All You Need To Know About Pellet Stove Fireplaces

pellet stove fireplace

Many homeowners in Washington DC are considering fireplace installation.  Pellet stove fireplaces offer a home heating option that provides not only heat but also another place to cook. Knowing more about what they are, how they are installed, and the pros and cons will make it easier to decide if installing a pellet stove is an investment you want to make in your home.

What is a pellet stove fireplace?

A pellet stove fireplace is both a stove and a fireplace. It can burn a variety of materials, including biomass pellets and compressed wood. A source of heat is then created for your residential space. The fire is fed fuel from a hopper that goes into a burn pot area. By doing so, a constant flame is produced, reducing the physical adjustments that have to be made.

A variety of makes and models are available on the market. This ensures that homeowners can find a design that works with their overall décor.

A pellet stove fireplace is considered a renewable energy source. Depending on how it is operated, it can reach an efficiency factor of 90 percent or above.

The earliest concept of the pellet stove fireplace as in 1930, which included the Presto-Log made from scrap sawdust. In the 1980s, a miniaturized pellet stove emerged. Over the past 30 years, it has gone from being a box-shaped workhouse design to a modern appliance. They are often made from cast-iron or steel and then encased in stainless steel for exhaust and circuitry purposes.

How do pellet stoves operate?

There are various models of the wood pellet fireplace. Some will only burn pellets that are made from wood, bark, sawdust, and wood byproducts. Other models will allow you to use an array of biofuels, ranging from nutshells and barley to beet pulp and sunflowers.

Many of the units are electric. This means that you will be able to find some sophisticated units, many with control panels and thermostats that are wall-mounted. It will allow you to control the temperature more efficiently.

The pellet stove operates with the use of pellets. The pellets are compressed and may only measure about half an inch in length and diameter. They’re commonly available in bags that weigh 40 pounds. They could be made of any number of materials. The higher the quality pellet, the better the stove burns clean and hot. On average, a home will go through two tons of pellets in a heating season, which comes out to be approximately 50 bags at 40 pounds each.

The pellets are poured into a storage hopper located at the top of the stove. There is then an auger that sends the fuel from the hopper into a burn chamber. A sensor in the unit will monitor the fuel supply. If the amount is low, a signal will be sent to the auger to send more pellets down. The system is smart enough only to drop enough pellets to keep the fire hot, while still relatively small.

The stove contains a combustion blower that pulls air from the outside and through the stove. The smoke and fumes are then blown out through an exhaust vent. A convection blower also takes air from the room into the stove and blows out the heated air into the room. This is done through several heat-exchange tubes. The heat is delivered automatically based on the setting of the thermostat.

The only thing that you need to do is keep the hopper loaded with pellets.

A pellet stove has the potential to produce around 40,000 to 50,000 BTUs per hour, which can heat a living space of roughly 2,000 square feet.

Your maintenance on the pellet stove fireplace will depend on the model as well as the quality of pellets. Often, it will involve light daily maintenance and cleaning out the ash pan on a weekly basis.  Be sure to read this article with maintenance tips for pellet stoves.

How are pellet stoves installed?

There are many options for pellet stoves.  It is best to consult with a professional installer to review options and select what works best for your home and budget.  

One popular option is a free-standing unit. The unit will be brought into the area where it is to be installed. Freestanding units can even be installed in homes that currently do not have a fireplace.  It should have the necessary clearance from all combustible surfaces. The vent pipe is then attached to the stove. Ventilation pipes will need to go from the inside to the outside, which involves cutting and caulking. The power cord is then plugged in, and the hopper is filled.

Knowing a few things about a free-standing pellet fireplace will guide you:

  • You will likely need a hearth pad
  • The fire can be adjusted to burn hotter
  • You can place a fireplace in virtually any room of the house
  • You will save energy in comparison to running central heat

The other option is to install a pellet stove inside of a pre-existing fireplace. This is known as an insert. It might be more decorative and include a metal chimney liner so that all of the gases and smoke go up through the chimney. If you have an existing fireplace, this is likely to be the best option.  Fireplace inserts have a reasonably simple installation process because the ventilation aspects are already done for you.

There are a few things you need to know about an insert:

  • Uses existing ventilation system
  • You must have an existing fireplace. 
  • Tends to have more style options

Regardless of whether it’s free-standing or going inside of a fireplace, it’s important to note that the average unit is around 400 pounds. This means that it’s best to get professional assistance with the installation. The stove also needs to go on a fire-resistant surface, such as stone or tile. If the room has hardwood or carpeting, a hearth pad will need to be installed first

The venting required will also vary based on where it’s being placed in conjunction with windows and doors. If the stove isn’t given the proper ventilation, it can lead to a lot of smoke and fumes lingering inside the home.

By working with an experienced fireplace installer, you can rely on them to design a system that is designed to work within your specific home.

Additionally, some thermostats will need to be installed. Many are hard-wired, but it’s also possible to invest a little bit more to get a wireless remote thermostat, which provides a lot of conveniences.

Advantages & Disadvantages of pellet stoves

It’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of pellet stove fireplaces. It will make it easier to decide if it’s going to save money and provide the desired benefits inside the home.

There are quite a few advantages to installing such a fireplace:

  • It is an eco-friendly option
  • Lower heating costs in comparison to central heat
  • It uses a renewable source of energy
  • You reduce carbon emissions

You might not realize some of the advantages until after the fireplace is installed. For example, when you buy pellets from a local fireplace installer, you’re probably supporting a local business by purchasing their materials. This means you’re also giving your local economy a boost.

The cost of pellets has also been relatively low and has been stable over the past ten years. If you install the fireplace in a room where you spend a lot of time, you can lower your thermostat and watch the cost savings on your thermostat.

You will also want to explore tax credits that are available. You may qualify for credit up to 10 percent of the cost of the fireplace.

Just as there are advantages, there are also disadvantages:

  • The feeder needs to be kept full, which means loading daily
  • The fireplace needs frequent cleaning
  • Lower quality pellets will produce a higher amount of ash
  • The cost of the unit is relatively high
  • If your power goes out, you lose your heat as well

Most units recommend that the fireplace is cleaned lightly on a daily basis and more thoroughly at least once a month. This is done for safety as well as efficiency. You will have to decide if you want to do the cleaning on your own or hire a professional company to come in and do it for you.

Overall, it’s important to look at the various makes and models available to see what would work for within your home. If you use the heat a lot within your home, you can save a lot of money over time by installing a pellet stove fireplace. It’s a chance to be energy-efficient at the same time, thus allowing you to reduce carbon emissions and help the environment.

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