When you choose a pellet stove to heat your home, it’s important to understand that it operates very differently from a fireplace or woodstove. You still get to watch the fire and enjoy the fire’s heat. And you still need to take special precautions to ensure that your home is safe, but that’s just about where the similarities end.
A pellet stove partially depends upon electricity to operate and will shut down if the power goes out. Not just any outlet will do. A 110 volt AC electrical outlet must be near the pellet stove. However, the space in which to install a pellet stove should be carefully chosen – proper installation depends upon much more than the availability of a proper electrical outlet.
While electricity is needed for a pellet stove to operate, the good news is that only a miniscule amount of electricity is required, especially compared to the cost of central heating systems which are fully electrical.
No need to be left in the cold if the power goes out. Battery backups for pellet stoves are available, and it’s also possible to connect the stoves to a backup generator.
It’s essential to place an appropriate protective floor pad underneath a pellet stove. It’s important to get a certified professional, such as a licensed chimney sweep, to assist with installation. When placing the stove, you will consider such things as how the heat will be circulated into the rest of your home and congestion beyond the clearances in the room.
How a Pellet Stove Operates
To really understand what a wood pellet stove is, you need to know how these stoves operate. You already know that electricity is required; here is the rest of the story.
In some stoves, an auger delivers the pellets from the hopper into the burn pot below. The auger is similar to a long screw; it has a motorized device which feeds more pellets into the fire. The speed in which the auger delivers the pellets depends upon the stove’s temperature. Some hoppers are simply gravity-fed.
The burn pot is in the combustion chamber of the stove. This feature serves to mix air and fuel to create the burning process. The pellets are heavily compressed; since they are also low in moisture, they create a hotter flame than a log.
The ashes which are created by the burn pellets fall into an ash pot, which requires periodic cleaning.
The convection feature of a pellet stove is what sets it apart most distinctly from fireplaces and wood burning stoves. Convection is the transmission of heat which results from the forced combination of hot and cool air currents. The stove’s convection blower:
• Pulls cool air from the room; and
• Passes it over the fire in the burn pot, which causes the flame to burn hotter and allows the pellets to burn evenly and efficiently.
• The heated air in the stove moves across the heat exchanger, which serves to transfer clean, heated air into your home through the room blower. The heat exchanger is similar to a furnace. It’s located in the combustion chamber, which prevents the outside of the stove from getting hot.
• The exhaust blower does the work comparable to a chimney. It pushes the gases from the fire out of a narrow pipe in the rear of the stove. The pipe may be vented through a hole in the outside wall, or it may use a chimney.
• A thermostat is used to operate a pellet stove, and the setting of the thermostat determines the number of pellets which are feed by the auger into the burn pot. The more pellets that are fed into the burn pot at once, the hotter the fire will be.
Operating noise created by a pellet stove is minimal.
If you get a pellet stove that’s too large for your home, you’ll waste fuel and money because it may burn too hot for your home, even when on a low setting.
Before installing a pellet stove, check with your home insurance company to be sure that use of the stove will be covered. It’s not unusual for insurance rates to be slightly increased when using a pellet stove heating system.
Be sure to read Part 1 of this three-part intro to pellet stoves which covers the pellets that burn in the pellet stove. In the final installment you can learn about the environmental advantages of using a pellet stove.
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110