Should you buy a regular wood pellet burning stove, or a pellet stove insert? What are the things to consider? First of all is the question, “Do you have an existing fireplace?” If you do not have an existing fireplace, the answer will almost assuredly be to purchase a regular pellet burning stove. It can be located conveniently within the room in question, and vented directly through either the wall or through the ceiling and the roof.
Stoves have become very sophisticated. This includes pellet stoves, which offer up to 83% efficiency in heating a room. This is about a maximum for solid fuel stoves. By controlling rates of air intake and air direction, a fire can burn in 2 areas of the stove, with the upper area burning at a higher temperature than the lower, primary fire. This process combusts gases from the output of the lower fire, and prevents soot buildup within the fire box.
The stove maintains its fuel load by having a small auger move the pellets from a storage area in the stove to the lower burn area. Pellets are normally sold in 40# sacks, and the storage area in the stove can accommodate about one-half of a day’s burning to up to several days, depending on the hopper size of your stove, and the burn rate.
The same burn process can exist in either the regular pellet stove or the pellet stove insert. Similarly, the insert costs about the same as the regular pellet stove (see System Costs, below). However, installation labor and materials will cost more with the insert.
Installation requirements will vary depending on your location (please check these requirements), but in many cases installation of the pellet stove insert will require a stainless steel liner for the inside of your chimney to both protect the chimney, and to make the stove burn efficiently and correctly. Insulation may need to be installed around the steel liner inside the chimney. Also, insulation may be needed between the outside of the stove and the inside of the fireplace opening.
Cleaning and maintenance will be similar for the regular stove and the insert. In both cases, the inside of the stove will need to be cleaned at least weekly. This cleaning includes the stove air inlets, and the buildup of soot and other remains in both of the burn areas within the stove. In addition to this regular maintenance, the chimney needs to be cleaned at least annually to rid the chimney of any creosote buildup.
These maintenance items must be done rigorously if your stove is to perform at its best and not become a danger to you through carbon monoxide release or buildup of clinkers within the lower fire combustion area. Clinkers can explode given the right circumstances.
Costs of different systems vary considerably, but the following can be taken as approximate costs. A regular pellet stove will cost between $1000 and $4000 depending on your selection. Installation of this stove will cost at least $250 and could be substantially over $1000. A pellet stove insert will cost between $1000 and $3000, and installation can be between $1000 and $2000.
As can be seen, a great deal of variation exists depending on your choice of stove, and details of the installation. You are advised to learn about requirements of your area relative to stove installation. Also, you should find out about buying wood pellets to burn. Different types of pellets exist, and they affect how well your stove works, and how often the stove will need to be cleaned.