Wood Pellet Heaters and Stoves
Pellet Heater Stoves have low emissions and even lower maintenance.
Two of the world’s biggest concerns is the economy and the environment. It seems home owners everywhere are looking for methods of saving green which is to say going green while saving money. Wood pellet heaters and stoves are one excellent answer to both of these issues and are becoming more and more popular with each passing day. This solution is economical and ecofriendly. There are many advantages of using a pellet stove as a heat source for the home.
Recycled and raw materials are taken to pellet mills every day for pellet production. These materials are generally in the form of woodchips and saw dust as well as scrap lumber pieces such as that from trees which were not suitable to create lumber. The wood pieces can be green and just cut or kiln dried. This is because the materials must undergo a special process in which they are pressed, the moisture is removed, and then they are cut. There are also pellet stoves which are capable of burning other types of bio-waste such as nut shells and corn kernels generally referred to as multi-fuel stoves.
All of the materials must be processed using the exact same method. This results in the heat value; burn characteristics; ash content; and moisture levels which are consistent. These elements boost combustion efficiency and some even claim an 85% boost. The pellet burning method is exempt from the EPA’s, or Environmental Protection Agency’s, testing requirements for smoke emissions. Pellets are considered the cleanest burning among solid fuels. Pellet heaters emit only a very small amount of pollution during the burning process.
Some pellet heaters bear a resemblance to traditional wood burning stoves; however, this is mostly in appearance. There are also nearly equal in price as far as keeping them fueled. It generally costs a bit more to actually install wood burning stoves than it does to install pellet stoves. The required labor and parts are somewhat less for pellet stoves.
It is important to understand that the installation of a pellet stove should be viewed as an investment and there is sometimes a high initial cost; however, this endeavor can save both money and help the environment in the long run. The starting cost ranges just over $1,200 to around the $2,400 mark. Wood stoves generally range from $3,000 to just over $4,000 while gas furnace can be as much as $5,500 in the end. It is essential that the correct size is chosen for optimal heating and efficiency.
It is first important to determine the area which will require heating and then purchase the appropriate size heater. For example, a 2,000 square feet home would need one that is rated at 6,000 Btu, while a 1,300 square feet home would only need one which is rated at 4,200 Btu to keep it toasty. One that is too small will not sufficiently heat the home. Owners usually allow pellets stoves which are too large to low smolder. This is because the heater becomes too hot. Low smoldering also causes a great deal more smoke emission.
There are several elements to consider when choosing the appropriate size pellet heater for the home. One aspect that affect this decision greatly is whether the heater will be used as a primary or secondary heat source. Some others are the heat distribution method which will be used and how well insulated the home is. One last consideration is whether the stove will be used to heat a specific room, set of rooms, or the entire home. Many home owners state that their pellet heaters reduced their energy costs by as much as 60% with proper heat distribution. At the lower end of the spectrum owners saw 15% to 20% reduction is costs. Even at this end, the savings make pellet heaters worth the consideration.
One of the most common ways to distribute heat from any source is installing and using ceiling fans. Distribution is actually a vital key for the efficiency of any type of heat. If the heat remains within one room and is only allowed to rise, this room becomes overheated and the rest of the home is somewhat chilly. A ceiling fan which rotates in a clockwise motion will distribute the heat that usually stays close to the ceiling. As a side note, reversing it in the summer results in cooling efficiency as well.
Larger floor fans work to distribute heat as well. If the pellet heater is being used as a secondary heat source in conjunction with central heat, the vents from this help to distribute the heat rather nicely. The vents are already in place and the unit is set by thermostat so it blows at intervals not continuously. If this is not the case, vents may be cut into floors of the home for heat distribution.
The placement of the pellet heater is central to the distribution of the heat. One of the most popular places home owners install pellet stoves is the basement. This may be convenient as it is out of the way and so are the required pellet stores; however, it may not always be the best place. If the basement is well insulated, a few vents may be cut for proper heat distribution. The natural methodology of rising heat can be a benefit. In the event that the basement is not well insulated, in order to get the best return on a pellet heater investment, proper insulation should be figured into the investment cost.
Pellet stoves should be installed in close proximate of the main room to be heated; however, this should never be a bedroom. Next to stairwells are another excellent placement location. This allows heat to travel from floor to floor more easily. Keep in mind that regardless of the location chosen, pellet stoves should be placed close to an exterior wall of the home to in order to vent the heater exhaust directly to the outside. This is via a small flue or pipe. Remember that, if outside air is required for combustion, it must be drawn from a source which is approved. Also keep in mind that a certain amount of space is require between the combustible materials and the heater.
Remember that insulation is key to energy efficiency. As mentioned the basement must be insulted well; however, this is something that applies to the entire home and all types of heating systems. One of the best avenues may be to have a professional inspect the house prior to installing a pellet heater. This individual can tell the owner how well insulated the home is or how drafty. Consider re-insulating the entire home and adding to the charge for this to the overall investment figure.
Pellet Stove Styles
Both fireplace insert and freestanding style pellet stoves are offered by most all dealers. The freestanding designs are those which resemble traditional wood burning heaters. This type may be used to supply a single room with heat or, if used in conjunction with a fan, can heat a much larger area. The fireplace insert designs may be placed into existing fireplaces. Many dealers also offer pellet boilers and pellet fired furnaces. These last two types are generally used to supplement or replace oil and gas fired boilers or furnace heating systems of residential living spaces.
All pellet fueled appliances feature a pellet hopper where pellets are stored until required for burning. Hoppers generally store anywhere from 35 to 150 pounds of fuel. There is also a feeder mechanism, usually resembling a large screw, which drops pellets, a few at a time, to burn in the combustion chamber. The rate of speed at which the stove is fed determines the level of heat output. Certain tech models use computerized thermostats which govern the feed rate.
Top Fed versus Bottom Fed
There are two types of auto fed systems for pellet heaters which are bottom fed and top fed. For a bottom fed system the auger is generally horizontal. This horizontal design causes fed pellets to move clinkers and ashes aside. The waste is then fed into an ash pan. Bottom fed systems do not require the high quality, low ash type pellets.
Top fed systems do require premium quality, low ash type pellets. The auger is inclined on an angle which feeds pellets into the combustion chamber from the side or top. This type of auger reduces the chances of burn back in the hopper. This design does not always result in ash being forced away from the firebox grate. To prevent clinkers from developing in the top fed systems only high quality pellets should be burned. Clinkers inhibit air flow and may effectively smother the fire.
Combustion Air Flow
Draft inducing fans are used to vent combustion gases and provide combustion air in order to burn clean and receive the most heat possible out of every pellet. These fans either blow air in or pull air out. In some cases smoke and/or ash may blow out of the firebox when the door is opened because positive air pressure is created by air being blown into the combustion chamber. As this type of stove ages small air leaks may develop and allow combustions gases to escape into the home.
In other cases, air being drawn out may cause the fire to die when the door is opened. The fan for this type of heater requires regular ash cleaning and a great deal more maintenance. This is the best way to ensure it operates correctly and at optimal heat and/or burn levels. It is always best to follow all maintenance and operation instructions to reduce the likelihood of these types of problems. For example, even if premium quality, low ash pellets are not absolutely required it is always better to use them. Another common tip is not to open the firebox door while operating the appliance.
A pellet stove has a motor which requires electricity which means that it must be placed within range of a 110 outlet. Whether the heater is used as a primary or secondary heat source, consider obtaining a battery backup. There is also the option of having a gas powered generator on hand in case of power outages. If the heater is for use in a mobile home, ensure that the model is approved for mobile home use.
Instead of cutting, carrying, and storing extremely heavy loads of wood on a nearly daily basis, most pellet stoves need refilling only once per day. Remember, as stated above, a certain amount of pellets are stored in the hopper until they are required for burning. Space, of course, is still required to store excess pellets. Pellet packages are offered in 40 pound bags, as well as smaller and larger size bags, and should be stored in an area which is relatively dry. These bags may be piled one on another until they are several feet tall.
It is somewhat difficult to estimate how many pellets each stove will need to burn as there are a number of factors when determining this. It depends upon exactly how warm the house is kept as well as whether the pellet stove is supplemental or it is the main heat source. Hoppers usually hold from 20 to 40 pounds, depending upon the model and need only be filled once per day or night. Most home owners estimate burning approximately 1 to 2 pounds of pellets per hour. The setting of the pellet stoves is the largest determining factor for this.