Dee W
Dee W
  • Hometalker
  • Senecaville, OH
Asked on Oct 15, 2012

Pellet stoves

Dee WBernice HWoodbridge Environmental Tiptophouse.com
+17

Answered

Since we have no access to free/cheap firewood we are considering a pellet stove for use in our unfinished basement. Any suggestions for a reputable brand or company to buy from or what features may make it easier for us to use?
20 answers
  • Tami Brinkman
    on Oct 15, 2012

    we have a simular situation we also heat with wood but we have found with all the kids now in college we can't leave the house for any length of time because someone needs to tend the fire, so we to got a pellet stove several years ago which we traded for a gas stove which we put in our unfinished basement and it works wonderful we run it if we have a bad Michigan storm and we can burn our wood stove with it .A 40 lbs bag of pellets will last 3 days and it is quite comfy in our home. It is a Englander and it is an older one we had to do some repairs to it last year but Englander's customer service was wonderful they even stayed on the phone while my husband but the new parts in to fix it and it works wonderful. they also shipped us the parts for free shipping and the new parts had a warrenty. hope that helps you.

  • Dee W
    on Oct 15, 2012

    Thank-you Tami, you have been very helpful and I appreciate you sharing your experience. The Englander brand was also the one Dear Hubs seems to be leaning towards.

  • SingingHillsbyKim
    on Oct 16, 2012

    Look into the line of stoves by Avalon. I've been researching pellet stoves for a few months now and I've found so far that the AGP (All Grades Pellet) by Avalon is about the best deal on the market. This stove has separate conrols for the fan and the heat so you have better control of how hot you want it to burn and how much area you want heat. It also burns all grades of pellets efficiently. The dealers I've talked to recommend a 50/50 blend of hard and soft wood pellets. Hard woods burn longer but not very hot and soft woods burn quick and hot. This stove maximizes the use of both types of wood pellets. Compare stoves by burn rate per hour not by the hopper size. This information is not available on all stoves (I don't even look at the ones that can't provide this info). There are also a load of safety and cleaning issues that need to be considered and this stove seems to be more advanced than just about anything else on the market in those areas. When shopping around pay attention to how much ash flies up when the pellets drop into the burn pan. You will see how much ash clean up will be required. The AGP has a horizontal feed instead of a drop down feed = very little ash blowup. It also has a feeding system that prevents any chance of fire reaching back into the hopper. When shopping around, make the dealers light the stoves, wait for the stove to heat up enough so the fans turn on and off automatically (should take about 15 minutes), and see how much heat is pushed out at the medium setting for the fan. Stand back from it about 5-6 feet to see how much heat you feel while the fan is on medium. You don't want to have to stand right in front of it all the time to stay warm and you don't want to have to have the fan on high all the time just to keep your house warm. You will see differences from one stove to the next if you do this. There are stoves that are nicer to look at but I've found that you have to trade off efficiency for fancy. Which is ok if you are just looking for an occasional cozy place to sit but it's not ok if you are relying on that one source of heat for your home. Sorry I was so long winded on this but there is just so much to consider. I've looked at so many stoves and I've seen that there is definitely a difference between them. Good luck.

  • Are you just using the stove to heat a small area, or are you thinking of trying to heat the house or a larger area with it. I have a dear friend who purchased a high end self pellet feeding stove for his fireplace replacement. He said although he is not spending as much on fuel, (propane) he is spending a lot on the pellets to keep the new stove running. He figures with all the money he is saving vs. how much he spent to install and run, it will take him about 25 years to pay it off. Years ago before pellet stoves were the thing to purchase the cost of pellets were fairly low. But because of the rise in their popularity the cost of the wood pellets also has gone up as well. The use of these stoves has gained popularity so has the cost been going up as a result on them as well. Do not forget to add to the cost of this venture the necessary fire protection needed for safety. Many basements are lower in height then that of a room up above. Clearance to combustible materials must be understood and followed carefully to assure a safe install. So before you purchase what ever brand it is that others suggest, understand the install well and assure that you have the correct safety clearances prior to purchase and that you have a way to vent it. You cannot use your normal chimney in the house unless your removing a fireplace to install this device. and then even if that is the case be sure to get the flue cleaned and checked to assure you will not have any issues.

  • Dee W
    on Oct 16, 2012

    @SingHills-thank you for sharing all your research and shopping hints. Alot to think about and consider, why have you not settled on one yet? @Woodridge-this is for an unfinished basement (34' x 58') because it is very cold and there is only 1 heat vent from ductwork. My reading did suggest that a concrete basement is not a good location for heat transfer, but no one mentioned the ceiling- ours measure 8'. If you have any other thoughts I would appreciate them. Thank-you for your help..

  • You simply need to check on local codes and installation instructions before you purchase the stove. As once you purchase it, you own it. And you would be better off knowing what your local codes are and what the manufacture suggests about clearances of the model your thinking about buying before it becomes a fancy decoration. Also be sure you have enough clearance to run the flue pipe up and out the side of the exterior wall. And remember it must run to above the roof eave and depending upon what you purchase you may need to extend the discharge of the chimney to at least two feet higher then an area of 10 feet around the pipe. Lots to think about and add to the cost of the stove.

  • Dee W
    on Oct 17, 2012

    Well, DH was reading more about them tonite and because we want to vent it out a window, it doesn't seem possible as we have first floor windows in the same line. There is also an issue with the allowable bends in the piping. Doesn't seem to be workable, so we are looking into other alternatives. Thank-you for your input.

  • Better to learn now then to spend all that money and then find out. What type of heat are you now using? Gas or oil? There are some really great radiant heaters that run on gas and do not require a chimney you could look into. Some also run on propane. You can get the look of a fireplace or a wall heater and provide more then enough heat for a room of that size.

  • KMS Woodworks
    on Oct 17, 2012

    We thought about one for our master bedroom expansion but ended up with a freestanding soapstone wood stove instead. We have frequent power outages and a pellet stove needs power to run..a wood stove does not. It was the best decision ever. So your very large basement is considered "conditioned" space because it is within your normal thermal envelope....but the dufous HVAC contractor only installed one heat outlet? If might be cheaper to add some ducting to your existing furnace system. what do you have gas forced air? Another thing to consider...is how are you using the space...if it is unfinished what tasks or activities are being done down there? There is not much sense is heating a space that only used for a few minutes a day or week.

  • Dee W
    on Oct 17, 2012

    @KMS&Woodbridge- We have a heating oil furnace and supplement the upper floors with EdenPure heaters. With no out buildings, the basement is storage: 2 food pantries, yard supplies, any household decorations, bikes, canoe & 2 kayaks, sons' gym equipment and Dear H's workbench and tools and more miscellaneous items. The back door opens right to the basement stairs and into the kitchen (to which we recently added a door) If we cut into the existing ductwork to make more heat vents, the furnace would just run a bit longer to heat the main floor and upstairs--is that right? This may be our solution since a wood stove is not really an option for us. Thank-you for this suggestion.

  • Do not cut into the existing ducts. They have been sized to properly deliver the correct amount of air to the upper levels. Way to many people simply just cut a grill or two into the trunk and do not realize that the rest of the house begins to suffer. The correct method of adding air to the basement is to add a NEW trunk duct that is properly sized for the grills and area you want to heat. But before you do any of this, be sure you basement is properly air sealed and that your existing furnace is sized properly and has enough combustion air to operate safely.

  • Dee W
    on Oct 18, 2012

    @Woodidge-almost jumped the gun didn't I? haha Thanks for stopping me from misunderstanding. Since that is the "right" way to do things we will now for sure wait until next year to do anything, simply beause we are hoping to get a new furnace. Current one is about 40 yrs old and last inspection checked in at about 88% efficiency which I was told is what newer ones are, but parts are getting harder to find to repair this one,

  • Dee believe it or not, the furnace that you currently have has not changed much other then perhaps size and shape for many many years. If your producing efficiency rates in the mid 80's there is no reason at all to replace the unit. All the parts of an oil furnace are available and will be as the technology has not changed all that much over the years. Some may have a newer flame control or different shape, but everything is still the same overall. The furnace can be outfitted with a better blower that is more efficient, but when you figure in the cost vs. the savings it will take you years to pay for that upgrade. The only reason for changing the furnace is to produce more heat for a larger area. while a oil burner can be enlarged sort of speak by putting a larger oil nozzle in the burner to produce more heat, it is the air delivery system that would also need to be upgraded to deliver that additional heat it makes. That is where a new system would be a better option. But just to change it out for a unit that has hard parts to purchase, simply does not make any sense at all. The best thing you can do is to insulate your sills and walls of the basement. This will provide the additional comfort you want without all the extra work it takes to add more heat. Once that is done, then just the loss of the duct heat should be enough to keep the basement around the 60 degree mark,

  • Dee W
    on Oct 18, 2012

    @Woodbrdge-Really? Every check-up the furnaceman says he can't believe it is still running and then they start muttering about if it breaks we'll be sorry since it will be days to put a new one in. Then they tell me the new ones are not very efficient but you can get parts. lol If I could just ask you one more thing, how do you insulate sills and walls?

  • That is because they are trying to sell you something. The firebox, burner and controls have not changed at all over the past 50 years. All parts are available. The bottom line is these guys want to work on something that is new. And do not want to take the unit apart to install a new fire box. The efficiency on the forced warm air furnaces have not changed much sense they were made. The overall efficiency of the units are however better as they use more efficient motors, but that is about it. But if they are telling you parts are hard to get for the older one, find another service contractor, that one is lying to you. To insulate there are a few things that you can do. To understand the correct way is to understand how insulation works. Insulation prevents air movement by creating air pockets within the fibers or foam of the insulation. These holes of sorts will not allow temps to travel through them. The thicker the insulation the more "holes" that separate the outside from the inside, effectively giving your more insulation power or R value. With fiberglass insulation it must be much thicker to produce enough of these "holes" in order to produce the same amount of R value as a foam insulation board will. That is why foam has a higher R value per inch then fiberglass. With that said, there is one more thing you need to know. And that is air flow. A house is like a big chimney. Air is entering from the bottom and exiting out the top. And like a chimney, if you close off the damper, the air slows down and even stops if the damper is really tight. Well fiberglass insulation is not very tight. Although it does produce air pockets by its very nature, air when under pressure of the stack effect trying to rise upwards, will allow air to flow through it. Much like a sweater worn on a cold day, you feel warm. That is until it becomes breezy out. Then a chill comes over you as the heat is drawn out of the sweater. This very thing happens with fiberglass insulation. If air is allowed to blow through it, it takes much more of the stuff to prevent heat loss in order for it to work. however, the issue is that you simply cannot put enough of the stuff in the wall to stop that flow. So the answer is to stop the air. Properly constructed houses utilize house wrap, That is the white paper you see on new construction. Older homes used tar paper. In any case, if this material was not installed properly, and it never is on most production homes, it allows air to flow into the wall cavity and up out of the attic. All the while removing heat with it. But you can help prevent this by air sealing from the inside. The basement sill is the biggest culprit of all the air leaks. If you currently have insulation between each joist and it has been there a while, Take some of it down, Look at it, Do you see black stains? This stain is dust that has collected as air has been flowing through the insulation as it acted as a thick filter. When you look into that area, you may find a pipe or wire hole. But the biggest loss is coming through that tiny space where one board meets the other. To fix this you can use caulk, or foam in a can, or purchase a larger foam kit that sprays foam like a paint sprayer. But regardless of what you use, you need to seal all the spaces, holes and openings. Once done you then can put back that insulation, ideally new that has at least a insulation value of R-13 or more. This will stop the breeze both in the basement as well as in the walls. Then take the foam in the can and seal around all pipe, wire and duct passages going up to the upstairs. This also will prevent that chimney effect on the inside walls, This will keep any heat that is produced and given off by the ducts and heating unit in the basement and not pull it up and out through the attic. Remember also that that attic fan if it runs, it is working against keeping the air from leaving the house. So be sure it is turned off. The walls ideally should also be insulated. However depending upon the age of the house and the condition in which the walls are as far as moisture intrusion, how to do this varies. One way is to construct free walls off of the existing basement wall, then seal the top or Fire Stop them, then insulate the wall using fiberglass. If we know the walls is really water tight we may construct the walls up against the foundation walls and spray foam directly onto the foundation wall. Bit more expensive, but works well. In any case by simply air sealing the sills and properly insulating the plate area, you will see a big difference both in warming up the basement as well as comfort level increase upstairs. When my company air seals the sills, we see on average a 30% savings overall on energy use in the home. Do the same air sealing in the attic, that number oftentimes can go up to 45% or more.

  • Dee W
    on Oct 18, 2012

    @Woodbridge- Wow, that is alot to digest. Thank you for explaining it all so thoroughly and simply. Need to get DH to read this and see what steps we can do ourselves in this area. We've had the same furnace guys for almost 18 yearsand before them we went thru 3 companies for various reasons. Good to know our "monster-sized" furnace may have a few more years in her. Thank-you so much for the information and peace of mind. Dee

  • Dee what you need to understand, the older units were built to look much bigger then they really are. This at the time was a sign of a better unit as bigger was better. Think about the older cars. They were large and clunky but when you opened up the hood there sat the motor looking really tiny in size as compared to the rest of the auto. Well the same thing goes with older heating systems. But now they are made as small as they can be. This saves money on materials, does help a bit on the energy saving side of things, and fits on a smaller foot print to save space. While I would not say to put a new unit in, it does have its benefits, but the first thing you need to do is to work on the energy saving side of things. Then when that is complete, you then properly size the heating system to the energy efficient home. If you do this the other way by putting in a furnace that must be large enough to heat the house with its energy loss taking place, Once you get the house done and properly insulated and air sealed, the furnace would end up being to large for the house and would not save you any money overall. If you need more detail on doing this feel free to contact me via email and I will help you out and explain things a bit more for you.

  • Dee W
    on Oct 19, 2012

    @Woodbridge-Thank-you for all your help.

  • Bernice H
    on Nov 16, 2012

    @Woodbridge Environmental Tiptophouse.com wow! What a lot of helpful info...@Dee W We had a pellet stove, our home is 1200 sq ft, the heat never went down the hallway into the bedrooms, it just stayed in the living room and drove me crazy, heat wise. We have had 2 in 2 different homes and they both were not doing what we needed. And then we found the pellets were adding up to the same cost as our electric. Sooo we just turn the thermostat up a bit. (or a lot) But I am interested in What Bob said ...maybe we have the same situation. We have an old mobile home, and it is cold in here. Sending this on to hubs computer!!!

  • Dee W
    on Nov 17, 2012

    @Bernice H- Woodbrige did really help a great deal and advised us well. Since this post, we have insulated our furnace ducts in the basement and are getting actual heat at the far end of the house where we were only getting lukewarm air at best. We have put in new windows, siding and had the attic insulated so the last remaining area to work on is the basement. Should be done installing glass block this coming year and will look into some of the other helps he mentioned. Good to see quick results for once. Good Luck to you!

Your comment...