the stove professionally installed for insurance purposes.
5. Read the manual first before attempting to turn on the stove.
You may think that the sales agent and installer have told you everything you need to know about your pellet stove, but it would be wise to go over the manufacturer’s operation manual. The manual will serve as your guide in cleaning, maintaining, and troubleshooting your pellet stove.
6. Install carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in your home.
The pellets that you are burning is made of organic matter and the byproduct of this burning is carbon monoxide. Make sure that your home has CO detectors. Put one within 10 feet of the pellet stove.