Buying A Pellet Stove: The Pros and Cons

Because costs have soared, consumers are looking for cheaper, alternative ways to heat their homes. One way to heat your home is with a pellet stove. While the cost of fuel for this stove is considerably less than say, heating oil, there are more factors to consider than just that. Read this informative article and learn some pros and cons of buying a pellet stove!

What Is a Pellet Stove?
At first glance, pellet stoves look like traditional wood stoves. However, this type of stove burns pellets, which is recycled sawdust that’s been compressed into pieces that measure 3/8 to 1-inch long. (see 2nd photo) Some types of pellet stoves burn wood chips, corn, seeds, grain or paper pellets.

There are several brands of pellet stoves on the market today including Lopi, Harman and Avalon. Besides freestanding stoves, there are also fireplace inserts, furnaces and boilers that burn pellets.

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Pellet Stove

1. Pellet Stoves Are Higher Priced Than Traditional Wood Stoves
You can expect to buy a pellet stove and have it installed for $2,000 – $4,000, depending on the style, and bells and whistles you choose. Wood stoves can be purchased and installed for less money, especially if you have an existing chimney.

2. Pellet Stoves Don’t Require Chimneys
Conventional wood stoves require masonry or stainless steel, insulated chimneys. A pro of buying a pellet stove is, it only requires a vent pipe run to the outside. Not having a chimney means you won’t have to clean it when the creosote becomes a 1/4-inch thick. It also means you won’t have to worry about chimney fires. Another plus is that pellet stoves burn clean and efficiently.

3. Extended Service Contracts Are Recommended for Pellet Stoves
Since pellet stoves contain networks of motors, other moving parts, and electronic circuitry, they require regular maintenance. The fancier the stove is, the more automatic gadgets it has, the more there is to go wrong with it. That’s why it’s a good idea to buy an extended service contract at the same time you purchase a pellet stove. Even if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, maintaining a pellet stove can be difficult.

4. Pellet Stoves Mean No More Searching for Matches
If you’ve ever tried to light a conventional wood stove, you know how frustrating it can be. You have to find matches, a few sheets of newspaper and some twigs, or buy starting blocks to ignite the fuel. Sometimes you can light a woodstove with one try. Other times, though, it takes several annoying tries. Buying a pellet stove means no hassle to light it. All you have to do is push a button or adjust the thermostat setting.

5. Pellet Stoves Require Electricity to Work
Another con of buying a pellet stove is, that it needs to be located near a 110-volt electrical outlet so it can be plugged in. That means, whenever your electric goes out, your pellet stove won’t work. Some models of pellet stoves do have battery backups that can run for several hours. However, if your electricity isn’t restored by the time the battery runs down, you’ll be left in the cold again.

6. Wood Pellets Are Sometimes Hard to Find
Even though buying wood pellets is costly, it’s still cheaper than buying heating oil for a season, for example. The actual cost of heating your home with a pellet stove depends basically on the cost of the pellets and how many you use in a season.

The bigger problem is that wood pellets are sometimes hard to find. www.consumersaffairs.com reported in December 2005 that owners of wood pellet stoves were “…facing a severe shortage…” And things haven’t gotten any better. The Wall Street Journal online reported in March of 2008 that, the decrease in home construction has created a shortage of sawdust. This shortage, along with the higher demands in the pellet market, has increased the price of the sawdust that is available.

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