a Word About Pellet Stoves

I know the spring is an odd time to start talking about woodstoves and pellet stoves, but what the heck….anytime is a good time to talk about stoves…

These days you often hear about pellet stoves as an alternative to a woodstove. If you are not familar with pellet stoves let me tell you a little about them. They burn little ‘pellets’ of compressed sawdust and wood, mostly softwood, that is processed in some magical way to hold the little crumbs of sawdust together into the pellets.

Pellet stoves burn the pellets in a little basket in the stove that is fed regularly by an auger which delivers pellets from a hopper on top of the stove into the burning basket. They give pretty good heat, and are fairly efficient at least the one we had was, however….

Pellet stoves are unlike regular woodstoves. The rely on electricity to run a motor which turns and auger. They also need a fan to blow the heat into the room. Their very need for electricity makes them rather impractical as an emergency heat source during an extended power outage. I think some of them have backup generators or some kind of battery affair these days, but I can’t say for sure. All I know is, the one we had went out when the power went out.

The pellets come in 40 pound bags, which you can buy individually or by the ton, which means you need somewhere dry to store 50 bags of pellets. By the way, they tend to smell. Not a bad smell, but not a good smell. Not as good a smell as some hardwood in the basement, at least not in my opinion.

The bags are heavy, 40 pounds is quite a bit of weight, which means these are not a good idea for the elderly or someone with a bad back. If you buy a ton, the retailers deliver for a fee, driving the price up. A lot of folks, us included when we had one, used to buy a ton and supplement it over the winter, buying 5-10 bags and lugging them home in the van as we needed them. Our stove went through about a bag every two days, which meant we had to pour a bag into the hopper every other day.

Next is the cleaning. Did I mention that? Pellet stoves need to be cleaned regularly, I mean regularly, almost daily. Shut it off, let it cool and then chip the hardened ashes out of the basket, clean the glass and interior of the firebox, and try to gather up the dust.

Dust which is so fine it blew out the motor on our vacumm and the shop vac…yup…both of them….The dust turned our white rec room walls a dusty black color which ultimately had to be painted….great…

The hopper motor wore out in about two years, along with many other parts, which had to be replaced. I became quite versed in pellet stove repair….

So…there you have it. Considering a pellet stove…don’t do it…they may tell you the new ones are better…yeah right…did I mention that the chimney, which the installer said would be fine sticking out the side of the house. Yup, no chimney cost, just a pipe sticking outside the house. That turned our white siding completely black and took a pressure washer, a scrub brush, a heavy duty cleaner and lots of muscle to clean it up…and it was still darker than the rest of the house….

OK I am done….I feel better….

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4 thoughts on “a Word About Pellet Stoves”

  1. Wow. I sure am glad we didn’t have to go that route. We have a Lopi wood stove which I would highly recommend to anyone. They are built so well and burn so efficiently, they are the only wood stove manufactured (so I am told) that does not require a catalytic converter. I love my Lopi!

  2. Pellet stoves and me just don’t get along…ha! But I am serious when I say they are not much good. I wouldn’t recommend one to my worst enemy.

  3. I bought a used pellet stove 10 years ago. I just this year had to start putting parts on it (convection blower). It's true they won't work without power, but I tell people I bought it for the 364 days that the power is on. They will make your siding black, I put an 18" extension on the pipe. Mine is dusty (you have to clean behind and under it) and was a bit noisy till I swapped the convection blower. My Kozi has a large ash pan and only needs to be cleaned about every two or three weeks. We live in the city and drive by a pellet supplier twice a day and only buy 4 or 6 bags at a time. The up side is I can heat my house for $2.50 a day, it's a small house. The stoves can be placed close to walls. They are easy to start. My pellet stove payed for it self the first winter, when pellets were $3.00 a bag tax in. My wifes sister bought one with electric start and a thermostat on the back, all you have to do is keep the hopper full. If I ever move or this one dies I will buy another pellet stove.

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