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The joy of the pellet stove?
Old 05-09-2019, 06:59 AM   #1
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The joy of the pellet stove?

I was never a fan (small pun) of pellet stoves. They make a racket with all the fans, auger motors etc running. They donít have the beauty of a wood fire, or any of the sound effects. They donít have the residual heating from the mass of steel and iron in a regular wood stove and require electricity to run. Also they donít win any beauty contests.

That said, our new house has one and it does a great job. Load it up and it runs all day. The fan pushes out a lot of heat, there is virtually no smoke or ash, at least compared to the wood stove I have in my other house which was rated as high efficiency. No going outside in the cold dark night for more wood and no mess from bringing wood inside the house. No tending the fire and remembering to add wood.

From a convenience point of view they are a great improvement over having to lay a fire everyday. Self lighting as pellets stoves are. Of course if there is a power failure I am in trouble, and I do miss the beauty of a real fire but can see as the years go by this will be much easier on my aging and aching back. No splitting and stacking or schlepping of wood required.

So who has them and what do you think?
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Old 05-09-2019, 07:21 AM   #2
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I don't have one but have been around them. The only advice I can offer is to have it inspected by a professional to make sure that it was installed properly. Many of these units are installed by the home owner and it is important to meet all of the clearance requirements. This isn't just for pellet stoves, it goes for all stoves.
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Old 05-09-2019, 07:54 AM   #3
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From a convenience point of view they are a great improvement over having to lay a fire everyday. Self lighting as pellets stoves are. Of course if there is a power failure I am in trouble, and I do miss the beauty of a real fire but can see as the years go by this will be much easier on my aging and aching back. No splitting and stacking or schlepping of wood required.

So who has them and what do you think?

I don't own one (we have easy access to natural gas here), but I have researched them quite a bit. I'd probably use a pellet stove if I didn't have access to NG. Compared to propane they do require more attention/fuss, (putting fuel in the hopper, cleaning out the ash), so I don't think they are a going to replace propane for everyone. But the fuel cost is low.
If I had a pellet stove and lived in a place with unreliable power and cold weather, I'd consider a backup generator to run the fan/auger >or< a small regular woodstove for emergency use (to keep one room warm). Having a few hundred pounds of fuel pellets on hand but no safe way to burn them in a cold/power-out situation would be frustrating. They make small stainless steel trays/pans that allow the pellets to be burned in a woodstove, and even a small semi-portable "shop stove" would do the trick.
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Old 05-09-2019, 09:00 AM   #4
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I don't own one (we have easy access to natural gas here), but I have researched them quite a bit. I'd probably use a pellet stove if I didn't have access to NG.
That's my situation, at the end of a dead-end country road. We burned oil for years (it's still our backup) but when it started costing over $3K a season back in 2008 we started looking for options.

We have hot-water heat, so we installed a Harman pellet boiler and piped it into the central system. It's been consistent and pretty trouble-free for nearly a decade now. But it's work -- we burned over 5 tons of pellets this past season, which translates to more than 250 40-lb bags that had to be toted down into the basement. I'm up to the job, but I might start looking for other options in 10 years or so. At that point we'll probably move off the farm.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:30 AM   #5
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I started with a wood stove in my house, that lasted 2 or 3 years, the mess, finding,cutting hauling, splitting wood sucked.
Im on my second pellet stove the first one was too big cooked us out, they are noisy i have even changed motors, no joy.
We only use it while home and awake, fire it up when afterwork and turn it off at night, typical winter we burn 1.5 tons.

I bought a cheap fork lift unloading from the truck or trailer is easy.
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Old 05-09-2019, 11:21 AM   #6
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But it's work -- we burned over 5 tons of pellets this past season, which translates to more than 250 40-lb bags that had to be toted down into the basement. I'm up to the job, but I might start looking for other options in 10 years or so. At that point we'll probably move off the farm.

That sure would make one wonder if all that extra work of hauling and loading is worth the cost savings.
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Old 05-09-2019, 11:46 AM   #7
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We got a Harman XXV pellet stove (50k BTUs) a few years ago. We use it to supplement our heat pump when it gets below freezing. Works great, burned 1.5 tons last winter. Cost for pellets was $206/ton. Is a lot safer than our old wood stove, only drawback is the fan and pellets dropping noise. The back and sides barely get warm, all the heat comes out the front. Easier to clean the stove & chimney vs old wood stove.
I can fit 4 days worth of pellets into our old woodbox that would only hold 1 days worth of firewood.
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Old 05-09-2019, 11:50 AM   #8
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So who has them and what do you think?
My son has one. He likes it a lot. I help him put the bags of pellets in his basement every year.

If I had to heat my room/house with wood, that's the kind of device I would use. Relatively quiet, reasonably safe, relatively efficient.

I'm glad I don't have to heat my room/house with wood.
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Old 05-09-2019, 12:16 PM   #9
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At 54, I still cut/load/split/stack/haul/burn about 5 cords of wood a year in my high efficiency woodstove, and enjoy the heat, but not the aching muscles, time involved, and messy house. We have been doing this for 25 years now.

I have been looking at alternatives for retirement time, and the aging process, I may look at a pellet stove, or some variation.
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Old 05-09-2019, 12:39 PM   #10
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Of course if there is a power failure I am in trouble, and I do miss the beauty of a real fire but can see as the years go by this will be much easier on my aging and aching back. No splitting and stacking or schlepping of wood required.

So who has them and what do you think?
I'd certainly consider one if it was viable and needed. While that's not the case here, relatives have had them and they seemed to work well. As far as the electricity going out goes, a small generator to run just the pellet stove is not all that expensive, even if it's a Honda (known for great reliability/durability but at a price). Or you could just get three or four cheap ones from Harbor Freight and doubtless one of them would work even on a dark and stormy night.

Our prior house did have a wood-burning fireplace with a built-in fan that would, after an hour or so, begin to put out considerable heat and we did enjoy that. But as everyone who has had one knows the chore of gathering and splitting the wood becomes, well, a chore. That does make a pellet stove start to look more attractive.
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Old 05-09-2019, 12:51 PM   #11
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At 54, I still cut/load/split/stack/haul/burn about 5 cords of wood a year in my high efficiency woodstove, and enjoy the heat, but not the aching muscles, time involved, and messy house. We have been doing this for 25 years now.

I have been looking at alternatives for retirement time, and the aging process, I may look at a pellet stove, or some variation.
I'm 61 and doing the same. I only started about 10 years ago after I retired as I was travelling a lot so no way to do wood. I did it mostly because of the exercise involved, i.e. it helps to keep you somewhat fit. I went through about 5 cords this year (stove is still going as I type this). I did 'cheat' a couple years ago and got a truck of log-length which saved some effort (as compared to going to my wood lot property and felling trees).

When it gets to be too much, I will stop and turn up the thermostat and use fuel oil...or move someplace where I don't need to turn up the heat. But I love sitting in the "stove room" during the winter - great hanging out there with the wood stove running.
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Old 05-09-2019, 01:09 PM   #12
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We bought an Enviro Mini for our basement about 10 years ago as our main boiler runs on heating oil. On our main floor, we’ve had an old inefficient Franklin wood stove to supplement heating. Last year, I noticed the flue on our wood stove was shot and needed replacing.

Because firewood was going for a premium and at some point, would be hard to get, we got a Quadra-Fire Castile pellet stove. The stove runs on a thermostat, so all we have to do is load pellets and clean it out occasionally. During our coldest months (single and two digit days), we’d go through a bag of pellets in just over a day. Temps above that, a bag would last about a week. Current weather, it’s a bag for just over 2 weeks and summer it will likely be a bag a month if that.

I did install the pellet stoves myself, but I did pull city permits for them and had the work inspected. I recommend this for insurance purposes. One inspector told me one homeowner had his insurance claim denied for a fire because he didn’t have it inspected. I also maintain my stoves. Another forum showed how to clean out your stove using a leaf blower/vacuum, which works well.
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Old 05-10-2019, 09:56 AM   #13
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Pellet stoves fill a niche.

If you want to be able to buy your fuel by the bag each day on your commute heading home. Fill a hopper and set a thermostat, then they work great.

There are a half-down non-electric pellet stoves, so you do not have to worry about power outages.

I live in dense forest. I get all my firewood, cut and split delivered to my dooryard every spring. So I only have to stack it. It is pretty cheap done in this manner.
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Old 05-10-2019, 11:44 PM   #14
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I briefly thought about getting a pellet stove when we built our house in 2004, but opted for a traditional wood stove and am very glad I did. Between my woodworking scraps and trees from our own two acres I've only had to buy firewood once in 15 years. So it's essentially free heat.

That said, we don't use our woodstove as our only heating source. It's mostly just for the ambiance or to provide heat when the power goes out. One cord of firewood usually lasts us all winter with a little extra for our outdoor firepit in the spring and fall.

I bought a small electric log splitter, so it doesn't take much effort to split our firewood, and I don't have another gas engine to fuss with. I use a couple of 5-gallon buckets to carry our firewood in the house, and that's enough to last us several hours in the evening.

I clean our chimney myself every fall. I'm sure there will come a day when I won't be able to do that myself anymore, but for now it's an easy task.
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Old 05-11-2019, 08:29 AM   #15
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That sure would make one wonder if all that extra work of hauling and loading is worth the cost savings.
When heating oil prices were near their peak, the pellet boiler cut my heating cost by more than 50%. At that point I had fuel oil bills approaching $3500 a season.

It probably took me about 1-1/2 hours to pick up each ton of pellets and place it into storage in my basement. So, a day's work. I'm big and reasonably fit, so moving 40-lb bags isn't taxing.

When I was a kid we heated with wood. Dad and I would spend day after day cutting and splitting to keep the old heater in the kitchen going. Then the chimney had to be maintained... chimney fires aren't uncommon in our area. A well-adjusted pellet heater produces zero creosote, just a thin deposit of ash that gets swept out of the flue maybe twice a season. The ash pan gets dumped after burning every couple of tons.

BTW, my heater is direct-vented, like a gas furnace.

There are some fantastic modern "gasification" wood stoves out there that are quite efficient, but you have to use well-seasoned wood split into quarters or smaller. A friend has one -- he has an 800-gallon tank of water that he uses as a heat sink so he can burn at maximum efficiency. He only lights the stove every couple of days in all but the coldest weather. A rig like that can cost $20K. But the wood is Free!!!
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Old 05-13-2019, 06:59 AM   #16
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When we first moved into our old (uninsulated) farm house, I called the propane delivery service to see what sort of budget/delivery plan the P.O. had used. He said that they called on a "as needed" basis, and used 2100 gallons of LPG the previous year (filling a 1000 gallon tank 3 times) burning the old water baseboard boiler in the basement. I did some quick math in my head, and decided to install a stainless triple wall chimney, along with a new Vermont Casting wood stove. We burned that stove for 15 years, and then bought a bigger Regency stove (most 3/8 thick steel in the industry), which has performed flawlessly for the last 10 years. For the last 10 years, we haven't used any other heat source, and are saving about $4000 a year.

We have insulated extensively, but still have the old boiler currently. It will most likely be replaced by a ground water heat pump, or new efficient boiler in the next year or two, but the woodstove will remain, and be functioning as long as I can.

I don't see a pellet stove in my future, unless I could used dried corn, bought cheap from a neighboring farm, and placed in my own gravity wagon, which I could disperse by the 5 gal bucket load.
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Old 05-13-2019, 07:22 AM   #17
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A stove can do a pretty good job -- if you have an open floor plan in a house that allows heat to circulate. In the old farmhouse I lived in as a teen, my bedroom usually topped out at about 55 degrees in the winter. As a kid I got used to that, just as the generations did that preceded me in that home. That's the nature of space heating vs. central heating. Some spaces are warmer than others.
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:48 AM   #18
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We had one (in CT) for about five years. Loved it at first, hated it later on because of the hassle of buying pellets and refilling the stove. Propane is much easier.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:31 AM   #19
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I monitor a pellet stove online forum, and I've noticed that most of the members are from the Northeast. It also seems like pellet fuel is quite a bit more expensive there than in the Midwest. We've got some pellet factories here in Wisconsin along with a big forest products industry, so materials and transportation costs are pretty low.
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How to not save money burning wood
Old 05-13-2019, 12:41 PM   #20
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How to not save money burning wood

0. Buy wood stove because you want to save money $2K
1. Buy 45 acre wood lot because you want more trees as source - $60K
2. Buy used truck to haul wood $7K
3. Buy multiple chain saws to cut wood, a split wood, chains, chaps, helmet, and so on. $2K
4. Buy a used tractor to work on road/etc on wood lot $7K
5. Buy a trailer to transport said used tractor $4K
6. Buy a *new* truck because tractor + trailer is at limit of old truck $38K

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