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Pellet Stoves and Their Requirements

Happy belated new year!

Pellet stoves are wonderful appliances in my opinion. They’re fairly easy to install and are a great alternative for those who don’t want the work of a wood stove. There are a few things to remember before making the decision to purchase one, however.

First, they do require maintenance. Much like your wood stove/chimney, oil furnace, and so on, they require yearly service which should be performed by someone who knows how to do it correctly. Basic hand tools are required as is a good vacuum and good dextarity. These yearly services include:

Cleaning both blower motors
Cleaning and securing the venting system
Anything else your manual says should be done on a yearly basis

In addition there are monthly and weekly chores such as cleaning the burn pot, vacuuming the empty hopper (important!), cleaning the heat exchangers, cleaning the glass, and so on. Your owner’s manual is key here. It will tell you exactly what needs to be done and when and it should be followed very closely.

The second thing to remember about pellet stoves is that they are electrical applainces and will only work when there is power. Back in December 2008 many people in the NH area remember there was a major power outage. Some folks around here were without power for weeks due to the damage. While it is possible to have a battery back up for your pellet stove, a typical battery will last a mere few hours before being depleted. If your pellet stove is your sole source of heat, this won’t bode well for you during a major event. Also, given that deep cycle batteries are required, be prepared to shell out close to $100 for the battery and another $150 or so for the inverter required.

Third, pellets themselves are subject to price fluxuations, much like heating oil. When oil rises, demand for pellets does also. How this may change in the future is uncertain. In the New England area pellet mills are literally springing up almost overnight and who knows how this will effect the supply and demand relationship here.

One more note about pellets I wanted to add is all pellets are not created equal. Different brands can vary in quality greatly, and yes, cheaper pellets do tend to have more quality issues. Find a brand you like and stick with it. I would be happy to make some recommendations.

Fourth and finally, the stoves themselves are mechanical systems which break down. Be sure you purchase from someone who can give you support and supply you with parts and service. Some of the box store stoves have good support from their manufacturers though the stores themselves do squat for you usually. And remember the old saying “You get what you pay for.”
Stay warm folks!