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Wood pellet boiler or stove: which would suit you best?

Posted by Jon Edge on 31 January 2011 at 9:57 am

Wood pellet is a low carbon and cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels and works very well in urban properties. There are two types of pellet heating system: a boiler which replaces your existing central heating system for space heat and hot water; or a pellet stove which has a window to show the flame and can give just space heat, or both heat and hot water.

There are a number of differences between the two and both have their place depending on the needs and wants of the household. Some of the first things to consider are:

Do you want a fully automated central heating and hot water system? If so the only option is a pellet boiler, where vacuum hoses pull pellets into the boiler automatically, so you don’t need to handle the pellets to refill the hopper and you can run a programme just like a gas boiler and go on holiday with no worries about coming home to a cold house. There are even smart phone apps to let you manage your pellet boiler remotely so you can tell it to come on or off from anywhere in the world. Pellet boilers need a watertight pellet store, somewhere up to 20m away from the boiler, in an outbuilding, shed or garage and delivery of pellets can be blown straight into the store from a delivery truck up to 30m away.

Do you want to see the flames? If you want to see the flames and don’t mind filling it up with pellets then a stove is the best option and this would go in, for example your lounge, and could give space heat and hot water or just space heat. With a pellet stove there is a hopper in the top of the system which needs to be filled with bags of pellets every day or two when in use. It is slightly more expensive to buy bagged pellets and they need to be stored in a dry place to ensure no moisture gets in.

For both stoves and boilers there needs to be a flue to take the smoke and gases away, however high efficiency pellet stoves and boilers can be used in smoke-free zones. Both technologies can have high efficiencies, are self lighting and as with all things range in price, features and build quality, so it is important to look around for the system that is best suited to your requirements.

Next time I will look more closely at some features and benefits for each system as well as some price comparisons.

Photo by Cappi Thompson

About the author: Jon Edge is marketing director at Fair Energy CIC

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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4 comments - read them below or add one


koolesComment left on: 28 December 2015 at 12:37 pm

Do you think is possible to store wood pellet in a dry place? There are pellet boilers with hopper like this: Pellet boiler but I'm wondering how it will be here in Northern Ireland?

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 22 January 2013 at 2:03 pm

Thank you for your story @Igitaly. It's always interesting to hear what a system is actually like to use.

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lgitalyComment left on: 21 January 2013 at 9:44 pm


HI I am an expat who lives in Italy and let me give you my experience with pellet stoves.   In Italy pellet stoves have been around commercially for about 10 years and readily available the prices are quite good. With the price of gas going through the roof we decided to to a something drastic and change out heating we have quite a large house. about 100 sq meter the house and a 80sq mt the apartment.    The first thing we did was to purchase a stove for the house we wanted something which was "solid" a work horse, in Italy where I live we get snow and lot of it. (about 1 to 2 Mtrs)    So the we purchased classical no frills stove, and this is the 3rd winter, we only had one repair done under warranty to the archimede screw that feeds the pellets. We use about 1 bag of 15Kg  day and this cost us 3.78 Euro, would be cheaper if we bought bulk but there is a cost of delivery which is absurd, but now that everywhere you  can buy pellets we just buy 10 bags at the time.    The stove needs to be lean once a day, and if you clean it it works better and more efficiently, we heat a sitting room then we leave the door open n warms up the bedroom upstairs, temperature downstairs is about 22 degrees and upstairs 18 degrees. the stove will start 1 hour before we arrive at home (they are programmable) in the evening and switch off 1 hours after we leave. Saturday and Sunday we have them on for longer.  The stove will also switch off on a cod day at about 24:00 and restart at 3:00 in the morning.    We are now planning to acquire a stove with a build in hot water system and feed it back into the radiators which we had from the old has boiler. The price is not too bad. We actually thought about buying a dedicated boiler one where you can feed pellets or the hazelnuts shells which we can purchase at a reasonable  price.    For the apartment 2 years ago we purchase another pellet stove exactly the same and this is able to heat a 80sqmter apartment without problem we had guests at Christmas and we went down to -10 and was not problem heating the apartment.    For the house we also have a wood burning cooker, this serves two things one is to cook on it and the other to add to the heating, but i case we were to loose power we have a form of heating.   I can only but say that pellets heating is good and I am surprised  in the Uk is not so wide spread considering the houses are smaller.    One thing you must have GOOD pipes for the flue that is important, and is a a cost to the fitting of the stove, we spent about 100 euro per stove in pipes.    They are easy maintenance easy to program and I can but say more of it. That is why I am now planning the upgrade to a boiler one, the one I have seen would give us heating in the radiators and hot water (which is currently on two boilers on tandem, the plant is to feed the boiler with water from the stove and in the summer put in q solar panel to heat the water as well.)   If you have any question please email … you can see the size of the property on www., which will also show you the size of the room and the stove.  

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Forever Fuels Ltd

Forever Fuels LtdComment left on: 4 February 2011 at 6:39 pm

Important to note that, under the original proposals, stoves (including wood-pellet stoves) would not be supported under the forthcoming Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Hopefully, this will have changed under the imminent proposals, but there is a strong likelihood that it will not have. Net running costs per unit of heat are therefore likely to be much lower for boilers than stoves (in fact, negative for wood-pellet boilers upto 500 kW under the original proposals, when one sets the value of the RHI against the cost of the fuel). This has to be weighed against the higher capital cost and greater space requirements.

If you fancy a stove, let your MP and DECC ministers know ASAP that the exclusion of wood-pellet stoves from the RHI is irrational, and likely to lock many smaller consumers out of the scheme. The justification for excluding stoves is that they cannot know how much energy has been used because they can't practically be metered, but for wood pellets, you buy them by the bag, which contains a known amount of energy, so there would be no difficulty including them if DECC wanted to.

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