Also known as bio-mass stoves, these units offer a fuel option that answers the need for clean-burning, renewable energy. The pellets are made of compressed sawdust that might otherwise end up in landfills, the fuel is consistent in size, and comes in forty-pound bags.
Simply pour the pellets into the stove's hopper which automatically feeds the pellets to the stove's burn pot. A single load can burn 24 hours.
Pellet stoves look similar to wood stoves or fireplace inserts, but the similarities end there. They burn small pellets made typically of wood shavings or sawdust and are very sophisticated combustion appliances.
The heat from a pellet stove comes from a continuous flame in a small burn pot that burns the pellets delivered via a motorized system from a refillable hopper located on the appliance. The heat produced is regulated by the consumer primarily by selecting the rate that the pellets are fed into the burn pot. Most pellet stoves will burn 1–9 pounds of pellets per hour. Each pound of wood pellets produces approximately 8,000 btu’s per hour. An average 1200 square foot house in the northeast requires 30,000 to 40,000 btu’s per hour or burn 3 to 4 pounds fuel per hour during the coldest periods. Pellet stoves with thermostatically monitoring devices respond automatically to the area’s heat demand and will save you fuel as they regulate the fuel amount as needed.
Pellets typically are sold in 40 lb. bags and are poured into the stove’s hopper area. Stoves have differing hopper sizes although most stoves will handle at least a bag of pellets per loading. Some models can be equipped with a hopper extension for longer periods of time between reloadings.
Pellet fuel may be stored outside if kept dry. Moist pellets or pellets exposed to the elements can not be used. Pellet fuel can differ greatly and not all pellet stoves are designed to burn a wide range of pellet fuel.
Pellet Stove Maintenance
Although easy to use, pellet stoves need more service and maintenance than do most other hearth appliances. This is because they have a lot of moving parts, along with electrical and electronic controls. Day-to-day maintenance can easily be done by the owner so it is important to select a model that gives you easy access to the components that will need your attention.
You (the consumer) will need to do certain tasks daily, others weekly and still others on a monthly and annual schedule. Many pellet owners hire a professional once or twice a year to perform some of these tasks.
It is important to install your pellet appliance in a manner that allows adequate access to the areas requiring maintenance. For example, an installation that does not require the stove to be physically moved to accommodate cleaning the motors, blowers, and venting components will save you a lot of time and labor.
Pellet stoves must be installed with approved pellet venting components. Many pellet stoves are tested and listed to vent without any vertical rise in the venting system. They can vent through a side wall and terminate horizontally. While these no-rise installations lower the cost of the installation, a disadvantage of this type of installation is that without any rise in the vent there is no natural drafting of the appliance. Should there be an abrupt interruption of electrical power the power venting feature is lost and it is not uncommon to experience some smoke spillage from the stove.