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When bone-free temperatures and blizzards occur, people with wood and pellet stoves have an advantage in warming their living spaces. Wood stoves in particular also work when there is a power failure, as they do not need a power source to operate.
There are many other reasons why a wood or pellet stove might respond. They are comfortable, cozy, sustainable and economical, say the owners.
“The pellet stove is our meeting place,” says Brad Anderson, father of four in Mt. Lebanon, Pa. “We sit around and play board games, hang out.” He estimates he’ll save $ 50 to $ 75 a month in heating bills.
“There’s nothing more satisfying,” says Jon Turkel of Clarke County, Virginia of his wood-burning stove. “Sometimes I push the dog out of the way and put myself on the stove.” His savings? About $ 1,500 a year.
If you are thinking of joining the stove owners at the figurative fireplace, there is another incentive: buyers of qualified heating devices that burn wood or wood pellets can now receive a tax credit of 26 percent of all purchase and installation costs thanks to COVID -19 aid package Adopted at the end of December. The loan drops to 22 percent in 2023 and then disappears. (Some states and municipalities offer ongoing discounts.)
Whatever your reason for heating with wood or pellets – economy, convenience, off-grid grain, or a lack of alternatives – getting the most out of a stove requires planning. We’ve reduced the wisdom of wood stoves and pellet stoves to a few smart steps.
Make sure it works in your room
Before feeling warm and fuzzy with the idea of buying a stove, check with your community to see if you can install one. Regulations can restrict or prohibit installations, especially in newly constructed homes. And remember, several states including Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon prohibit the use of wood-burning stoves on named days of high pollution. The EPA, individual states and private organizations make this information available on a daily basis.
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Check your interior. For a wood-burning stove, federal safety standards require a minimum of 3 feet from walls or combustible materials. However, many pellet stoves only require 2 inches of clearance from a combustible surface behind and 6 inches from other sides. If you’re using a child safety gate, you’ll need a 3 foot radius around either type of stove.
Consider your needs
As a rule of thumb, you will need around 20 Btu (British thermal units) of heat for every square foot of space. If your stove is your main source of heat and you don’t want to maintain it that often, you’ll need a large wood-burning hearth or pellet stove funnel. The largest wood-burning stoves can burn for 10 to 12 hours, says Sam Halsey, co-owner of Yankee Doodle, an oven dealer in Wilton, Connecticut. The largest pellet stoves can run for up to 24 hours.
Get the right unit
A dealer can suggest models that are suitable for your space. However, choose one that has been certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for efficiency and clean burning. Also, look for a label from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Canadian ULC that shows the oven meets safety standards.
Pellet stoves offer homeowners a more environmentally friendly choice. The devices burn recycled sawdust that has been compressed and dried. You fill a funnel with pellets, set the heating level and the stove ignites automatically. An electrically driven screw feeds the pellets continuously into the furnace’s combustion chamber.
Price: You can only pay $ 800, but good ones start at $ 2,000, says Adam Martin of Martin Sales and Service in Butler, Pennsylvania. You can’t always get replacement parts for the cheaper ovens, and they don’t. I don’t have as good a guarantee as more expensive models, he says. And sustainability has an advantage: According to Thumbtack, an independent national price database for products and services, pellet-generated heat costs around USD 200 more per heating season than cord wood.
Convenience: There is no need to split, season, or load wood. Depending on the heat needed and the design of the oven, you may only need to refill the funnel once a day. You can use a smartphone app or a remote control to control advanced devices. But the pellet augers will not work in the event of a power failure. And bags of pellets can run short in winter, says Halsey. “We have a lot of people now calling for pellets.”
Efficiency: Pellets contain less moisture than cord wood, so pellet stoves burn more efficiently. They dominate the EPA’s list of efficient units.
Health and Safety: To refuel, do not open a combustion chamber or expose to flames, smoke and gases. And there are thermostats and switches to prevent overheating or underheating.
Space Needed: You can buy 40 pound pellet bags individually or on a pallet. A 1-ton skid with 50 sacks of pellets – less than half a season of fuel for many – is about 4 x 3½ x 4 feet.
Aesthetics: The flames of the pellet stoves, fanned by a fan, don’t look as natural, claims Halsey. “It’s a blowtorch look,” he says.
Traditional wood-burning stoves can burn any type of wood, although certain types – such as ash, grasshopper, maple, oak, pinyon pine, and walnut – burn more efficiently.
Types: New wood stoves come in two versions. Both are designed to reduce air pollution by burning off the gases and tars left after the wood is burned. Catalytic furnaces use a platinum grid for this second combustion. These stoves are generally used for heating throughout the home and require more maintenance. Non-catalytic ovens direct exhaust gases into a chamber where they are re-ignited and burned. These ovens are more popular and cost $ 500 to $ 700 less than catalytic ovens, Thumbtack estimates.
Price: New ovens cost anywhere from $ 100 to more than $ 2,500, according to Thumbtack. Cordwood costs about $ 200 less than pellets per heating season, the website estimates – and it’s free if it’s from your property.
Comfort: A wood stove can burn even in the event of a power failure. You may not have to empty the ashes every day. You also don’t have to rely on store-bought fuel. Depending on the heat required and the size of the firebox, you may need to stoke several times day and night. Also, consider the work involved in splitting your own wood. And seasoning the wood itself can take a year or more.
Health and Safety: Opening wood stove doors regularly to add firewood can expose you to burns, smoke and gases.
Space Required: A wooden string is 28 cubic feet. For a 4 foot tall, neatly packaged stack, that’s roughly 4×8 feet on the floor. If you only heat with wood, you can run through several cables per heating season.
Install with a pro
While it can be expensive, this is a task best left to a professional. A professional should be familiar with local building codes and current and safe installation methods. Ideally, use a National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certified plumber. Installation typically costs between $ 1,000 and $ 2,000, depending on the device and location. In particular, homeowner insurance companies can refuse coverage if your oven hasn’t been professionally installed – and yes, some insurers ask new applicants.
Build your security arsenal
In addition to a fireproof range rug to place in front of your stove, you may want to purchase extras to keep your family safe and comfortable. An air purifier can help remove irritating particles. A humidifier can balance the dry air that wood stoves produce. If you need a security gate, find one that is suitable for use near wood or pellet stoves. Welding gloves or pot holders can protect you when emptying ash pans. A wood-burning stove fan distributes the stove’s heat around the room when you can’t use a central air conditioning fan. An ash vacuum – starting at around $ 100 – uses a special filter to pick up fine pellet ash more effectively than a regular vacuum cleaner. And if you choose a pellet stove, you can make sure it will run during a power outage if you have backup power or a generator.
Use your resources
Read the oven manual. It can tell you the best way to load wood without introducing too much smoke into the room. It can also explain how the temperature is regulated if it gets too roasted (this happens automatically on most pellet stoves). You can also join an online forum for help, advice, and troubleshooting. For example, Hearth.com hosts several user forums.
Check annually – and clean more often
Have a certified inspector inspect your device once a year, including venting and fittings. Spring is an ideal time of year to schedule an inspection as the inspectors are less busy and less likely to get snow or ice in their way. Find an inspector through the NFI or a Chimney Safety Institute of America certified chimney sweep. Expect $ 200 to $ 500 for inspection and cleaning, depending on where you live. This is also a good time to replace your smoke and CO2 alarm batteries. Do it again in the fall.
Twice a year – also once during the heating season – clean your stove pipe or fireplace. This fresh start prevents creosote from building up inside like a clogged artery that can trap exhaust gas, which can then exert pressure, heat up, and possibly cause a chimney fire. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says fires in chimneys, chimneys, and exhaust burners account for 87 percent of residential fires caused by home heaters.
You need to remove the ashes from the stove every day. You can put them in your compost heap or sprinkle them on your garden. According to the NFPA, fire and smoke alarms should be checked monthly.