Why Heating a House with a Pellet Stove makes Sense

Wood pelletsImage by Mrdidg from Pixabay

Are you looking to buy a heating device to heat your home, shed, cottage, or room, but not sure which type to get?

There are many options for heating out there, and you might have checked various types such as electric, gas, oil, or solar heaters, or heat pumps and tried to find efficient ways to heat your house.

That's great, but did you consider heating a house with a pellet stove?

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As we know, wood stoves have been around for centuries, while pellet heating systems are considered as "new" and modern, delivering efficient and eco-friendly operation. These environment-friendly systems are one of the best sources of renewable energy for home heating, and we will bring you many useful buying tips for your convenience.

In this article

  1. Types
  2. What are pellet stoves and pellet heating?
  3. How does a pellet stove work?
  4. Things to consider
  5. Pellet stove venting options
  6. Pellets for a pellet stove
  7. Pros and cons
  8. Pellet stove vs. wood stove (pellet vs. wood stove)

Types

There are two types of pellet heating systems; smaller pellet stoves designed to release heat into the small space directly, and central heating systems using pellet boilers for the whole house solution.

Small pellet stoves are ideal for heating a room, cottage, or shed, while larger pellet boilers with more BTUs are great for the whole house central heating, even commercial applications.

What are pellet stoves and pellet heating?

Pellet stoves are similar to wood stoves, but instead of burning large pieces of firewood, they burn small wood pellets.

The main components include a firebox, hopper, auger, blower, ducting, safety elements, and a controller.

The pellets are small cylindrical particles that usually come from the compressed sawdust and wood shavings, also industrial waste wood, and are stored in bags for easy handling. Wood pellets are also considered as biomass fuel, an eco-friendly solution that is more efficient than wood and a great alternative to other fuel types, including oil, electricity, and gas.

The greatest advantage is that they burn hot and clean, with the minimum ash left behind. According to Wikipedia, premium-grade pellets produce less than 1% ash content.

How does a pellet stove work?

Pellet stoves come with a feeding system or a storage box - hopper that you fill with pellets. The capacity of the hopper varies from one model to another and depends on the stove size and heating capacity. The larger it is, the more pellets it can hold so the stove can run longer and without interruption.

Pellets can be fed either from the top or bottom.

They use a motor-driven auger (a screw-type element) to move the pellets from the hopper to the combustion chamber (firebox), where burning occurs. The auger activates and starts to pull the pellets when the thermostat calls for heat. The speed of an auger feed rate determines how much heat your stove can produce.

The pellets burning happens on the burn pot, inside the combustion chamber. The pellets are ignited either manually using a lighter or with electronic ignition such as the hot surface igniter – HSI.

The amount of pellets on the burn pot is controlled by the sensors, while the temperature is set and controlled by the thermostat.

As the pellets burn, the combustion blower brings the outside air inside the combustion chamber. The heat goes through the heat exchanger heating the pulled air and then moving the exhaust gases out, using the exhaust blower fans and through the vents.

In addition to the above elements, pellet stoves also utilize convection fans that blow heated air into the room for efficient and comfortable heating.

The above pellet stove type is electric as it requires electricity to run the auger and fans.

There is also a non-electric pellet stove that uses gravity to deliver pellets to a combustion chamber, and since there is no blower, it mostly radiates heat to the room.

As an alternative to the free-standing pellet stoves, as explained before, you can also install a pellet stove insert into the wood-powered fireplace if you have one.

Things to consider

Efficiency. Pellet stoves are designed to operate with an efficiency of 80-85%. High efficient models can perform better while the energy waste is reduced.

Size. Consult a professional to buy a properly-sized pellet stove. If the stove is too big (oversized), it will deliver more power than you need and also waste fuel and pollute more. And if it is too small or under-sized, it won't provide enough heat.

According to energy.gov, a pellet stove with a power output from 42,000-60,000 BTU can provide enough heat to 1300-2000-sq.ft homes. Performance is affected by the climate, how insulated your home is, layout, etc.

Capacity. See how much pellets a stove hopper can hold. A typical device can store between 35 and 130 pounds which is enough for a day or two, but it depends. Devices with a large firebox can provide longer operation without any work on your part.

Ease of use. One is common for most homeowners; they like comfort and convenience. That is why we recommend buying a stove with an electrical hopper so it can automatically feed the pellets and a self-lighting feature for the prompt start. A device can start and operate for many hours and with minimal input from your side. And if it includes some of the advanced features such as programming and remote control, even better.

Pellet stove venting options

Venting for pellet stoves is required to remove the smoke and fumes to the outside safely, and the venting type depends on a few factors, including the device proximity to doors and windows.

Some devices have the exhaust pipe on top of the stove and some in the rear, allowing horizontal or wall penetration also vertical or roof penetration.

They come with a sealed exhaust and double-walled piping, with stainless steel inside and galvanized exterior.

Note: Improper venting installation can lead to hazardous carbon monoxide exposure, so be careful and make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Pellets for pellet stoves

Pellets are mostly made from wood and their by-products, including wood chips from commercial applications, sawdust, bark, hay, corn, nutshells, paper, etc. You have options to buy a stove that can run one or two types or a wide range of these biofuels.

Pellets for wood pellet stoves come in two types or grades: premium and standard.

Premium pellets are made of wood only, so they burn clean and generate more BTUs. As they generate a minimal amount of ash, there is less cleaning and maintenance involved. Also, they cost more.

Standard-type pellets are cheaper but are not that "pure," as they contain some bark. They produce more ash and have more sodium content making them less efficient and requiring frequent cleaning.

Pellets are small and very dense, and if produced with low moisture content, they can burn with high efficiency. Small size and consistent geometry allow convenient packaging, storage, and automatic feeding with minimal adjustments.

Pellets are normally packed in 40-pound bags and should be stored in a dry and cool environment. Based on the typical burn rate, the bag can last you approximately 24 hours (but it depends).

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Pros and cons

Pros

  • The cost can be lower than the cost of other HVAC systems.
  • Operating costs are lower than oil and propane systems.
  • Eco-friendly. Pellets are considered carbon-neutral as they release CO2 in the amount as when naturally decomposed.
  • Sustainably use of the ash as a fertilizer.
  • They don't produce creosote (which is a common cause of chimney fires).
  • They are ideal for heating small places such as one room.
  • Install a ceiling fan and run it in reverse to blow the heat from the ceiling down, and maximize the efficiency and optimize comfort.
  • Appealing to watch the fire when it runs.
  • Doesn't require ducts throughout the house.
  • Pellet stoves are safe, and they generate minimal heat through the device walls and if fitted with the automatic shut-off, no worries if the stove runs out of fuel. Also, some models use an exhaust temp probe and pressure switch for additional safety.
  • Great for heating small homes, cabins, apartments, and rooms.
  • It can be combined with an existing wood-fired furnace.

Cons

  • Efficiency is around 80% which is lower than gas-powered devices.
  • Pellet stoves cannot be installed on combustible floorings such as hardwood, vinyl, and carpeting, only tiles and stone.
  • They require proper venting to remove smoke and fumes.
  • They are heavy and require some help.
  • An ash pan must be cleaned regularly.
  • A hopper needs to be refilled periodically.
  • It is inconvenient to carry and store many bags of pellets.
  • Most modern electric types need electricity to operate.
  • They can be noisy when the feeder and fan operate.

Pellet stove vs. wood stove

The main difference between pellet and wood stoves is that pellet stoves use tiny compressed pellets rather than large pieces of wood.

Pellet stoves are similar to wood stoves; they produce natural fire without chopping and storing firewood, including low efficient heating and higher pollution rates. 

Looking inside, the main difference is in advanced elements such as the circuit board, thermostat, and fans, also the storage box and auger.

Wood stoves require more maintenance, such as removing ash quite often, inspecting and cleaning the chimney. They produce more smoke and fumes and therefore require attention during the vent installation.

While wood pellets must be purchased, you might be able to use your own firewood, so heating your home becomes free of charge.

The moisture content in pellets is in the range of 5 to 10%, while in firewood is up to 20%, making pellet heating more efficient.

According to homeadvisor.com, most pellet stoves cost between $1700 and $3000 and are cheaper to install than wood-powered heaters.

Conclusion

With the rising costs of fossil fuels and electricity, many homeowners are thinking of heating their homes with a pellet stove.

As we can see, there are many reasons why heating a house with a pellet stove is the right choice, and that includes benefits such as clean burning, high BTU, and cost-effective operation.

These are just some of the reasons why most homeowners use a pellet heating system as a leading source of heat. With all these tips we have provided for you, finding the best pellet stove for your home won't be hard.

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