Thinking about switching to wood pellets from a coal stoker

thurberk

New Member
Jul 20, 2020
3
Rhode Island
Hey Guys,

I currently have an Alaska Gnome 40 coal stoker. I think its the smallest stoker you can get. Ive been running it for about 6 years and its been great heat source, but the wife has been complaining about the coal dust lately. I have a 1000 sqft house and the stove is in my basement. The only time the stove cant keep up with heat is when the outside temp is about 10 degrees or lower. Ive never run the thing at max so Im thinking a 40-50k btu stove will be fine (the gnome is a 40k). I like the idea of no black dust all over everything, and not emptying the ash pan every damn day. The only drawback i can see is the storage of the pellets, theres plenty of room in my basement to store the bags however. Coal is about $350 a ton here, i know pellets are a bit cheaper, but ill probably burn a tad more. I think the costs will offset itself.

My questions are,

Are the harman stoves still the way to go? are there any other brands worth looking at? I will probably buy used.
Can i use the same pipe setup assuming whatever stove i get will have a direct vent setup? Right now my exhaust pipe comes right up from the stove and out of the house even with the floor joists. Sticks out of the house about a foot. its 4" dual wall stainless pellet pipe.
 

hockeypuck

Feeling the Heat
Sep 6, 2009
322
south central NH
Wood pellets create a lot of dust when you are dumping them into the hopper unless you run them through a contraption to remove the dust (many other threads on building one of these) This might be a "out of the frying pan and into the fire" issue. I do not remove the dust from the pellets, but just wanted to be up front. Wood dust is not the same as black coal dust.

If you do decide to go with wood pellets, I would try to get it in a living space. Heating unfinished basement wastes a lot of energy. Do you have an open floor space on the first floor?
 

thurberk

New Member
Jul 20, 2020
3
Rhode Island
my basement is semi finished, its not a giant open space, and i made 6" ducts with fans to pull the heat from the room its in to the upstairs through floor vents and it works very well
 

rich2500

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
1,303
Berks County PA.
I think you would be disappointed if you switched. And like hockey said pellets aren't dust free either.
 

hockeypuck

Feeling the Heat
Sep 6, 2009
322
south central NH
I think you will find it easier to clean up and it does not "smudge" like coal dust. If you are that worried about dust, and want to switch, there are designs on this site that use PVC pipe and a shop vac to remove alot of the dust from pellets before bringing them in the house.
 
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johneh

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
2,858
Eastern Ontario
Dust is a consideration but some brands have more than others
Buy the stove you like (or maybe the better half likes) Harman is a good stove
but so is Enviro or Englander. Try not to be influenced by Harman owners they feel
it is the only stove made. My Enviro is going into its 19th season with no overboard repairs .
Good luck with the hunt for a stove.
 
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UpStateNY

Feeling the Heat
May 4, 2008
372
Catskill Mountains
You may want to think about a electric ductless heat pump. A single head system of 24k that sits on the wall Near the ceiling in your living space will work well down to -15F degrees or you can go with 3 different heads (3 zones) off one compressor. On the plus side you will also have AC in the summer. The new ductless systems are extremely efficient. My neighbors say same or cheaper than pellets. Three of my neighbors replaced their pellet stoves with ductless electric heat pumps. In our area Central Hudson is providing huge rebates. Check your electric company for rebates.

The other option is propane stove. There are still a few that will run without electricity. I pay $1.45 a gallon for propane which is cheaper than burning pellets. Lock in a propane price by shopping around. If you own your own propane tank you have more bargaining power.

I suggest go with the ductless heat pump for AC and heat. Your wife will love the AC.
 

tlc1976

Feeling the Heat
Oct 7, 2012
469
Northwest Lower Michigan
Most of my dust comes from cleaning. Running the exhaust fan on high when cleaning eliminates most of that dust. I don’t get much dust when loading. Most of it stays stuck in the bag.
 

hockeypuck

Feeling the Heat
Sep 6, 2009
322
south central NH
I have said multiple times... having a point source of heat like a wood stove or pellet stove is more about comfort in the cold winter months than energy savings. Heat pumps are nice... I have one, but it does not beat a wood stove or pellet stove for "local sitting" to drive the cold from the body.