- What To Know Before Buying A Pellet Stove
- What To Consider Before Buying A Pellet Stove
- What To Look For When Buying A Pellet Stove
- 1. Type of Pellet Stove
- 2. Heat Output
- 3. Combustion Efficiency
- 4. Energy Efficiency
- 5. Ease of Cleaning
- 6. Hopper Capacity
- 7. Type of Pellet Fuel
- 8. Life Expectancy & Warranty
- 9. Thermostatic Control
- 10. Approved Stoves
- 11. Purchase Cost
- 12. Backup Power
- 13. Appearance
- 14. Spare Parts
- 15. Flame Viewability & Aesthetics
- Further Reading
Pellet stoves are a form of solid fuel residential heating appliance and seen to be in the same family as wood burning stoves but with a number of differences between them.
Pellet stoves are popular thanks to their ability for fires to be much more automated compared to other forms of wood stove and are considered to be the most efficient form of home solid fuel heating appliance.
We’ve recently invested in a pellet stove and had it installed in our living room.
We already have wood and multi fuel stoves and wanted something that would be able to heat our living room without requiring too much attention.
Pellet stoves are a perfect fit for such circumstances but before buying a pellet stove there are a few things to know about pellet stoves, things to consider when looking to install a pellet stove in your home and certain things to look for in a pellet stove.
We’ve therefore put together this complete buying guide to pellet stoves to explain:
- What to know before buying a pellet stove
- What to consider before buying a pellet stove
- What to look for when buying a pellet stove
What To Know Before Buying A Pellet Stove
The main things to know before buying a pellet stove are that they can be relatively large appliances, need a source of electricity, can only use pellets as the fuel, waste air must be vented externally, and it may be possible to vent fresh air internally or externally.
As an owner of a pellet stove, we’ve experienced first-hand all of the of the things you need to know about pellet stoves
Here are the main things that you need to know before buying a pellet stove:
- Pellet stoves can be relatively large appliances. Depending on the model, a pellet stove can be a large appliance and may stand out in a smaller room. Our own pellet stove is much larger than the open fireplace it sits next to and so we couldn’t install it in this fireplace. A traditional wood burning stove can be much less intrusive on a room and more easily be installed in open fireplaces, however built-in forms of pellet stove for installation in masonry fireplaces are also available.
- Pellet stoves need a source of electricity. All pellet stoves (bar very specific non-electric versions) will need to be plugged into the home electrics. They’ll typically come with a power cord out the back of the unit with a standard plug for plugging into any of your standard home electrical outlets.
See our article on electrical requirements for pellet stoves for more information.
- Pellet stoves can only use pellets as fuel. Depending on the model of stove, you may also only be able to burn wood pellets, which are the most common type of pellet stove pellet fuel material. You can’t burn traditional wood logs in a pellet stove.
- Pellet stoves must vent waste air externally. As pellet stoves contain a real fire, waste air from a pellet stove must be vented out of your home. A common way to do this is to have a flue that extends horizontally out of your home, and then up the side of the house to above the roof line (if required by local building codes/regulations), or it may be possible to vent up through an existing chimney with a flue liner.
Our article on venting requirements for pellet stoves covers this in more detail.
- Clean air can be vented internally or externally. Depending on where a pellet stove is to be installed and the requirements of local building codes/regulations, a pellet stove can take air from the room or the air vent can be extended through an external wall of a home to take air from the outside.
We have a more comprehensive guide to the things you need to know about pellet stoves here.
You can also read our complete list of pros and cons of pellet stoves for more information on their advantages and disadvantages.
What To Consider Before Buying A Pellet Stove
Pellet stoves are a form of solid fuel residential heating appliance and before buying a pellet stove for a home a number of things should be considered to ensure that there’s aren’t any issues when installing, such as power supply and venting.
The main things to consider before buying a pellet stove include where the stove will be located, how the stove will be vented for both waste and clean air, whether there’s an electrical outlet nearby, how the pellets will be sourced, and the purchase, installation and running costs.
Things to consider when buying a pellet stove include:
- The area to be heated by the stove.
- Where the stove will be located.
- How the stove will be vented, both for clean and waste air.
- How the stove will be supplied with electrical power.
- Whether the stove can be used with a generator during a power outage.
- What the stove will sit on.
- How the stove will adhere to local building codes & regulations.
- How you will source pellets and where the bags will be stored.
- The purchase, installation and running costs.
- Whether your home insurance covers the use of a pellet stove.
We discuss these things to consider about pellet stoves in more detail below.
1. Area To Be Heated
The size and location of the area you want a pellet stove to heat can affect a number of things including the size of stove required, the type of stove required and where the stove will need to be installed.
Before buying a pellet stove it’s therefore important to consider how much of your home you want a pellet stove to heat.
If you’re only looking to heat a single room (like we were) then a traditional freestanding air-heating pellet stove may suffice.
However, if you’re looking to heat your whole house with a pellet stove then you may need to start looking at stoves that can more efficiently transfer the heat around a home or simply deliver more heat, such as:
- Hydro pellet stoves
- Ducted pellet stoves
- Pellet stove boilers
We cover using a pellet stove to heat a whole house in more detail in another article.
2. Stove Location
A pellet stove needs to be vented externally for waste air and in many cases also for clean air.
To make the ventilation feasible, pellet stoves therefore need to be located up against an external wall of a home, or within an open fireplace or adjacent to a chimney if looking to vent through this rather than an external wall.
A pellet stove can be placed up against a back wall or within a corner (leaving sufficient clearance to combustibles in line with local building codes/guidance).
If looking to heat a whole home rather than a single room then you’ll also need to consider how the heat will be transferred between rooms. For more open plan homes, installing a pellet stove more centrally will help while installing a hydro pellet stove in the right place on the central heating system will also help.
For example, we only wanted to heat our living room and so we’ve had our pellet stove installed in the corner where it could be vented straight out the external wall.
3. Venting Requirements
Pellet stoves use a real fire to generate heat and so all waste air from a pellet stove must be vented straight out of a home.
As pellet stoves are forced induction appliances, they don’t typically have the same onerous venting requirements as traditional wood burning stoves.
This means that you can typically vent horizontally straight through an external wall of a home (with the flue then heading vertically up the side of the house to above the roof line if required).
However, in many cases it may also still be possible to have the flue going up an existing chimney. Either option can be far less expensive compared to installing a flue straight through the roof.
Depending on the individual situation and local building regulations and codes, it may be possible to either vent fresh air internally or externally by leaving the vent as it or extending the intake air vent through the wall to the outside.
See our article on pellet stove venting requirements for more information for both waste and clean air venting.
4. Electrical Supply
As pellet stoves are electrical appliances you’ll need to consider how you’ll provide power to it before buying one.
Pellet stoves will come with a standard power cord that you can plug into any standard home electrical outlet.
For example, our pellet stove came with a detached power cable that we needed to plug into the back of the stove and then into a nearby electrical outlet.
Luckily there was an electrical outlet right next to where we wanted our pellet stove to be installed, and within distance that the power cable could reach.
If there isn’t an electrical outlet near to where you want your pellet stove to be then you’ll need to:
- Choose another location for the stove
- Have a new electrical outlet installed
A pellet stove should be plugged straight into an electrical outlet and not used with any form of extension cord.
See our article on pellet stove electrical requirements for more information.
5. Backup Electrical Supply
Pellet stoves won’t work without an electrical supply.
Before buying a pellet stove consider how you’ll provide power during power outages, such as using a backup battery or generator.
Some models of pellet stove can be bought with backup batteries as optional extras, but if using a generator look to confirm with the seller or manufacturer what would be possible with a particular model of stove.
6. The Hearth
As pellet stoves are solid fuel burning appliances, it’s typically required that they’re placed on a suitable platform known as a hearth.
For example, the floor to our living room is laminate wood flooring and so we needed to buy a suitable hearth pad before having it installed.
Speak to a local installer to confirm what is required for your particular situation and what form of hearth or hearth pad may be required depending on what the construction of your floor is and local regulations.
7. Local Building Codes/Regulations
A pellet stove must be installed in line with both the manufacturer’s guidelines and any local and/or national building codes and regulations.
This includes items such as clearance distances to combustible objects and venting requirements.
Speak to a local installer or manufacturer or seller for the requirements of installing a pellet stove in your particular area of residence.
8. Sourcing & Storing Pellets
Suitable pellets must be used with pellet stoves.
Before buying a pellet stove it’s therefore important to consider how these pellets will be sourced and where they will be stored in your home.
Bags of pellets can typically be bought in weights or 40lbs or 15kg depending on where you live.
In order for a pellet stove to be cost effective you’ll want to ensure that you can source pellets locally.
You’ll also need to check what type of pellets (commonly wood by-product pellets) and quality of pellets should be used with any particular model of pellet stove.
For example, the manufacturer of our own pellet stove requires us to burn only wood pellets and use pellets that meet Class A1 quality.
Bags of these premium quality pellets are readily available near to where we live and so we can keep ongoing fuel costs lower.
Therefore, ensure that you’re able to source the required type and quality of pellets (at a reasonable price to keep running costs to a minimum) before buying a pellet stove.
As bags of pellets are often cheaper when ordered in bulk, you’ll need to consider where you’ll store them.
We have a detached garage that we store our bags of pellets in and bring a bag or two in as we need.
9. Purchase, Installation & Running Costs
Pellet stoves contain a range of electronic and mechanical components and so their purchase cost can be more on average compared to other forms of wood stove.
However, as pellet stoves aren’t typically subject to the same onerous venting requirements as natural draft wood burning stoves, the average cost of installation compared to wood stoves can be less (when venting straight through an external wall).
Getting quotes from certified installers near to you will give you a better understanding of the expected installation costs for a pellet stove in your home.
Running costs include pellets, electricity and maintenance.
The cost of pellets and electricity can vary significantly depending on area of residence and so it’s important to work these out for every personal situation.
There are more moving parts in a pellet stove compared to other forms of wood stove and so the maintenance costs can be more expensive later in the life of the stove when they start to wear out compared to traditional wood burning stoves that don’t have any moving parts.
It’s therefore important to take these costs into consideration before buying a pellet stove as it’s always worth working out whether other forms of residential heating appliance could be more suitable in the long run.
See our more in-depth article on pellet stove purchase, installation and running costs for more information, including examples of how much it cost us to buy, install and run our own pellet stove.
Before buying a pellet stove check to see whether your home insurance covers use of such a solid fuel heating appliance and get quotes if not.
What To Look For When Buying A Pellet Stove
While there are things to consider before getting a pellet stove, there are also a number of things that you should be looking for when actually buying a pellet stove.
The main things to look for when buying a pellet stove include the heat output to match the area to be heated, combustion efficiency rating, hopper capacity, purchase cost, warranty period, availability of spare parts and whether the stove is approved by the local standards agency.
The list of things to look for when buying a pellet stove include:
- Type of pellet stove
- Heat output
- Efficiency rating
- Energy efficiency rating
- Ease of cleaning and maintenance
- Hopper capacity
- Type of pellet fuel required
- Life expectancy of stove and warranty period
- Thermostatic control
- Approved pellet stoves (EPA etc)
- Purchase cost
- Backup power
- Spare parts
- Flame viewability & aesthetics
We discuss all of the above in more detail below.
1. Type of Pellet Stove
In most circumstances where the heating for a single open space is required, a few rooms or a small home, the purchase of a standard air space-heating pellet stove can be sufficient.
Space heating pellet stoves that use an internal distribution blower to disperse the heat around the room(s) can be the most common form of stove.
Our own pellet stove uses a distribution blower to force the heat around our living room and warm air comes out the front grille of the stove, and heats the room very well.
However, if you’re looking to heat a whole (larger) home then you may need to consider looking at a hydro pellets stove or pellet boiler, which can connect up to the central heating or use a series of ducts to move heat around a home.
Our own space-heating pellet stove isn’t able to heat our whole house.
Discuss your position and requirements will a local installer to understand what type of pellet stove is right for you.
2. Heat Output
The maximum heat output of a pellet stove should match the size of the area it’s required to heat.
A pellet stove that’s undersized can struggle to keep the room(s) warm while a stove that’s oversized may make the temperature too hot and uncomfortable.
The heat output of a pellet stove is commonly shown in BTUs or kW (depending on your area of residence.
For example, our air pellet stove has a space heat output of 6.1kW (21,000 BTUs) and does a perfect job of heating our living room.
Our particular model of stove does have thermostatic control however and so we’re able to more accurately control the desired room temperature.
A local installer, manufacturer or reseller will be able to tell you the heat output requirements of a pellet stove for your particular situation and for the space and/or number of rooms you want to heat.
3. Combustion Efficiency
Pellet stoves are very efficient forms of residential solid fuel heating appliance thanks to a range of sensors and a central control unit always optimizing fires for the best fuel to air ratio.
Expect efficiency ratings to be on average above what you would find with other forms of wood stove.
If you’re looking for the most efficient pellet stove, where the most heat is generated from every piece of fuel and minimal wastage in the form of ash and emissions is produced, then look for a pellet stove with a high efficiency rating.
A higher combustion efficiency rating can mean you’re getting more out of your fuel but this can also demand a higher price tag on the stove.
For example, our own pellet stove is very efficient at 87% combustion efficiency but it’s likely we would have needed to pay more to get an even higher efficiency stove.
We’ve discussed pellet stove combustion efficiency in another article in more detail.
4. Energy Efficiency
While combustion efficiency refers to how well a stove converts the fuel into usable heat, energy efficiency refers to the electricity usage.
As pellet stoves require a source of electricity in order to work, purchasing a pellet stove with a better energy efficiency rating can make a small difference in the long term but this may not be such an important factor when choosing a pellet stove compared to others.
We’ve also covered pellet stove energy efficiency in another article.
5. Ease of Cleaning
In order for pellet stoves to maintain their high levels of efficiency they need to be cleaned out and maintained regularly in line with the manufacturers guidelines.
This is commonly undertaken in the form of removing ash from the ash tray and cleaning out the burn pot before each fire but can also include periodically cleaning out the hopper.
Pellet stoves should make this process simply be providing features such as a removable ash trays and burn pots but it’s always worth looking for in a pellet stove and checking that a particular model of stove will help make the cleaning processes as easy as possible.
Our own pellet stove has removeable parts for cleaning which makes the ongoing maintenance of this stove less hassle for us.
For more information we’ve outlined the maintenance requirements of our own pellet stove here.
6. Hopper Capacity
Pellet stoves have integrated storage for the pellets known as hoppers.
Each model of pellet stove will have its own hopper capacity where a maximum number of pellets can be stored within the stove at any one time.
This hopper capacity is typically given in weight, such as in lbs or kg. For example, our pellet stove can hold up to 24kg (53lbs) of pellets and so we can add one and a bit of standard weight bags to the hopper.
With a burn rate of 0.7 to 1.5kg/h (depending on how hard the stove is working), our stove can usually run for 24 hours continuously without any further input from us.
If you’re looking to burn long fires with your pellet stove without having to refill the hopper regularly then it’s worth looking for a stove that has a larger hopper capacity.
7. Type of Pellet Fuel
Pellet stoves typically require the use of wood pellets as fuel but in some cases manufacturers may allow a certain amount of fuel to contain corn.
Manufacturers of pellet stoves can also often state the quality of pellets that the stove has been designed for.
Our pellet stove is designed to work with Class A1 pellets and the instruction manual notes that:
‘The use of wood pellets with a lower quality results in the need for more frequent cleaning of the combustion chamber, reducing heat output and efficiency. Inadequate wood pellets can also cause blockage of the auger and stop operation of the stove.’Victoria-05
It’s therefore worth looking for a pellet stove that burns the type and quality of pellets that are available locally to you, as fuel costs can start to mount up if delivery of certain types of pellet fuel can be a problem.
8. Life Expectancy & Warranty
Pellet stoves typically can typically last over 10 years before problems may start to occur and parts will need to be replaced to help keep a stove going for longer.
You can typically expect that pellet stoves from more reputable brands will have a better build quality and life expectancy, but this usually comes at a cost of a higher purchase price.
Pellet stoves will also come with a standard warranty period where repairs and spare parts are covered by the manufacturer.
For example, the warranty period on our pellet stove was 24 months from the date of installation, but only a 6-month warranty was provided for the ignition.
Looking for pellet stoves with longer warranties can be a sign that the manufacturer has more faith in the product.
We discuss how long pellet stoves can last for in more detail in another article.
9. Thermostatic Control
Many more modern pellet stoves can include thermostatic control features where the stove will automatically adjust the burn rate based on the current and proposed room temperatures, instead of simply having high to low heat output settings.
It may also be possible to connect certain pellet stoves up to an existing thermostat in your home.
Our pellet stove has thermostatic control and makes the heating process much more automated. We simply need to set the desired temperature for our living room and the pellet stove will bring it up to that temperature and keep it there.
If you want the most automation from your pellet stove look for thermostatic control.
For more information we have another article that covers thermostatic control on pellet stoves in more detail.
10. Approved Stoves
Certified stoves have been proven to be in line with current heating standards for safety and efficiency.
The approving body will differ depending on where you live but common approved stoves to look out for include EPA Certified or DEFRA Approved.
For peace of mind that you’re using a stove that’s been approved by a regulatory body, look for a pellet stove that bears the sign that it’s a Certified or Approved stove.
11. Purchase Cost
As pellet stoves can be large and complex heating appliances, their purchase costs can be on average more than what you would pay for another form of wood stove.
However, this cost is often balanced out by the fact that pellets stoves typically have less onerous venting requirements and so installation costs can be less compared to wood burning stoves.
Look for the right price on the right pellet stove for you, as expect that with cheaper pellet stoves you’ll likely pay more further down the line in maintenance and replacement parts costs.
We’ve covered pellet stove purchase, installation and running costs in another article.
12. Backup Power
As pellet stoves always require a supply of electricity in order to work, a form of backup power supply can be important during power outages.
If you live in an area that suffers from regular power outages then it’s worth looking for a pellet stove that offers backup power supplies in the form of batteries (typically as an optional extra) or where the manufacturer states that it can be used with a generator.
Pellet stoves can be found in a range of styles but are most commonly seen in tall freestanding form in the color black.
As pellet stoves are relatively large appliances that can stand out in a room it’s always worth going for a stove that suits the décor of your home and a style that you’ll enjoy.
We took this into account and went for the more colorful and contemporary style of pellet stove to suit the orange/red and grey color scheme of our living room.
14. Spare Parts
Pellet stoves have a number of internal moving and electrical components (we have a guide to all of the parts of a pellets stove here) and so you can expect one of more of these components to need replacing throughout the life of the stove.
It’s therefore worth looking for a pellet stove that offers a complete range of spare parts available in case something does go wrong.
For example, the manual for our pellet stove lists the range of spare parts available for our particular model of stove. With spare parts available directly from the manufacturer for all of the important components we can be assured that we can continue to keep using our stove when something needs replacing.
15. Flame Viewability & Aesthetics
A big part of any fireplace or stove is the ability to view the real flames and the enjoyment they bring.
Pellets stoves typically offer flames viewable through a glass panel on the front of the unit.
The look of the flames can differ between brand and model and so it’s always worth seeing a particular pellet stove operating if you can before purchasing.