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Choosing a Wood Pellet Stove: Five things to look for

Posted by Laurence Jones on 5 July 2011 at 9:28 am

For many, fireplaces are the embodiment of the British household, with the hearth taking pride of place in the home. With the advent of climate change awareness, people are looking to reinstate period features such as these, whilst using an appliance that is efficient, economical and environmental.  This explains why wood pellet stoves are enjoying a growth in popularity; but what should you be looking for as a potential buyer?

1. Temperature Control
One thing we love about pellet stoves is their controllability. You can set the temperature with a precision approaching that of a gas or oil heating system. Unlike most traditional room heaters, pellet stoves have an electronic thermostat which can be set with an impressive degree of accuracy.

2. Self-Ignition
Most pellet stoves will have the ability to self-ignite, turning themselves on and off as required. This is not done by the owner, but instead via an inbuilt computer that regulates its operation. This means that the stove functions independently, with minimal user intervention needed. 

3. Fuel Feed System and Burn Time/Duration
Pellet stoves are fed from an integral fuel hopper (see image) by a motorised feeding screw which supplies fuel to maintain the small fire that heats the room. The size on the stove’s integral hopper in relation to the rated heat output of the stove will determine how often the appliance needs refilling. This is commonly referred to as the burn time and is sometimes quoted for the stove’s full output (the shortest burn time) and the stove's minimum output (the longest burn time). In reality, the frequency of refilling will lie in between these two figures as heat demand will vary on a daily basis.

Some systems allow for this integral hopper to be filled automatically from a larger main store of fuel. Sensors in the appliance tell an auxiliary feed system that it needs topping up and it is then refilled accordingly. External fuel stores do require additional space so may not be suitable for everyone. However, this does mean that refilling is done automatically with larger stores holding enough fuel for a whole season.

4. Efficiency
As with all solid fuel appliances, greater efficiency means lower running costs and reduced environmental implications as well. You should always look for an appliance that is going to deliver the efficiency you require.  A typical pellet stove will operate at a gross efficiency of around 80%. We have a guide where you can compare the efficiencies of various appliances.

5. Storage
If you are planning to invest in this stove type, then you should be aware that correct storage of pellets essential. Pellets will absorb lots of moisture from the surrounding air and from damp on floors and walls. Bagged or loose pellets should be stored in an environment that protects against this. Wet pellets will damage appliances.

Image courtesy of Euroheat

About the author: Laurence Jones was marketing support officer at HETAS

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

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3 comments - read them below or add one


bobtComment left on: 7 January 2014 at 10:11 am

great article, really enjoyed reading this! i will be returning to find out more in the future about ground source heat pumps 

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HETASComment left on: 1 August 2011 at 10:16 am

@dickorr Sadly we can't recommend one brand over the other (without getting a slap on the wrist).

 We would perhaps suggest getting a survey of your property from the business that is supplying the boiler. Assuming your house is a new build, buyers are often surprised to find that they do not always need the biggest boiler on the market. In our experience of biomass boilers, it can be much more effective running a smaller boiler at peak output than it is to run a larger boiler at a low output.

 Best of luck!

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dickorrComment left on: 29 July 2011 at 7:23 am

Hi my wife and I are currently at the planning stage of building on a crofting initiative. We are going to have a biomass boiler as our main heat source.

Currently we are looking at the Biowin 150 and the Okofen Pe012, as far as we can see the main difference is in the size of the hopper. We have no problem with filling the boiler manually rather than using a bulk feed tank.

Is there anybody out there that could give us a steer as to their experiences with either of these products, or any other suggestions? Budget is a consideration but reliability and ease of use is more important.

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