Another model option is the choice between top feed and bottom feed. Top-feed electric stoves drop the pellet fuel into the burn pot from above. Bottom-feed models feature a mechanism that pushes fuel into the bottom of the burn pot. Bottom feed models are slightly more desirable due to the fact that they reduce smothering of the fire that can occur when top feed models drop new pellets into the burn pot. That being said, newer top feed models have closed the gap on how much this plays into the equation.
Basic pellet stoves have a manually controlled electronic display. They only allow on/off operation of the convection fan and burn rate in preset intervals, usually low, medium, and high outputs. With these, you can turn the fan from low to high and adjust the burn rate as needed.
Other pellet stoves offer fully thermostatic operation with a built-in room temperature sensor. This type of stove will self modulate the burn rate and fan speed to maintain the room temperature. Many models of wood pellet stoves also allow the use of a remote or wall thermostat. These manage more accurate temperature readings from within the room. Connecting a thermostat or remote is a simple process and automatically bypasses the programming on the control board in most cases.
Due to their complexity, pellet stoves use several fail-safes and sensors for operation. Most stoves feature a hopper door lock or sensor to ensure the door is closed during operation. A vacuum switch, located in the intake air duct, makes sure the combustion fan is operating by detecting negative pressure. Lastly, a temperature sensor monitors heat output for the stove. This sensor shuts the stove down in the event of overheating.
Gravity Feed: Gravity feed pellet stoves are not as prevalent as electric models. Yet, they are refreshingly simple to operate and assemble. They don't need power! This makes them great options for remote, off-the-grid homes and cabins.
Designs vary, but most models are tall, free-standing stoves with a large heat exchanger. The exchanger takes full advantage of the flue gases produced by the fire, routing them back and forth through the exchanger body. This gives the exchanger time to absorb the heat from the flue gasses, radiating it to the room. These stoves are fully mechanical, relying on gravity to feed more pellets from a chute into the burn pot as previous pellets burn away.
How does it work? Pellets in the burn chamber create a blockage that clears as the fuel burns down. The clearance created during the burn allows more pellets to enter the chamber. An adjustable feed door or feed collar controls the feed rate.
Because these stoves do not have electrically-powered fans, they are vented like wood stoves. They rely on a natural draft through a vertical vent system.
Choosing Size and BTU Rating
When selecting a stove, you need to consider the physical dimensions of the stove and its heat output. This ensures it fits your desired space and produces enough heat.
The amount of heat produced by the stove is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). The lowest BTU output pellet appliances emit is around 5,000 BTUs. "Whole house" systems can produce upwards of 80,000 BTUs.
So how do you know what BTU rating is best for you? If you intend to heat the entire home, look for stoves with BTU ratings on the higher end of the scale. You will need to place the stove in a central location of your home. You will also need blowers and an air distribution system. These things help distribute the heat effectively.
If you plan to use the stove for a secondary heating source, you will want to calculate the volume of space in your room. Do this by measuring the length, width, and height of the space. Then, multiply these measurements together. Next, multiply your total volume by 20 to get an estimate of how many BTUs the room can support.
Of course, this is impacted by how well the home is insulated and ventilated. The climate you live in also plays a role. If you have more questions about BTU calculation, our expert technicians are sure to help.
Pellet Stoves vs. Wood Stoves
Are you on the fence between a traditional wood stove or a pellet stove? Well, there are several reasons to give a pellet stove for sale a closer look. We've outlined some here for a quick comparison.
Due to their moisture content and uniformity, pellets burn more efficiently and create less ash. They also allow for a wider range of burn rates without sacrificing ability. Sometimes the maximum burn rate can be too hot for a room or might use too much fuel. Because of this, you may want to burn your appliance at a lower and more comfortable rate.
Most wood stoves are much less efficient when burning at lower rates. This means they have less heating power and release more particulate pollution to the chimney, creating more smoke. Pellet stoves perform better. For example, you can burn pellet stoves at 25% of their maximum burn rating. They will still maintain a 15% better efficiency rating on average than a wood stove burning at the same rate.
Pellet stoves are also easy to operate. Many models even include a hopper that can regulate how much fuel is fed into the burn pot. That means no more stoking and tending to the fire throughout the day! As stated, pellets create less ash, and the design of the stoves make ash removal convenient.
But, unlike wood stoves, most pellet stoves need electricity to power electrical components. While this will not have a huge impact on your electrical bill, it's a big deal if you're planning on living off the grid. In this case, you'll want to look for non-electric models in the event of a power outage.
Another factor is installation and venting. Most wood stoves call for vertical venting, but a pellet stove can be vented horizontally, too. Plus, the blowers do away with the need for a chimney draft. Not to mention, installation is often cheaper for pellet stoves than for wood stoves.
Something else to consider is fuel. Pellet fuel tends to be cheaper than purchasing cords of wood. Yet, the pellet stoves themselves are more expensive than wood stoves. This means you'll have a larger upfront investment for pellet stoves than for wood stoves. This should balance out with the other savings, leaning more favorably for you over time.
Ready to start shopping around? Here are some of the industry's most popular and reliable brands:
Pleasant Hearth — A part of GHP products, Pleasant Hearth makes durable, low-cost pellet stoves and other hearth products. Their appliances have proven to be a reliable heat source for many consumers.
US Stove — With over 100 years of experience, you can count on a high-quality product from US Stove. They have an admirable collection of multi-fuel models, offering traditional and modern styles.
Napoleon — Based out of Barrie, Ontario and starting as a steel fabricator, Napoleon has been part of the hearth industry for over 40 years. In line with their great reputation, they offer a limited lifetime warranty on their pellet stoves.
Harman — Beginning as a wood stoves manufacturer in 1979, Harman has steadily diversified its line of hearth products. With pellet stoves in inventory, Harman stoves rank among the highest quality models available. They are built to an exceedingly high standard and known to be among the highest quality models available.
Osburn — This Canadian based company has been producing quality hearth appliances since 1979. But, they became a leader in the industry after joining the SBI group of companies in 2002.
Pellet stoves ship via freight and delivered on a pallet. The freight company will call you to schedule a delivery time at your home or business. We recommend you inspect your package thoroughly for damage upon delivery. Some manufacturers have limited warranties. As such, they may only cover manufacturing defects identified within the first few days. By examining your package early, you can meet this deadline.
Additionally, freight deliveries often require more than one person to receive the package, due to the size and weight.
We strongly recommend having a qualified professional install your pellet stove. Due to all the mechanical and moving parts, these appliances are more complicated than they first appear. Even a handy homeowner should hire some assistance for installation.
Most pellet stoves use a 3 or 4-inch venting system, due to the small size of the burn chamber. For pellet burning inserts, you will need a flexible liner to re-line the chimney to the required diameter. For free-standing stoves, a special 3 or 4-inch L-vent pellet pipe is used. Almost all pellets stoves utilize a 3 inch vent collar, only requiring a transition to 4 inch venting if the pipe run will extend beyond 15 feet high or will have long horizontal runs. The venting of an electric pellet stove is under constant pressure from the combustion fan. So, almost all manufacturers allow vertical or horizontal venting. Such flexibility allows for more versatile installations. This is especially helpful when a complete vertical vent would be difficult or impossible.
With horizontal venting through an outside wall, it's best to install a short vertical section either inside or outside the home before terminating. Doing this ensures that electric stoves without battery backup continue to draft properly if power is lost to the combustion fan. Without the vertical section to produce natural draft, you risk smoke backing up into the home during a power outage since the pellets will continue to burn and then smolder.
Lifespan and Maintenance
As mentioned before, pellet fuel is finely ground and well-cleaned. However, even this thorough process can't extract all the impurities. Trace pieces of metals and other non combustible debris will end up in the pellets. These materials will often turn molten during the burning process, falling through the grid at the bottom of the burn pot. This "clinker" material collects in an ash collection tray once it has passed the grid and can be removed as necessary.
Because pellet stoves use a very dry fuel, they produce very lightweight fly-ash. It has somewhat of an adhesive nature. Thus, the ash can stick to the heat exchanger tubes or inside of the vent pipe. This reduces your stove's ability to transfer heat to the room and vent properly. For this reason, you'll need to inspect the cleanliness of a pellet stove more often than a conventional wood-burning appliance. Because the ash they produce is very lightweight, it is relatively simple to quickly wipe the ash from the heat exchanger tubes. Cleaning brushes with lightweight flexible rods also make it easy to quickly and effectively sweep the vent system.
Maintaining a pellet stove might seem intimidating, but their ease of use makes it worth it. Once installed, the stove will need some routine maintenance. This includes emptying and rinsing the ash pan daily or weekly, brushing the vent, and checking the igniter. During the offseason, conduct a thorough cleaning and remove the pellets from the hopper. Always make sure the stove is cool before attempting to clean it.
You should also use the correct fuel type for your stove to avoid excess ash which could cause clogging in the fan. Lower quality fuel will have a higher ash content.
Pellet stoves have a shorter lifespan than some of the other stoves and appliances. But, with proper maintenance, you can expect your stove to function well for 15 to 20 years.
The best way to maximize the lifespan of your unit is to read and follow the manufacturer's guidelines. It is possible to void the warranty by doing things that are not recommended in the manual. So, avoid any fuel or maintenance discouraged by the manufacturer.
The world of pellet stoves is full of options. The variety of installations, styles, and fuel options give you the freedom to find a stove tailored to your needs. If you're looking for an easy-to-operate, heat efficient stove with low emissions and recycled fuel, get a pellet stove.
Do you have a kit to vent a pellet stove through a basement window?
There is no kit specifically designed to vent through a window. If the window was eliminated, you could run the pipe through the wall, following manufacturer instructions. Your vent will need to be minimum 12" above grade.
What is pellet fuel? What are pellets and how are they made?
Pellet fuel used for most pellet stoves is sawdust from lumber mills that is compressed in a hammer mill. Due to it's low moisture content (10% or lower), pellet fuel is considered a very efficient fuel source for heating.
If the stove can meet proper clearances from all sides and floor protection, and of course be vented properly, yes, this can be done. Please check all clearance and venting requirements for any particular stove that interests you and compare it to your proposed application.