Recent objective pellet stove/heater reviews - any recommendations

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

TTWB

New Member
Dec 26, 2020
6
Marshfield, MA
I am new to the site; done a significant amount of reading and searching to understand pellet stoves; technologies, features, fueling, and maintaining have advanced over the years. There are so many different brands it is hard to tell which are the real quality brands; which provide best value for whatever circumstance; et al. Other than downloading the current specifications and building a spread sheet to compare, has something like that been done?
I have read how folks like what they bought. That's worth something.
I see brands like England Stove Works but no comparison of their three brands for example. I have read about Pacific Energy, Blaze King, Woodstock, Piazzette, Harman, Enviro, Quadra-Fire multiple brands. All good stuff. I have learned that some manufactures cater to unique dealers and one seems to cater to Home Depot and Loews.

Is there a source that identifies or characterizes these manufactures in terms of quality, cost, efficiency (thermal) , ease of use as well as has been done for pellet fuel source? Below I have identified the ones I found today

I am about to visit about 5 different dealers that sell competitive manufacturers products/brands and am developing my questions. (As an example, at the other end of the spectrum I am looking for chest freezers. Tons of reviews for best 5, best 10,etc. but the pros and cons were anything but technical! None addressed energy use, insulation factors, comparable operating costs like kwh/period of time like year or month).

This forum has been wonderful, as one can glean issues with various brands or installations.

In any case thanx in advance

TTWB
here is what I have read
 
Last edited:

johneh

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
3,463
Eastern Ontario
The thing you need to know even before you decide on a stove
How big an area do I want to heat (A pellet stove is a space heater not meant as a whole house heater)
How tight is your home insulation, doors, and windows?
How much can I afford?
What style does my wife want? (very important)
Buy more stove than you need in very cold weather it is easier to turn the stove up if you need it
then get more heat out of a smaller stove
How easy is it to maintain and do I want to spend the time?
Then pick 3 or 4 stoves you want to look at Enviro, Harman, Englander for example
Check there sales pitch and buy the one that fills your needs
I have an Enviro 19 years old has never let me down
replace one combustion motor the igniter is original and still works
I look at this forum and see the number of Harman's, Englander, and others that have problems
And see very few Enviro and their threads are short why because they are easy to diagnose and repair
Sorry just blowing my own horn
 
  • Like
Reactions: MalcolmH and Ssyko

Ssyko

Minister of Fire
Nov 6, 2017
4,203
Lorraine NY
Try not to overthink things. What you want to look for is a brand that has customer support through a dealer or by phone. The brands you will see will go in price levels ie top mid low. What you need to add to your quest is are you handy enough to maintain your stove or if you will pay for the service? Budget is another biggie. Truth be told you do get what you pay for, but if you can do research and have a mechanical mind you can make any stove perform great. Its all hear in the forums. Space (square footage) you’re looking to heat, floor plan (open? Restricted?) where you plan to put the stove basement? Main floor? What you do need to remember is pellet stoves are a space heater not a furnace. Now for a pellet burner for over 20 years i would lean towards an enviro but im biased. Ihave a Maxx ( what johneh said)
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: johneh

TTWB

New Member
Dec 26, 2020
6
Marshfield, MA
All! Thank you very much!
Johneh, I have the answers to almost all of the questions including how the exhaust chimney would fit. I did that to both size the amount of BTU we would need as this will be for a backup or to augment the electrical systems we installed. The purpose is as a space heater in the large family room. House is Massachusetts air tight and almost need make up air! Well the older section was built in 1802 and has three fireplaces and the new addition is 2020! The first pellet is for the 2020 as a space heater for the "great room" I have rehabbed the whole house with four heating/cooling zones. So I have actually gotten the output down to small or low output based on the on line descriptions. But the smaller units do not have the control features or even the same efficiencies. The one unit that is gravity feed appeals to me as everything else in the house is electric! No gas line and not going with propane, just got rid of oil and solar panels go up this spring.

Ssyko, I agree with you WRT dealer. If i need help in maintaining this beast, then Home Depot and Lowes support kicks them out. In my area that precludes ESW. I have answers to your questions as well: application - space heater, open area, tons of windows, in the corner, et al

Washed up, your insight also appreciated. I like the Harmen and dealer is very close. Looking at this gravity feed stove may have a unique differentiator, even though I have generators.

Thank you all
R,
TTWB
 

Washed-Up

Minister of Fire
Nov 5, 2011
595
Kananaskis,Alberta, Canada
You’re welcome and feel free with any further questions. You’ve sparked my interest and would love to see any photos you have of your house and where the pellet stove(s) will be installed.
Happy holidays!!!
 

Ssyko

Minister of Fire
Nov 6, 2017
4,203
Lorraine NY
Only drawback on the graviy fed wiseway stove is they were bought out by ussc and they have a less than desirable customer service and few if any service tech’s and they are very fussy with the draft of the venting. Last i read they dont like any bends in the vent so it would require a straight shot up. Maybe they have worked this out I don’t know.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Washed-Up

rickwai

Minister of Fire
Nov 1, 2011
1,187
ohio
Another thing to concider is where the stove is manufactured and the availability of parts down the road. Everybody is talking about the Pelpro stoves and I believe these are Chinese stoves. In 5 years are you going to be able to get a new circuit board? In my opinion it is best to get a reputable American made stove with good dealer support and parts availibility just incase you need it. Install and venting ae not cheap. Pick a good stove so you dont have to hat part over again in 5 yrs when a Chinese stove is obsolete. I have been burning a Harman for 15 yrs and a St Croix for 11 yrs. All parts are readily available if needed, and both are American made.
I would steer away from the Wiseway. If you want to mess around with something like that just get a good wood stove.
 

gfreek

Minister of Fire
Nov 5, 2010
1,421
Attica,,New York
Long standing parts availability, in and out of warranty service, ease of use, cleaning schedule, hopper capacity, to name a few . Some manufacturers will not respond or direct you to the dealer....I've had my Harman for 9 years, besides switching noisy motors or upgrading the circuit board just to have the ability of room temp control..thats been about it. Remember, when the power goes out so will your pellet stove unless you have immediate backup power.. And the Wiseway, great idea, but not without issues..
 

TTWB

New Member
Dec 26, 2020
6
Marshfield, MA
You’re welcome and feel free with any further questions. You’ve sparked my interest and would love to see any photos you have of your house and where the pellet stove(s) will be installed.
Happy holidays!!!
I continue to learn much - more showing what I don't know!

3 items for example
If for my application the stove will augment the primary furnace, that is, act like a space heater, then smaller may be better? I mean I want to be able to sit in front of it and not get blasted out! Then this might argue for less controls. Start in the morning, maybe run all day, but probably not and restart in the evening and turn it off before retiring. IF this is the case than the pellet feed system can be very less complex and might shift to logs! Which introduces a parametric in deciding: how long will the stove "burn" if not re-supplied? OR how big is the fire box..maybe. Clearly the performance of the stove is one thing and maybe deterministic, but the actual use is another. For an augmented system (as compared to a primary or emergency back up) essentially as others have stated a space heater, a really great performing stove at 10K BTU maybe so over powering that an inefficient burn is required to enjoy the room! The subsequent problems with an inefficient burn are not known to me, but I suspect there are some in the both operating costs and maintenance

It is interesting to see how many different calculators are out there for sizing a stove/heater.

A third item that I find interesting is the nature of the chimney/flue. I understand the issues associated with bends (straight versus 90 degree turns et al). What fascinated me was the sizing and insulation considerations. How much the flue contributed to heat transfer (not much) but one apparently doesn't want a cold flue

The family great room is 26.5 ' by 24' by 8 feet or 636 sq ft and volume 4770 cubic ft. RV = ~21 lots of windows . The temperature range outside for planning purposes is 25-30 degrees and interior temp would be 68-70 (I'm old!) :)
I have attached a picture of the probable locations. The coal heater in the picture has been with the house and in a different forum I ma going to see how I might restore it.

Again, smaller may be better. The three fireplaces in the 1802 part of the house are small!

Again, thanx for the response as I work through this understanding. It is rather an enjoyable project. At least well preparing me for a conversation with a dealer.
 

Attachments

Washed-Up

Minister of Fire
Nov 5, 2011
595
Kananaskis,Alberta, Canada
Well, for an example, I have a Harman P61a for roughly 1500sq ft and 10ft vaulted ceiling’s, I rarely run it on high and it keeps my whole house comfortable. And IMHO it’s the most efficient...best bang for the buck...I did get it used, and it was relatively cheap. It would work well for you judging by your photos
Better to go bigger and use 25% of it than going small and using it at %75-%100
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: FirepotPete

gfreek

Minister of Fire
Nov 5, 2010
1,421
Attica,,New York
A unit that looks real nice and gives some heat, maybe a Harman XXV or a Absolute 43. Quadra-Fire Castile or a Trekker. What ever you look at I would download an owners manual to see what's involved with installation, operation and maintenance..
IMO, I would never purchase a stove from Amazon...let alone the ratings influence my purchase..
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
And see very few Enviro and their threads are short why because they are easy to diagnose and repair
Sorry just blowing my own horn
You didn't include my USSC 6039 (which isn't made today but the operating principles are the same as being basically trouble free) (you rarely see any issues on here) and everyone that has one is happy with them (Firepot Pete has one like mine)....

My view about all of them in general is, the new and improved units are just more complex versions of the old ones and require more care but all of them will require renewed parts at some point, mine included and... If I wasn't mechanically inclined and didn't possess the basic knowledge and tools to 'fix' mine when it needed fixing (and it does infrequently), I'd probably stick with a central furnace and have that serviced by a qualified service tech, yearly.

They all must be cleaned on a regular basis or they won't work properly.

Reading along on this site and chuckling to myself, I find that the majority of issues stem from the fact that owners of solid fuel stoves are under the false impression that they are 'plug and play' and require infrequent maintenance to operate properly and that is the farthest thing from the truth there is.

Like I said, most of the comments, questions on here stem from poor maintenance and that plug and play attitude. reminds me of people driving on underinflated tires. Why auto manufacturer's have TPMS as standard equipment on vehicles now. Because people never check the air pressure in the tires so now there is an 'idiot' light to remind them (idiots), to check the air pressure and motors shut down when the oil is low because people never check that either.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
I would never have a Wiseway gravity fed pellet stove. One, they are fugly and two expensive. They are no different physically than the original (I suspect the inventor sold the rights for a good buck to USSC). With no powered circulation fan, the are 100% radiated heat and might work for a small off grid cabin, but a home, no way. Besides, they look like a royal PITA to clean out and well all now that every unit needs regular cleaning to operate correctly.

IMO, strictly an off grid, limited square footage unit. Hunting cabin maybe.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
I continue to learn much - more showing what I don't know!

3 items for example
If for my application the stove will augment the primary furnace, that is, act like a space heater, then smaller may be better? I mean I want to be able to sit in front of it and not get blasted out! Then this might argue for less controls. Start in the morning, maybe run all day, but probably not and restart in the evening and turn it off before retiring. IF this is the case than the pellet feed system can be very less complex and might shift to logs! Which introduces a parametric in deciding: how long will the stove "burn" if not re-supplied? OR how big is the fire box..maybe. Clearly the performance of the stove is one thing and maybe deterministic, but the actual use is another. For an augmented system (as compared to a primary or emergency back up) essentially as others have stated a space heater, a really great performing stove at 10K BTU maybe so over powering that an inefficient burn is required to enjoy the room! The subsequent problems with an inefficient burn are not known to me, but I suspect there are some in the both operating costs and maintenance

It is interesting to see how many different calculators are out there for sizing a stove/heater.

A third item that I find interesting is the nature of the chimney/flue. I understand the issues associated with bends (straight versus 90 degree turns et al). What fascinated me was the sizing and insulation considerations. How much the flue contributed to heat transfer (not much) but one apparently doesn't want a cold flue

The family great room is 26.5 ' by 24' by 8 feet or 636 sq ft and volume 4770 cubic ft. RV = ~21 lots of windows . The temperature range outside for planning purposes is 25-30 degrees and interior temp would be 68-70 (I'm old!) :)
I have attached a picture of the probable locations. The coal heater in the picture has been with the house and in a different forum I ma going to see how I might restore it.

Again, smaller may be better. The three fireplaces in the 1802 part of the house are small!

Again, thanx for the response as I work through this understanding. It is rather an enjoyable project. At least well preparing me for a conversation with a dealer.

My thoughts are, if you have good availability of stove coal (rice or pea coal), I'd stick with a coal fired stove over a biomass stove, hands down. Coal provides a more consistent heat and much better BTU output per volume than ANY pellet /biomass stove can ever hope to attain.

If rice / pea stove coal was readily available here (Like Blashak bagged), I'd be running a stoker stove in a minute and the new stokers (like a Keystoker) can vent through multi wall venting through the wall, just like a pellets stove and, unlike a pellet unit, they don't require constant attention.
 

TTWB

New Member
Dec 26, 2020
6
Marshfield, MA
This has been a great forum! Thank you for the responses. I thought I'd tell you where I am and some of what I learned.
First most all of all the reviews that I read primarily recommend stoves from "big box stores". I think this is significant because even the DIY can appreciate the technical support some dealerships have.
Second most recommendations are for stoves under $2.5K. Clearly this is a price point for sales and a very good basis for recommendation - cost. But it misses two features that discovered - control systems and ease of maintenance. These can really increase the cost.
Third aesthetics does increase cost. Almost all that I looked at (traditional, European, clean, Davy Crocket, you name it ) almost all looked the same. Any subjective improvement in appearance is only available in high end stoves.
Fourth the more the cost of the stove went up, the more detailed specification was published. The most expensive had more publicly available data than Heinz has pickles.
Fifth - Read the operator's manual to really see what maintenance is involved.
Sixth read the installation manual to understand the restrictions on the flue, negative pressure and subsequent impact on installation.
Seventh Requirements Know one's requirements as this will drive the selection and subsequent brand
More....
 

Tonyray

Minister of Fire
As far as box store stoves, dont think the clerks no much about then as opposed to a stove dealer ( your choice stove) whom u can actually call up and get realtime feedback or possibly a fix as that is there one business as opposed to Box store everything under the sun.. that plus the goodvknowledge of this web site to me is a win win..
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ssyko and Washed-Up

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Interestingly, most of the used (and abused) units I see on FB and CL are box store stoves that people buy and find out that the 'silk purse' they thought they bought (got a deal on) were in fact a 'sows ear.'...

Not to sound prejudiced but that seems to be England and Vogelzang and Pell Pro units. Lots of them for sale out there in cyber land.

Of course most of the issues can be sourced right back to poor maintenance and not reading the owners manual.

I've said many times, no biomass stove is plug and play. They might be plug and play for a short while, then the issues start and only get worse the dirtier they get....:eek:
 
  • Like
Reactions: railfanron

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Kind of like wood pellets in a way. Some are good, some are bad. Off brands may be good but usually you get what you pay for.
 

TTWB

New Member
Dec 26, 2020
6
Marshfield, MA
I ended up installing a Harman Absolute 43-C. It met all of the attributes that I was looking at, except price. But I was prepared for that. I have gone through 8 bags, 40lbs each. Daily cleaning of the burn pit, and one weekly cleaning and emptying the ash pan. So far the stove has met all expectations. Even exceed one. I just expected more ash in the ash pan after 8 bags; it was only 15%-20% full. No large partial consumed pellets. After vacuuming et al, when I started it up I had initially white smoke that I don't recall seeing before and then the flame flashed and then no smoke. But I'll save that for a different thread . I have noticed that from igniting to full flame is 5 min regularly. I turn the stove off at night, even though the Easy Touch Controls permit various options for ignition (thermostat & schedule), The room will go from 62 to 72 in about an hour plus. Still learning Thanx again for the insights; very helpful.
 

Dataman

Minister of Fire
Sep 10, 2018
963
Newport, Wa
I had initially white smoke that I don't recall seeing before and then the flame flashed and then no smoke.

Normal stuff. it's fun to watch. Try putting couple handfull of pellets in burn pot when you start up.
 
  • Like
Reactions: ABusWrench

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
They all do that far as I can tell. You won't get efficient combustion in any of them until the combustion is well established and the firebox is up to temperature. Kind of like a car on a cold day, the exhaust is visible.....
 
  • Like
Reactions: Tonyray