Pellet stove or air handler?

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Hi everyone,

My wife and I are about to experience a whole lot of firsts - first child on the way, and our first REAL winter. We've never had to use central heating before, so I'm a blank slate, so to speak.

We've moved into an old farmhouse with an electric Lennox Elite air handler installed sometime before 2011, which does heating and cooling. It works, but my landlord has offered us a new pellet stove (electric) that he has lying around in his garage.

I'm curious to hear from this knowledgeable community - if you were in my shoes, knowing that you have a baby on the way, would you install the pellet stove or would you stick with the Lennox air handler? The factors that immediately come to mind are:
  1. Would the pellet stove be safe for the baby (dust, fumes, heat)?
  2. Could the pellet stove make the house wamer than the air handler?
  3. Would the pellet stove be more cost-effective than the air handler in the long run (including the cost of pellets)?
  4. If it got super cold, could I run both heating systems at the same time?
The house is a single story and approx. 1200 square feet.

Any advice, personal experiences, or feedback would be incredibly appreciated.

Thank you in advance!
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
I take it your air handler heats electrically. I have no idea what Canadian electric costs per KWH but resistance heating is by far the most expensive way to heat. Propane is second and NG is third. Keep in mind that putting in a pellet burner comes with ancillary costs. Venting is very expensive today and while pellets are pretty stable in price this year, next year may be entirely different. You also need other stuff like a non combustible hearth pad. wall thimble and cleanout Tee for the venting and they are not maintenance free, they have to be looked after almost constantly.

Then there is the 'my landlord has this free stove in his garage'. What kind is it, how old is it and what condition is it in? Old stoves. especially used old stoves require quite a bit of 'elbow grease' and new components to get working properly and none of those components are cheap. Even relative new stoves that have been sitting will need some work to get working. Garages are inherently damp and dampness causes stove parts to rust and motors to seize up. keep that in mind.

Don't expect the stove to heat the entire home comfortably, won't happen. Bio mass stoves are 'space heaters' not central heaters. You will have warm rooms and cold rooms depending on where it's located at

Far as kids go, I'd just invest in a folding fireplace screen for in front of it and train the kid not to touch it, it does get hot. Lady across the road has a day care business with kids and they are told to stay away from their stove. Pretty simple on that really.

In summation, if you have electric heat, I'd get the stove and install it. Same with propane. If you have NG, stay with that but we need more facts before any of us can advise pro or con.
 
Last edited:
I take it your air handler heats electrically. I have no idea what Canadian electric costs per KWH but resistance heating is by far the most expensive way to heat. Propane is second and NG is third. Keep in mind that putting in a pellet burner comes with ancillary costs. Venting is very expensive today and while pellets are pretty stable in price this year, next year may be entirely different. You also need other stuff like a non combustible hearth pad. wall thimble and cleanout Tee for the venting and they are not maintenance free, they have to be looked after almost constantly.

Then there is the 'my landlord has this free stove in his garage'. What kind is it, how old is it and what condition is it in? Old stoves. especially used old stoves require quite a bit of 'elbow grease' and new components to get working properly and none of those components are cheap. Even relative new stoves that have been sitting will need some work to get working. Garages are inherently damp and dampness causes stove parts to rust and motors to seize up. keep that in mind.

Far as kids go, I'd just invest in a folding fireplace screen for in front of it and train the kid not to touch it, it does get hot. Lady across the road has a day care business with kids and they are told to stay away from their stove. Pretty simple on that really.

In summation, if you have electric heat, I'd get the stove and install it. Same with propane. If you have NG, stay with that but we need more facts before any of us can advise pro or con.
Thanks for the advice!

Both the air handler and pellet stove are electric.
The pellet stove is new and is in great condition. We even fired it up in his garage and it seemed to work great.

Thanks for the explanation of the pellet stove cons; i.e. maintenance. I'll definitely consider that. Seeing as though it sounds like the pellet stove will be cheaper (albeit higher maintenance) I'll probably go with it.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
I just edited my reply. I had to go away from the computer so it sat for a bit but I made some additions.

A pellet stove is electric but compared to resistance heating, it uses next to nothing in power. I think (I'll stand correction it) that a pellet stove consumes as much power as a 150 watt light bulb.
 
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bogieb

Minister of Fire
Oct 31, 2014
2,989
South Central NH
It really depends on the cost of your electricity. NH's cost is high compared to most states, but BC may be low.

My electric bill goes up $20-40 per month using my pellets stoves. Add the cost of a ton of pellets every month, so add in another $275 to my cost per month (I actually don't pay that much per ton, but let's go with that number). So, for me, It costs about $305/month to heat for the 6 months (obviously this is averaged out - some months use more, some less).

My other heating option is a propane boiler. Propane is extremely expensive here, and I was using around 300 gal/month when I moved in. At the time I was paying over $5/gal, and I have never payed less than $3.50/gal - so the math makes sense. Then add in that my FHW heat is only run for the main floor (not the basement), and my pellet stoves heat both levels, and I am way ahead by using pellets. Heck, it didn't take long for the stoves to return my investment costs.

So, does that help you figure out your situation? Not really. We don't know what you pay for electric, how efficient your air handler is, how handy you are, or price of pellets in your area (or the whole pellet stove thing that @SidecarFlip mentioned).

At the same time, you could let your landlord install the pellet stove, and try it (I'm assuming the landlord would install it since it is his property and he would need to make sure his insurance would cover it). Just buy 1 ton of pellets and if it's not good for your circumstances, then you can change to the air handler.
 
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SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
That makes perfect sense to me....
 

zrock

Minister of Fire
Dec 2, 2017
1,149
bc
I run my pellets stove to of set the cost of running my gas furnace. I easily save $300 every 2 months on my gas and hydro by running my pellet stove and that's after the costs of my pellets. I find it a much nicer heat especially when i have arthritis in my legs. Even if i have to do repairs to the stove im still saving money every year. A old boss had a hydro furnace and i seen his hydro bills and they were quite expensive.. Seen his hydro bill up over $1500 every 2 months.
 
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zrock

Minister of Fire
Dec 2, 2017
1,149
bc
I run my pellets stove to of set the cost of running my gas furnace. I easily save $300 every 2 months on my gas and hydro by running my pellet stove and that's after the costs of my pellets. I find it a much nicer heat especially when i have arthritis in my legs. Even if i have to do repairs to the stove im still saving money every year. A old boss had a hydro furnace and i seen his hydro bills and they were quite expensive.. Seen his hydro bill up over $1500 every 2 months.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
What we are here for. This forum is a fantastic knowledge base.
 

ABusWrench

Burning Hunk
Sep 11, 2015
184
East Canton, Ohio
Depending on your area temperatures the Lennox is good down to the mid 30's. I have the same setup. I don't heat my basement with the heat pump. Wind, ground temperature and sun load all figure in to it. Once we're into the consistent cold/winter temps, below 36-38 degrees I run my pellet stove all the time. Below those temps the heat pump can't do the job and the resistance/backup heat is too expensive to run 24/7. Pellet stove is cheaper to run and I think makes better heat.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
No matter what your KWH rate is, resistance heating is a net looser against a pellet or bio mass stove.

Again understand that no bio mass stove will heat your entire house evenly. It's a space heater only.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,308
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
It's not a resistance heater though. It cools, so we can assume it is a heat pump. Most heat pumps do use resistance back up heat when temperatures drop really low though.

Surely the landlord has access to the power bills from previous years so you can get an idea of what your costs might be.