Pellet stoves are efficient, environmentally friendly, cheap to run and safe. However this cost effective heating source is often overlooked by consumers when shopping for a new heater. Why is that? We put it down to the simple fact that most people do not know what a pellet stove is, how a pellet stove works or what is the best pellet stove.
So in this article we are endeavoring to change this, we want to educate you on pellet stoves, and tell you why they should be your top choice when looking for a new heater for your home.
But first, do you know just how much your heater costs to run when compared with other common heater types? Check out the image below – this alone should be enough to get you interested!
Heating Fuel Costs Comparison:
The Top Rated Pellet Stoves – Our Favorites
Below you can find reviews of our recommended Pellet Stoves to make choosing the right one for you just a little easier.
We do highly recommend that you do your own research and check out the stoves in person before committing to purchasing, these views are our own and may differ from yours.
Please note that this list is covering only free-standing pellet stoves. We will endeavor to add more info about pellet stoves inserts in the near future.
View our comparison table below, or click here to jump to our in depth reviews of each product.
Why You Should Consider a Pellet Stove
Apart from the obvious benefits of keeping you warm, there are many other reasons that pellet stoves should be high on your list of possible heating options.
We have listed just a few of the very best reasons below to really get you thinking!
Cost Efficient – Save On Heating Costs
We all hate getting the heating bill at the end of winter, not knowing what it will be or how much to budget for can be stressful. Not to mention that energy prices for gas, electricity and oil goes up and down constantly – which makes it even harder to manage the heating budget.
Pay Up Front For Heating Costs
One of the benefits of pellet stoves is that because you control when you buy the fuel, you can control your heating costs for the entire heating season. You can shop around for the best wood fuel pellet deals before it starts to get cold, and order a bulk amount that will get you through the colder months.
This way, you pay for your heating costs up front and there won’t be any nasty surprises in the mail when the weather starts to warm up.
Lower Heating Cost
Fuel pellets are also much more cost efficient than many other popular methods of heating, so you can keep your heating costs down and take total control of your heating costs.
Fuel pellet pricing varies depending on your location and numerous other factors. But the average fuel price of 1 ton of wood pellet fuel in the USA is about $250.
As a rough guide, a typical home will burn about six to seven tons of pellets in a season. So this gives you a heating cost of about $1,500 – $1,750 a year. This will of course depend on your location, and how warm you like to keep your house.
Lower Installation Cost
Including the stove, installation labor and parts an average sized pellet stove will set you back about $3,200 installed (more if you want a premium brand).
A wood stove installed will cost you around the $3,500 mark.
Heating Fuel Cost Comparison:
Better For The Environment
Pellet heaters use fuel that are often created from waste materials, off cuts and sawdust – so you are utilizing recycled products that would have otherwise gone to waste.
Pellet stoves also burn much more efficiently and produce much less wood smoke than any other solid fuel burning heater, thus they put out far less harmful emissions into the environment.
Pellet stoves are basically a set and forget heater for the day.
All you need to do is fill the hopper with wood pellets, set the desired heat setting and that’s it. Your Pellet heater then automatically loads more pellets into the burn pot at the pre-set rate, keeping your home comfortably warm for the entire day.
Radiant Convection Heat
Everyone loves a good wood fire right?
There is nothing like sitting near the fireplace and soaking up the warmth, the only problem is constantly having to fill it with wood fuel!
Well with a pellet stove, you can have the same warming, radiant convection heat, without the need to be constantly loading it up with wood.
Easy To Maintain
Maintaining a pellet heater is quick and easy. Go straight to our pellet heater maintenance section to learn more.
What Is A Pellet Stove And How Does It Work?
Pellet stoves work very differently to other heaters that are commonly used to warm up our homes. Below is a summary of how a pellet stove works, just past the text is an image that shows the main components of a pellet heater.
- Pellets of compressed biomass material (usually made of wood or corn) are loaded into the hopper. The amount of pellets that a hopper can hold varies, but it is generally from 40 lbs (18 kg’s) up to over 100 lbs (45 kg’s).
- An auger, which is driven by an electric motor, turns and carries pellets from the hopper to the burn pot. Sensors within the stove tell the system when to turn the augur to add more fuel depending on the heat setting.
- The pellets are added to the burn pot. The fire is kept very small, but very hot. This way the pellet stove burns at maximum efficiency with very little waste.
- An electric blower adds air to the fire to help the pellets burn as efficiently and as hot as possible. Used air is then vented, the type of venting depends on the model of pellet stove.
- Above the heating compartment is a heat exchanger, this is usually a series of pipes that catch almost all the heat from within the stove. Depending on the model, a fan may be used to disperse the heat.
Are Pellet Stoves Safe?
When compared to a wood stove, pellet stoves are certainly the safer alternative. The following safety features are in most pellet stoves:
- Automatic shutdown – monitors burn rate and temperature for unusual conditions and shuts the stove down if necessary
- Pressure switch – automatically shuts the feed motor off if the front door or the ash door is open. Also detects when the venting system is not working correctly.
- Exhaust sensing probe – shuts down when abnormally high temperatures are detected
It should be noted here that your pellet stove should be installed by a professional installer to ensure all safety guidelines are followed.
Comparison With Other Heating Types
We have more articles in this series which compares pellet stoves with other popular heating types:
Pellet Stove Buying Guide
So you have made the decision to invest in a pellet heater, now you just need to decide which pellet heater is best for you. Not all pellet stoves are created equal – each stove brand and type is designed for it different situations, so it is important that you carefully consider your options and make a decision that is right for your home.
The following sections are areas we recommend you pay special attention to when choosing a pellet stove to suit your requirements.
Heating Output and Efficiency
When shopping for a pellet stove, one of the first numbers you will have thrown at you be every salesman is the term BTU rating.
But what does that even mean?
What is a BTU Rating
BTU stands for British Thermal Units and it is used to measure heat output.
One BTU = the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
Now I know this sounds complicated, but you don’t really need to get into the nitty gritty of how the BTU measurement works.
What you do need to know is this:
The specifications or salesperson may quote one, or both of the possible BTU measurements:
- BTU input
- BTU output
Firstly, you need to understand that most premium wood fuel pellets contain about 8,500 BTU per pound.
The BTU input is the maximum amount of fuel that can be fed into the pellet stove per hour.
The BTU output is how much heat the stove can actually deliver to the home, the rest is lost to inefficiencies in burning, heat transfer, up the chimney/venting etc.
So now that we understand what a BTU rating is, we can then understand the next number that is often quoted to us – the pellet stoves heating efficiency.
Efficiency% = (input BTU/output BTU) * 100
This gives us our efficiency as a percentage. This number tells us how much of the heat that is generated in the pellet heater is actually usable in the home.
The higher the efficiency, the more cost effective your heater will be to run.
While pellets are reasonably easy to find, it is important that you know which pellet types are compatible with your heater, and which will burn efficiently.
You can learn more about fuel pellets and the different types available here.
While pellet stoves are considered to be reasonably low maintenance, they do require you a few periodic maintenance tasks to be carried out . You will need to shut your stove down regularly (weekly is preferable) and clean out all the soot from the burn pot, this won’t take you long as there won’t be a lot of soot to clean because they burn so cleanly; but just a little bit of built up soot in your pellet stove can lead to quite a large drop in efficiency.
Each model of pellet stove will have its own maintenance guidelines in the manual, so be sure to check these out before deciding if a particular heater is right for you.
Jump to our section on pellet stove maintenance by clicking here.
Style and Placement of Stove
There are two basic types of pellet stoves:
- Free standing pellet stove
- Pellet stove insert
If you have an existing fireplace, then you can most likely use a pellet insert that fits into the existing fireplace and chimney. The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) strongly recommends that before you fit a pellet insert, you should have a professional installer carry out an inspection on your fireplace and chimney to check for suitability and safety requirements.
Choosing where to locate your pellet stove is very important. Before deciding on which stove you are going to buy, get a hold of the manual and make sure that you can meet the space requirements.
The manual will usually list the minimum space allowed between the stove and certain combustible materials.
Pellet stoves do require a constant electricity source to operate, so be sure to consider where your nearest power outlet is in relation to where the stove is likely to be fitted.
There are options to backup the power of your pellet stove. See our pellet stove battery backup guide for more info.
Ask a Professional
One of the biggest traps consumers fall into when buying a pellet heater, is not getting a a professional to take a look at the area to be heated before making a decision.
A consumer may under or over shoot the heating needs and buy a stove that is too small or too large for their needs. Home size, layout (open vs many rooms), and home insulation all play an important part of choosing the right pellet stove.
Wood Pellet Fuel Guide
When it comes to choosing a pellet brand and type to choose, it is certainly not a case of apples for apples. It is important that you weigh up each brand of pellet fuel and carefully consider your options.
Wood Pellet Fuel Grades
Pellet fuel generally comes in two grades:
- Premium grade pellets
- Standard grade pellets
Premium pellets contain a lower percentage of inorganic ash content (<1%), this results in less soot being produced by the burning of fuel, which in turn leads to less maintenance.
Standard grade fuel pellets burn slightly less efficiently due to the higher ash content (generally between 1-5%).
Premium Pellets Are Best! We highly recommend spending the bit extra and getting premium grade wood pellets. They will burn more efficiently and result in less soot build up in your stove.
What Are Fuel Pellets Made From?
Beyond the grades of fuel pellets, the next consideration should be what the pellets are made from. The main materials that pellets are made from are:
- Corn (yes, not technically wood but worth mentioning)
Most modern pellet stoves will burn both hardwood and softwood pellets with very similar efficiency. It should be noted though that while softwood pellets are usually more expensive, you do get a higher heat from them.
More heat = less pellets required to heat your home and less ash and soot build up in your pellet stove.
Pellet fuels made from corn are far less common, can can be a viable alternative to pellets made from wood and have the added benefit of being a renewable resource. Corn pellets produce about the same amount of heat as wood pellets, but they have a higher ash content which means more maintenance.
Corn pellets are generally cheaper than wood pellets, but it does depends on where you live.
Burning corn pellets is usually best done in a pellet stove designed for that purpose, however you can usually use corn pellets mixed in with standard wood pellets without any problem in a standard pellet stove.
Storing Wood Pellets
It is also worth mentioning that you may need considerable storage space to keep your fuel pellets.
Pellet fuel generally comes in 40-50lb bags, so keep in mind that you will need somewhere dry to store pellet bags, especially if you live in a remote area.
On a cold winter you may go through as much as two pellet bags per day!
Making Your Own Fuel Pellets
Making your own is possible but can lead to problems if the pellets are not made correctly.
The homemade pellets may crumble and get stuck in the chute, causing efficiency problems or possibly causing the heater to stop working altogether.
In our opinion, making your own fuel pellets is generally not worth it and going for the store bought option is a much better choice.
Pellet Stove Maintenance
As with any device that involves heat and electricity, it is important to keep your pellet stove properly maintained. This not only ensures that your pellet heater runs as efficiently as possible, following the maintenance guidelines for your stove means your heater will be as safe as any heater can be.
Maintenance tasks required vary for each model, but we have written up a summary of general maintenance tasks that are required with most pellet stoves below.
Daily maintenance tasks:
- Pellet hopper: Check it is clear of any accumulated saw dust and top up it up to ensure you don’t run out of fuel just when you need it the most.
- Burn Pot: Check the burn pot daily to ensure the air inlets look clear and open.
Weekly maintenance tasks:
- Ash pan: empty all the ash that the ash pan has caught. This usually has to to done 1-2 times a week although some newer designs can go as long as a month without requiring emptying.
Periodic maintenance tasks:
- Burn pot: Clean the burn pot as you notice soot build up.
- Ash trap: Ash traps help to stop flying ash exiting the stove via the vent, these require cleaning to ensure your pellet stove can burn efficiently.
- Glass: Clean the glass to prevent a build up of soot, the longer you leave it between cleans the harder it will be to remove the soot.
- Heat exchanger: This needs to be cleaned, some models include a device to let you clean this yourself, other models may require a professional.
- As with any heating appliance, we recommend getting your pellet stove checked by a professional every 12 months to ensure it is operating safely and within efficiency parameters
Pro Tip – Use an Ash Vacuum
Let’s admit it – no one likes maintenance or cleaning. Using an Ash Vacuum can make keeping your pellet stove clean less time-consuming.
- Bundle includes PowerSmith PAVC101 10 Amp Ash Vacuum and PAAC302 Ash Vacuum Cleaning Kit
- Specifically designed to clean warm and cool ash out of fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves, and barbeque grills
- Washable and replaceable fire-resistant filter system filters out the finest dust and ash
- Heat-resistant metal hose and metal canister. Quiet and Powerful 10 Amp motor
- Vacuum kit includes Crevice Tool, Brush Nozzle, Pellet Stove Hose, Adaptor and Storage Bag
Pellet Stove FAQ
Are pellet stoves efficient?
Yes! Because they used a manufactured, controlled fuel source, they are designed to burn it as efficiently as possible. Pellet stoves are one of the most efficient forms of space heating available
What are pellet stove clinkers?
When wood pellets are manufactured they have an element of impurities (dirt) in them that is not burned during the combustion process. A “clinker” is a combined mass of these impurities and they look like a clump of ash.
Use low ash pellets to reduce the possibility of clinkers forming. Also ensure your pellet stove is clean.
Do pellet stoves need power to run?
Yes, without power they will not function correctly and may even allow smoke to escape into the area being heated.
It is possible to use different methods to provide backup power for your pellet stove. We have a complete article written about it here.
Pellet Stove Reviews – Our Top Picks
Castle 12327 Serenity Pellet StoveThere is no need to buy the biggest, most powerful heater out there if you are only looking to heat a smaller area such as a cabin or shed. And if this is the situation you find ytourself in, then the Castle 12327 Serenity Pellet Stove could be just what you are after. It has a heating capacity of up to 1,500 square feet, but still retains a smaller footprint so it won’t take up too much space in smaller areas.The Castle 12327 features a smart controller that is very easy to program and operate, while still offering advanced 24 hour scheduling for each day of the week.
Some pellet stoves take a good 15-20 minutes to get the heat pumping, the Castle 12327 takes only about 10 minutes to start pumping out its full heat which is great for those extra cold days when you forgot to program it to switch on automatically!
The last think I want to mention here, it probably one of the most important things – the after sales services from Castle Stoves is really top notch (and I am very fussy when it comes to customer support). The team are super knowledgeable and can help out with anything from the simple questions, to more advanced trouble shooting.
Castle 12327 Key Specifications
Thermal Efficiency: At least 69.8%
Heating Capacity: Up to 1,500 square feet
BTU/Hour Input: 31,960 max
BTU/Hour Output: 22,226 max
Max Auto Burn Time: 24 hours
Fuel Type: Wood pellets only
Price: Check price on Amazon
- Reinvent the way you heat your home with Castle's Serenity wood pellet stove and new Smart Controller
- The Smart Controller allows you to choose manual, thermostat, and weekly operational modes to heat your home on your schedule, Along with calendar and time based heating options, you can also set a local thermostat or manually set it on one of five burn levels
- As with any Castle Pellet Stove, you'll experience affordability, style, and practicality. Its space-saving shape and attractive design will make it a welcomed addition to any room, and with the new Smart Controller, heating your home efficiently on your terms has never been easier
- The Serenity Stove is designed to be easy to clean - there are no tubes, corrugations, or hidden chambers
- Operating Wattage 77 Watts (W), Voltage 120 Volts (V), Greater than 69.8% thermal efficiency, 1500 square feet heating capacity
Pleasant Hearth Pellet Stove
Offering a heating capacity of up to 2,200 square feet means this heater is perfect for most standard sized houses or large sheds and the simple to use controls make it perfect for anyone that finds programming schedules difficult. I would especially recommend the Pleasant Hearth Pellet Stove for anyone who finds modern technology difficult to operate.
Featuring a 120 lb hopper means this heater can operate for up to 70 hours (yes that’s right, 70) of continuous burn time without needing to be refueled. Despite this huge hopper size, the cabinet size is quite compact and won’t take up huge amounts of room.
Pleasant Hearth Pellet Stove Key Specifications
Thermal Efficiency: At least 85%
Heating Capacity: Up to 2,200 square feet
BTU/Hour Input: 50,000 max
BTU/Hour Output: 42,500 max
Max Auto Burn Time: 70 hours
Fuel Type: Wood pellets only
Price: Check price on Sylvane
Heats up to 2,200 sq ft
50,000 BTU Output
Burntime of 24-70 hours
5 heat settings
Includes outside air kit
Comfortbilt HP22 Pellet StoveFeaturing one of the largest viewing windows we have seen in pellet stoves, the Comfortbilt HP22 really brings some great atmosphere to any room. It looks like a good old fashioned wood heater, but has all the benefits and efficiency that you expect from a pellet stove.
I do admit that when I first found out this heater was made in China I was dubious about the quality, but one look at an actual unit and I changed my mind. You would be hard pressed to separate the quality of the Comfortbilt stove from any other stove made in the USA and it works just as well.
This pellet stove is ideal for larger homes as it offers a 3,000 square foot heating capacity, and it does this at a lovely efficiency rating of 86%!
One other thing that we noticed (or rather…didn’t notice), was the fan sound….it is very quiet and is perfect for anyone who finds loud fans to be annoying.
The only thing that I didnt like was the relatively small (for the heating capacity) 55lb hopper, but this can be extended relatively easily and cheaply by purchasing a hopper extension.
Comfortbilt HP22 Key Specifications
Thermal Efficiency: At least 86%
Heating Capacity: Up to 3,000 square feet
BTU/Hour Input: 50,000 max
BTU/Hour Output: 43,000 max
Max Auto Burn Time: 24 hours
Fuel Type: Wood pellets only
Price: Check price on Amazon
- 50,000 btu - Heats up to 2,800 sq. feet!
- Large viewing area - Bay Design - Carbon Black!
- Powerful Blower, 86% Burn efficiency, EPA Certified, 110 Volt
- 55 lbs. Hopper Capacity,Auto Ignition, Ash Pan, Programmable Thermostat
- 1 Year Parts Warranty-Technical assistance available after purchase
Harman P43 Pellet Stove
Harman is one of the best known brands of pellet stoves and this is with good reason, their products are made with the highest quality materials and behind the class exterior is industry leading technology. The Harman P43 Pellet Stove is no
Harman P43 Pellet Stove Specifications
Thermal Efficiency: At least 78%
Heating Capacity: Up to 2,400 square feet
BTU/Hour Input: 42,500 max
BTU/Hour Output: 33,150 max
Max Auto Burn Time: 25 hours
Fuel Type: Wood pellets, or 50/50 mix of wood pellets and shelled corn
Price: Find a Harman Dealer
- High efficiency with accordion heat exchanger
- Room temperature regulated to within one degree
- Cleaner glass thanks to exclusive air wash system
- Less loading with 50 lb. hopper capacity
- Less maintenance with large ash pan
- Elegant flame-reactive mirrored glass
- Installation made easy with direct vent
More Info On Pellet Stoves
For more info on pellet stoves, I suggest checking out the following resources:
- Pellet Fuels Institute – A non-profit organization that serves the pellet industry. Has a wealth of info available on its website.
- US Department of Energy – has a great page full of info on pellet stoves.
- Want to compare pellet stoves vs wood stoves
- Battery backup for pellet stoves
Pricing last updated on 2018-11-18 at 02:14 / affiliate links - Details