Pellet stoves are free-standing stoves
designed primarily for home heating. Instead of burning firewood,
these types of stoves burn wood pellets which are made from sawdust.
Since sawdust is a waste product from the timber industry they are in
essence a very green solution to home heating. In addition, they
are emerging as an important home heating alternative for homeowners
who heat their homes with fuel oil or propane. In 2007 fuel oil
prices rose by 97%. Propane fuel rose by over 50%. For
those homeowners who don't have access to natural gas a pellet stove
may be one of the few economic options left for home heating.
For a more detailed discussion of comparative fuel prices look at our
section on Comparing Fuel Costs.
Suffice it to say that one of the primary advantages of pellet stoves
Another advantage of a pellet stove is the simplicity of the fuel.
It comes in 40 pound bags which can be obtained from most feed or
hardware stores or can be delivered directly to your home. There
is no wood to chop or split, no need for a wood rack, you just poor
the pellets into the hopper inside of the stove. The hopper then
automatically feeds the appropriate amount of pellets into the
combustion chamber to provide nice steady heating with very little ash
or residue. Because the hopper feeds the pellets into the
combustion chamber there is no need to worry about tending the fire.
The fire pretty much tends itself. And, if you have a fairly big
hopper you do not need to put in the fuel that often.
Because the quantity of air to fuel can be easily controlled in a
pellet stove these types of stoves tend to be extremely efficient. The
ability to control the rate at which the pellets are fed into the
combustion chamber also means that you can control the amount of heat
the fire will generate. If you want to increase the heat just
adjust the stove's setting to feed the pellets faster. Many of
the higher end models of pellet stoves come with a thermostat to make
this process even easier.
One of the nicest things about a pellet stove is that they can run
long stretches of time without being tended. This means you can
go to bed at night knowing the stove will continue to provide heating
all night long if you want it to. If you have a large hopper
many pellet stoves can operate a day or more without having to be
Types of Pellet Stoves
Pellet stoves come in a wide
range of models. There are traditional cast iron models which
look like traditional wood stoves and others which are taller and
built more like a metal furnace. One of the more interesting
innovations are versions of the stove which allow the burning of both
wood pellets and corn kernels. Burning corn is sometimes a great
option for people in farm country. Also, as the demand for wood
pellet stoves has gone up so has the price of the pellets. In
some parts of the country corn is actually a cheaper fuel than wood
Most pellet stoves are designed with built-in fans which help
circulate the air and heat throughout the room. One thing to
watch for though is the noise level of the fans. Some can be
pretty loud and this is something you will want to look at when you
are purchasing a stove.
In general, wood pellet stoves cost more than traditional wood
stoves. Typical models run from $1500 to as high as $3000.
Also, on a per pound bases the cost of pellets is greater than the
cost of firewood. To some extent this is made up for by the
increased efficiency of the pellet heating but as a general rule the
firewood is cheaper.
There has been considerable controversy of late as the cost of
pellets have risen with increasing demand. However, even with the
increase in prices pellet stoves have a significant advantage over
more conventional home heating fuels such as natural gas and fuel oil.
The average person needs about 3 tons of wood pellets a year to heat a
typical home which only costs about $600 per year. Compare this to
heating oil costs which are now starting to run from $400 to $1000 a
month during winter and you can see the economic advantage of this
approach to heating.