Pellet stoves vary widely in terms of features, price and quality - don't just go out and buy the first one that meets your eye and budget. You will have to live with your choice for a long time, so make certain you do your homework BEFORE purchasing.
Pellet stoves are relatively complicated machines, with electronic control boards, multiple blowers, safety switches and sensors. As a result there is much more to go wrong than with a simple wood stove or fireplace. Pellet stoves require regular attention, service and maintenance. Your first order of business when shopping for a Pellet stove is to ask yourself who will be taking care of your stove. If you are very handy with tools, draft gauges and chimney brushes, then it may be possible for you to troubleshoot and repair your unit. If you are a bit less handy, you should strongly consider purchasing from a local and reputable dealer with a service department. Ask questions about their future service policies BEFORE you put your $$$ down.
What will they do during the warranty period? What, if any, costs will be billed to you? What will they do after the warranty period? What will the costs be?
As one Hearth.com reader stated "There are a number of people locally who can fix my oil burner, but only one who can fix my pellet stove'. Please keep that in mind, especially if your pellet stove is an important (or sole) source of heat for an area of your home.
It is important to plan your installation before buying a Pellet stove. Most companies have PDF copies of the owners manuals online, and a copy should be obtained and studied. Don't assume that your local dealer is always going to do the installation correctly - or, more accurately, they may quote you a price for the MINIMUM job....one that is very likely to cause you problems in the future.
Two important installation factors that are often overlooked are: 1. The need for the pipe to rise above the stove - NOT just straight out behind the stove. 2. The need for outside air hookup
Although some installation manuals may show the option of straight out piping, this type of installation will very likely cause trouble - it provides no natural draft for evacuating smoke from the stove....which is often needed when the power goes out, or when a stove is turned off. The diagram below shows on example of what can happen with a pellet vent that has no rise....along with an example of a properly installed venting system. (picture courtesy http://www.hearthtools.com)
To bring home this point, here is a snippet of text from a typical owners manual: "It is recommended that the vent system be installed with a minimum vertical rise of 3 feet above the stove exhaust connection. Failure to provide adequate natural draft (vertical rise) may result in smoke being released into the house when electricity to the stove is interrupted while burning or smoldering corn remains in the burn pot"
A proper installation will look like one of the three diagrams below. Always try to do more than the minimum.
Note that all the installations in the line drawings above show an outside air intake. This is highly recommended by some manufacturers and required by others. Install it right the first time!
Note: for up to the minute information and links about Pellet stoves and fuel, please visit our Pellet forum.
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