Choosing a Pellet Stove

tompowers535April 4, 2009


I live in SE Mass. My wife and I are having a 20' X 24' sunroom added to our house. We have a natural gas boiler with Hydronic heat. We intend on adding Radiant heat under the tile floor in that room but would like to supplement with a pellet stove.

I am reading so many negative reviews I am getting concerned. We had looked at an Avalon Arbor but I couldn't find any reviews on it. I went to another Avalon/Lopi dealer today and found out that Travis industries makes a twin to this unit called a Lopi Leyden and are identical except for a cosmetic decoration on the outside.

I was able to find plenty of reviews for the Lopi Leyden and non of them are good. I have been trying to select a brand and model that a majority of people are happy with. I read horror stories from all of the manufacturers - some with bottom feed and some with top feed. Some people can't locate parts. The list goes on and on.

We have had a wood stove in the past but were hoping to burn pellets now but I am concerned with the many moving parts.

I am torn between Harman, Quadrafire, Lopi, and Avalon and which brand would be better.I am flexible on exploring another brand that you may recommend.

We are able to install a natural gas fireplace instead of a pellet stove but I am worried of the cost to run it vs a pellet stove.

I would appreciate any advise you may be willing to give me.

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You raise some good issues.

As a now retired gas furnace and gas fireplace repairman, I have some biases towards gas fireplaces since you have natural gas. It's an excellent fuel and the equipment is quite good these days.

Also, gas fireplaces are the norm when selling a house. Pellet stoves are something of an exotic commodity I would suppose.

I specialized in maintaining and repairing gas fireplaces for a number of years, but I was never interested in learning or working on pellet stoves. Just not enough around to develope real expertise or make it worthwhile.

How likely is it that repairman in your area might feel the same way? Being able to get honest and competent service for your equipment over years and decades is very important.Even if there is one outfit available now to help you, you really want several outfits busy enough to be Xperts on pellet stoves so that good service will be available for decades to come.

Around here, even in a big city, that may be hard to come by.

Personally, I have a gas furnace for central heating and a wood stove for supplemental or back up heating if the power goes out. (how will your pellet stove operate with no AC power?)

For simplicity and as a back up heat source, I'd choose a wood stove or a gas fireplace that will operate with the power off.

If I wanted a supplemental source of heat to use a lot to avoid or minimize use of the boiler, I'd choose a wood stove, but realize this involves a big commitment of labor to make it work.

Just not a fan of pellet stoves. Too much of a Rube Goldberg device for my taste. Choose a pellet stove if you want to and are willing to learn to tear it apart to clean it and maintain it yourself most of the time.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 12:02AM
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I'm running into the same problem with my pellet stove choice.

I'd love to have either a fireplace or a wood burning stove or even a coal stove, but that's out of the question. It would require a far greater investment in money for the chimney and would require significant renovation to my house.

Gas is out of the question -- I don't have gas service at my house, and there's no where to put gas bottles.

I live in a townhouse with a larger than average back yard, but it's still small.

So, if I want the ambiance and heat of a stove, my only choice is a pellet or other biomass stove with the fuel coming in bags.

I'm very likely going to make my decision sometime this summer, but from what I've discovered so far, it's going to be a fairly daunting task to weed through all of the different styles, makes, manufacturers, and any related reliability issues.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 3:17PM
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Tech Support for a Pellet stove Distributor, 25 years in Lp industry: Pellet stoves (regardless of mfgr) are high maintenance appliances. These are alternative fuel heaters that provide little visual ambience. The glass will darken daily depending on the pellet quality, vent option, wind dynamics and how carefully you follow the maintenance schedule. This involves use of a high quality "soot vacuum", vent brush, and refrigerator coil brush. Do not shortcut on the venting, and be sure to pipe in combustion air. If you are serious about using alternative fuel for primary heat, but have chimney limitations, check out the "Leisure Line" offering the Pioneer model high efficiancy coal stoker to be used with a Field powerventer which a local chimney sweep or plumbing house can supply.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 9:30AM
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I've been heating with wood for 30+ years and have never really understood the attraction of pellet stoves except for the "convenience" of pouring pellets into the hopper vs. handling cordwood.Among the many disadvantages of pellet stoves:

As others have noted, pellet stoves are high maintainence and touchy to operate.

Wood heat is never so important or welcome as when the power goes out. Without electricity pellet stoves don't work - battery backup is an expensive option with very limited utility.

With a pellet stove you're dependent on a manufactured product with the attendant price fluctuations, potential shortages, etc.

kframe19's comment about chimneys is difficult to understand. You need the same type solid fuel class A chimney for either a wood stove or pellet stove.

If you want a wood stove but don't want to deal with cordwood, there are products made from highly compressed sawdust - Biobrick is one brand - readily available by the pallet.

Lots of reviews of pellet stoves and wood stoves at

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 4:54AM
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Last time I had a pellet stove was 1996. Maybe they've improved since then, but I hated the thing! It was noisy when the pellets dropped and at one point, the pellets were not moving through correctly and I woke up in the middle of the night with a fire going up my walls.

I'm sure others have had better luck with pellet stoves, but personally I would never have one again!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 10:33AM
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