Pellet stoves are a hot topic when it comes to choosing a heating method for your home. These types of stoves create heat using compressed wood or biomass pellets (usually an organic matter generated on a reoccurring basis that can be used for fuel). Pellets are fed into the burn-pot area from a storage container called a hopper, creating a constant flame that requires little or no physical adjustments. As with all types of home heating systems, pellet stoves have disadvantages that you should consider before purchasing.
Pellet stoves do not come with an inexpensive price tag: Typical pellet stoves cost anywhere from $1,700 to $3,000. In addition, because a pellet stove is structurally more complex than a wood-burning stove, it contains more intricate parts that could require costly repairs should they break. If you're considering purchasing a pellet stove, you should calculate whether the price of the stove will be offset by the projected energy savings.
Fuel and Usage
Stove pellets are primarily manufactured in the Pacific Northwest and a handful of other colder areas in the United States. Because they are not available everywhere, pellets are sometimes shipped long distances, which can be costly in terms of shipping.
The basic components of a pellet stove operate on electricity. Pellet stoves generally use about 100 kilowatt-hours per month. If electricity costs are high in your area, you might find that operating a pellet stove does not offer all of the cost savings you anticipated.
Loss of Electric Power
Because pellet stoves run on electricity, the loss of electric power in your home can affect the stove's operation. Without power the stove fan will not operate, which could cause smoke to accumulate in your home. Many pellet stoves come with battery packs designed to keep the stove operating if a power outage occurs. If your pellet stove doesn't come with a battery pack, you can look for a battery that will work with your pellet stove model; a generator is another option.
Pellet stoves need routine maintenance to function at peak capacity. If not properly serviced, a pellet stove may simply stop working. A stuck auger or clogged exhaust or faulty switch, just to name a few problems, can shut down your stove. Most pellet stove owners use a professional service for cleaning and preventive maintenance on at least an annual basis. Routine maintenance services usually include emptying ash traps, cleaning exhaust passages, lubricating fans and motors and verifying and adjusting the stove settings.
Considerations and Warnings
You should consider the following factors before purchasing a pellet stove.
Stove pellets are made of sawdust, which, when burned, emit some carbon monoxide. Install a carbon monoxide detector within 10 feet of a pellet stove to ensure you will be alerted if carbon monoxide levels rise in your home.
Because pellet stoves are viewed as more of a fire hazard than some other heating sources, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development banned the use of these stoves in manufactured homes at one time. Pellet stoves built after 2015 may be installed in manufactured homes provided they meet Environmental Protection Agency standards for particulate emissions.
Not all pellets work well in all stoves; don't interchange pellet types without consulting the owner's manual included with your stove.