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anyone here heat with a pellet stove?

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Veedo

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for the last couple of years i have been tossing around the idea of switching from wood heat over to a pellet burner. making wood is becoming a pain in my arse these days and i would like to spend my time doing other things like brewing instead of cutting wood. my other source is propane, and we all know how expensive that stuff is.

so, i have been calling around to local dealers and talking to a few locals about the different makes and models of pellet burners, and it sounds like the Harman p68 is the way to go, but damn they are spendy.

i plan to put it in my unfinished basement where my wood stove existed, i know this is not an optimal location, but it just isnt going to fit anywhere else. basement and upstairs are 1100 sq ft each, with my stairway going downstair about halfway across the house. my woodstove worked great, so i am hoping a pellet stove will too.

so, any other pellet burners on the board? what stoves are you using, and have you had many problems? just looking for a little feedback before i spend a small fortune.
 

ANGELofDEBT

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Never had but looked at buying one. Before you buy make sure you see/hear on that's operating. They tend to make odd noises. They don't put out heat like a real woodstove.
 

HopSpunge

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I've heated with one since 2005. I live in upstate ny. In the house I grew up in we heated with wood. So I have lived with both. Buy one that is cast not made out of plate steel. Buy a free standing one. Same amount of noise as a wood burner with a blower. Less work than wood and less bugs. Money wise; about the same as other heating sources were I live. If you are not mechanically inclined I would not recomend one. Although it is a simple machine, all machines fail from time to time. Mine only failed me two times no big deal, but you will pay an arm and a leg to have someone come to your home and fix it if you cant figure it out. Mine runs 24-7 once it gets cold only shutting down to clean once a week.
 
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Veedo

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cool. what kind do you have? i havent seen a cast one yet. wood is a mess, i know the pellets will cost me quite a bit more but i think the convenience and the ability to let the sucker run without worrying about it will be worth it. i love the wood heat feeling in the winter time though, hopefully it is similar.
 

chefmike

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My complaint with pellet stoves was the dust. I had several in Colorado (all at work, I heated my cabin with wood). Dust always covered everything in the room with the stove.

Granted, it is very dry in southern CO in the winter. The UP may be different.

I always felt the heat to be less intense than wood.
 

HopSpunge

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I have a breckwell but it's the vermont casting one which was the only good one they ever made. Don't buy a breckwell.
 

HopSpunge

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Uh? Never had the dust problem thing. Your stove must have been broke. The way mine worked was that it drew fresh air in from the outdoors that blowed it through a simple heat exchanger. Another blower for exhaust. Each turned on by a simple thermal switch. Both fans are variable speed.
 
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Veedo

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yea im not understanding where you could get that much dust from. unless your pellets had that much fines in them?
 

chefmike

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Dust came from the hoppers on top... Load the pellets in and it had an auger type thing that fed the combustion chamber. The dust would rise out of that chamber, through the top. They burned great, but lots of dust... Maybe just because it is so dry in CO.

Sorry if that is not your experience... Maybe they were all cheapo units?
 

KBentley57

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I know many people with pellet stoves. They all bought them about 6-10 years ago when corn (field corn) was cheap. Instead of using the pellets, they would buy a 50 lb sack of corn at a time to feed in. It actually had a higher energy density per dollar at the time. As corn has shot up over the last few years it's not any cheaper than gas, so they've either returned to pellets or used gas instead.
 

JJL

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My FIL has one. He did kind of what KBentley is talking about. He got one a number of years ago and ran it on corn. When corn prices got high he swithed to pellets for a while. Last year it got to the point where it really wasn't any cheaper to burn pellets than to run his old furnace, so he finally just replaced his furnace with a new geothermal unit. He says it's quite a bit cheaper to run. As for having it in the basement, it should still heat the whole house pretty well. My FIL's is a ranch with a full basement. It has to be at least as big as yours. It easily heated his whole house even when the temp was below zero.
 
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Veedo

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you guys must have had natural gas available? its 1/3 of the price of propane up here right now, wish i could get it. i did some futzing around on this home heating calculator to come up with some numbers, its pretty neat. wood is by far the cheapest even if my stove efficiency is 50%

http://nepacrossroads.com/fuel-comparison-calculator.php
 

JJL

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Yeah he has natural gas where he's at. So do I.
 

+HopSpunge+

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Did you wind up gettin one veeto? Just woundering if you did and what kind. I just fired mine up for the first time this year. I love mine. If it had boobs I would marry it.
 

furloaded

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I have an englander stove that I put in my basement. The exhaust and air intake are right at the outside edge of max distance but I haven't had a problem. I did upsize the intake air from the factory 2 inch to 4 inch intake so my stove wouldn't starve for O2. I bolted a regular heating duct register to the heat exhaust vent and ducted it through a 6 inch pipe into a floor register under our sink in the kitchen. I put a ceiling fan in the kitchen to distribute the air around the house.

I have a 1600 sq ft home with 4 in insulated outside walls. I put new vinyl thermal windows in 2006 and blew in an extra foot of cellulose insulation into the rafters. We leave the furnace set at 64 during the day and 54 at night. In the morning I vacuum out the ashes, refill the hopper and light it. After 10 minutes the blower starts to send the warm air through the register under the sink. At night we turn it off, then propane furnace keeps the house heated. We don't need that much heat when we sleep. The furnace only kicks in during the day when the temperatures dip into the single digits.

I live in central Michigan and using that method we use up 1 ton of pellets per winter at about $200 per ton. I don't remember when we got propane last but it usually is only about a 100 gal top off, and that's per year. We do cook with it as well.

The stove works great but hasn't been trouble free. The auger cokes up and stops turning. Every once in a while the feed gets messed up and starves the burner of pellets. Nothing major. If I'm not at home SWMBO just leaves it alone and the furnace takes over.

I've been very happy with it. It has lowered our heating costs a lot and is easy to use. If you pre-buy the pellets and have a place to store them you can get a ton for $168 plus delivery. I bought 3 years worth.

BTW I'm designing a Beer boiler Barrel that will be run with pellets. Hope it works.
 

fishsniffer

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I used to heat with wood and now I heat with a pellet stove.

The romanticism of wood was nice and it was "free" but you know what they say, wood heats you twice.

With SWMBO and my schedule it made more sense to heat with a pellet stove. We both worked at the time and we would start a wood fire when we got home. Our house is 1300 sq/ft and we have electric baseboard heaters which we refuse to use due to the cost. By the time the house was warm, it was bed time.

The pellet stove is awesome. Just kick it on and 15 min later it is heating the house. We got a LOPI Yankee Bay insert stove and love it. We burn about a bag of pellets a day during the winter and usually buy two tons of pellets per year at $200/ton. We always have about 1/4 ton left over at the end of the year.

The type of pellets you use will depend on how much maintenance you have to do on your stove. The first year we had the stove I was burning a brand that I can't remember the name. But I would have to clean the stove weekly due to the amount of ash build up. I now burn a locally manufactured pellet called "clean burn" and I clean the stove about once every half a ton. I do a thorough dis assembly, inspection, and cleaning of the stove every ton of pellets burned.

So far the stove has been trouble free. The only replacement parts I have had to buy for it were a gasket it that was required when I took all the blowers apart for the per ton cleaning I do. That kit cost me less than $10.
 

fishsniffer

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Forgot to add. I got my stove on Craigslist for half of the cost of what it would have been brand new. When I bought it I took it to a fireplace shop to have them give it a once over, and then I installed it myself.

The Major reasons I went with a LOPI stove were reliability after reading reviews and they are a local company.
 

brewingmeister

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Blaawaww... I get shivers every time this thread pops up.

I lived in a house that had a pellet stove a few years ago. It was designed for corn but would burn anything that would fit through the auger. That thing was just awful. Loud, dirty and it would only heat the kitchen/living room, and not that well unless it was cranked way up. Bedrooms were on the ends of the house and were lagering temp or less.

I burned a mix (70-30) of corn and wood pellet with the best results. Too much corn and the clink would build up really quick, too much pellet and the ash was out of control. That thing ate through fuel like a Tasmanian Devil. I tried to embrace it but everything I tried just made me realize this was not the answer. And try I did as propane was the only other heating option.

I actually called it loud & dirty. Dust would come out of the hopper even with the door closed. God forbid if you had to open the firebox to bust some clink or move some ash. Soot and gunk filled the room. It was also running an exhaust/intake fan, auger and the blower. Quiet it was not.
 

fishsniffer

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That sounds dreadful.

I run my stove on level 2 (out of 5) and it heats the house fantastically. I cranked it up full blast one time and that was way too much.
 
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Veedo

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I ended up getting a Harman p68, been busy setting it up and dinking around. So far I like it, I know it will heat the whole house just don't know how much I'll burn. I have 5 tons of pellets piled up in the basement. Hopefully it works out because I'm in pretty deep price wise
 

+HopSpunge+

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Cool. Thats plenty enough. You'll have a bunch left over for next year. Thats a good brand 2. Plus now you can stare at a fire all day long when you drink your homebrew like the cavemen did.
 

stillbrewin

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Ive got a st croix it works like a charm. I set my furnace to 60 and only fire up the stove when I get home from work. Anything more than level 2 is too hot. I burn corn which I get from a farmer about 20 minutes south of me. We had a mild winter last year and I only went through 1000 lbs. Corn ran me 235a ton last year. Wood was going for a bit cheaper but I think the corn burns hotter. Have to see what corn is going for this year though. I am afraid with the drought its gonna be more expensive. You do have to watch the clink when you go with straight corn.
 
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Veedo

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I'm pretty pumped to get it all set up. I really need to get my basement insulated this winter also. I set up an ecobee thermostat and have a cold air return duct open right above the stove so my furnace fan can circulate the warm air, I was able to set the fan to run 10 minutes each hour with the stat, kinda neat.
 

allclene

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I use two different ones in my home and have been for over 8 years. I would have to say a few key points here. First if you get one make sure it is fully thermostat controlled like the quadrafire 1000. That is one of the best ones out there and you can probably find a used one from a chimney sweep service somewere close by. It shuts completely off when it hits temp. The kozy I have sucks. It is thermostat controlled but instead of shutting off it swiches to low and keeps burning. Might as well have a wood stove to melt you out and not as efficient. So in conclusion, get one that shuts completely off with thermostat automaticaly. Look at the burn box and exhaust paths for ease of cleaning. If you have to break out tools to get it clean no good (kozy is like that). And match btu's to your areas needs. Too little and it wont keep up too big and it will melt you out. Maintanance is simple just add pellets to hopper and once a week clean out the ash built up in burn box. Once a year before season starts I have the chimney swept and the yearly maintanance done and it costs about 125.00 for that. Hope that helps you.
 

gratus fermentatio

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I know many people with pellet stoves. They all bought them about 6-10 years ago when corn (field corn) was cheap. Instead of using the pellets, they would buy a 50 lb sack of corn at a time to feed in. It actually had a higher energy density per dollar at the time. As corn has shot up over the last few years it's not any cheaper than gas, so they've either returned to pellets or used gas instead.
So pellet stoves CAN use corn. I've wondered about that for a few years. Seems that if you could grow & harvest enough corn (dent corn), your heat would be pretty cheap. I wonder how many bushels of corn would be equal to X cords of wood, or X sacks of pellets. Might be interesting to see the BTU potential corn vs pellets. Just thinkin & drinkin.
Regards, GF.
 

allclene

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You can use corn only if your stove is set up for it. It burns different so needs some things done to it to be able to burn corn.
 

broadbill

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I've looked into them briefly as they are very popular in Maine (we manufacture/export pellets). Some point to consider:

Technology has come a long way since they were first introduced. The units today aren't anything like the first generation: from what I understand the the ones sold today are more efficient, more reliable, and overall better than the ones made 20 years ago.

Pellet quality matters. Some brands are better than other, especially in terms of ash which impacts cleaning and dust levels. You are asking for problems if you are shopping around based on the lowest price/bag.

If you go pellet, you need to have a place to store them, and you will be lugging bags of them to load the hopper (Mainers typically have to load theirs daily). I haven't heard of a way around this, except for those going with whole house units and having a large hopper outside of their house (think grain storage).
 
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