Installing a pellet stove in your home is a more environmentally friendly way to heat your home. Learn how it works, how it burns, and how much it costs.
Brenda Flick used a pellet stove for the first time on a cold winter day in 2005. Her life has never been the same since. She quit her job, rented some retail space, and began selling them herself within a year. “I knew it was the right time and the right product for the consumer, the country, and the environment,” Flick says with conviction.
The discovery that a pellet stove could heat her entire 3,000-square-foot ranch house for less than $120 per month convinced her. (She paid up to $200 with gas.) Initially skeptical, she set the furnace thermostat to 55 degrees, just in case the stove needed some extra help. The machinery never started because it didn’t have to.
Flick is an extreme case, but many homeowners share her enthusiasm. Perhaps it’s because of the energy savings provided by these whole house pellet furnaces, or because they provide an eco-friendly heating option.
They not only save trees by using pellets made from recycled, super-compressed sawdust, but they also burn hotter and cleaner than traditional woodstoves or fireplaces, producing less smoke and ash.
According to retailers, pellet furnace sales are, dare we say, on fire. In the year 2019, Washington, D.C. According to the Pellet Fuels Institute, 1 million households in the United States currently use pellet stoves — not bad for a stove that was only invented in the 1980s.
How Does a Pellet Stove Work?
You start by pouring the pellets into the stove’s hopper, which usually holds 40 to 55 pounds of them at a time. The pellets are then fed automatically into a burn chamber, where they’re incinerated with the help of a fan that forces combustion air into the chamber. Another fan blows the hot air out into your house.
Some models require you to light the fire yourself, while others allow you to fire them up by pressing a button on the stove (or a remote control! ); fully automatic models are connected to a thermostat and turn on or off depending on the heat level selected.
Because whole-house pellet furnaces operate on the principle of convection rather than radiation, the surface remains relatively cool, allowing them to be installed as close to the wall as three inches. The only requirement is that the feed system and fans be powered by a nearby electrical outlet (and a battery back up in case the electricity goes out).
Pellet Stove Costs
Depending on the size and type of stove you choose, you can expect to lay out between $1,500 and $3,500 for the initial investment. While most pellet enthusiasts insist that you’ll recoup your money in just a few years through dramatically lower heating bills, you should do some math before taking the plunge.
Pellets are typically packaged in 40-pound bags. Flick charges about $5.25 per bag or $240 per ton, though prices vary by region. To get through the winter, you’ll probably need about three tons of bags and the space to store them.
The stoves may also require more upkeep than your current heating system. They, like the family pet, require a consistent feeding schedule. Depending on the size of the hopper and how frequently you use the stove, you’ll need to load in pellets every four or five days.
Since pellets burn with greater than 99 percent efficiency, they leave little ash behind (about one gram per hour), but you’ll still have to clean out what little remains every week or so.
Installation and Models
Finally, unlike that big, ugly furnace in the basement, most pellet stoves are installed in your living space, so you’ll need to consider aesthetics. There’s a wide range of choices, from boxy, industrial looking models to ones that resemble old-world wood burners.
Many have viewing windows, so you can gaze at the flames. You true romantics can even get fake logs that fit right inside the window — a constant reminder of what, exactly, these stoves are saving.
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