Smart homeowners are quickly turning to modern wood pellet stoves for a more economical and clean source of heat for their homes. There are some good reasons why the pellet stove has suddenly taken on a following, not the least of which is that unlike old timey wood burning stoves, pellet stoves are clean, require very little maintenance and operate completely automatically once the pellets are dumped into a hopper. They produce an enormous amount of heat.

Technically, a pellet stove is a wood burning stove. But, because the quarter inch round and three-quarters of an inch long pellets burn much longer than regular wood, while producing dramatically less carbon dioxide, the two stove types are worlds apart.

The pellets are made of naturally biodegradable hardwood that is actually a composite of junk wood that has been compressed with sawdust. It was originally headed for a landfill or would have naturally rotted away in the wilds. The wood pellets are carbon-neutral as the stove’s output gas contains no more carbon dioxide than the wood out-gases in the wild.

It is recommended that you only buy Pellet Fuels Institute certified hardwood pellets in order to keep the stove burning hot and therefore clean. The operation of pellet stoves is simple: Put pellets in the top of the feeder hopper. Now turn the stove on and set the thermostat. Inside the stove, this is what is happening:

  • Stove begins start sequence, moving pellets into the burn box and automatically igniting it to start burning.
  • Sensors monitor everything and a tiny computer decides when to turn the optional fan on to circulate the heat, but some stoves use only a heat radiator core.
  • When more pellets are needed, the motorized auger auto-activates to cycle more pellets into the burn box. Only a few pellet burn in the box at a time.

All the smoke and exhaust fumes are vented to the chimney. These stoves are rising in popularity and come in two basic types: fireplace inserts and freestanding stoves. The insert variety is designed to fit inside or flush with an existing fireplace. The freestanding stoves stand alone a couple of feet inside the room where they are installed up on legs, which makes the heat radiate closer and more evenly. Some people install wood burning pellet stoves hoping to augment a central heating system, only to find it puts out massive BTUs.