Internal heating systems may be the easiest way to warm up your space, but there are alternate options worth considering. And since heating accounts for about a third of a homeowner’s annual utility bill, it’s no surprise that many families look to those other options. One of the alternate heating methods is a pellet stove.
What Is a Pellet Stove?
Pellet stoves are hybrids between wood burning stoves and modern furnaces. Rather than the stove burning fire wood, though, it burns “pellets” made from compacted sawdust.
These are manually loaded into a “hopper,” and then you are free to set the stove’s thermostat to automatically control the amount of heat. A mechanical mechanism moves the pellets from the hopper to a burn pot as needed, generating heat.
The Pros of Pellet Stoves
Although many pellet stove models closely resemble a wood burning stove, they offer heat efficiency ratings between 70% and 83%. That's approximately twice as efficient as old-fashioned wood stoves, and significantly higher than older fireplaces, some of which get as low as 15% (newer fireplaces can have efficiencies as high as 75%).
Although the idea of installing a pellet stove may seem daunting, the process is actually quite simple. This is because stoves of this kind don't require a chimney to vent smoke like wood stoves or traditional fireplaces. Instead, pellet stoves merely require an air vent pipe to discard residual gases and smoke during the burning process. Adding one of these pipes to your home is much easier than installing an entire chimney, as you can imagine.
Because pellet stoves emit virtually no smoke, they are more eco-friendly than wood burning stoves and traditional fireplaces. Another reason pellet stoves are cited as an eco-friendly home warming option is that they burn wood waste rather than full pieces of wood. This is an impressive form of recycling, keeping the particles from being ultimately discarded in landfills.
Less Pest Attraction
When you're forced to compile a stock of firewood for either a wood burning stove or fireplace, there is a greater chance that pests will take up residence in your wood pile. This could be anything from insects to lizards to rodents, depending on your local ecology.
Easy Maintenance and Use
Although pellet stoves do require regular inspection as well as maintenance, their upkeep needs are pretty light. This sets them apart from wood burning stoves, which need to be checked regularly for creosote buildup due to their smoke emissions. Pellet stoves also have no catalytic converter, an expensive, hard to replace component of wood stoves.
Pellet stoves are also easy to use given the fact that they simply require you to insert the pellets and set the thermostat. Fireplaces and wood burning stoves require you to gather wood, arrange it inside it with newspaper, set up a fire, and replenish the wood supply as it burns to keep the fire going.
As of this writing, pellet stoves cost between $1,500 and $6,000 including installation. Setting one up is usually cheaper than installing a wood burning stove, since most pellet stoves don't require a chimney.
To heat a 2,000 square foot home with pellets for a winter might cost about $1,000. The same home might cost $1,850 to heat for a winter with oil, or $2,306 to heat for a year with electricity. Considering those savings, a newly installed pellet stove might take three to four years to start paying off, but eventually it would be cheaper than the older methods.
The Cons of Pellet Stoves
Unlike wood burning stoves and fireplaces, pellet stoves do require some electricity to run fans and controls. On average, this will add about $10 to your monthly electricity bill with normal usage.
The Cost of Pellets
Although they burn a little slower, pellets are pricier than firewood. This is especially true for those who live in areas where it's possible to source wood for free from your yard or nearby woods.
Pellet stoves are known to make more noise than other alternative home warming methods. This is because of the motor and blower fan pellet stoves use to move heat around. Although this noise is not incredibly loud or noticeable, it can be irritating to some.