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What are the benefits and disadvantages of a pellet stove?

Heating with pellets offers many advantages. As comforting as heating with wood and environmentally friendly thanks to the CO2-neutral fuel. As with gas or oil heating, a pellet stove also offers a lot of convenience thanks to its automatic ignition.

There are 3 types of pellet heater available on the market:

  • the stove, with manual loading, ideally suited for auxiliary heating, just like a wood stove and fireplace;
  • the boiler, with automated loading and which can be used as the main source of heating for the building;
  • the stove-boiler, which can heat the room where the appliance is located, but can also provide hot water and can heat one or two radiators remotely.
The price of a pellet stove (from €900 and up to more than €5,000 for models with accumulator in stone) is higher than that of a simpler classic stove (from €100). On the other hand, this price is comparable with that of a classic high-efficiency fireplace with mechanical adjustment and smoke extraction.

Benefits of a pellet stove

Temperature adjustment, programming and remote control

Depending on the selected model, you can adjust the temperature with a remote control or a room thermostat.

Some models can even be programmed or operated daily or monthly by text message or mobile app.

The pellet stoves start to burn and go out without you having to do anything, depending on the selected programme.

Up to 90% efficiency, and even more

The efficiency of a pellet stove can be as high as 90% or more. In other words, only 10% of the energy generated by the pellets is lost in the chimney.

This is more than a classic wood-burning stove, with an efficiency of only 40 to 50% (60 to 80% for recent high-efficiency stoves) and much more than an open fire, with an efficiency of 5 to 15%.

No chimney

A pellet stove is equipped with an active smoke extraction system (via the blower system). It is therefore unnecessary to provide a special chimney, because the combustion gases can be blown into an existing chimney.

The smoke can also be extracted by means of an ordinary thin tube (8 cm diameter) that runs horizontally through an outer wall, even when it is kinked.

Autonomy from 12 to 36 hours

The pellet reserve in the stove version has an autonomy of about 12 hours at full power. This means that the stove must be filled manually once or twice a day. Or even less often, as the stove rarely has to operate at full capacity. At a power output of 30%, the autonomy can be as high as 36 hours.

Convenient and cheap fuel

Pellets are relatively cheap compared with other fuels, and their price has remained stable in recent years.

They are supplied in bags of 15 kg (which cost €4 to €5 per bag) that are easy and compact to store. Moreover, they are always ready for use. They can also be delivered in bulk by tanker.

A pellet stove can hold 1.5 to 2.5 bags of pellets. Consumption depends on the size and insulation of the room to be heated, on the heating time and on the desired temperature.

For a boiler, you only need to know the consumption of fuel oil or gas and double it. If you consume 800 litres of fuel oil or 800 m³ of gas per year, you will consume approximately 1,600 kg of pellets (the price of which is lower: approximately €0.32/kg).

Neutral carbon balance

The pellets come from Europe and sometimes even Canada. They are made of sawdust, a product of the wood processing industry (furniture, pallets, lumber, etc.).

If the forests from which the wood comes are managed sustainably, the carbon balance of pellet combustion is zero. This is because the amount of carbon emitted during combustion is the same as the amount of carbon absorbed by the tree during its growth.

Disadvantages of the pellet stove

Weekly cleaning and annual servicing

The maintenance required by a pellet stove is sometimes underestimated. For example, the ignition chamber has to be vacuumed weekly.

Wood pellet stoves, like any other combustion heating system, must be inspected every year by a professional.

He or she checks the heat exchanger and the fire, the pipes and the motor of the smoke extraction system. In addition, it is mandatory to have the chimney swept every year.

More or less perceptible operating noise

The built-in fan and auger motor produce noise when in operation. The noise of the fan is more pronounced, especially when starting up the stove. This problem has been solved to some extent in more recent and more expensive models.

A good ‘very quiet’ appliance generates no more than 32 decibels (which is less than a fridge). A low-quality appliance will quickly produce 49 dB, which is quite a lot to listen to for a whole day…

Electrical power supply required

The built-in adjustment, the ignition system and the ventilation smoke extraction system require a normal electrical socket. This is not the case with classic wood-burning stoves.

Fewer natural flames

The appearance of the flames of a pellet stove is not comparable with that of a wood-burning stove. The flame is smaller and some people even consider it to be nervous or unnatural.

Small dry room required for storage of pellets

Pellets are certainly less voluminous than logs, but require storage space, unlike gas. A small room with a storage bin of about 2 m³ is a minimum.

Be careful! The storage area must be completely dry, to prevent the pellets from swelling or splitting open. Once reduced to dust, the pellets become unusable.

 

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