How to choose the correct pellet stove

There is no doubt that home-heating with biomass (wood) pellet stoves has come of age and is here to stay. For the good of the environment we need to move away from using fossil fuels, and this fact alone means that using oil-burning stoves should be phased out.  But what should you do if you do not live in an area where you can be connected to a local, centralised heating system, or perhaps you just do not want to be?  Because you still need to heat your radiators and warm the water for your shower.
So, you’ve probably studied your alternatives and concluded that using biomass pellet stoves meets your heating needs on many different levels, including in terms of the environment and your own personal financial considerations.  But before you decide which biomass pellet stove to use, it’s a good idea to examine the stove market in general and figure out which pellet stove is the right size for you.
The following information provides you with all the facts you need when choosing a biomass pellet stove.  As with all the other items you buy, doing this investigation beforehand is worthwhile, so that you can make a well-informed decision.

What is the ratio of price to quality?

When choosing a pellet stove, you will quickly discover there are many different types to choose from. This means that there is also a large price difference between the different types.  With this in mind, you should remember that quality and price usually go hand in hand, and the same applies to the pellet stove market; generally, you get what you pay for. Remember that a good biomass pellet stove will last for many years, so you would be wise to invest in a good quality product.
How can you tell if a wood pellet stove is of a quality and capacity suitable for your needs?  This is a problem that many first-time buyers of pellet stoves experience.  Because, if you know nothing about the product generally, it is extremely difficult to assess the qualities and attributes of it.  Then you end up only being able to use the price to make your judgement, but there are definitely other factors you can take into consideration.
It turns out that the more expensive pellet stoves are not only more energy efficient, but they also have a longer expected lifespan, and that means that you can look forward to using your pellet stove for that many more years if you buy a good model. The first consideration is to choose a pellet stove with sturdy steel plates in the kettle. Now, “sturdy” can be interpreted in many ways, but in this case, we suggest choosing a stove with steel plates that are at least 5mm thick.  By making this decision, you are well on your way to choosing a pellet stove that will stand the test of time, and will not be prone to the risk of sudden corrosion of the materials.

Should you choose a biomass wood pellet stove or a fossil-fuelled stove?

 As you begin to explore the stove market, you will quickly find out that there are many different types, with fans and proponents of each.  Though biomass pellet stoves and fossil-fuelled stoves are similar, there are some differences to be aware of, so that you can make an informed choice and do not end up purchasing something under mistaken assumptions.

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Fossil-fuel (e.g. oil or coal) stove

As fossil-fuel stove has one big advantage in that you can fire it with practically anything, from wood pellets to olive stones.  However, it is best-suited to use in larger buildings and settings such as farms.  If you live in such a place, there are probably also good opportunities for you to get your hands on large amounts of combustible material easily – for example grain etc.  And you probably won’t have a problem finding space to store it.  A fossil-fuelled stove is always on, so it must always be fed.
You do have the option of regulating the amount of heat, but if the flame goes out on this type of stove, you will have to manually relight it.  In some ways, you can look at the fossil-fuelled stove as a coarser version of the biomass wood pellet stove.  But you can actually get more for your money by making only a few compromises on price and quality.

Biomass Wood Pellet stove

A biomass wood pellet stove is a clever development of the regular stove, but you get greener energy for your money.  If you invest in a biomass wood pellet stove, you should be aware that you can only burn wood or biomass wood pellets.  So, it is a refinement of the fossil-fuelled (e.g. oil) stove, and one of the great advantages of the biomass wood pellet stove is its ability to start and stop, depending on whether there is a need for energy at that moment.  In fact, in this way, it works in the same way as an oil-fired stove.
If you are considering buying a wood pellet stove you should pay more attention to price and quality.  Wood pellet stoves are very price-sensitive, with a high degree of correlation between price and quality.  Moreover, wood pellet stoves are better suited to houses in residential areas.

What features of a wood pellet stove should I be aware of?

Once you have decided to buy a wood pellet stove, there are some features to pay attention to.  Not
only do these features make your daily routine easier, they can also give you an indication of whether you are buying a wood pellet stove to last for many years.  As a minimum, check whether your chosen model is equipped with:
Automatic ignition
Automatic self-cleaning
Built-in vacuum cleaner
A clear and simple control panel
These are just some of the factors to take into consideration.  But what do they mean, and what difference do they make to the wood pellet stove’s ease of use in daily life?
 When you buy a wood pellet stove with automatic ignition, you can be sure it will only start burning when it is needed.  This means that it will save you a lot of money in the long run.  And with automatic cleaning, and built-in vacuum cleaning you are guaranteed a better environment indoors and less maintenance overall.  Finally, many wood pellet stoves now have a touchscreen control panel fitted.  This gives you a great overview of the features and performance, and enhances usability.

How effective is a wood pellet stove?

Obviously, you need to know how effective a wood pellet stove will be.  Or to put it another way, how much heat do you get from these types of stoves, and can they be relied on to heat your whole house?
When discussing how much energy any given fuel gives, we use the concept of thermal efficiency.  This efficiency measurement tells you what the percentage yield is of burning an energy source.  It is very high for wood pellet stoves, oil and natural gas, while it is somewhat less for fossil-fuelled stoves burning straw, grain and wood chips.  1kg of wood pellets will give approximately 5kWh of heat if the stove has an efficiency of 100%.  However, this level of efficiency is rare, so in fact a good wood pellet stove can achieve approximately 4.5kWh of heat per kilogram of wood pellets.
It is also important to realise that wood pellet stoves have become much more efficient in recent years, so that means you can also save money if you currently have an older wood pellet stove and you exchange it for a new one.  This means you now get more heat for the same money on fuel, so changing an old stove for a new one makes both environmental and economic sense.
So, the level of thermal efficiency is a significant factor in your choice.  The efficiency is determined both by the quality of your wood pellets (for example, pellets containing a high water content will not perform so well), and the quality and level of maintenance of the stove itself.  These three factors are all important and inter-related, and neglecting any of them could result in you paying more than you need to for the level of heating you require.

Look out for the energy efficiency rating of your stove

Many wood pellet stoves also need electrical power.  They are connected to a normal electrical socket for power to drive the hopper motor.  And just as with washing machines, televisions and other electrical installations, money is saved if you buy a stove with an A-rating for electrical efficiency.  It will save you a lot of money in the years to come.  Now that you finally have an opportunity to warm your home in an environmentally-friendly and inexpensive way, it would be crazy to continue spending more money on electricity bills by buying a less efficient stove.
To recap, first you need to decide whether to buy a fossil-fuelled stove or a wood pellet stove. Next, make sure you buy a stove suitable for the size of your home.  You must also buy one that is good quality.  As we have seen, this will save you time and money in the long run.