Pellet stoves are an economical, environmentally-friendly way to heat your home.
What are pellets?
Think of a pellet as a condensed version of wood. Pellets are natural products, made out of sawdust, bark, and chips from milling operations.
In their raw form, these materials are inconsistent in size and moisture content. But the “pelletizing” process – which dries the sawdust and compresses it into small cylinders – ensures a consistent, reliable product.
Because pellets are made from recycled wood products, you can feel good about doing your part to heat your home using a renewable energy source. While wood contains bark and various impurities, a good quality pellet has an ash content of less than 1% of its total weight.
Pellets have a higher energy content than cordwood, a lower water content (8% moisture content vs. 50% in wood), and a more even, regular size.
Pellets come in different grades and some brands may result in greater creosote buildup and less efficient heating.
Be sure to ask a sales associate at Rich’s which pellets they recommend – you’ll want to buy pellets that light easily, leave a minimal amount of ash, and heat as efficiently as possible.
If you’ve ever split, chopped, or stacked cordwood, you know how labor-intensive that process is. Wood is big. It’s bulky. It’s dirty. And it needs to be seasoned for close to a year before you can burn it.
Pellets, on the other hand, are packed in 40-pound plastic bags. You store them off the ground in a cool, dry place such as a shed or garage.
A ton of pellets will fit in a 5’ high x 5’ wide x 5’ long area. A cord of firewood measures 4’ high x 4’ wide x 8’ long.
Pellet stoves are practical and easy to use. Because there’s never more than one handful of pellets burning at any given time, pellet stoves have “controllable heat.” Unlike wood stoves, which can flare up and cool down depending on how much wood you load and the size of the firewood, pellets burn steadily, producing an even heat.
Loading the fuel
Pellets are less messy than wood. You periodically load them into the stove’s fuel hopper and the pellet stove does the rest of the work.
Pellets are too condensed to burn without air blowing through them. Typically, a pellet stove includes:
- A combustion fan that burns the pellets.
- A distribution fan that circulates the air.
- An auger that feeds pellets into the fire.
Pellet stoves rely on electricity to ignite, run their fans, and run the programmable thermostat. In the event of a power outage, you can buy battery-operated backup packs or hook your stove up to a generator.
Look for a stove that uses as little electricity as possible and that gives you 100% access to all the electrical components.
Most pellet stoves are “top fed,” meaning that the pellets are dropped into the burn pot down a chute from above. However, some models are front-loading, such as this one by Ravelli.
Cleaning a pellet stove
A clean stove guarantees an efficient yield and the best possible functionality. Ash produced by a pellet stove is much finer than ash from a wood-burning stove. Empty the completely cooled ashes according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and check to make sure no debris clogs the air inlets.
Some pellet stoves require daily cleaning to eliminate deposits that can build up while the stove is running. Use a drum-type vacuum to clean the combustion chamber after the stove and ashes are completely cool.
Some top-feed pellet stoves self-clean every hour. The pellets stop feeding and the combustion fan blows on high, blowing ash out of the fire pot. This keeps the fire pot clean and maintains its high efficiency.
Up Close and Personal
To see Rich’s full line of pellet stoves, come see us at any of our five Puget Sound showrooms in Lynnwood, Bellevue, Southcenter, Tacoma, or Bremerton.
You can also view Rich’s pellet stove manufacturers on our website.