Opinions of big box store 75+% efficient stoves vs. Old Skool USSC 6039, AES Magnum Countryside 3500, etc.?

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GearheadGrrrl

Member
Mar 11, 2019
13
southwest Minnesota
As noted above, I've got 16 years experience heating with pellets and corn, 5 years with the 6039 and 11 years and counting with the Magnum 3500. Given the age of these stoves and the tax credit I did some shopping, first thing I found was the old reliables like the Magnum 3500 aren't efficient enough to get the tax credit and a lot of the small American manufacturers have disappeared or are sold out for the year. What I found at least theoretically available by the end of the year was the PelPro, Pleasant Hearth, and Comforbilt stoves . This set off a bunch of red flags for me- None are made in the U.S. or at least a country known for modern technology for a start. All rely on computer controls and software too much, I like at least separate controls for feed/fan speed and stirrer. Heck, none of them even have a stirrer- I've run without a stirrer and even with a deeper burn pot I had to manually agitate and sometimes clean the clinkers out of the burn pot long before the hopper was empty. Then there's the auto ignitors- I'm quite capable of lighting the stove myself and would at least like that option.

So as Menard's 11% off and TSC's "Black Friday" sales end (for now), I decided to pass on the new pellet stoves. Has anyone found these new stoves to work as well as the old standbys, and did I make the righty choice?
 

johneh

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
4,382
Eastern Ontario
You are out of luck if you think you are going to find a new stove that's
not Chock O Block full of electronics. Also, any stove still built in North America
is a hi-end costly stove no big box stoves.
The two that stand out are Enviro and Harman and both run with little problem for years
Good Luck
 
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rona

Minister of Fire
Apr 2, 2008
1,033
southwestern Minn
As noted above, I've got 16 years experience heating with pellets and corn, 5 years with the 6039 and 11 years and counting with the Magnum 3500. Given the age of these stoves and the tax credit I did some shopping, first thing I found was the old reliables like the Magnum 3500 aren't efficient enough to get the tax credit and a lot of the small American manufacturers have disappeared or are sold out for the year. What I found at least theoretically available by the end of the year was the PelPro, Pleasant Hearth, and Comforbilt stoves . This set off a bunch of red flags for me- None are made in the U.S. or at least a country known for modern technology for a start. All rely on computer controls and software too much, I like at least separate controls for feed/fan speed and stirrer. Heck, none of them even have a stirrer- I've run without a stirrer and even with a deeper burn pot I had to manually agitate and sometimes clean the clinkers out of the burn pot long before the hopper was empty. Then there's the auto ignitors- I'm quite capable of lighting the stove myself and would at least like that option.

So as Menard's 11% off and TSC's "Black Friday" sales end (for now), I decided to pass on the new pellet stoves. Has anyone found these new stoves to work as well as the old standbys, and did I make the righty choice?
Look into the St Croix line for wringing more heat out and bringing it into the room rather then out the exh. Manually start and manually drop the clinker so less parts and less problems. Bixby was another good one as it has all the fancy stuff and very efficent actually once the owner catches on they are a great stove but they have a learning curve and no longer in production. The Bixby is no longer being built but you still can get most parts for it. It can be started once and then it will dump the pot automatically into the ash bucket so you could expect to start the stove and run it for 3 weeks 24/7 dumping the ash bucket and filling the hopper both on the go. Both of these stoves were multi fuel stoves and American built. Like you said China seems to be the provider of stoves now and some are better then others. Service after the sale is a big deal because when it breaks the box stores arent much help so you be aware you may get your hands dirty.
 

mtnbiker727

Feeling the Heat
Mar 11, 2019
284
PA
Harman makes a few stoves that are analog instead of digital. The P43 and P68 at least. You're going to pay for them though... but in life you usually pay for what you get.

I don't doubt that you know how to start a fire, but it's a lot easier to flip the switch and have the stove take care of itself....

That said, I drive a manual transmission car, so I understand wanting to take care of things yourself.
 

GearheadGrrrl

Member
Mar 11, 2019
13
southwest Minnesota
I'm a big fan of the AES 3500 too, especially it's ability to run well at low feed rates that few "modern" pellet stoves can match. But clearly AES is slowing down, they've moved out of their plant in Hutchinson and seem to be concentrating on serving the installed base of their stoves, which isn't entirely a bad thing. Mine's 12 years old and working great and I'm tempted to give it a thorough rebuild, but I added up the prices of all the moving parts and it's darn near the price of a new stove. Throw in the 26% tax credit and it made more sense to buy a new stove, was looking at the American made Englander but price was twice that of the big box stoves and I suspect the parts inside are pretty much Chinese anyway. So shopped around and the best deal for my home seems to be a Pelpro 60 so I've got one on order. It won't be completely replacing the AES 3500, I ordered another set of vent pipe and it'll be going into a another part of my house- It's basically three sections of about 600 square feet each, got the 3500P heating the middle "living/kitchen" section and a one year old wood stove in the garage section, so the new stove will go in the "bedroom" section or vice versa.
 

Jeremy6500

Feeling the Heat
Jan 22, 2021
295
Indiana
I have a PP130 that was in the house when I bought it. Overall it has been a good stove for me. I have had to replace the ignitor once and the room fan once.

Besides that, if I keep it clean, it runs with no issue. Shuts down and starts up automatically like it should. It has a built in dial thermostat and room temperature sensor that works decent, but can require relocating the sensor some. My one complaint is that it can't be hooked to a normal room thermostat. There was a company that made an adapter called a Pellet Miser that would allow for the use of a room thermostat, but they appear to no longer be making them. I should have gotten one last year when I thought about it instead of putting it off.
 

rickwai

Minister of Fire
Nov 1, 2011
1,346
ohio
I just sold a 2006 St Croix Greenfield to a guy that bought a Pelpro last year that had to be replaced twice. He finally returned and got his money back and bought an American made stove that was 16 yrs old. There is more cost in a circuit board and a couple motors of a Harman that the cost of a whole Chinese stove assembled. Pretty much comes back to "if it seems to good to be true then it probably is".
 
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GearheadGrrrl

Member
Mar 11, 2019
13
southwest Minnesota
A lot of our buying decisions now are made by what's subsidized- if I buy a "modern" energy efficient stove I get a 26% tax credit that I don't get if I spend the same money on parts for an older simpler stove instead. Next year the subsidies will even more decide what we buy- The IRA bill Congress just passed has a bunch of up to 100% subsidies for energy efficient electric appliances, so a lot of us are going to be getting new appliances and other stuff they subsidized like solar panels too. These are imperfect laws, but may as well make the best of em'...
 

GearheadGrrrl

Member
Mar 11, 2019
13
southwest Minnesota
That bill is mostly good, but as the saying goes, law making has a lot in common with sausage making. I know some of the people that wrote it and they got in some good provisions for the rural midwest, like buyouts so rural electric co-ops can shut down coal fired generating plants they no longer need. There's also provisions clearly written by the electric utility's lobbyists, like heavy subsidies for new electric appliances, electric cars, heat pumps, etc.. I don't write the laws, and I'm not about to turn down $$$ just because I disagree with parts of the laws.
 
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Mt Bob

Minister of Fire
Oct 31, 2013
4,075
park county montana
That bill is mostly good, but as the saying goes, law making has a lot in common with sausage making. I know some of the people that wrote it and they got in some good provisions for the rural midwest, like buyouts so rural electric co-ops can shut down coal fired generating plants they no longer need. There's also provisions clearly written by the electric utility's lobbyists, like heavy subsidies for new electric appliances, electric cars, heat pumps, etc.. I don't write the laws, and I'm not about to turn down $$$ just because I disagree with parts of the laws.
I see none of it good, but, yep, grab it while you can, it's your/our money!
 
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