Can a pellet stove legally be the primary source of heat?

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Wildo

Minister of Fire
Dec 14, 2011
555
jackmanistan, maine
Unless the overkill is what you paid.<>
 

bags

Minister of Fire
Oct 12, 2014
2,400
Kentucky
You still in an essence have 3,250 SQ FT of interior space including the basement regardless of whether you frame that room in or not. Heat it or not. You will have plumbing and pipes down there so some temperature will have to be maintained all said and done.Most newer basements can maintain above freezing temps because they are sub grade anyway but look into the future and the grand scheme.

I know what you are doing and the basement can always be finished later but it will likely happen eventually and if not by you it needs to be a viable option for resale and a possibility for another buyer. I've done quite a few houses and messed with a lot of real estate and rentals myself so I tend to think of things in these terms.

It is common for basements to remain unfinished to cut initial costs. There will be a bath room rough in for plumbing down there and I see your laundry is scheduled to live sub grade. I know and fully understand what you are trying to do but you need to cover your bases is what I am getting at. Overall it is better and less expensive to address everything now. That is what can be done to heat the place on the cheap and what is the best move for the overall outcome. I see where a septic line goes out so it's likely the site is in the country and NG, water, and city sewer are not an option so that answered some questions. Correct me if I am wrong. ;)

This limits you to oil, propane, electric, pellet, wood, or coal for heat. Geothermal too but heading the direction you are going that is likely off the radar due to it being even more expensive initially. Myself and others here need all of the details of what you are dealing with, decisions up to this point and reasons why, etc; so we have a better understanding and can guide you as well as possible. Pellet stoves are not our only forte' here. Many with vast experience and you have an entire team of free consultants. Doesn't get much better than that even if you pay thru the nose for it. Use it wisely. I was thinking of some very modest little bungalow at first and you were only trying to heat 1,100 or 1,000 SQ FT and now we are looking at a 3,250 SQ FT basically two level home here. It can be dealt with too but we need the entire scenario.

Going mini splits you would also need one for the basement (possibly 2) along with the upstairs units. You could be into 4 mini's right there and then a pellet stove or two. One up and on down possibly to really do things correctly and be happy and cozy. You need to price out and weigh all possible options. Now I am weighing towards one central system and a pellet stove or two for ease and simplicity. You definitely want the most even heat possible all the way around. How ticked off is the better half going to be when one room is warm and she freezes elsewhere in the shiny new house? Just trying to help you out here.

Are you going with ICF's for the foundation or an 8" poured wall. I see both on the drawings. Typical 2 x 4 framing and insulation on the exterior walls. Have you checked into the spray foam insulation as mentioned above? Yes, It costs more up front but the return on investment is grand. Priceless over time. You have a lot to figure out here and doing the smart things up front although some other sacrifices and or budget tweeking might occur it will be something you will not regret. I do this stuff for a living and have for many years. I'm going to tell you things you do not want to hear but I will be looking out for your best interest. Is this your first home or last home? Have no idea but I would guess one or the other.

***Side note: Where that door in the front off of the kitchen is going in the future make sure the structure is framed that way in the beginning with a header above and why note go with a 36" door instead of a 2'-4" door which is 34." You gain two inches which is nice and it is more of a standard size.

Are you general contracting this yourself or do you have a builder that will be doing so?
 
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Coal Ivy

New Member
Feb 2, 2015
14
Erie PA
Regarding "legal."
I built my house around a wood stove. Code said, "must be one wall controlled thermostat source of heat."

Another example of way to much government in our lives.

So I put in a handful of baseboard electric radiators (about 80 bucks each) and attached one to a wall thermostat (120V unit).

We've used the electric only a handful of times in a decade.

Gotta check your local laws regarding what is required.

Regarding insurance and bank, yeah, they have skin in the game, so they have a say. The argument that, "what happens if you are not home for a bit and the pellets run out?" is fairly unsophisticated and more of a reaction to an unconventional fuel source than to the reality, which is that every heating system needs maintenance and attention, and can fail, and will fail without that attention.
 
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tjnamtiw

Minister of Fire
I, like bags and the others, was completely taken aback by the plans. It's sure not the bungalow I expected! As for an 'open' plan, I don't see it. Those bedrooms and baths won't benefit from a 'space heater' pellet stove. If it were me, I would still look at mini-splits, each with multiple indoor units that are controlled individually. It's kind of like zoning used to be. Just adjust each living area to the temp you want. As someone else said, you can still put in the very inexpensive baseboard electric for those extremely cold days. The Mitsu unit I was looking at on their site last night was good down to zero for 100% rated heat output. I'd install one large mini-split feeding the biggest indoor unit for the open area, one smaller indoor unit for the MB and one small one for the master bath. Then a second smaller mini-split feeding a small indoor unit for each bedroom and a very small one for the bath. Keep in mind that all these indoor units do not have to be running or set at the same temperature. Every one comes with its own remote control. You only heat/cool what you are using. Some models even sense when you've been out of the room and set back the temp until you walk back in.

The cellulose insulation, if it's what my friend has, works great. It is put into the walls as a moist paste and stays there. He used 6" thick walls with staggered 2x4's, one at inside wall and next one on outside wall. This eliminates any heat transfer via wood. His electric bill is almost nil.
 

pageyjim

Burning Hunk
Oct 9, 2014
229
Deleware
What counts as primary heat depends on your loan if you have one, or on your insurance company's level of anal retention. Our mortgage wouldn't count our LP Monitor or our K1 Monitor even if though they could run until the tanks were empty as primary heat, yet my cousin's LP Rinnai counted for his loan through the same USDA loan service. We installed electric bb to get by that one and the insurance company didn't care a bit one way or another. Electric bb is cheap and nobody says you ever have to use it. We do love the forced air ones in the bathrooms to heat the tile while in the shower.

16k for a heat pump is a rip off of the grandest order. You should be able to get two big ones for that and still pocket 6-8k installed.

If you can afford it go with sprayfoam for insulation it is amazing and the payback is quick in a cold environment, if heating fuel prices don't go way down. We are having a mild winter here(-26f coldest so far) and have just hit the 2 cord mark and 10 g. of K1 heating about 2200sq ft compared to 4 cord and 60 g last year without sprayfoam last winter at the same time.

Whatever you do just remember a little overkill never hurt anyone ayuh.
I had the same problem with Monitor's. Some insurance co's wouldn't insure, just had to do a little shopping. In the end no problem. I suppose inspections might complicate things in some areas.
 

mchasal

Burning Hunk
Jul 10, 2008
225
Hudson Valley, NY
The argument that, "what happens if you are not home for a bit and the pellets run out?" is fairly unsophisticated and more of a reaction to an unconventional fuel source than to the reality, which is that every heating system needs maintenance and attention, and can fail, and will fail without that attention.
But in the case of a typical pellet stove (not referring to boilers/furnaces here) I know for a fact that if I leave it unattended, the stove will shut off within 24 hours or so due to lack of fuel. Of course the actual number of hours will vary depending on hopper size and temperature, but a sole heat source that will never make it through a weekend of cold weather without attention isn't very practical for most people. Having to fuel it daily is quite a bit different than the "maintenance and attention" that a central heating appliance needs.
To me, it doesn't seem unsophisticated to have some sort of a plan for this, just wise.
 

bags

Minister of Fire
Oct 12, 2014
2,400
Kentucky
There are definitely ways to play the game like Coal Ivy said. I have and I will continue. That said an argument could be made that the home owner can be in the same bad case scenario if they are out of town in winter and the grid goes down for days. No central electric heat there keeping the pipes from freezing. I agree that is less likely than a pellet stove or alternative heat source failing but it is possible.

All of these requirements vary so much even within a given locale and much relies on someones attitude and opinion about THEIR decision which YOU have to live with. The OP just needs to figure out his angles and proceed from there. That said it is not always about beating them either. He wants the right set up he will be happy with. That is what works for him and will squeak thru all of the red tape, hoops, and horse chit. Codes, laws and regulations are put into place for peoples safety and well being but I agree they don't have a place in my home per se making sure I have covers pulled up on a cold night.

IMO things have crossed the line in many ways there.

The OP has a lot to hash out here and sometimes what you have to do and want to do are different. Some creativity and slight bending of the rules, or shall I say getting another to look at things differently without rose colored glasses on, can go a long way.

That said, it might behove you to get to know the local building inspector. Sit down with him or her and have a chat. Run your ideas past them and listen to them. Get them to have a vested interest in what you are doing and make them part of it. Get their input. It's also a free service since you will be pulling permits anyway.

Hopefully you have a good one or cool one. I was one for a few years back when. I will say there are some useless ones too that only read black and white and know little about the real world of construction. If you have one like that keep your distance, kill them with kindness, and blow some they are the king or queen smoke up their ass. Just make them feel like they are better than they are. Usually inspectors out in the country are much easier to deal with than the guys in larger offices. No bribes or silly stuff but pump them up a bit and be pleasant towards them. Goes a loooong way. No butt kissing needed. This can also help with unseen issues throughout the process.
 
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bnther44

Member
Dec 17, 2014
38
Kalamazoo
Correct me if I am wrong. ;)
Nope, you nailed it : )

This limits you to oil, propane, electric, pellet, wood, or coal for heat. Geothermal too...
We initially considered geothermal, but the feedback I got from people in my area was not as good as I expected. Even the salesman admitted that his electric costs - for electric assist on a through system - was $160 for the month of Jan. Mini-splits can get similar performance at significantly lower costs - without the 6 gallons a minute.

With regards to heating the basement, we've never had a basement with heat in it, ie; we don't know what we're missing...yet. Honestly, the biggest hold up on the basement is I just don't know what I want to do yet. I saw a really neat high thermal mass system - this consisted of a solar hot water heater and a REALLY big insulated water tank. In a nut shell, the home owner heated the water in the summer and used it in the winter (radiant flooring). Obviously, that's a big project and will take a lot of research, but then again we'll be out of cash shortly which will give me time.

How ticked off is the better half going to be when one room is warm and she freezes elsewhere in the shiny new house?
That is a very real fear to me. :) That being said, I'm not sure how much of a variation the room temps are going to be. Some say it will be awful, some say not so. Honestly, I'm inclined to wait and see what the house behavior really is. We do have options - including pulling hot air from the cupola and ducting it to the master or 2nd bedroom. But I want to establish what my needs are going to be first.

Are you going with ICF's for the foundation or an 8" poured wall.
I can't remember what the foundation is called, but it is insulated and not a poured foundation.

The walls are going to be an R-20. They'll be a hybrid wall utilizing 1" of spray in - making it air tight - with the rest cellulose. The outside of the wall will have Styrofoam SIS sheathing.

Are you general contracting this yourself or do you have a builder that will be doing so?
We've got a really great builder! Couldn't be happier :)
 

bags

Minister of Fire
Oct 12, 2014
2,400
Kentucky
You are on the right track. ICF's and similar are insulated concrete forms and do have cavities for rebar and concrete. More of a poured concrete skeleton surrounded by ISO panels (flesh & skin). Great stuff but it comes with a price. A good way to go if the budget allows.
 

bnther44

Member
Dec 17, 2014
38
Kalamazoo
...and will squeak thru all of the red tape, hoops, and horse chit.
I hope that I can do better than squeak through. ;lol

My goal, with this house has been to do nothing less than to 'fire one' at the lobbyist that have highjacked Washington. I will use wood pellets to heat my house, even if it costs me twice as much as electricity. Yes, I care about the environment and yes I want to do things responsibly, but if I'm honest my true goal not so noble as either of those. Protesting has done nothing, writing letters has done nothing, voting has accomplished even less. I'm convinced that if I really want to see change, then I have to stop funding the lobbyist.

Sorry about the soap box.
 

bogieb

Minister of Fire
Oct 31, 2014
2,801
South Central NH
After seeing the house plans I am thinking you might want to up that from a P43 to something a bit bigger like a P61 or P68. Probably technically the 43 should be able to do it - but what something can do on paper, versus reality, is sometimes two different things. Sometimes the difference goes in your favor, sometimes it doesn't. It also gives you options if you decide the downstairs needs to be heated full time; put the big stove downstairs, then get a smaller, more decorative stove for upstairs.
 

tjnamtiw

Minister of Fire
I will use wood pellets to heat my house, even if it costs me twice as much as electricity.
That pretty well sums it up as far as actually helping the OP with options! I'm outta here.
 
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bnther44

Member
Dec 17, 2014
38
Kalamazoo
That pretty well sums it up as far as actually helping the OP with options! I'm outta here.
It kind of sounds like I've offended you and that was not my intention. I am very appreciative of the input that I have received. My father would refer to this as 'in the counsel of many there is wisdom' to which I would add, 'and the occasional over opinionated person (referring to myself).

My original question was - can a pellet stove be 'legally' considered a primary source of heat. The answer I have taken away from all of this is 'maybe' :) But this is enough of an answer to guide my heating decision. As someone suggested, I will install enough mini-split btu's to satisfy the bank and baseboard elect if necessary. But my choice to use pellets regardless of cost comparison still stands. It might seem like a foolish choice, but from a guy who was in the sandbox the first time, I watch the news some two decades later and can't help but wonder if the foolishness lays somewhere else.
 

moey

Minister of Fire
Jul 12, 2012
1,455
Southern Maine
We initially considered geothermal, but the feedback I got from people in my area was not as good as I expected. Even the salesman admitted that his electric costs - for electric assist on a through system - was $160 for the month of Jan. Mini-splits can get similar performance at significantly lower costs - without the 6 gallons a minute.
Our Jan electricity bill for heat and hotwater with our geothermal unit was about $325 our place a bit over 3000 sq/ft at .16kw/hr in a not so insulated house. We had about 1400 HDD last month I suspect with new construction your bill would easily be under $150 a month for heat and hot water in the winter. Theres a lot of live system on this site http://www.buffalogeothermalheating.com/sample_diagram.html which include operating costs.
 

Ctcarl

Feeling the Heat
Jan 4, 2014
427
Connecticut
What if your stove breaks down.i think a second heat source is a good back up .
 

Coal Ivy

New Member
Feb 2, 2015
14
Erie PA
. . . but a sole heat source that will never make it through a weekend of cold weather without attention isn't very practical for most people. . . .To me, it doesn't seem unsophisticated to have some sort of a plan for this, just wise.
No doubt that a heat source that requires daily attention isn't practical for most people.
That, of course, fits exactly with my description of the desire to heat solely with a pellet stove as "unconventional."
I didn't write or suggest that using conventional heating means is unsophisticated.
What I wrote was that most people's immediate response to a pellet stove is, "you can't heat a house with that." It's an unsophisticated comment because, plainly, you can heat a house with a pellet stove, and the real issue is that it's unconventional, not that it's impractical.

We, in fact, heated with nothing but cord wood for 7 years. No issues whatsoever. Of course, we got the same response right at the beginning.

"You can't have just a wood stove."
Why not?
"Because what if you're not there?"
Then somebody other than me will insert the wood.

I suppose what it comes down to for me is this:

A man should be able to heat his own house with whatever he damn well pleases, short of causing excessive pollution.

It's the rudimentary, conventional thinking that, "you must have a source of heat that can go X number of days with you not being there" that is unsophisticated.

Why can't it be my choice how often my fuel supply needs to be replenished?

Why is there a law that dictates to me that I need a thermostat?

Why does the state care? Which is to say, why do my persnickety neighbors care?

And so on and so forth. Good questions to ponder.

To OP - you definitely can heat with one or more pellet stoves. You may experiment and find that you think the house is too cold, but perhaps you can make it work.

With just a wood stove on our main level, keeping that level at about 65 most of winter, our basement would never get lower than about 45, and our upstairs would get down to about 55. Further out from the stove would be colder, and in close would be hotter.

Why is that not okay with some people?

Beats me.
 

moey

Minister of Fire
Jul 12, 2012
1,455
Southern Maine
Pay cash for your house and do as you please and dont get insurance. Most towns do not have "central" heating requirements.
 
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Peterfield

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2013
1,392
New Hampshire
Anyone has a right to heat the way they want, but an insurance company has just as much a right not to insure the home, or at least not pay a claim for any damage from frozen pipes.
 
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bnther44

Member
Dec 17, 2014
38
Kalamazoo
To OP - you definitely can heat with one or more pellet stoves. You may experiment and find that you think the house is too cold, but perhaps you can make it work.

With just a wood stove on our main level, keeping that level at about 65 most of winter, our basement would never get lower than about 45, and our upstairs would get down to about 55. Further out from the stove would be colder, and in close would be hotter.

Why is that not okay with some people?

Beats me.
Thanks for the comment. I'm hoping that with good insulation and good airflow this house will stay cozy - albeit, doing something a little different.:)
 

Coal Ivy

New Member
Feb 2, 2015
14
Erie PA
Most towns do not have "central" heating requirements.
I'd disagree with this.
Most building codes require, directly or by implication, a theromstatically controlled central heat source.
My problem wasn't with insurance - I told them I had electric heat and a wood stove. They were fine with that.
It was the jurisdiction doing the code inspection that didn't like the wood stove.
 

Coal Ivy

New Member
Feb 2, 2015
14
Erie PA
Anyone has a right to heat the way they want, but an insurance company has just as much a right not to insure the home, or at least not pay a claim for any damage from frozen pipes.
Absolutely agree with this principle.
 

moey

Minister of Fire
Jul 12, 2012
1,455
Southern Maine
I'd disagree with this.
Most building codes require, directly or by implication, a theromstatically controlled central heat source.
My problem wasn't with insurance - I told them I had electric heat and a wood stove. They were fine with that.
It was the jurisdiction doing the code inspection that didn't like the wood stove.
Most have requirements for a central heating system if one is present. Not the requirement of an actual central heating system. Think Amish...
 

Val

Member
Mar 17, 2012
121
NY
Looking to break ground on a new home and am finalizing what I want for heat. What I want is a Harman P43 - which comes with auto-ignite and a thermostat. The HVAC guys that I'm talking to for my back-up heating (mini-splits) are telling me that a pellet stove can not be used as a primary heat source. Can anyone comment on this?

Location is western Mich.
In western New york it is not considered a legitimate "primary heat" source for homeowners insurance, because it is not central heating. Insurance wants a normal furnace and ductwork. Free standing stoves are considered "zone heaters"...this also includes B-vent and direct vent gas space heaters. One way to get around the insurance BS is maybe to think about slapping some electric baseboard heaters in. I wonder if you could consider the electric baseboard your legal heating on "paper". It sounds like the home you are building is small, like a cabin. Anyway, you should put in another space heater-heat source, because pellet stoves need to be shut down for maintainence and also they act up- fail to ignite and dont always keep room temperatures as consistent.
 

Wildo

Minister of Fire
Dec 14, 2011
555
jackmanistan, maine
In western New york it is not considered a legitimate "primary heat" source for homeowners insurance, because it is not central heating. Insurance wants a normal furnace and ductwork. Free standing stoves are considered "zone heaters"...this also includes B-vent and direct vent gas space heaters. One way to get around the insurance BS is maybe to think about slapping some electric baseboard heaters in. I wonder if you could consider the electric baseboard your legal heating on "paper". It sounds like the home you are building is small, like a cabin. Anyway, you should put in another space heater-heat source, because pellet stoves need to be shut down for maintainence and also they act up- fail to ignite and dont always keep room temperatures as consistent.
That's what we did, $1000 dollars beat $10,000 and got us by. If we leave in the winter for more than two days we winterize which costs $10 and an hour of time
 
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