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Monday, March 9, 2009

Alternative Heating - A Pellet Stove!

Have you thought about alternative heating? Are your heating costs in the winter getting to be rediculous? We have a heat pump and are very blessed to live in an area that our electric costs are fairly low, however, we also live in an area that many times our temps drop below freezing, which hinders the heat pump's ability to run efficiently.

As alternative heat, we enjoy our Vermont Casting woodstove, which we have in our basement in our family room on a beautiful 1/2 circle brick hearth. For the first time in 15 years, we have had to purchase wood. The cost right now is fairly low because many people in our area are out of work and sell it at a great price. We purchased a cord and a half for next year.

Because of President Obama's tax credit which you may view information about at, we decided to purchase a pellet stove for our upstairs living room. Through many hours of research and googling, I have learned much about pellet stoves and thought I could share some things with you if you are thinking about purchasing one and I hope that I can provide you with the information needed in one spot :)

Harman pellet stoves are the best made pellet stoves you can purchase. They are gorgeous and the top of the line, however, be prepared to pay almost double than other brands. From what I have read, they have a very high rating due to performance and overall lack of service needed for replacing parts.

Pellet stoves generally work the same way and are engineered under the same principal of the method in which they work and perform. This link is the manufacturer of the pellet stoves sold in Lowes and Home Depot. I have read their testimonials and I have spoken to their representatives twice and can verify that they are extremely helpful and their products are made in the USA. You may browse their information regarding the tax credit and you can print out the paper indicating that your model stove is acceptable to purchase to receive the tax credit.

There are a few things you need to purchase before you can fire your pellet stove up. If you are putting your pellet stove in the basement on a slab, then you do not need to purchase a hearth pad for it. We are putting our new pellet stove in our living room on walnut wood flooring, so we had to purchase a hearth pad. You must check the fire code and installation requirements in your area to get the exact information needed to suit your needs. We purchased a corner hearth pad, which is 1/4 circle, to sit our stove on. They come in many varieties and price ranges.

If you purchase your pellet stove from a stove dealer, be prepared to pay much more for the stove and some do not offer to sell the installation kit separately, but will charge triple what the installation kit costs that you can purchase online or at Home Depot or Lowes and they will install it for you. Our local specialized woodstove dealer wanted 899.00 to install our pellet stove and did not offer the kit separately. They are having a sale now on their pellet stoves, and they do sell Harman and a couple of other comparable pellet stoves, but we elected to go with the "Harry Homeowner" Home Depot model, which we received free shipping on the stove.

Englander stoves are made in the USA. You may read more about them yourself and of course, depending on your budget and word of mouth, may already know what brand stove you would like to purchase.

There are a few options that a pellet stove may possess. If you would like to purchase alternative fuel other than wood pellets, you may purchase a stove that burns cherry pits and corn as well. The corn is not plain grain corn from the feed store... it is a special dried corn specifically for pellet stoves. If you do not live in an area where corn is abundant or cherry pits are available, save your money and simply purchase the wood pellet burning stove. You will gain nothing by purchasing a "do it all" stove unless the other alternative fuels have the potential to reach your area and perhaps if you wanted to sell your stove, someone may like the option of pits and corn. The installation kit on a corn and cherry pit stove may be different than the one you purchase for wood because corn burns at a higher temperature than wood pellets. Check with your local authorities on their codes for pellet stove installation.

Ash pans... The stove we are getting has an ash pan. I am told from friends who have pellet stoves, that they do not have to empty out their ash pans until they have burned about 1 ton of pellets. That tells me that their is hardly any waste to burning pellets and you really get your bang for your buck. We have to empty our woodstove ash pan out every 3 or 4 days and we have an extra large woodstove. I prefer having the convenience of an ash pan over standing there with a shovel and dipping it into a pail. I have had a woodstove without an ash pan before and it is much messier than the one we have with an ash pan.

Another option or feature on pellet stoves is a thermostat. On the newer models, there is an actual degree you can choose and your pellet stove will actually kick on at the temperature you have selected, just like your thermostat for your heat pump or furnace. Other models have a low and high option for the blower and do not have the thermostat.

If you are replacing a woodstove, you may run the installation kit up your flu instead of drilling a hole to put the pipe through your wall. It is recommended that you put your pellet stove on an outside wall. You may need to review your house plans to ensure that you do not drill through an electrical cord when cutting the hole to the outside. You will also need to cut a smaller air hole to the outside as well. Due to the homes being built so air tight now, a small 3" pipe is required to put through the wall to the outside to assist with the draft.

There are options that you can purchase for your pellet stove. Included are brass trim, fire logs and they even make backup batteries for some models. You will have to purchase the backup battery at your local specialty store. Home Depot does not have these at the present time in our area. Because the pellet stoves need electric to operate the blower and thermostat, the backup battery is a great option in case you are relying solely on your pellet stove for heat and if the electric goes out, you will have the battery for your stove. I was told the backup battery lasts approximately 16 hours.

Make sure you put your installation kit together and that you have all of the parts needed before you assume everything is there. This is the end of season for selling heating items and you may not be able to get a missing part this late in the game, or you will have to pay alot for it on the web or from a specialty store. If you are putting your stove caddy corner, you must purchase a 45 degree angle pipe. These can be purchased on eBay and at specialty shops. I am not sure if Home Depot or Lowes has these at the present time in stock or not.

Pellets... We purchases a nominal amount of pellets because as I learned, the supply now is low and the price is higher and it is best to purchase these at the beginning of the season when the price is generally lower. They come in a 40 lb bag and the ones we purchased were premium pellets from Home Depot. I was told that you may want to buy from several places to see which pellets burn best for you. I was told they come in different grades and some burn better than others. People that use their pellet stoves 24-7 go through approximately 2-3 tons per winter. One bag costs approximately 3.00 - 6.00, depending on when purchased. There are 50 bags in 1 ton. Most places deliver, but it is best to ask before you purchase. The pellet bags are about the size of a bag of mulch. The other drawback to burning corn pellets is rodent infestation. Ewwww. What a mess that would be! hehehe I guess you would have BIRD infestation with cherry pits... :)

We are expecting our hearth pad and pellet stove within the next few days. I am hoping of course, that the hearth pad comes first. It weighs about 100 lbs and it would be much easier to have that in place before the pellet stove is delivered. I have to purchase a 45 degree pipe piece, too.

I hope that this has helped give you a general idea of what is involved and what is needed for a pellet stove purchase. I am not a dealer, representative, electrician, stove expert, pellet stove expert or anyone that knows specifics on your ordinances for installing these stoves. I'll let you know how our installation goes when the time comes and will post pics :)

Gorgeous Weekend ~

We had gorgeous weather over the weekend here on the mountain... We worked in the yard all day yesterday, trimming back the lariope and cleaning off the oak leaves that always fall late and cover the beds and tuck themselves into every nook and cranny around the yard. I have a few more beds to rake out, but not sure if I will get to them today. Even though you may feel it is a little early to clean out your flower beds, you may want to check to make sure the layers of leaves are not hindering or smothering new spring growth. I have some primitive handmade tulips to make and get listed and my usual Monday cleaning that must be done after such a busy weekend outdoors. I hope this finds you well rested and ready to start your day. Are your daffodils blooming yet?