Your Extensive Guide To The Pellet Stove

Your Extensive Guide To The Pellet Stove

There are many ways in which you can warm up your house during the harsh winter. Some of them are costlier, while others will not make too great of a dent in your budget. For example, the pellet stove is a quite affordable central heating alternative.

So, in this guide, we’ll be talking about the pellet stove – we’ll focus on its features and comparisons with other heating options. We’ll also provide you with a few reasons why you should opt for it.

What Is Wood Pellet?

Wood pellet is a type of biofuel made of sawdust. It is one of the lightest and cheapest biofuels you can find nowadays. It also has a lot more advantages than other types of biofuel, and that’s why it has become a “fan-favorite”, so to speak.

Biomass Wood Pellets

We will tackle all of those perks in the following sections. Now we have to take a look at how the material that feeds the pellet stove is made.

How Is Wood Pellet Made?

Wood pellet, as mentioned previously, is made from sawdust. This sawdust is collected from establishments that work with wood, therefore get excessive amounts of it: wood milling companies, construction companies or those who make furniture.

The sawdust is compressed and then passed through a press that pushes pellets out of it. It’s like making cookies: you get your dough and then use your cookie forms to get the final product that goes in the oven.

Pellets can be made of numerous materials, not only from wood. Let’s put the types of pellets in the limelight, so you get a sense of how many things can go into making this biofuel.

Types Of Pellets

There are 9 major types of pellets you could use to heat your house up with. One of them is the one made of sawdust. The remaining ones are:

  • Pellets from corn cobs - corn cobs can be as effective in providing uniform heat as wood is
  • Pellets from bushes - after bushes were trimmed (or cut out completely), they go through the same process as wood goes in order to be transformed into pellets
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    Pellets from grass - grass pellets are great because you can make them at home. Since grass grows back really quickly, you can get a surprisingly huge amount of pellets even if you don’t have a lot of grass in your orchard and/or lawn
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    Pellets from corn stalk - these pellets are no different in terms of combustion and efficiency than those made from wood shavings. Corn stalk, contrary to what you might think, doesn’t burn out too quickly, especially when compressed. Therefore, you won’t need to waste a lot of it to heat up the house
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    Pellets from rice husk - the name is self-explanatory
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    Pellets from wheat bran - again, the name is self-explanatory
  • Pellets from dead leaves - believe it or not, dead leaves can make a quite nice fuel if compressed into pellets. If you’re using a press, make sure those leaves aren’t damp. If they are, they won’t burn properly
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    Pellets from wheat shavings

Something to Keep in Mind: If you have your own wood press at home, you can use it with any of the materials above. This way, you’ll save a fortune. Consider purchasing one and you won’t spend a dime on pellets.

Energy Output And Efficiency Of Wood Pellets

Let’s put it this way: 1 ton of wood pellets will give off the same amount of heat and energy as half a ton of diesel or over 4.700 kWh of electrical current. In your book, which one do you think is cheaper: 1 ton of pellets or 4.700 + kWh? Obviously, the pellets.

Efficiency Of Wood Pellets

Not much energy from the pellets is lost. In fact, at the moment, a pellet stove functioning on wood pellets has an efficiency of more than 86%. That’s not too shabby, is it?

Other biofuels are not as efficient as this. Moreover, they are a lot more harmful to the environment, given that they are known for causing the production of emissions that pollute the air. And since we’re on the topic of pollution, we should take a look at the emissions produced by wood pellets.

Air Pollution Emissions From Wood Pellets

When pellets are burned, they generally produce nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and other organic compounds that can harm both one’s health and the environment.

It was discovered that wood pellets produce these compounds, but just small amounts of them. The reason why this happens is that these pellets burn fairly quickly. Their size, too, contributes to the fact that they cannot actually produce too many harmful elements.

In the light of this info, it’s safe to say that wood pellets are much friendlier to the environment than other types of pellets or other kinds of fuel. Chopped wood, to give you an example, gives off a lot of smoke that is full of harmful substances.

How Does A Pellet Stove Work?

Even though you might be tempted to believe that a pellet stove works in the same fashion as a stove on chopped wood, the truth is entirely different. A pellet stove, believe it or not, is electric.

No, it does not work solely on electricity (you wouldn’t need wood pellets if it did). The hopper is a receptacle that contains the pellets. These are taken to the burning chamber by a device that resembles an auger. It spins and carries those pellets to the open flames.

When these pellets reach the burning chamber, the fire is ignited by electricity. That auger will keep on feeding the chamber with pellets until the desired room temperature has been reached.

The pellet stove has a thermostat you can use to set the temperature. Once that’s met, the auger will stop carrying pellets to the burning chamber. This is wildly cost-effective because you can actually get the exact temperature you need, no more and no less.

Afterward, the auger will not spin, subsequently stopping the transit of new pellets to the blaze.

Pellet Stove Vs. Gas Stove & Other Heating Options

If you’re not convinced that this type of stove is a must-have if you want to save money, you will be by reading the next section. In this, we’ll make a quick comparison of the pellet stove with other heating options.

Pellet Vs Gas Stove

Pellet Stove Vs. Gas Stove

A gas stove has its own set of advantages, that’s completely true, but it still falls short in some respects. Let’s take a quick look at its pros and cons:

Pros Of A Gas Stove

  • It can work without electricity (although not all of them are endowed with this feature). If you’re living in an area where power outages are part of everyday life, such a stove would come in handy
  • It requires less maintenance than a pellet stove because there will be no ash and debris stuck to the walls of the burning chamber

Cons Of A Gas Stove

  • Gas is much more expensive than wood pellets
  • Safety hazards (when the burner is dysfunctional, for instance)
  • It costs more to purchase the stove and install it

The main disadvantages of owning a gas-powered stove are particularly limited to finances, as you can see. A gas stove is more expensive than a pellet stove. Go to any store and you’ll find out that you need a smaller sum of money to purchase the latter.

The primary disadvantage of the pellet stove, when compared to the gas one, is the fact that it requires permanent maintenance: you’ll have to put the pellets in the hopper every day and you’ll need to collect the ashes.

A gas stove doesn’t require as much effort on your part. But then again, in the long run, it’s all about the money; therefore, we can say that a pellet stove is superior to a gas one.

Pellet Stove Vs. Wood Stove

This comparison is almost needless since it’s evident that a stove that works with pellets is 100x better than one that works with wood. Why? It’s very simple: when you have a wood stove, you’ll have to purchase wood, chop it and then stack it.

Classic Wood Stove

Many people think purchasing wood instead of pellets is a cheaper alternative, but it really isn’t. Plus, you’ll probably need to hire people to chop it and stack it, depending on how much you buy.

That’s an additional cost right there, one that you can certainly do without. Another huge disadvantage of a wood stove is that it releases a lot of toxic compounds in the air, whereas the pellet stove does not.

A wood stove can emit more than 7 grams of harmful smoke. A stove with pellets doesn’t even emit 1 gram. If you’re concerned with the air you breathe in (as you should), a pellet stove is the way to go.

Pellet Stove Vs. Electric Stove

Again, the pellet stove wins. Many people say such a stove actually uses more electricity than an electric stove. That’s simply unrealistic. Please use a pellet stove for one month and then an electric stove the next.

Take a look at the bills and prepare for a blackout. An electric stove uses electricity for as long as it works, while the pellet stove uses it only to start the fire. You have to know your facts before you say that an electric stove uses less electricity than one with pellets.

Pellet Stove BTUs

BTU stands for “British Thermal Units”. The BTU is directly related to the calorie, but whereas the latter represents the amount of heat that 1 gram of water requires to warm up by 10C, the former represents the amount of heat that 1 gram of water requires to warm up by 10F.

The amount of BTUs your pellet stove requires should be assessed in lines with the area of the house you need heated. Yes, you’ll have to do a lot of math if you want to get the number of BTUs manually.

Luckily, you can opt for calculating your BTUs by using an online calculator, such as this one.

Why Should You Opt For A Pellet Stove?

If you read our guide carefully up to this point, you have seen that a pellet stove comes as a package deal with quite a few perks:

Stove Pellet

It’s not harsh on the environment (or your lungs, for that matter), the biofuel that goes into it is cheaper than others and it provides more heat in a shorter time.

A pellet stove heats up almost immediately and doesn’t stop until the temperature on the thermostat is reached. Also, the price of such a stove is much lower than the one you’d pay for other stoves.

We’ve said at some point that you need to take out the ashes from the stove regularly, but depending on the model and its efficiency, the pellets can burn so fast and intensely that they leave little to no ashes behind.

All things considered, a pellet stove is perhaps your best choice when it comes to heating up your house effectively, quickly and cheaply. But of course, the ultimate decision is entirely yours.

What Are Pellet Grills?

You can get the gist of what a pellet grill is supposed to be from its name: a pellet grill is an outlet that works with pellets instead of charcoal and gas.

Thanks to the fact that the fire is fueled by the pellets, your barbecue will get that smoky, delicious taste you’ve come to love. This type of grill often comes with adjustable temperature.

Once that’s adjusted, the grill works in pretty much the same way as the stove, in the sense that an auger will feed pellets to the burning chamber.

Needless to say, this is so much more convenient than a common grill in which you have to put charcoal every half an hour. You won’t need to adjust the fire or use a lighter to rekindle it if it goes out.

Maintenance And Cleaning

To a certain extent, a pellet stove is no more difficult to clean up and maintain than any other given type of stove. In the following, we’ll give you a few valuable pieces of advice on how to keep your stove in proper shape.

Have A Professional Check-Up Once A Year

A pellet stove is a complex device with a high number of small parts that need to be checked out by a professional at least once a year. Of course, a malfunctioning stove with pellets isn’t as much of a hazard as a malfunctioning gas stove.

Pellet Stove Maintenance

That, however, shouldn’t serve as a reason to overlook this check-up. If the smoke goes up the chimney, you should hire a chimney sweeper once a year, as well. We’re saying “if” because there are models that don’t need to be installed unto a chimney.

Use Proper Pellets

Some pellets give off a lot of ash, while others won’t do that. More ash means you’ll have to clean the stove more frequently. When you purchase new pellets, try them out to see whether they burn cleanly or not.

If they’re not feasible, it goes without saying that you should opt for another brand. Many people underestimate this aspect and consequently need to do more maintenance on their stoves than they would require in general.

Keep The Pellets In A Dry Place

The pellets that are kept in a humid environment tend to stick to the walls of the stove once they’re pushed down by the auger. It can so happen that they stick to the auger, too.

Keeping them in a place where there’s no moisture will prevent this from happening, cutting the time you need to spend on cleaning the stove up in half. If the bag they came in is torn, use some duct tape to cover the holes.

Check Up The Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger is a tube through which air is brought in the stove and through which heat is delivered into the room. Soot can pile up on it, so make sure you scrape it off once in a while.

If it’s extremely cold outside and you need to heat your house every day, you might have to clean the exchanger every day, as well.

Prevent Ash Buildup By Vacuuming The Stove

Do not use your home vacuum to do that. Consider getting an ash vacuum. Whatever sticks to the walls of the burning chamber afterward can be scraped off with a relatively rigid brush.

You can use one of those brushes that are used in cleaning chimneys. You can buy one for cheap. Don’t use a knife’s blade or any other sharp edge on the walls, because you might damage them beyond repair. Stick to the brush and you’ll be on the safe side.

Oil The Moving Parts

All-purpose oil is recommended. The auger, too, should be properly lubricated, because if it is not, some pellets might get stuck in it and subsequently jeopardize the well-functioning of the entire stove.

Fixing Pellet Stove

You should also oil the fan, so it works properly. If you’re not confident enough or you have no idea what moving parts you should lubricate, ask for help from a professional. You don’t want to be oiling some electric part by mistake…

Clean The Glass And The Exterior Of The Stove

For this, you can use soap or a mixture of soap, water, and vinegar, particularly if there’s a buildup of debris on the walls of the stove. Don’t use soaps that are known for their abrasive quality.

You might scratch the window so badly that you will have to replace it. It’s not expensive, but it’s certainly better to just take proper care of the existing one than spend a couple of bucks on another one.

How To Clean A Pellet Stove

The cleaning of a pellet stove generally doesn’t take more than 20-30 minutes. You can follow these steps to make sure your stove will be cleaned properly:

  • Remove the ash, either by hand or by vacuuming it with an ash vacuum
  • Scrape off debris from inside the burning chamber with a brush. Most stoves come with a set of utensils for cleaning, so use those
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    Vacuum the burning chamber thoroughly
  • Wash the front window with soap or water and vinegar

This is everything you need to do in order to clean your pellet stove.

How To Remove Ash From The Pellet Stove

For best results, we recommend you use an ash vacuum. You can remove the ash by hand, but it will take you longer and there’s still going to be some left.

Please keep in mind that you should not use the same vacuum you use to clean your house for this job. The chances are that the ashes will damage it. Surf the Internet and purchase a vacuum that has been specifically designed for ash.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this brief guide we’ve put together was comprehensive enough for you to decide if you should purchase a pellet stove for your house or not.

Woman Heating On Sofa

As you can see, there are quite a few things you must take into consideration when searching and shopping around for such a stove. Pellet stoves come in different sizes, shapes, and BTUs, so thoroughness is advised in the process of choosing one.

Since now you might have issues in assessing which brands are better, we’ve decided to give you even more information on this topic by compiling an extensive buying guide you can use to decide what pellet stove you should get.

We will also provide a few alternatives you can choose from. With all of these being said, peruse this guide once again to make sure you’ve understood everything properly and prepare to check out our next article.

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