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How do I Choose the Best Pellet Stove?

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  • Written By: Josie Myers
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2016
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A pellet stove looks very similar to a conventional wood burning stove. The difference is that it burns small composite pellets instead of wood. The pellets are made of wood shavings, sawdust, and corn. A pellet stove is known to be the cleanest of the solid fuel burning heat sources. There are a few considerations to take into account when considering the purchase of a pellet stove.

Pellet stoves are fairly complex machines with many moving parts. The model chosen should have readily available and relatively inexpensive parts for replacement purposes. It should have easy access to areas that need regular maintenance. Watch for units with thin sheet metal interiors that could rust and wear quickly and are very expensive to replace. Those that come with service contracts available are the best bet.

There are a few features available to be aware of. Some models make automatic adjustments to the flame based on set controls, while other require hands-on adjustments. Automatic ignition also makes it easier to start a flame. Air wash provides a blast of air that cleans any viewing glass.

A pellet stove works by making a small fire in the center of the unit. Since the fire is low and back in the unit, the fire is not always visible. For those that like the look of a flame, there are units that have glass doors and some with ceramic logs that disperse the flame.

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There are two types of draft fans available in a pellet stove. These fans bring in the air necessary to maintain a flame. One type draws air out of the firebox, while the other blows the air in. Those that blow air into the combustion are could cause smoke to blow into the room when the door is opened. For those that blow the air out, opening the door could blow the flame out. Most manufacturers advise against opening the door while the flame is going because of these phenomenon.

A pellet stove works through the use of a feeder, which feeds a few pellets at a time into the hopper. The more pellets dropped, the hotter the burn. There are two types of feeders; one that feeds from the top and one from the bottom.

A top-fed stove has less chance of the fire burning back into the hopper. The problem with these kind is that the combustion chamber is more likely to become clogged with "clinkers" which are made up of leftover ash. High-grade low-ash pellets are advised for use in this type of stove.

Bottom-fed units can use cheaper pellets because the ash is pushed into a pan and won't clog the combustion area. Since these trays need to be emptied regularly, buyers should be sure to find a large capacity ash drawer that is easily handled. The cost of pellets will range from state to state, so this cost should be researched prior to purchasing a stove as it could influence the decision for bottom or top feed.

Pellet stoves have heat ratings similar to any other heater. They are measured in British Thermal Units (BTU) per hour. This range varies with stove size from 8,000 to 90,000 BTU, with the average stove putting out about 20,000 BTU. The size needed will vary with house size, personal comfort level, room sizes, house characteristics. Hopper capacity also varies from 35 to 130 lbs (15.9-59 kg). The capacity needed depends on how long the user wants it to run without refilling and how hot they intend to burn the stove.

Styles of stoves available are numerous. Some models are freestanding while others are inserts to go into existing structures. Some are even large enough to replace full home heating systems. Freestanding pellet stoves are available in sleek modern designs, ornate decorative room centerpieces, and even in styles that look just like old-fashioned wood burning stoves. The clean and effective nature of a pellet stove is a great draw for consumers looking for an attractive and cost-effective way to add some heat to their homes.

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