If you are tired of having to make your way out to woodshed in the middle of winter, or of waking up with a burnt-out stove then maybe it is time to consider investing in a wood pellet stove. Offering autonomy as well as temperature control, the pellet stove has a lot more to offer than the traditional wood stove.A pellet stove is also better for the environment and can burn for around 24 hours or longer without you needing to add any fuel. There are some disadvantages to pellet stoves though, such as their reliance on electricity and complex electronics, so in this article we compare the pellet to the wood stove and offer an in-depth look at how the pellet stove works and its environmental impact. We also review some pellet stoves currently available to help you choose the best pellet stove for your heating needs.
Able to heat up to 2,800 sq. ft, the Comfortbilt pellet stove (HP22) is our best pick of the pellet stoves with its EPA certification and UL Listed status.
With a burn time of up to 24 hours, the EPA certified Pleasant Hearth medium pellet stove is our US-made budget pick pellet stove.
Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Pellet Stoves
1. Comfortbilt Pellet Stove HP22
With 50,000 BTU, the Comfortbilt pellet stove (HP22) can heat up to 2,800 sq. ft. This is an EPA certified and UL Listed stove with a blower. The hopper has a 55 lb. capacity, although the riveted design of the hopper may prevent all the pellets from running through.
This stove comes with a large bay design window, removeable ash pan, auto ignition and a programmable thermostat, which can turn the stove down to its lower setting, rather than off. It has a one year limited warranty and the manufacturer also provides technical assistance after purchase. This cannot be shipped to all states, so do check availability before purchase.Like any type of stove, there can be a risk of having a ‘lazy’ fire, although customer services have been extremely helpful when owners contact them with queries or issues.
2. Pleasant Hearth Medium Pellet Stove
Able to heat an area of up to 1,750 sq. ft, the black Pleasant Hearth medium pellet stove has an output of 35,000 BTU. It has a burn time of between 12 and 24 hours and the hopper has a 40 lb. capacity. Its ceramic glass window also uses an air wash system to minimize build-up.
EPA certified with an 85% efficiency rating, this stove has auto ignition and five heat settings. You also have the choice to run it continuously on minimum or maximum heat. The stove comes with a convection blower and outside air kit. Made in the US, it comes with a five year limited warranty, although some components may only be covered for 12 months.
Some owners have experienced issues when trying to resolve warranty queries with customer services and this stove may not be as dependable as other pellet stoves.
3. Castle 12327 Serenity Wood Pellet Stove
The black Castle 12327 Serenity wood pellet stove comes with a smart controller which allows you to run it manually, control it by the thermostat or set up a weekly schedule; although you may find that temperature control is not as easy on this stove when compared to others. It has a built-in electric fan and runs at 400 watts and with a BTU output of up to 22,226 it will cover 1,500 sq. ft. One 40 lb. bag of pellets will burn between 12 and 24 hours depending on the heat setting used.Its thermal efficiency is greater than 69.8% and it is EPA certified. It is also mobile home and ETL certified. Although this stove does come with a warranty, some owners have had less than positive experiences with customer services and depending on where you live, there may not be a local repairer authorized to repair Castle stoves.
4. Napoleon TPI35 Pellet Stove Insert
Complete with flashing and a matching black trim, the Napoleon inset pellet stove (TP135) is tested and certified to burn a 50/50 mix of pellets and corn from its 45 lb. hopper. This has a 30 hour burn time, and with its 38,250 BTU it has heating coverage of up to 2,000 sq. ft. This comes with a lifetime limited warranty from the manufacturer, although if you are looking to install this kit yourself, do check with the manufacturer as self-installation may void the warranty.
5. US Stove GW1949 Pellet Stove
The non-electric US Stove GW1949 has a natural gravity feed pellet system, which makes it ideal for off the grid properties or those prone to blackouts. This black stove has an output of 40,000 BTU and a heating coverage area of up to 2,000 sq. ft. The hopper has 60 lb. capacity and a burn can last for up to 36 hours.
This can be liable to a creosote build-that will need regularly removing and burning at temperature can mean the burn basket needs replacing once or twice a year. As well as being EPA certified, it is also UL Listed. This stove needs starting with a propane torch and the draft will then take it to temperature. There is a one year warranty on the cabinet and a three year warranty on the firebox.
6. US Stove 6041 Pellet or Corn Stove
The US Stove 6041 pellet or corn stove has a heating coverage area of up to 2,500 sq. ft with a BTU output of 35,100. There are nine heat settings on this stove and with some adjustments, this can run on a wide variety of fuels including soybeans, cherry pits, processed silage and olive pits. You can also buy a Fresh Air Intake Kit to install this stove into a mobile home.
The hopper is 60 lb., and this has a large window with an air wash system. It has auto ignition and a built-in diagnostics system. The burn pot has an agitator to help prevent build-up of clinker. Parts for this stove can be costly, especially if out of warranty. This stove cannot be sold to residents of California.
7. US Stove 4840 Wall Mount Pellet Stove
Designed for smaller spaces, the US Stove 4840 wall mount pellet stove has a direct vent for easy installation. This does not have a direct thermostat, although it does have five heat settings. Its maximum output is 24,000 BTU and it can heat up to 1,000 sq. ft. You also need to shut it off manually, or it will wait to auto shut-off when it runs out of hardwood pellets.
This has a 28 lb. hopper and its burn time varies between six and 24 hours. This does come with a limited warranty of between one and three years (depending on the part) but an engineer may need to visit to repair warranty claims and it may be as long as six weeks before the engineer can visit.
8. US Stove 5660 Bay Front Pellet Stove
With a large bay window and air wash, the EPA certified US Stove 5660 bay front pellet stove supplies up to 48,000 BTU and a heat coverage of up to 2,200 sq. ft over six heat settings. This has a blower, auto ignition, a 55 lb. hopper and is suitable for mobile homes with the addition of a Fresh Air Intake Kit. Like any pellet stove, it will need regular cleaning and the burn pot can get full and overflow.
9. Comfortbilt Pellet Stove - HP61
With a 50,000 BTU output, the Comfortbilt HP61 pellet stove can heat an area of up to 2,000 sq. ft. This is EPA certified and has an 86% burn efficiency and may qualify for a state tax incentive for clean burning stoves. Although this black stove is thermostat controlled, it does not shut off, only drops to the lowest heat setting. As well as a one year limited warranty, the manufacturer offers technical help and owners of this stove have found this helpful.
10. Deari Serenity Wood Pellet Stove
With a smart controller, the Deari Serenity pellet stove allows you to choose from four heating modes on demand. This compact stove has an auto ignition and its heating efficiency is greater than 86.5% with a heating coverage area of up to 646 sq. ft. The hopper has a 17.6 lb. capacity and it can burn for up to 13 hours depending on the heat setting.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Pellet Stove
If you are new to pellet stoves or are thinking of replacing a wood stove with one, there are some significant differences between the two. Pellet stoves are generally easy to use, automatically controlled and often programmable. They are usually efficient, autonomous and better for the environment than a traditional wood stove.
Most pellet stoves require an electrical outlet to power the blower, its auto ignition, thermostat and control panel. A typical pellet stove will consume around 100 kWh of electricity per month. If you live off-grid or somewhere which is prone to blackouts, then a non-electric pellet stove is a practical choice, as is one that allows you to light and control without electricity (such as propane torch starting). Otherwise, a loss of power can mean you are unable to start a pellet stove or in some cases, the lack of blower may cause smoke and fumes to back up into the room.
A pellet stove with a blower is far noisier than one without, or a wood stove. The flame pattern of a pellet stove can also be quite different to a wood stove or open fire, especially as the burn area is just the center of the stove. Unless they have a manual (non-electric) system then a pellet stove is more prone to failure and breakdown. Looking at the type of warranty on a pellet stove and how easy it is to access servicing or parts is worth doing before you invest in one.
Pellet stoves can cost more than a wood stove and although installation costs can be minimal, both will have fuel costs, and both do need regular cleaning and maintenance.
How a Pellet Stove Works
The hopper can vary in size but is generally large enough to store a full day's fuel when burning on maximum. How often the hopper will need filling is often called the burn time and this time is often given for the longest burn i.e. when the stove is burning on its lowest and the minimum burn – when it is burning on the maximum setting/full heat.
The wood pellets feed into the stove from either the top or the bottom; a few at a time through a feeder device, usually an auger. When feeding from the top, there is less chance that fire burns back into the hopper but there is more risk of the combustion chamber becoming clogged with ash and clinker. The pellets for top feed systems may cost more as they can be premium grade and exceptionally low ash.
Some stoves may have a secondary large hopper that is external to the stove. This can hold a larger pellet store and is controlled by an electronic system which means when the stove hopper is empty, it will be filled automatically from the secondary hopper. These secondary hoppers can take up a lot of room and will add to the overall cost of a pellet stove.
A bottom-feed stove means that ash and clinker will go easily into the ash pan, but you will need to clean this regularly, so ensure that the ash pan is easy to access and clean.
Once pellets are in the burn pot, which is in the central combustion chamber, the auto ignition then lights the pellets. The combustion blower pulls air from the outside into the stove through a fresh air vent and pushes fumes and smoke back out through an exhaust vent.
At the same time, the stove pulls in cooler air from the room through a convection blower; this passes over the burn pot and makes the flames hotter, causing the pellets to burn efficiently. The heated air that comes off moves across a heat exchanger in the combustion chamber which transfers hot air back into the room via heat exchange tubes and the convection blower.
The exhaust flue and vent can go up through the roof or out through a sidewall. Depending on which stove you choose, you may need to buy extra kit to vent out where it needs to be vented.
It is worth noting that not all pellet stoves are suitable for installation in all states, so do confirm that your new stove is suitable for where you live before buying. This is also a good opportunity to look at any building code which you will need to adhere to, especially if looking to install the stove yourself.
Freestanding or Insert Stove
A fireplace insert is one that can be fitted to an existing fireplace whereas the freestanding does not require a fireplace (although it must stand on an appropriate fire-resistant hearth pad and meet any other building codes for its proximity to other surfaces, flammables, windows, ventilation etc.).
A freestanding stove will not heat larger spaces, or nearby rooms as well unless it has a blower/fan system.
Although pellet stoves cost less to install, they are a lot heavier than a wood stove - an average pellet stove will weigh around 400 lb. – which needs taking into consideration when thinking of where to install your pellet stove.
Features of Pellet Stoves
The auto ignition function allows a pellet stove to start only when required, so it can turn itself on at a certain time each day. Auto ignition usually comes with manual control as well so you can turn it on without having to program it.
Having a thermostat control is one of the most popular features of a pellet stove as it allows you to set temperature almost as precisely as an oil or gas heating system.
An air wash feature involves a secondary air flow (usually from the top of the stove) diverted by a baffle to move away any dry particles from the glass and keep it clean. Air wash will not remove sticky or creosote particles though. If coating builds up on the glass, the easiest way to clean it is by dampening a piece of paper towel or newspaper and dipping it into pure ash from the ash pan (avoiding any clinker or other debris). A few rubs with this on the glass and any deposits, including creosote are soon removed.
Efficiency of Pellet Stoves
Thermal energy is the term used to describe how much energy a fuel gives in the form of a percentage yield. For pellet stoves this includes the efficiency of the stove itself, combined with the efficiency of the pellets (or multifuel) that you use. Therefore, it is important to always burn the fuel that the manufacturer recommends as their efficiency data is based on use of that fuel.
Even if you already have a pellet stove, today’s models have improved efficiency, so if you do upgrade to a newer model, you can save some costs on fuel as well as lessening the impact on the environment.
BTU and Heating Capacity
The heat output from a stove or its heating capacity is measured in BTU (British thermal units) per hour. This BTU figure should be in the context of overall efficiency, rather than including any heat lost from the chimney.
Having heat output that is too great (such as a large stove in a small space), the space will become too warm and burning the stove on low to counteract this is more inefficient and contributes to air pollution. If heat output is too low, then the stove will not produce enough heat.
Other considerations around heating capacity include whether the stove is your main heat source or a secondary and how well insulated your home is. Where you choose to physically site a stove and how open plan your home is and whether the stove has a blower to move the hot air are also important when looking at capacity. If you need to install a stove centrally in your home, then a blower/fan system and central location is essential.
Pellet stoves are available in a range of BTU, from as low as 8,000 up to as much as 90,000. They are often suitable for apartments and condos as well as houses and some models are certified for use in mobile homes. The Department of Energy (DOE) suggest that a 42,000 BTU stove can heat a 1,300 sq. ft open plan space and a 60,000 BTU stove will heat a 2,000 sq. ft open plan space.
Wood Pellets as Biomass Fuel
Wood pellets need to be stored in a dry place as any moisture will cause them to break down. Excess moisture in pellets also causes problems when lighting and burning them. Ideally, you should also store pellets away from your living space to minimize excess dust in the air.
Biomass wood pellets are carbon neutral and do not contribute to the greenhouse effect. When wood pellets burn, they do not release any more CO2 than they absorbed as living trees. Pellets are often made from fallen trees, leftover sawdust and wood chips which means they use up resources that would otherwise be wasted or disposed of.
When making pellets, wood is heated to release its lignin. This allows the wood to be pressed and stick together without adding any adhesives or chemicals. Buying good quality pellets is essential for efficient stove burning and other considerations include whether they are sourced responsibly.
Pellet size is important as they need to burn efficiently and move through the hopper and into the stove easily. The stove manufacturer will say which size is correct for their stoves. Also consider the water content of the pellets - 10% or less is ideal. Good quality pellets should also produce minimal ash.
Pellets burn extremely hot, not only due to their consist size and shape, but also the combustion of the pellet stove. An EPA certified wood stove will produce around 5 grams (0.176 oz) of particulates in an hour while a pellet stove will produce less than a gram per hour. EPA certified stoves are also likely to be in an efficiency range of 70% to 83%, with a typical pellet stove working at around 80% efficiency or more. A more efficient stove means less pollution and lower running costs.
Good quality pellets combined with an EPA certified stove also produces less creosote which contributes to the risk of fire when it builds up in a stove or flue. The EPA also recommend that any pellets you buy are certified by the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI).
Some pellet stoves are multifuel in that they can burn other biomass such as woodchips, pits, corn and other organic materials.
As well as reviewing various pellet stoves in this article, we have looked in some detail at pellet stoves and compared them to a traditional wood stove. There are some definite advantages to a pellet stove, not least its thermostatic control and autonomy and when it is burning carbon neutral biomass pellets, its impact on the environment is significantly less than a wood stove.Whether you have decided to switch from a wood stove to a pellet stove, replace your old pellet stove or even newly install a stove into your home, we trust that you have found this article interesting. We also hope that our review of pellet stoves has given you the information you need to make an informed decision as which will be the best pellet stove for your home and heating needs.