If you are considering adding a wood burning appliance to your home, you should educate yourself on the benefits of wood pellet stoves. A wood pellet stove is a heating appliance that burns compressed wood pellet instead of solid wood logs. Depending on your specific needs pellet stoves may be a better choice for you than a conventional wood stove.
What are The Differences Between Wood Stoves and Wood Pellet Stoves?
While a wood stove is designed to burn full size pieces of firewood a pellet stove burns a pellet made of compressed wood sawdust. These pellets are loaded into the stove’s hopper and the stove feeds them into the firebox as they burn. A wood stove is loaded with wood directly by you into the firebox itself. Because of the way a pellet stove stores fuel to use as needed they require less tending to than a wood stove.
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One of the biggest differences between wood burning stoves and wood pellet stoves is that pellet stoves require electricity to operate. If you are in an area where electrical outages are common than you will need an alternative power source to keep your stove running.
There are specifically designed battery backups made for pellet stoves but these tend to be expensive and only run the stove for a few hours before they run out. A small portable generator is probably the best way to use your stove if you lose electricity. They are pretty affordable and as long as you have gas to run the generator you can keep your pellet stove up and running.
However a pellet stove relies on the exhaust fan to draw the smoke out. If you do lose power while the stove is on and the exhaust fan stops you will most likely get some smoke back into the house. This is one reason why the battery backup systems are good to have. There are some models that will run the stove just long enough for it to burn out and keep any smoke out. This type can be found for under $100.00 might be a good investment.
Due to the way they feed themselves as needed wood pellet stoves make it easier to maintain a more consistent level of heat than a wood stove. The heat level of a wood stove is directly related to how much fuel there is in the firebox. The heat level of a pellet stove is set by you via the heat levels on the stove’s control panel.
There is a difference between how wood stoves look compared to wood pellet stoves. The difference isn’t so much as how they look on the outside as how they look on the inside. Pellet stoves are going to have a smaller more intense fire and a wood stove will have a larger flame but usually not burning as bright.
How do Wood Pellet Stoves Work?
In addition to various other safety and control switches most pellet stoves are made up of the same basic mechanical components. These included the control panel and/or circuit board, an exhaust blower, a distribution or convection blower, an igniter and an auger or feed motor.
The pellets are loaded and stored in a bin or hopper usually located on the rear of the stove. When the control board calls for heat the first thing that happens is the exhaust fan will turn on. Once a positive draft is established the auger motor will feed a small amount of pellets into the burn pot. At this time the igniter will turn on and light the pellets.
Once the pellets are lit and a flame is established the igniter will turn off and the stove will continue to feed at a rate determined by the level set on the control panel. After the stove heats to its full operating temperature the convection blower will turn on and begin to distribute the heat into the room.
The stove will continue to operate this way until there is no longer a need for heat. At which time the auger will stop feeding pellets and the fire will gradually burn out. The convection and exhaust blowers will continue to run until the stove cools down. This allows the stove to distribute all the heat already generated into the room.
What Are Wood Pellets Made of?
In addition to wood, pellet fuels are made of a variety of different organic materials everything from grasses to seed husks. In Massachusetts and the New England Area you are really only going to find pellets made from wood. Most pellet stoves are designed to burn wood and although some have the capability to burn other fuels (referred to as multi fuel stoves) pellets made from wood are by far the most common.
Wood pellets are made of sawdust that is pressed through a die about the diameter of a pencil. The amount of pressure needed causes the temperature to rise and the natural lignin found in the wood to harden. This is how pellets retain their shape without any type of wax or other hardeners.
Special care has to be taken when storing pellets. Because they have a really low moisture content they absorb water quite easily and are ruined if they do so. Ideally they should remain sealed in their bags stored in a dry place until ready to use. If you are considering a pellet stove, then you need to consider having a place to store at least one ton of pellets.
Pellets come in 40lb bags so there are 50 bags per ton. Each Bag is about 2 feet tall by 18″ wide and when stacked on a 4-foot by 4-foot pallet 50 bags will come up to about 4 feet tall. Having a place to store pellets means you can buy them in bulk and buying them this way will get you a better price per bag.
Where Can I Install A Pellet Stove?
Pellet stoves can be installed a few different ways. They can be installed into a lined masonry chimney or manufactured chimney, up through a roof or through a wall. Unlike a wood stove the venting on a pellet stove does not have to extend up beyond the roof of the house. In fact, a stove vented through a wall is perfectly fine sticking straight out with no vertical rise at all. This ability can make a pellet stove a much cheaper alternative to a wood stove. Most people don’t realize the majority of the cost of installing a wood stove is in the venting and not the stove. If you have a fireplace you should consider a pellet stove insert these units are designed to be installed into a masonry fireplace for a nice clean look.
Pellet stoves have very close clearances to walls and other combustibles because the body of the stove stays relatively cool. One of the considerations for installation is the need for some sort of floor protection such as a hearth pad or other noncombustible surface. Some stoves have built in hearth pads and require no additional floor protection.
I Want a Pellet Stove but Where Should I Start?
The first step would be to figure out where you want to put a pellet stove and if one can be installed there. At the Chimney King of New England, we can come out to your house and perform an onsite evaluation so you know what you need to do.
The next thing would be to figure out how big of a stove you need to heat your home and we can help you there too. Once you know you can have one installed and what size you need you can start to shop. Certain stoves may have features you are interested in like digital control boards or a built in hearth pad. The stoves efficiency rating is another important factor to consider. The majority of the pellet stoves available today are going to be close in efficiency but a small difference might be what you need to select one stove over another. Be sure to weigh all the options when making your choice and you’ll be the happy new owner of a pellet stove.
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