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First time homebuyers deciding on pellet stove

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by juneaubugg, Oct 24, 2013.

  1. juneaubugg

    juneaubugg New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2013
    Messages:
    14
    Loc:
    Andover New Jersey
    My husband and I are purchasing our first home and have always been apartment dwellers. It has a ceramic fireplace insert and electric baseboard heat. We want to pull the fireplace insert and replace it with a pellet stove. The prior owner has paid $600/mo in winter for electricity.

    We are a bit overwhelmed by everything we've read. Harman or Quad via a dealer, or englander/summer via home depot/lowes. It's a split level contemporary. The living room where the fireplace is faces the kitchen/dining are which sits above like a balcony. the master bedroom is off to the side (also on the floor ABOVE the living room). The lower level of the house is 2 spare rooms and 2nd bath. We don't plant to spend to much time in there.

    Here is the question - for our first stove (keep in mind we have very limited resources as we move in) do we spend the extra $1000+ n the harman or quad, or get a cheaper model? In terms of warranty, ash pan? And do the cheaper models not include the blower set up?? Will we regret it down the line? Is there a better alternative heat solution that we are missing altogether? I guess I'm wondering if we will see a real return on the investment with a major reduction in electric/heating costs.

    Also - are the Enviros the only brand that is eligible for tax credits in the US??

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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  2. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
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    Western Mass.
    I think there is a $300 credit as long as the stove is officially EPA approved at the proper efficiency level....
    http://www.forgreenheat.org/incentives/federal.html

    As far as stove selection, there are a lot of factors besides budget. You need to remove that old one and check the fireplace size and construction - so you have some idea of what will fit and what the installation and venting will cost.

    Also, you have to be realistic about some things....
    1. Style - do you care at all? Or just want a workhorse?
    2. Efficiency - some stoves have higher efficiencies than others.
    3. Features - same, some stoves have more features than others
    4. Service and installation and troubleshooting - this should have been the first one I mentioned! Steer away from any pellet stoves from big box stores, mail order, tractor supply etc. if you are not up to some tasks when it comes to service and troubleshooting. Most (and someone can correct me if I am wrong) have no service teams to send to your home if something needs done.

    However, some dealers sell the Englanders and Summers too - so you may be able to get one with local service.

    All of this comes into account. Even if your budget is tight, it's probably more expensive to get two pellet stoves (one for now and one that you may desire more later) than one...

    As far as what it will save you....it will save a bundle over electric heat. Still, pellet and wood burning is somewhat of a lifestyle decision. If cheaper heat is all you want, then LP or Nat Gas will still save a bundle (sometimes even more) than pellets will. But if you like renewable fuel and making some effort in your heating, etc. then pellets may be good for you.
  3. bosshog919

    bosshog919 New Member

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    Sep 26, 2013
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    53
    Loc:
    North Jersey
    Welcome....I'm in hackettstown and purchased my Harman p35i insert from SOS on rt 57 in Mansfield..great people and they can install and service the stove after purchase...they sell different brands too...best of luck..ask for Bob

    Burn Baby Burn:cool::cool:
  4. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    12,099
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    Western Mass.
    I dealt with SOS myself way back - like in the 80's and 90's. Highly recommended.
  5. RockyMtnHigh

    RockyMtnHigh Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2013
    Messages:
    249
    Loc:
    Colorado
    I agree with Webbie, having a real dealer with a service department is important. Most stove manufacturers offer a 1-2 some times more year (s) warranty on electric parts for pellet stoves. Even beyond that having a dedicated dealer that stocks parts and having a good service department is paramount. It sucks to be directed to a phone line tech who just tells you to pull parts out and mail them to their warranty department......
  6. bellini13

    bellini13 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2012
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    Loc:
    Long Island, NY
    that fireplace with the ceramic insert, you'll likely need to verify the structure of the chimney if you plan to vent up and out.

    electric baseboard is very expensive to run, so I would suspect that is the majority of the previous owners cost. but did they run all of them, and at what temperature? are the baseboards independent from each other? Meaning you could shut doors to rooms not in use, and keep those heaters off?

    is there natural gas run to the house at all? have you considered a gas fireplace insert?

    If you get the insert, do you intend to have the heat transfer to all rooms in the house?

    also do some research on pellet cost and availability in your area.
  7. reallyte

    reallyte Member

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    Mar 20, 2013
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    235
    Loc:
    Binghamton, ny
    Simple answer. You get what pay for. I love my quad Santa fe. It is worlds better than big box stoves.
    RockyMtnHigh likes this.
  8. saladdin

    saladdin Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    340
    Loc:
    West Tennessee
    My worthless opinion.

    Rethink the insert. Pellet stoves are big space heaters, placement is everything (and btus). You need to sit down and write "I want this area the warmest because we spend most of the time there" and go to "Don't care if it gets heat or not." You have the perfect opportunity to decide where you want teh heat vs playing the cards you were dealt with the insert.

    You will regret going cheap. To me, best to do nothing then waste a few grand on a mistake.

    Do your dealer's accept credit cards? You could get a zero percent card for the promo time and float it interest free for a few months.

    Tax credits extend to various things such as basic insulation. You need to read IRS 5695. There is a total tax credit limit and credits for basic things like you adding insulation. I'm no CPA and all that jazz... but read.

    Also, check your STATE programs.

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f5695.pdf?vm=r
    newbieinCT likes this.
  9. tpme06

    tpme06 New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2012
    Messages:
    42
    Loc:
    Newmarket, NH
    I just bought a home last year and ran into the same issue. Owner was spending $3,000 a year to heat the home. We spend most of our time in the living room that had an existing fireplace. I purchased a Harman Accentra insert and couldn't be happier. My father-in-law purchased an Englander insert the same year, and while it heats the space equally well, you can definitely tell a difference in stoves (quality, ease of cleaning, pellet use). I heat my home for $1,200 in my first year and only used about 120 gallons of oil (I'm in a ranch, so I need to run oil to get the other side of the house warm).

    You'll love the heat of a pellet stove, best decision I ever made!
  10. krooser

    krooser Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Messages:
    2,423
    Loc:
    Waupaca, WI
    A good quality low cost stove is an Englander/Timber Ridge/Summers Heat… same stoves-different names for retailing purposes. There are a few local dealers that sell 'em (as well as some box stores) but the best deals are on eBay from the seller "am/fm". Factory refurbished… scratch/dent/whatever. They sell for about $1050.00 give or take… I just installed one in my shop and it's great. Their customer service is fantastic… they do not have much of a dealer network but most parts are very simple to replace. They do have a list of dealers that can perform warranty repairs IIRC. Mike Helton is a member here and is one of their service techs. Most stove companies have ZERO customer service from the factory… buy from the wrong dealer and you are on your own.

    I also have a St. Croix in my home… a 13 year old stove that's been trouble free. I really like the self-cleaning versa-grate system that eliminates daily "pot scraping". Paid $950.00 for it used.

    The big box stoves I would avoid are Breckwell and US Stove… they seem to have more than their share of problems.

    Remember that a pellet stove is not a set it and forget it deal… most require daily maintenance and a through cleaning after every ton thru the stove. And a year end cleaning… once you get the hang of it they are great.

    BTW… put the stove where you need the heat. Inserts are fine but remember they are a little more difficult to clean and many have smaller ash pans and hoppers so they may be a little more labor intensive.
    newbieinCT likes this.
  11. hockeyfan

    hockeyfan Member

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    Dec 28, 2011
    Messages:
    39
    Loc:
    Western MA
    A very good opinion. Put everything on the table when it comes to pellet stove placement. What location will heat the home where you will spend the most time, and also what location will allow dialing back electric heat the most? If the fireplace is currently in working condition, run a test burn and get an idea of heat distribution in the house. A test burn may give you a data point about whether a pellet stove insert is a good choice.

    Also, just because there's a chimney there doesn't necessarily mean an insert will be the cheapest drop-in option. If there are significant costs to get the current chimney up to code for a pellet stove, insert + chimney fixing may cost more than freestanding + new venting installation out the wall. The decision you make is an important one and initially expensive, take the time to collect the data and get it right.
  12. mchasal

    mchasal Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2008
    Messages:
    165
    Loc:
    Hudson Valley, NY
    FYI, you don't have to go to ebay to buy from AMFM: http://www.amfmenergy.com/

    I recently purchased a stove from them. Ordered on Friday at about 10:30am, got a call from the freight depot that the stove was ready to be delivered on Tuesday. Had them bring it on Thursday since I could work at home that day. This was from VA to NY. I was impressed with the shipping speed.

    So far, Englander has the best support ever. One of their senior service techs regularly posts here and was very helpful with making the decision and getting started.
  13. juneaubugg

    juneaubugg New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2013
    Messages:
    14
    Loc:
    Andover New Jersey
    Thanks everyone. I think the placement where the fireplace is, is perfect. It's an open space - loft like - split level.

    Yes I can turn off the baseboards in the rooms downstairs. The fireplace is directly across from the kitchen/dining area. and then the bathroom and master are to the right of the kitchen. And with ceiling fans that should help distribute, yes?

    I think we have decide to spend the monies and go to SOS and get a Harmen. There is another company on rt 57 in prot murray - they sell/service Quads and are about $750 less expensive on install (on paper).

    But now I have more questions.

    how do you figure out which stove you need? Do you have to PULL the current insert to measure out properly? Does the insert include the control for the flu (so would there big an opening left?). What stove we get... is it dictated by the size of the existing fireplace...? It just seems they have different features and price ranges, but they don't come in multiple sizes, right? so even if we want a more inexpensive one, we may not have a choice?? There are two dealers who deliver pellets. $200/ton. Do you have to burn specific types for specific stoves - they aren't interchangeable?? Can we store them in the center of the garage; meaning away from the outside so they don't get infestation... is that something to be concerned about?

    They did quote about $750 to install the venting into the chimney. are there going to be any hidden expenses involved?? We need to take apart the wood front on the fireplace to get to the insert. I think my husband can do that so we preserve the wood.

    fire.jpg
    living.jpg

    kitchen&diningjpg.jpg
  14. juneaubugg

    juneaubugg New Member

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    Loc:
    Andover New Jersey
    bosshog19; what did you have to do about permits? Have you found any state tax breaks/grants?
  15. tpme06

    tpme06 New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2012
    Messages:
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    Loc:
    Newmarket, NH
    I agree with you on placement, the fireplace location should work well with your set-up. The install in a chimney should be a full liner all the way up to the top of your chimney, with a cap on top to keep rain/critters out. They should put some Roxul insulation around the damper area as well.

    If you're going to pay for the install, you may want to ask the dealer to install an OAK (Outside Air Kit). After burning without one for a year, and having recently installed mine, I noticed an improvement with the drafts in my house. Search "OAK" on this forum and you'll find an endless amount of threads about them. Before you buy the stove, make sure the dealer gives you a full break down of the "out the door/install" price so you can avoid hidden charges.

    Regarding the pellets, Harman stoves will eat anything without a problem. A more expensive pellet may give more heat with less ash. Try a few different brands and see what works best in your stove. You can find lots of great reviews by searching the forums on most all kinds of pellets that will help you get through the "testing" phase.

    Storing pellets in your garage isn't a problem, provided it's not super damp. I store mine in a basement (humidity can spike to 60-70% in the summer), and I haven't had a problem yet.

    Regarding the Accentra insert dimensions, you may want to call the dealer and ask what the measurements are for the actual fitment. Dimensions listed on the Harman website are 42"Wx32"Hx30"D, though that may not necessarily apply to the install.
  16. CamperWill

    CamperWill New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2013
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    61
    Loc:
    Massachusetts
    I'm with everyone that recommended Englander and AMFM Energy. I was recently in your shoes (new house, high heating bill, limited money) and decided to go with the 25-PDVC since I don't mind doing work myself, so far I don't regret it but I haven't heated through a winter yet.
  17. kenstogie

    kenstogie Feeling the Heat

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    Oct 2, 2012
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    416
    Loc:
    Albany (ish)
    Yea I just recently bought a Refurb from AMFM. Super quick shipping. I had a 25PDVC and thought it was great....but needed a bigger one and I got a another englander. You can save $75 if travel to local freight location, which for me was 10 miles. Estes trucking or something like that.
  18. saladdin

    saladdin Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
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    Loc:
    West Tennessee
    Do not place the bottom bags directly on the ground. Leave them stacked on a pallet for air flow. For 2 years I've had rotating stock of pellets on my open carport (roof only) and no issues. I can't remember anyone ever posting about "infestation" and most here store outside or in damp basements.

    Deliver for 200 is cheap. Call and get the brands and post the names here. People here take pellets crazy serious and will be able to give some feedback.

    I think you may be right on the insert but that thing looks 10 feet right in front of your face. No way I could sit that close to my stove but i've never had an insert so maybe no big deal.

    Another thing is airflow. With that slanted roof the heat may just roll on upstairs but keep in mind you will probably need fans of some sort to distribute the heat. That's a constant theme here, "how to move the heat."
  19. richkorn

    richkorn Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2008
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    609
    Loc:
    SE CT
    Don't rule out Travis Industries (Lopi/Avalon) or Enviro. Both make excellent pellet stoves. I'd buy either of those before a Quad.... !!!
  20. mmckee83

    mmckee83 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2012
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    46
    Like others have said the stove is only as good as the dealer that sells it, so stick with a good reputable dealer that you like. We bought a stove last year and we now spend $880 a year to heat our raised ranch house at 73-76 degrees in the front and 68-70 in the bedrooms all winter compared to $3000+ for fuel oil keeping the house at 66 degrees. At the end of this heating season the stove has more then paid for itself. Nothing like walking into a nice warm house all winter and not feeling the least bit guilty. Good luck as it was the best decision we made as homeowners.
  21. hockeyfan

    hockeyfan Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Western MA
    I'd still do a careful check that the insert is going to achieve what you want, to cut your heating bill enough to justify the expense. Heat distribution looks like it will be uneven (i.e. too hot in the upper levels and too cold in the lower levels).

    I have a split level house and I blast my pellet stove heat (freestanding unit) from the basement up the open stairwell to the upper level for reasonable coverage of all levels.

    If you've bought a new house and your solution to the problem of electric baseboard heat means to spend significantly to make the upper level liveable while abandoning the practical use of rooms in the lower level, you may only have a partial solution to your problem (and it will still cost you a lot of money).

    Sometimes an insert is the only solution (the floor plan isn't feasible for distributing heat over multiple levels, etc.) but I'd make sure all options are considered before I'd spend significant $$ on a heating design that still left me with cold areas of the house.
  22. bosshog919

    bosshog919 New Member

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    Sep 26, 2013
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    Loc:
    North Jersey
    Didn't do any permits as I installed myself. If SOS installs they have to get a permit which I think is 75.00. Only got the 300 tax break. Talk to Bob at SOS and he can give u the dimension of the stoves available due to the weird size of our opening we had to get the p35i b/c the quad fire wouldn't fit. U can store the pellets in the garage no problem.. Hope I answered most of ur questions.

    Burn Baby Burn:cool::cool:
  23. stoveguy2esw

    stoveguy2esw Minister of Fire

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    madison hgts. va
    this is a thread which occurs a lot, always will, and its a good topic to revisit every time.

    web made an excellent post about the differences between a "dealer based"versus a "big box" unit
    .

    a lot depends on the ability of the owner to perform services on the unit (not all of us are mechanics) a dealer based unit such as the SOS guys mentioned and given high marks above are an example of the best of this side of the industry, well mentioned dealers are a definite plus as they wouldn't be if they didn't do a proper job at taking care of their customers.

    a good dealer is important (probably the most important) component of a stove purchase through a dealer. a bad dealer is a nightmare from what i have learned. also, a unit which usually is sold at a "brick and mortar" dealership will be supported, that same stove may be available online you WILL NOT have dealer support for that stove. keep this in mind when shopping for bargains

    a "big box" unit is more for the "diy" crowd. those who are ok with the trade off between the initial outlay at the "cost" of turning your own wrenches. as for big box store units i'd do research ahead of settling on a brand, support may be better with some brands over others ( i kinda feel bad about saying this as i represent one of those brands as everyone knows in here and are kind enough to give me and my company kind words for our tech support) that said , there are several find brands out there and most are a quality brand. i cant speak for their support personally as i do not work for them, so do some checking, and understand that if you go that route you will be the wrench turner if needed (which eventually will happen as stuff does eventually wear out), even with the dealer based stores the warranty doesn't last forever and neither will parts in these units, in the end the dealer will be charging for a service call if the warranty period has ended.

    what we do with warranty parts issues is to send any parts needed to the customer via UPS or FED EX etc. if we want to look at a part we send a return label to bring it back AFTER the customer has the needed part. to me its senseless to ask for a part back before shipping a replacement, this only has the stove deadlined for a longer period thus making the customer that much less happy with the service.
  24. RockyMtnHigh

    RockyMtnHigh Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2013
    Messages:
    249
    Loc:
    Colorado
    You will need to pull out the current unit to measure and find out what will fit. Usually... at least in the few fireplace stores I've worked at, once you put a deposit down on a unit you like and you are planning on installing it yourself and especially if you are having them install it they will come out and take the time to measure and see what will fit. They look at the deposit as a "commitment to buy" and become a lot more serious after that. Every consult I go on I take the time to pull the insert out and make sure something will fit, whether it be what your heart was set on or what will actually work. Don't get set back by the Quadrafire bashers, they are good stoves. I don't have experience with the big box stoves so I can't comment but pretty much any dealer sold stove is going to perform well if it is kept clean, installed properly and you are instructed how to use it properly. From what it sounds like as well if you don't mind turning a wrench on your own the Englander may not be a bad idea either. I've read reviews on them and a lot of it is mixed but overall doesn't look bad. A lot of the motors can be sourced through grainger or Rotom if you don't mind doing some mind boggling research and that can save you money.

    I just dipped my arms in my first Enviro pellet stove the other day and I have to say I'm impressed to say the least.....

    Congratulations on the home! I just bought my first home as well. Your house is beautiful, enjoy it!

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