If you’re looking to upgrade your home to be more energy-efficient, you’ve probably come across pellet- or wood-burning stoves. Pellet stoves are a great choice for keeping your home warm in a power outage or cutting back on your electricity use. They are surprisingly clean and are usually cheaper in the long run than other forms of household heating.
Pellet stoves are worth the money for people living in cold environments. Depending on the size and layout of your home and the climate you live in, you can see significant savings by switching to a pellet stove.
Are you seriously considering a pellet stove? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about a pellet stove, how it works, and what makes it worth your money.
How Pellet Stoves Work
Pellet stoves are wood-burning stoves fueled by small pellets of sawdust instead of logs. Some pellet stoves can burn more than just wood and may use nutshells and corn kernels, too.
Pellet fuel is loaded into the storage hopper. The stove should automatically deliver some pellets to the burn pot, so you don’t have to tend the fire. The stove uses a thermostat and fans to pull in cold air from your home and expel warm air, heating your home more effectively than a wood stove.
Unlike a traditional wood stove, a pellet stove requires electricity. It has fans, a spinning auger, and other parts that need electricity to run. The components that allow pellet stoves to heat your home more efficiently also happen to require electricity.
Your pellet stove can be free-standing, or you can insert it into your fireplace. While some stoves have a flue or chimney, they do not produce very much air pollution. In fact, the U.S. government ranks pellet stoves as the cleanest solid-fuel heating option for residences.
Pellet fuel burns very efficiently and leaves little ash behind. You should only have to clean your stove’s ashtray once a week. The lack of residue also means pellet stoves pose less risk of a fire hazard than other stoves.
Advantages of Pellet Stoves
There are several advantages to using a pellet stove over other forms of heating for your home. Pellet stoves are generally safer, cleaner, more efficient, and more cost-effective than other stoves and fireplaces.
They are safer for children than fireplaces or wood stoves. The outside of the stove doesn’t get too hot to the touch unless it is made of glass. This lower external temperature reduces the risk of accidental burns to children who get too close to the stove.
Pellet stoves are also less likely than other stoves to cause a fire hazard. Stoves expel their exhaust and smoke into a chimney or flue. Some of this exhaust leaves behind a residue called creosote.
If you go too long without cleaning your chimney, the creosote build-up can lead to a fire. Fortunately, pellet stoves have very little creosote and therefore are a lesser fire risk.
Pellet stoves are cleaner than wood-burning stoves in terms of both pollution and regular maintenance. They expel far less air pollution than other stoves that use solid fuels. Also, stoves that leave large amounts of ash require frequent cleaning, whereas pellet stoves only need weekly cleanings.
In addition to being better for the environment, pellet stoves are good for your wallet, too. A 40-pound bag of pellet fuel only costs a few dollars. If you want to purchase your fuel by the ton, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars.
Pellet stove users typically burn between two and three tons (1814-2722 kg) of fuel per year. Even if you buy more expensive brands of pellet fuel, this means that you’ll still likely spend less than you would for your yearly gas heating.
The exact amount you’ll save depends on how expensive your current heating system is and how cold your home gets.
Disadvantages of Pellet Stoves
Despite their many advantages, pellet stoves are not perfect. They require regular maintenance, depend on electricity, and use special fuel. If you’re looking for an electricity-free heat source that burns fuel you can collect yourself, consider a wood stove instead.
Pellet stoves, like all stoves and fireplaces, should undergo a yearly inspection for safety. The last thing you want is to be warming your home with an active fire hazard. Pellet stoves also contain several moving parts on the interior.
If one breaks, you’ll probably need professional help to fix it. While pellet stoves save you the trouble of stoking and tending your fire, the stoves themselves require more maintenance than simpler options.
If you’re trying to move your home “off the grid,” a pellet stove is not for you. Pellet stoves use electricity to run the internal fans and controls and depend on the power grid.
If your home is prone to power outages in the winter, you probably shouldn’t make a pellet stove your home’s primary heat source.
You can’t put just any fuel in a pellet stove. Pellet fuel is cheap, but it isn’t as cheap as gathering and chopping your own firewood from your property. Pellets usually come in plastic packaging and are transported by trucks that run on fossil fuels.
Pellets may burn cleaner than other solid fuels. However, you still have to consider the environmental impact of their packaging and shipping. Chopping and gathering your firewood is simpler and greener.
Some pellet stove users may have trouble loading the hopper with fuel. Pellet fuel comes in heavy bags, and you may struggle to lift them to restock your stove. In that case, you may want to stick with gas heating, as a fireplace also requires some heavy lifting.
Alternatives to Pellet Stoves
If you’re feeling discouraged by the downsides of a pellet stove, don’t worry. Some alternatives may fit your home better. Think about your priorities for a heating system and consider these choices instead.
For an off-the-grid heat source, you should look at a wood stove. No matter whether you’re looking to decrease your dependence on electricity or preparing for a potential power outage, a wood-burning stove is a great option.
You’ll miss out on the convenience of a pellet stove, with the auger that automatically fills and tends the burn pot. But if a winter storm takes out your home’s power lines, you will still have power. A wood stove also allows you to gather your own fuel.
If a pellet stove seems like too much work for you, you might be better off using central heating. Wood- and pellet-burning devices require regular cleanings and yearly inspections.
And a pellet stove has many parts that could break and require professional help fixing. For busy families, that might be too much work.
You might also be intimidated by having to regularly purchase fuel and lift heavy bags to restock your stove. Gas heating requires less maintenance and no heavy lifting. It’s simply included in your regular utility bills.
How to Decide Whether Pellet Stoves Are Worth the Money
Whether or not pellet stoves are worth the cost depends on many factors. Your location, your current heating bill, your home’s style, and layout, and your willingness to put in the work that comes with a pellet stove are all important.
Your initial investment in a pellet stove will be a few thousand dollars. As mentioned above, a year’s supply of pellets costs a few hundred dollars, but that number varies based on how often you use your stove and how much fuel you burn.
Consider this figure against how much you spend on heating every year. If you spend more than $600 a year to heat your home, pellet stoves should help you save money.
This is because there are very few situations in which a pellet stove should set you back more than $600 per year. If you have a large home and need several stoves to heat your property, you may end up spending more. However, in such situations, you will likely also have been spending more on your current heating.
Given these salving, while it may take a few years, the difference you save will eventually cover the initial cost of the stove.
You should also research if your state offers incentives to pellet stove users. Some states provide tax rebates to residences with pellet stoves, and others don’t charge sales tax on pellet fuel. Depending on your state’s policies, you could see extra savings from the government.
Additionally, depending on the efficiency rating of your stove, the federal government may also offer a green tax credit.
If you live somewhere that doesn’t get very cold (like Texas or Florida), a pellet stove probably won’t save you money. You’ll only see savings if your heating bill is higher than the cost of a year’s supply of pellet fuel.
Are you paying more than $600 a year to heat your home? Are you unhappy with your current heating system? Are you willing to deal with the extra maintenance that comes with a pellet stove? If the answer to those questions is yes, a pellet stove might be worth it to you.
If you live somewhere cold and are dissatisfied with the state of your current heating system, a pellet stove is a great alternative.
It can heat your home better and save you money in the long run. While pellet stoves aren’t for everyone, they just might be right for you and your home.
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