Frequently Asked Questions: Pellet Stoves

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What exactly is a pellet stove?

Somewhat like a traditional stove, a pellet stove is a freestanding heater that burns wood pellets. On top of the stove is a hopper which holds the pellet fuel. An electric motor drives a screw auger that feeds the pellets slowly into the fire. A fan blows air under the burning pellets so they burn hotly just like air blows underneath a blacksmithing fire. Another fan draws room air through a heat exchanger and back into the room.

Can I burn regular firewood in my pellet stove?

Pellet stoves are fuel specific; that is, they are designed and intended to operate only on wood pellet fuel.

Is electricity required?

Although they use very little electricity, power is required for operation. The auger has to feed pellets into the burner, and air must be blown into the burning pellets. Without that air, burning pellets will simply smolder and produce very little heat.

Can I use a thermostat on my pellet stove?

Most pellet stoves can use a millivolt thermostat to regulate room temperature; some cycle between high & low heat output, others shut down entirely & re-light themselves when the thermostat calls for heat.

What should I use to vent my stove?

Rigid lengths of pellet vent (technically “L type vent), are used to vent a pellet stove. Usually 3” diameter is used when venting out the wall, 4” when venting up through the roof. Pellet vent looks very similar to gas B vent, but using lower temperature rated gas B vent on a pellet stove both violates building code & is very unsafe.

What are pellets made of?

Pellets are made of compressed sawdust, recycling surplus material from lumbering and furniture making operations. The sawdust is formed into pellets under many thousands of pounds of pressure. Pellets are typically sold in 40 lb bags, about the size of a bag of dog food. Pellets need to be stored in a dry area; if soaked by rain or snow they swell up back into sawdust and cannot used used in your pellet stove.

Does the grade of pellet matter?

Premium Grade pellets meet industry standards for purity, size uniformity, and heat output per pound of pellet fuel. Premium Grade pellets burn cleaner, produce less ash, and are pure sawdust, while lesser grades may use resins or glues as binders.