A pellet stove can be thought of as a wood fired furnace. It requires power and has an auger motor to feed the pellets, a convection fan to blow air into the room, and a combustion fan. In comparison to wood, some object to the noises it makes or additional maintenance costs. However, most people find a pellet appliance significantly easier and cleaner than wood to operate. It is typically self-lighting, self-regulating, and has a wider operating range from low to high heat. It can often can be controlled with a thermostat. Fuel costs are similar to wood and natural gas but significantly less than propane.
- More decorative
- Comes in enamel which is easier to clean and more colorful. However, it can chip.
- Typically somewhat more expensive
- Often less expensive
- Can heat as well as cast iron if it includes a good heat exchanger
- Taller profile and often smaller footprint
- Often more modern
- Typically comes with advanced features such as programmable thermostat and remote.
- Often more expensive
Addition to an existing home
Pellet stoves can be easily added to an existing home and vented through the existing roof or terminated on an exterior wall. Floor hearth pads can be used if the existing flooring isn’t wood or non-combustible. They can go into bedrooms if outside air kits are used but we typically don’t recommend it because some object to the noise.
In new construction, venting is installed during framing and the stove is placed on the finished floor/hearth near the end of the job.
Hearth mounted and vented up fireplace
A pellet stove can be installed in front of a fireplace and vented up through the fireplace like an insert.
Zone heating saves money
A stove delivers heat most efficiently to the general area where it is located. If located in a central part of the house and the central heating is turned off or down, the stove will heat the common areas while delivering less heat to the hallways and bedrooms. Heating in this manner generally saves about 20% on heating bills.
Large common areas are often too cold
Large common areas often have large windows and not enough heating ducts. A pellet stove can offer supplemental heat and comfort.
Open wood burning is heavily regulated. EPA approved, low emission pellet appliances are typically either exempt from “no burn days” or far less restricted.
Key decision points
Pellet stoves must vent to the outside. Typically venting must protrude 12 inches from the roof. Horizontal venting typically must protrude a minimum of 12 inches out the side and be 12 inches above grade. (Consult a manual for details.)
Floor protection or wood flooring is required
Check your stove manual to determine hearth pad/non-combustible flooring requirements. The non-combustible area must be big enough to allow for clearances around the stove. Manufactured hearth pads are an excellent choice when adding a stove to an existing home.
Stove heating capacity is key
Heating capacity is a function of BTU’s multiplied by efficiency. Verify that the stove is capable of heating the desired space. Note that some homes are difficult to heat with a zone heater due to lack of insulation or excessive heat transfer to other rooms, upstairs areas, or tall interior ceiling areas.