Pellet inserts - which one, where?

nancyinmichOctober 7, 2005

Okay, we passed our inspection tonight on the 1978 ranch we have a contract to buy. It is a whopping 1675 sq ft and it is a nice increase for us. DH will not have his music/computer room above the garage, but on the main floor, in the living room. I'll have a craft/sewing room with afternoon sun, and DH's Dad will have a larger room than he has now. Our BR will go from 10 x 11 to 13 x 16 - no more stepping through dog beds to get to ours.

One item I was not too keen on is the fireplace in the family room. It is just a normal wood-burning fireplace, one of the kind that lets all the furnace heat go up the chimney. It does get used by the current owner. I would never use it because wood smoke really irritates my lungs, so why would I burn wood in my house if it meant that I could not breathe outside? Having browsed these fora, I had heard of pellet stoves and so I started looking at the inserts online. I will have time tomorrow to call the shops around here, but so far, I have only found one place that sells them. And they don't HAVE any! All of their Quadrafire inserts are for plain wood. I also have to locate a pellet seller. I stopped by Home Depot tonight and expected I'd find them near the fireplaces and artificial logs, but no go. I will call the TSC store near my second job tomorrow and see if they have them for sale.

So, here is my question: would you buy something like this sight unseen? Would you buy one from someone who CAN sell them, but never has? Would you buy one off the internet sight unseen?

I found the Dell Point site and learned that their pellet stoves burn cleaner than a regular furnace burns natural gas! Now, that sounds great. Their site says they are working on an insert, but I don't know if they have one available yet. They have not answered my email.

Does anybody have a pellet stove? What made you chose one over the other? I would think that hopper size would be a consideration, the bigger, the more convenient. For me, the lowest particulate emissions is important, but is .5 a significant improvement over .9?

Since I haven't geen able to see the stove yet, I can only guess what the flame is like. The guy at the fireplace shop said most folks wanting a fireplace insert want licking flames that jump and that the pellet is more like a little flickering glow and the ceramic logs are in front or behind just hang out ooking like logs and do not get involved with the flame itself. Is it worth getting logs?

If the flickering glow is somehow inferior to the lapping flames of more traditional fires, is it worth it to get the bay-window style front, or is the smaller window in the other style okay?

Lastly, does anyone know about bringing a Canadian stove into the US? The Dell-Point may not be sold here. I also hear there are more models to choose from north of the border.

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RCMJr

.

Just like anything else; pellet stoves run the gamut in regards to quality.

They are meant to product clean heat; not to make pretty, flickering flames. They are based upon buring a relatively small amount of stuff at at time; with a pretty healthy blast of air running over them . . optimizes combustion and result in very little ash. Doesn't offer the traditional, aesthetic dancing flames that seem to be so appealing to us humans.

Quality of the pellets can be pretty critical; not only their make-up; but their moisture content. The more moisture in them; the more of the heat they produce goes to boiling away the moisture in them. Hard to know what you're getting, hard to control once you've got them.

As far as irritation of your lungs from smoke; no matter what you burn it should NOT be getting into the house . . so no matter how clean the stove does or doesn't burn; keeping it out of your house is a separate issue. ANY of the pellet stoves I've seen burn VERY cleanly when decent pellets are used . . . and they can toss a lot of heat. How much "heating" effect you'll actually get will also be impacted by how fast you lose heat from your house . . . if it's reasonably tight / efficient / insulated; you'll see a big impact. If not, pellet ( or any other ) stove will NOT have a big impact.

Know that the glass on them may not stay very clean . . . some designs are much better at "washing" the clean air over the glass leaving it clean . . . others don't do so well and you end up with smoked glass . . .

I'll suggest forget aesthetics of the flame from your list of concerns . . if you want that, buy something else. I'd also be a bit skiddish buying one online, sight unseen. They all look / sound good . . . to me, seeing a potential purchase up front is important. It would also be nice to know that any service needed would be available through the place you buy it from . . . .

Bob

    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 7:26AM
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nancyinmich

Hi Bob, thanks for the answer. I know that the smoke should not get into the house, but on the odd occasion, I like to leave the house. It would be a bit hypocritical of me to get all upset when neighbors burn wood and confine me to my home, then I go inside and light a fire that also emits smoke!

The fire appearance is not that important to me. I guess I want advice on whether to buy the logs at all, or do they not really help the fire look nicer?

I found two local sources for the Quadrafire, one has actually installed them, the other has not sold any. The Harmon is available about 90 miles away (up where my Dad lives) and costs $3200! They will come down to install it, but I could not get a straight answer about servicing. I was only given the observation that they hardly ever need to be serviced. DH will be doing well if he even carries the fuel inside. It is probably a deal killer to ask him to help with maintenance. It sounds like the Harmon needs the ash removed far less often.

Does anyone have experience with any of the pellet inserts? Any knowledge about Quadrafire vs. Harmon stoves in general?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 8:29PM
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joyfulguy

Nancy,

My friend who builds a high quality corn/grain-fired stove east of Lake Huron ships them over the border - right through Michigan as well as within - all the time.

There are varying qualities.

Though your pellet stove burns more cleanly - it's still wood.

When they tested corn-fired heaters, they were amazed at the low levels of pollutants produced.

Try www.grainstovesinc.com (or possibly .ca at the end).

library closing.

If you have more questions, fire away.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 4:56PM
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scryn

We have a freestanding quadrafire and they are very good stoves.
We use ours for our primary heat source. It needs to be cleaned everyday to work best. This is just a quick sweep of the ashes and then we clean the glass, if needed, and then we are set to go. it takes about five minutes. The dealers will say you don't have to clean it everyday, but it works best and is safest if you do.
Every year we clean the ash from the exhaust pipe and remove the fire bricks to remove ash from behind them.
this takes about an hour.
If you have a chimney then you will have to hire a chimney sweep every year.
our hopper holds over 40 pounds (over 1 bag of pellets) and this can run full blast for at least a day.

This year may not be the best year to buy a stove though. We went looking for one this fall, as we wanted a smaller, second one for the back of our house. This area often would get a bit chilly for us. Since everyone is expecting the cost of fuel to rise so much pellet stoves have been selling out at the factories. The pellet stove store raised their prices and you have to wait for many of the stoves until the middle of winter at least! We didn't need it, so we decided to wait till the summer.
Also we bought all our winter's pellets in August for about 170 bucks a ton. Now we are seeing them for over 230 bucks a ton! By the winter they will most likely be more money.
It is just crazy and really makes me mad!
I don't really care about supply and demand, i think they are ripping us off! The highest we had seen pellet prices before were about 210/ton in the dead of the winter. the prices are above that and it isn't even winter yet!
-renee

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 1:03PM
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joyfulguy

Renee,

Is your stove licensed to burn corn, wheat, rye, etc.?

A stove that my friend built, which was earlier licensed for pellets as well, but he let that certification lapse, is certified for those fuels.

Some stoves intended for pellets are also licensed for those other fuel (some also include cherry pits) but many are not.

They tell me that the price of corn is lousy, this year - that is, from the farmers' point of view.

Haven't heard about wheat or rye.

But there is a cartel that runs world grain markets that has a track record of keeping prices paid to farmers for grains low, low, low.

Good wishes for low cost, environmentally-friendly hot air.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 2:13PM
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scryn

I don't think so. I would have to check the manual, but I really don't think it is.
We have already stocked our garage full of pellets for the winter though (before the price sky rocketed!) so we are all set.
I had no idea that stoves have to be certified. We don't have to do that where I live (ny state)
-renee

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 4:38PM
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