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Are you in the market for a heating device to warm up your home, shed, cottage, or room but unsure which type to get?
With so many options available, you may have explored electric, gas, oil, or solar heaters, as well as heat pumps, in your search for an efficient heating solution.
However, have you considered heating your house with a pellet stove?
While wood stoves have been in use for centuries, pellet heating systems are considered modern and deliver efficient, eco-friendly operation. These environmentally-friendly systems are one of the best sources of renewable energy for home heating. In this article, we will provide you with useful buying tips to help you choose the right pellet heating system for your needs.
There are two types of pellet heating systems: smaller pellet stoves designed to release heat directly into a small space, and central heating systems that use pellet boilers for whole-house heating.
Small pellet stoves are ideal for heating a single room, cottage, or shed, while larger pellet boilers with higher BTUs are suitable for whole-house central heating and even commercial applications.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
The main difference between pellet and wood stoves is that pellet stoves use tiny compressed pellets instead of large pieces of wood. While pellet stoves are similar to wood stoves in that they produce natural fire without the need for chopping and storing firewood, they offer lower heating inefficiencies and higher pollution rates.
Internally, the main difference between the two types of stoves lies in the advanced elements, such as the circuit board, thermostat, fans, storage box, and auger.
Wood stoves require more maintenance, such as the frequent removal of ash and regular chimney inspection and cleaning. Additionally, they produce more smoke and fumes, which require attention during vent installation.
While wood pellets need to be purchased, you might be able to use your own firewood, which could result in free heating for your home. Pellets have a moisture content ranging from 5% to 10%, while firewood can contain up to 20% moisture, making pellet heating more efficient.
According to homeadvisor.com, most pellet stoves cost between $1,700 and $3,000 and they are cheaper to install than wood-powered heaters.
With the increasing costs of fossil fuels and electricity, many homeowners are considering heating their homes with a pellet stove.
As we can see, there are several reasons why using a pellet stove for heating is the right choice, including benefits such as clean burning, high BTU, and cost-effective operation.
These are just a few of the reasons why most homeowners prefer pellet heating systems as their primary heat source. With the tips we have provided, finding the best pellet stove for your home should be easy.