How to Build Your Own Pellet Stove

Pellets alight inside of a pellet stove.
What You'll Need
30- to 50-gallon used electric water heater
Cutting torch
Non-galvanized duct tubing
High temperature engine paint or black barbecue paint
Safety equipment

A pellet stove is an economical way to heat your home or cottage. It uses slow-burning fuel of compressed wood pellets that create a steady flame without any intervention. A wood pellet stove is environmentally friendly since it uses less wood than a conventional woodburning stove. It also costs less to operate since it's not necessary to buy as much wood.

Pellet wood stoves can cost anywhere from $500 up to a couple thousand dollars, but you can make one for much less than that. All you need to do is be willing to get dirty and invest a little time and energy and you'll have an even more environmentally-friendly pellet stove made out of recycled materials. Keep in mind that this design will be more utilitarian than a store-bought stove, so if you're concerned about your interior's look, this one would be best suited for a garage or workshop space.

Note: Be sure to check with local building codes before installing a self-made pellet stove in your home. It's important to make sure your stove meets federal and local regulations for safety and in order to make sure you have proper insurance coverage.

Step 1 - Find the Water Heater

You can find a used electric water heater at any dump. Don't get confused between an electric water heater and the standard 50-gallon drum. Avoid using the latter because its shape is large and awkward, it makes an inefficient wood pellet stove and it looks ugly. Electric water heaters have a wall thickness that's three to four times more than the gallon water heaters, which makes them better at holding heat and ultimately lasting longer when converted into a pellet stove. They also last longer than drum stoves and are much more airtight.

At the landfill, remove the insulation and thin metal wrapper from around the water heater. Then take a good look at the tank itself to make sure there's no corrosion or rust. If possible, try to make sure that the metal is non-galvanized because galvanized metal gives off toxic fumes when heated.

You may also find a quality used water heater in alleyway dumpsters behind appliance shops. The insulation and thin metal wrapper you remove will need to be taken to the dump later or recycled where facilities exist.

Step 2 - Make the Firebox

Lay the water heater on its side and weld 7/8-inch legs to the bottom, if applicable. Use the duct tubing to create an exhaust stack, welding it tightly to make it airtight. Then, turn the heater around and cut a hole one-inch wide at the top. Make sure the stack is about 6 3/4 inches long and flares to 2 1/8 inches at the bottom in the shape of an upside down light bulb. Weld it carefully, as any escaping gases can be dangerous.

Create a firebox door by cutting the top of the water heater shell, adding hinges, and welding again to prevent any air leaks.

Step 3 - Paint

Spray paint the inside and outside of your newly made pellet stove. Do this in a well-ventilated area with proper equipment like goggles and a face mask.

Step 4 - Connect to Ducting

Connect the pellet stove to an existing duct connection if you're replacing a previous wood stove. If you don't currently have a wood stove in the area, you may need to hire someone to make safe duct connections throughout the walls. It's important to make sure the outside connection is safely located, so harmful gases are dispensed to the proper place.