Wood stove vs pellet stove

beacheDecember 28, 2004

We currently have a Hearthstone (soapstone) woodstove in our open living room. It is over 20 years old and needs to be replaced. We love the looks and heat that this thing produces. The room has 18 foot cathedral ceilings and a balcony overlooking the room. When we open the doors of the bedrooms on the balcony, they too stay warm. We have a ceiling fan which circulates the heat.

Problem is, we're getting sick of the woodstove grind: cutting of trees, stacking wood, lugging it in constantly.

We're also not getting any younger and are thinking about doing all that for the next 20 years!

So we're thinking about pellet stoves. My DH has already checked some out and likes the Harmons. Our concerns are about the amount of heat they produce. Our Hearthstone really cooks and we like that high, even heat. Will a pellet stove keep the rooms warm? Our friends who have them love the convienience, but they are heating small areas like a basement rec room, or a converted breezeway. Any advice would be helpful.

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Have you checked out all the threads on pellet stoves? There have been some great discussions on wood v pellet on here.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2004 at 11:56AM
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I have a P61a Harman which heats 2000 sq ft with no problem, the stove puts out 61,000 btu but most of the time it only runs at about 50% of capacity.
The best feature of the new stoves is they auto light and the themostat sensor keeps the room at a constant temperature.
I live in the mountains at 9300 ft so it gets down to 0 quite often and the P61 pellet stove has no problem keeping the place warm. When the temp is below 0 I burn up to 2 bags 80 lbs a day. I think you will be happy.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2004 at 12:11PM
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Xanndra, I did do a search on pellet stoves, but didn't see any discussions on wood vs pellet for warmth. Our woodstove radiates heat from six surfaces. I'm just concerned that the heat being blown from a vent is never going to equal that.

I just love getting up in the morning and having that soapstone still giving off heat.

wyocolo, thanks for the info. That makes me hopeful that it may work out.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2004 at 5:05PM
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I have used both woodstoves and pellet stoves and I will tell you that the heat is a little different. However, the hauling, chopping, etc. of wood can be difficult for some people, not to mention time-consuming.

If you decide to go with a pellet stove, go with a Harman P68. You will not be sorry with any Harman.

Here is a link that might be useful: Did you check out this thread?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2004 at 5:33PM
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Hello beache,

The heating ability of any stove is equal to the amount of BTUs it puts into your house

BTUs in house = efficiency x total BTU output of fire

If you are tired of all of the work related to wood then it sounds like a pellet stove is for you. Make sure to check the prices of pellets before you buy one.

The Harman pellet stoves are the only pellet stoves with bottom pellet feed that I am aware of. Bottom feed is desirable because of reliablity of fire. Bottom feed also produces a much prettier fire in case you like watching the fire.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2004 at 10:46PM
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the only reason i chose a wood stove over a pellet is you can run the wood stove when you lose power. we lost power last winter for a couple of days and the pellet stove would have been useless, thats why i went with a wood stove. i love the smell of the wood and the sight of the logs burning also.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2004 at 11:56PM
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If you choose a pellet stove. I would listen to Xanndra, and others. I had a chance to go with a Harmon stove and chose a lesser brand. Guess what I wish now....

You still will get some smell of the wood from a pellet stove, just not as much, but you can buy log kits to give the appearance of logs burning. If it helps there are logs burning in the stove just really tiny ones.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 2:01PM
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There are pellet stoves with battery backup; and battery backup units for any regular appliance. Because we lose power frequently, we have a generator for stuff (who'd want to lose power and not have water or their food kept cold?); so it's a non-issue.

What exactly is a "bottom" feed pellet stove. Mine has an auger that delivers the pellets to a fire chamber....but I'm not sure if it's considered a "bottom feed" or not.

Oh, and I would never trade a pellet stove for a wood one.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 6:50PM
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"Bottom feed" pellet stoves push the pellets into the burn pot from the bottom (more specifically, the back of the flame, and no, there is no back-burn). Harman and PelletMaster are the only two brands that I know of that have recently been produced that are strictly bottom feed. PelletMaster is no longer in business (I used to sell them too. I refused to sell top-feeds after all the problems I personally had with them). "Top feed" drops the pellets into a burn pot. If it clinks when pellets are dropped into it, it's a top feed.

Both types of stoves use augers.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 7:57PM
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Thanks....tommorrow I'll get the name/model off my stove and would appreciate any feedback you have on it. I've had it for about five years (bought it used from a dealer), and have never had any problems with it. But....I'd like to hear more. Thanks again for your time; I do appreciate it.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 6:56PM
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I was in a store recently that used to sell both. After being in business for over 20 years, they finally stopped selling pellet stoves this year because they had to employ a full time on call staff to service them. They couldn't keep up with the problems. She said there are 3 motors on pellet stoves, that they have to be cleaned after every bag of pellets to operate correctly and they are as high maintenance as a wood stove if not worse.

I did see a Hearthstone woodstove model that I had never seen before. They now make a Tribute stove. It looks exactly like the Heritage, just smaller. It's perfect for my small house and won't heat me out of the room. Now if I could just afford to buy it...

    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 6:48PM
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Hey, my stove is a Natural Fire by the "Earth Stove" company. Any information on it?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2005 at 8:27PM
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I didn't think that Earth Stove was in business anymore, but then I see that it got bought out by Lennox.

A quick Google on "Natural fire" + "Earth stove", showed some posts from some people having trouble with these pellet stoves and others trying to dump them or find parts for their broken one. I'm not surprised. It looks like they haven't been manufactured for a long time. You should have a metal tag on the back of the stove that will give a manufactured date and clearances.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2005 at 10:39PM
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I just purchase a Harmon coal/wood burning stove(TLC2000) I like the coal because of less work than the wood burning part of it. The only problem is that I live in South Jersey and a ton cost $200. The heat it puts out is far more than pellet stove, go to there web site and do a comparison between the two.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2005 at 2:55PM
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Xandra, thanks for the information; I bought my stove used from a dealer, and have been using it for a while. Love it. Too bad they aren't making and supporting them anymore! No clinkers, cinders, noise.....just great heat. Oh well.....if it goes south, I'll have to come up with something else. Thanks again for the information.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2005 at 6:29PM
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We are now just deciding on getting a soapstone stove. DH had wanted wood burning for the longest time till he read the pamphlet...now he is thinking gas stove (or propane in our case).

Now if we could just find a soapstone stove that is see-through so you can view the fire from either room/side....

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 1:26PM
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FWIW, we are on our fourth season with a QuadraFire 1200i insert. It has been reliable, burns great, has superior design to most pellets stoves (Whitfield, Breckwell, etc.)in spite of being a top auger. It is simply engineered better. For any pellet stove, if quality components are used in a good design, it should work well and last. You get what you pay for.
That said, a pellet stove is essentially a wood furnace and has the complexity of a furnace, with many more mechanical and electrical parts than a woodstove. They are super efficient, but that comes at the price of complexity and noise. Our stove isn't super noisy, one can have a normal conversation with it going. But, when we want a quiet night, we fire up the small Jotul in the kitchen and let it heat the house if possible, because it makes no noise.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2005 at 1:25PM
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Okay, someone mentioned that there is a small smell of wood with the pellet stove and now you've got me worried. I have asthma that is triggered by the byproducts of combustion. I can't have a natural gas cooking stove (they don't vent outside) and have had to ask the innkeeper to turn off the pilot light in gas fireplaces because of the irritation the fumes caused. Wood smoke is REALLY bad.

So can you smell anything inside the house when running a top-of-the-line pellet stove insert? We are buying a house with a natural fireplace and it just has gotta go. I figured a pellet stove would give us heat (the natural gas furnace is 27 years old) and keep my 89 year-old Father-in-law and me toasty without having to overheat the house.

If there is a tinge of smoke, the whole plan is out. Hey, I'd pay extra so that there is no smell OUTSIDE, either.

What have you experienced?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 10:01PM
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Nancy, if you are that hypersensitive to allergens in the air, then wood/pellet is probably not for you.

Don't forget, you have to load pellets, empty ash, etcetera.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 10:06PM
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Yes, you can smell it.
Ditch the pellet stove idea.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 11:32PM
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Switch, no problems with dust, just combustion. Fumes, vaporized matter like candle wax and other vaporized petroleum products.

Xandra, I was afraid of that. I guess I have to be happy I don't have to spend $3500 on that Harmon you'd talked me into. Do you have any ideas for efficient inserts that do not smell? I have stayed at a B and B or two where I could run the gas fireplace. It just was the pilot on traditional gas logs that gave me trouble. I know better than to ever expect those unvented "ventless" fires to not be irritating. But the inserts that are designed to heat with natural gas, should they totally vent outdoors? Obviously this would not be a good source of low-cost daily warmth, but might be okay for feeling toasty on a cold evening in the family room. Hey - maybe I could get a really good deal on a natural gas insert later this winter!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 11:59AM
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Given your situation your only option is a direct-vent gas stove or fireplace.

Ventless advocates try to scare people by making them believe that all the heat goes outside instead of the living space. That is just NOT true. You will get plenty of heat from a DV gas stove or fireplace, just not the exhaust in your lungs.

I used to heat my home entirely with a Harman freestanding DV gas stove and loved every minute of it. Just remember that the first couple of times you fire it up, you need to have it on low and open all the doors and windows. (you probably should not be there at all) ALL new stoves and fireplaces need to have the paint cured and they stink and may give off a bit of haze in the home. Once it is fully cured, you will not have that concern any longer.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 1:13PM
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No one mentioned the Harman rice coal stove I own, the DVC 500. It's like a pellet stove but puts out much more BTU's. 7 to 75,000 Go to Harmanstoves.com and check it out. It will not self start, it's best for firing up and running low on the cold / warm days, but come winter it will reall put out the heat. You can buy the coal in bags just like pellets. It takes 1.7 tons of pellets to equal the BTU's of one ton of coal. The only work part is empting the ash bucket every 2 to 4 days.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 7:24AM
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We just installed our pellet stove, and lit it for the first time last night. I'm glad others have mentioned the slight smoke smell, because I detected a little, and thought I might not have sealed the vent pipe properly. There is no visible smoke at all, so hopefully all is well.

We try to be very budget-conscious and opted for a basic Harman P38. After our first evening running it, we are VERY pleased. The heat from a pellet stove is not the same as that cozy radiant heat you get from a wood stove, and you get some noise from the fans, but more important to us were the efficency and convenience of pellets. Don't know what else to say; it certainly is nice to NOT hear the oil-fired boiler kick on!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 9:03AM
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Go Uncle Dave Go!!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 9:37AM
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We recently installed a St Croix Prescott pellet stove in our house. We looked at wood stoves and other various options but the pellet stove fit our needs the best, plus the pellet fuel is easier to deal with imo.
The poster who said that a quality pellet stove will run trouble free . A high quality pellet stove is going to cost a few bucks, but well worth it in the long run.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 7:45PM
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You should have read this entire forum first before buying.
I believe that the poster eric01 purchased one of those exact stoves last year and has hated every minute of it.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 8:02PM
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Xandra yeah, sorry to hear eric01 had problems with his St Croix. Ours runs absolutely awesome with no problems at all. :-D
We are more than happy with this stove. It's like anything. There are bound to be some lemons in the bunch but thanfully ours is not one of them. We've done nothing special other than keeping it clean as outlined in the instructions.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 8:29AM
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I have the Harman P68 and have been pleased so far. It definitely is a different heat than a wood stove. I prefer the wood stove but it doesn't distribute heat like the pellet stove. I still have the woodstove in the central chimney and the pellet stove is direct vented on an outside wall. Its nice to have both. I don't have much wood but enough for power failures. I don't really notice a wood smoke smell anymore. I had to reseal the pipe joints where they were not sealed well by the installer.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 5:11PM
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I installed the stove myself and "caulked" each connection with RTV sealant. We get no smoke smell at all when the stove starts up or is running. I am beginning to suspect that some installations just screw the exhaust pipe to the exhaust collar without sealing it. This will possibly lead to leakage as this is a pressurized exhaust. If one finds this true, the fix is fairly simple. Remove the exhaust and put a rim of high -temp rtv sealant around the collar. Then push the flue pipe onto the collar and screw or clamp it down. Let the rtv cure for 24 hrs. then it should be ok to run.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 11:49PM
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Hope you got your pellet stove! I just installed a Mt Vernon 60,000 btu pellet stove and so far I am very pleased. With the outside temperature 20 degrees, I am able to keep a 4100 sf home warm. Not all of the space is finished. Air is circulated using the fan on the furnace in the continuous run mode. The stove is located in the unfinished basement, the air moves wonderfully through out the home. It is certainly better than cutting, splitting, stacking, and moving fire wood. The only possible issue is the supply and demand for pellets. Will the cost of pellets go up? Probably. If that is a concern, the Mt Vernon Stove also burns corn. Which is approximately $2.50 a bushel! Not bad. Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 5:05PM
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Well this has been a good thread to read. I am in the process of finishing my basement and am looking at the pellet/corn units. My problem is I am looking for a see-through or 3 sided penninsula unit I can install into a half wall between my family & game rooms. Anyone seen or know of a pellet/corn unit like this?


    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 12:30PM
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If you live where corn is available then get a combo unit. As many pellet only stove owners are finding out now, pellets are just not available for sale(unless you want to spend $350 and up per ton on ebay). Not much good spending $2500 and up on a heating device you can't get fuel for.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 2:00PM
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What you want does not exist.

The best you can get is a bay window pellet stove.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 5:59PM
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Thanks for the info Xanndra. I guess I'll have to fiqure something else out.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 2:49PM
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Have you given any thought to using a wheat/rye/corn-fired system?

The cartel that controls world grain markets have kept the pices of those grains low for many years - and show every probability of continuing to do so.


Have a great season and the rest of the year.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 3:43PM
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Corn is plentiful even here in the Boston suburbs, but at approx. 5.50 per 50lb bag it sure isn't a bargain but still will heat our home for less than the cost of our oil.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 6:14PM
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well, zeta, barely, at 7,000btu's/lb that 50 lb bag of corn contains 350,000 btu's; so roughly 20 lbs of corn will equal one gallon of fuel oil and the price comparison is thus: (20 lbs corn =145,000btu and $2.20) and (1 gallon of fuel oil =145,000btu and $2.45) so if you consider the efficiencies that is where you would make the biggest difference, also consider the work involved vs. using an oil furnace.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 7:29PM
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Thanks for the equations Berlin. We've so far saved $100 per month using this stove over the oil furnace so for us it's worth it. 7 minutes a day to clean out then fill the hopper. :-D
Stay warm folks!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 6:49AM
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I'm considering (heavily) a Harman Accentra pellet insert. $ 3500 isn't cheap but it sounds like it's worth it.
Anyone know how easy or difficult it is to install in a brick fireplace? Any tips out there?

Any info would be great.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 4:16PM
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Our Accentra is installed in a stone fireplace and your's being brick won't be any different. Just make sure you have the width and the depth to accommodate the dimensions of the stove itself. The install is very straightforward if you follow the directions. There were two difficult parts to our install. First was getting a 3" hole up through the existing damper. Had to use a reciprocating saw to enlarge the damper opening Even after taking out the damper plate. The other issue is the shear weight of the stove. It's a real beast to lift off the floor and into the fireplace opening. One other piece of advice is that I would make sure that you can get an adequate supply of pellets for the remainder of the winter. These are pretty much non-existent right now here in the northeast. No sense spending big money when you can't get fuel to burn.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2005 at 9:10AM
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Berlin -
Actually corn is more like 8,000 to 8,500 btu per pound. it is very similar to wood pellets.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 7:22PM
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tsco29, actually the btu content of corn is about 7,000btu/lb. whoever gave you those numbers is wrong.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 9:56PM
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Actually, the 8000-8500 Btu/lb of shelled corn figure is the measurement for the "dry matter" when you factor in the 15% moisture content, the yield drops to about the 7000 Btu range. Hope this explains it a little better.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 2:18PM
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Everyone, this has been an education in pellet stoves. I am currently heating a 24X40 house in southern NH with coal using an Efel 420 stove. Depending on the winter's severity, I burn somewhere between 2-3 tons of anthracite pea coal.

The stove is about 30 years old and has had many of its internal, replaceable parts swapped out at one time or another, however now it seems that over its lifetime, many of the main firebox components are warped and its now time to replace it.

Given that I have gotten very used to the evenness of burning coal, I am not enamored with the ash and the destructive nature of the burning byproducts. My wife is the one who gets the coal (about 40lb/day) and I am the one who hauls the ash out for the trashman to collect.

A comment was made about power failures. I certainly understand the problem, we had a 3-day outage several years ago and our house was warm throughout the ordeal. Others were not so lucky, some houses' heating systems froze and caused major headaches.

So, here's the question...

If you were buying a pellet stove, whose would you consider at the top of the list and why?

One more thing...

The stove will run 24X7 from mid-November to mid-April. Anyone see any problems with attempting to use a pellet stove in this manner?


    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 3:17PM
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What ever you get it will be some work. If a stove costs 3500 installed and you save 100 bucks a month for 5 months it will pay for itself in 7 years. if you get 10 percent on the 3500 invested you would have probably made about 500 a year anyway with the rule of 72. You are right you will not have the stove but you will have 7000

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 9:27PM
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Sorry you will be up 3500,

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 10:24PM
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I used a Harman P68 pellet stove to heat my entire home last year. Its about 2,600 sq ft. It heated the main house and upstairs easily. The family room we added on is 46 feet from the stove and has 11' ceilings. When its cold we use the oil to warm it up at night then turn it off when we go to bed. I used very little oil. I still heat hot water with the boiler. We run are stove 24/7 with no problems. Its designed for that. The harman has a large ash pan and you can burn about a ton before you have to empty it. I would think you could heat your whole house with the stove depending on the layout. I used about 4.5 tons last year. I bought 5 tons this year at $219.00 a ton. I have to pay a delivery charge but don't have the bill yet. Probably end up being around $235 with delivery. My oil dealer said I use about 1,100 gallons a year. some is used for the hot water but not much i have found. I figure it costs me about $1,200 less a year to heat with the pellets pepending on the price of oil. I figure the stove will pay for its self in 2-3 years. There are other benefits. Not using foreign oil, non polluting, burns a waste product etc that I like. the heat is very comfortable and does not seem to dry out the house like a wood stove. I wish the pellets were around 200 a ton but demand has increased them. Hopefully they won't go higher.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 8:37AM
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Does anyone have an feedback they can give on the time it takes a pellet stove to die down versus the time it takes a wood stove? The concern is how long it would take for either type to be safe to leave unattended.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 5:06PM
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We leave the house on a regular basis and leave the woodstove running. Once it reaches temp we damp it down and have no problems. We would be crazy to let the stove go out before leaving or going to bed. Especially on days like today when it's currently 16 degrees outside. After Thanksgiving we usually have the fire going 24/7 until late April.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2008 at 7:38AM
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My pellet stove will go thru a 20 minute cycle to shut down completely although the flame dies after about 5-10 minutes usually. That said, my pellet stove is on a thermostat, we leave it on auto pilot-when it reaches the set temperature it shuts down and relights itself when it gets to the too cold for the thermostat. We leave the house and go to bed while its running without a second thought.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2008 at 10:13PM
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I lived with both, woodstoves take it hands down for me. I enjoy the time spent outdoors working in the woods. I am fairly young at 33 and it gives me a great excuse to take my 4 year old out in the woods. I also like the fact that my heating only costs me $20 plus gas for saws and my truck a year.

I also feel that the radiant heat from a stove tops all other types of heat. I am sold on radiant, our secondary (primary for code purposes) heat source is hydronic radiators. Even though it heats the whole very well, it also brings the family together to gather round it after coming in from the cold. While you get some radiant from a pellet stove, most comes from the blower.

We, like christopherh, burn 24/7. Right now I am rushing to get our new stove installed. We just finished building our first house as owner/builders. Well, I should say we just moved in as we are far from finished. I just need to grout the hearth and then bring in the Hearthstone Phoenix. I cannot wait to try out soapstone!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 1:16AM
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Yes, there is something about being out in the woodpile splitting. Your cares just fade away. You can get a lot of stress out of your system. There's the feeling of not being dependent on someone else for a change.(Will I have enough pellets? Will there be another shortage?) I'll go out to the woodpile to work and I find it really helps this 60 year old body. I'll burn wood until I can no longer carry it.

When you damp the fire down you can get this laaazy flame in the woodstove. And when the secondary burn kicks in you can get blue tipped flames. Soooo relaxing!

And you're right about radiant heat vs blower heat. The radiant heat is indeed warmer. I had a blower on my woodstove in a previous house but never used it. The radiant heat is nicer. A blower warms the air, while radiant heat warms the furniture, the floor, the walls, etc.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 7:38AM
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Have had our Harman Advance Pellet stove since October 2005.

Because we've experienced smoke in the hopper, as well as pellets continuing to feed through the burn pot without burning, then catching fire in the ash box, will not even begin to consider leaving the stove on unattended, let alone while we're asleep.

I am meticulous about the keeping the unit clean, vacuuming it and emptying ash a couple of times a week, and having it cleaned professionally after each "burn" season. Our service tech even complimented me on how clean I keep the unit. We go thru approx. 1-1/4 tons per burn season. At the end of last season, smoke came thru the hopper. We then had the unit cleaned and b/c it was the end of the season, didn't use it again.

Just turned it on for the first time this season, a couple of nights ago, and we're getting a strong burning wood smell (no visible smoke), which we've never experienced before. I thoroughly vacuumed all vents, and tried it again yesterday, the strong burnt wood smell persists. Any suggestions re: what could be causing this? Any solutions? Thanks!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 1:30PM
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Wow, that sounds like a lot of work! I like my woodstove. No moving parts, no power needed to operate, no big chances of fire in the ashpan, etc. I just put in some wood, close the door and it works.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 7:43AM
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I have an Accentra Harmon pellet stove for a few years. It is important to keep them clean . I have noticed that issue can arise if they are not cleaned and maintained. Most pellet bags a a large amount of saw dust in the bottom of the bag so I "sift" my pellets in a sifter that I made. I am having a creosote issue on the front of my stove door .Not sure if its the brand of pellets or not any help?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 2:19PM
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