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Choosing a pellet stove

Posted by tompowers535 (My Page) on
Fri, Dec 2, 05 at 13:16

Hi,
I'm a newbie to this forum and would like some help choosing a free standing pellet stove. I am actually shopping for next year so availability is not an issue. I am more concerned with reliabilty, availability of replacement parts, BTU output, warranty, etc...

It looks like there are a lot or Harmans out there and although there seems to be good comments about them, it does seem that there are some customer service issues and warranty service issues.

I was told that top feeders are better because the flame is less likely to "back up" into the auger assembly which makes some sense to me.

I am not sure of the advatages or disadvantages of having air intake from the room or getting it from outside. I thought I had seen somewhere that it affected the flame and BTU output.

I have been starting to look and have seen Harman, Quadrafire, and Enviro. The Enviro was a top loader and seemed to be good but I haven't seen much talk about them.

I am located in Massachusetts and need to heat a moderate sized house. I would appreciate any input you could give me.

Sorry for all of the questions but I just want to make an informed decision. Thank you.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

Hey Tom
I researched for about 6 months before we bought our St Croix Prescott. We chose this particular stove because it is authorized by the manufacturer to burn a pellet/corn mix. While many people who own other brands do mix corn, I'd be wary of doing such with a stove that isn't specifically designed for it. Corn generally burns hotter and costs less, although here in MA it runs a close 2nd to pellets in cost, probably because it's cleaned and bagged.
We've been up and running with this stove for about a month with no problems at all. It ran great right out of the box with no fiddling. I called the MFG. of our stove twice to ask some questions and they were very helpful and easy to contact by telephone. (From what I hear, not so with some stove MFG's)
There are many good pellet stove manufacturers out there. Here's just a few links to some.

http://www.englanderstoves.com/
http://www.lennoxhearthproducts.com/
http://www.breckwell.com/pellet.htm
http://www.harmanstoves.com/
http://www.eventempinc.com/stcroix/stoves/stoves.html

Here are some other good pellet stove forums:
http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pelletstove/
This is our free standing st croix:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

"I was told that top feeders are better because the flame is less likely to "back up" into the auger assembly which makes some sense to me."

Who told you this? This "back-burn" actually occurred on both the top-feed and the bottom-feed pellet stoves in the very early days that they were distributed. The myth that this still occurrs in bottom-feed stoves is just that--a myth and a lie.

Harman makes only bottom-feed stoves. All others make top-feed. If you have read all the other posts on pellet stoves, you will see a pattern that Harmans need much less maintenace and have much less problems than the rest, plus they will burn absolutely any grade pellets on the market. The rest cannot do that. It is all in the design.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

Thanks for your input. Things are getting more confusing. Hearth.com seems to have quite a few bad reviews on Harman.I am not sure which way to go now. I can't seem to find any reviews on Enviro or Lopi Pellet stoves. Does anybody have experience with these ?


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

I looked on hearth.com and couldn't find the bad reviews you were talking about. The ones I did read there seemed to be some concerns obout the dealers though, not the actual quality of the unit.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

Hi!I own a Pelpro freestanding pellet stove by Dansons/CCI and just love it!! I installed it last Nov 04,it runs 24/7,have not had any problems with it at all.This stove is eazy to clean(about 20 min once a week)Heats my entire 3500sf home(open floor plan)Dansons customer service is the best!Always there to help with your questions!I would never buy a Harman just for that reason!Believe me,Iknow!!Pelpro is a great stove for the the money.Mine has the optional 100# hopper so it can hold up to 140# of pellets.You can also mix corn in with your pellets!!Check out their website!

Here is a link that might be useful: dansons


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RE: Hearth.com Harman reviews

Here are a few of them but believe me they are there. I know you are a former Harman dealer and love Harman stoves. I am not trying to discredit them, I am just trying to get unbiased opinions on all stoves. Thanks for your viewpoint.

These are pasted from Hearth.com web site:

Satisfaction with unit=4-not really pleased
Satisfaction with dealer=4-not really pleased
Satisfaction with manufacturer=4-not really pleased

Other Information about the Home and Stove

Room Size (Square feet):320 House Size: 1800
Bought in 2005 , Price Paid: $1949
Location : Bend , OR , USA - Email of Reviewer: phil865@yahoo.com
Purchased from: Fireplace Retail Store - Fireside Spa & Stove
Likes: Looks nice.
Dislikes: Very difficult to light. Noisy. Strong smell of wood smoke.
Comments: Door glass broke for no apparent reason after only two weeks use. Glass on wood burning stove still good after 15 years.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

For some reason the others didn't paste in last message. Here are a few more.

Other Information about the Home and Stove

Room Size (Square feet):400 House Size: 3000
Bought in 1995 , Price Paid: $2300.00
Location : , , - Email of Reviewer:
Purchased from: Fireplace Retail Store - williams pools
Likes: clean
Dislikes: up keep expensive
Comments: Poor heat would not buy again. poor heat for dollar spent- mfg did not respond when called about problem.

Other Information about the Home and Stove

Room Size (Square feet): House Size: 2400
Bought in 2000 , Price Paid: $$2390
Location : North Andover , Ma , USA - Email of Reviewer: cocojema@juno.com
Purchased from: Fireplace Retail Store - Home & Hearth Inc.
Likes: Nice stove, it heats the whole house. The sensor probe keeps the heat even and it overrides the gas forced hot water system by 2 degrees. our stove is located in a corner area of our home that is exposed to two floors and keeps the whole house comfortable.
Dislikes: Factory needs better quailty control; a loose wire in the distribution blower harness connector required a replacement blower and a circuit board before it was discovered.
Comments: The dealer came right out and serviced the defective stove, but a better quailty control system at the factory could prevent situations such as this. Since this is a new stove, I'll reserve the satisfaction rating for a later date


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

Xandra do the search by pellet stove instead of just viewing the most recent reviews and you will see many negative reviews of Harman stoves... If I wanted a harman it wouldn't stop me from buying one. Imo now that this type of stove has evolved a couple of decades, all of the major brand mfg's have greatly improved the quality of them.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

My 2 cents worth, installed a harman accentra 11/04. Heats 2700 square feet ( open loor plan ), runs 24/7. I spent 3 months researching all the stoves out there and decided on the harman due to quality and appearence. We have been more than satisfied with the heat and lack of day to day upkeep. I clean it once a month and don't bother with it other than to add fuel. We have had the dealer out to do the annual cleaning and check up for $99. The only repair issue was a switch that was only causing a problem when set to full speed. The dealer insisted on coming out right away and replaced the entire circuit board. A good dealer is worth there weight in gold.

As with any major purchase there will be some people who will never be happy. I would determine what you want to spend and more importantly how much time you want to spend on cleaning, and buy what best fits your needs. I wanted the least amount of effort to get the biggest return in heat.

Good luck in whatever you decide on,

Dana


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

The person that left that bad comment on harmon probably does not know how to turn their tv on yet and the clocks are all flashing 12:00 in the house.

As far as lighting it goes is a no brainer a cup of pellets a TBS of gel mix it up throw a light to it and goto bed it's that easy..

The smoke smell is usually due to not sealing the pipe joints properly and if they find the stove hard to light they would never be able to seal the joints.

As far as the glass goes when you get the stove the glass is not installed you have to install it and there ar 4 tabs to tighten on the glass. You do not want to snug them too much or the glass will crack there is only like 4 inches of contact area on the tabs and it can be tricky to get it right. I found that the best way is to push the tabs with your finger then snug them up. There is a gasket that it snugs against and you can see if you have it tight eneough by looking through the glass at the gasket it will have a compressed look when you look at it.

The stove could be quieter auger motor can be noisy especially this year Harman changed auger motor brands and went to a cheaper motor. I talked to a Harman Repair Tech and got this info he also said that he has seen quality slip this year due to the demand but auger motors are the biggest issue. You have to remember also that a pellet stove has 3 motors distribution/auger/combustion verses a wood stove that just has a distribution motor.

I bought my P38 last year and have had no issues at all and is pretty quiet. It is a dream machine vs my wood stove. I was also very fussy about everything and installed it myself.

My Dad bought one this year and his auger motor was a little noisy. He called the dealer and they installed a new motor after 2 weeks and it is quieter now but still not as quiet as the older auger motors due to the change in manufactures.

I also noticed that the base plate on my stove was near perfect as far as being square. When my dad got his I checked the stove over and found that the base was a touch off on one corner. It was not visible unless you were looking for it. Looks like when they stamped the steel it was not hot enough or there was not enough pressure to form the steel perfectly. A minor imperfection but it was there.

As far as the overall design of the stove it kills the competition rugged where it needs to be, easy to clean, and functions very well due to the bottom feed design. A top feed stove can not compare to a bottom feed stove. The bottom feed is self cleaning just keeps pushing the ash out of the burn pot. You can let it run for weeks at a time never goes out. I drag the ash off the burn pot every day just because I dont like to look at it. The stove only takes 10 mins to clean and I like to do mine every week just to keep ahead of it. I also use outside air and have seen a difference going to outside air. The glass stays cleaner and is supposed to increase efficiency 2% due to cold air retaining more oxygen have no way to test this but makes sense...


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

Rayers2:
Thanks for your response. Those examples I posted were just a random sampling. There are many more which may/may not be representative of what service issues a Harman has. I was just trying to show a few examples of the web site.

I think the part that worries me the most is the warranty service for them. I am having enough trouble picking out a stove now I have to worry about the reputation of the dealer. I think it is very unfortunate that you are "stuck" (according to what I have read in this forum)with the person who sold you the stove because "they are the ones that profited from the sale so they are the ones that have to service your stove". What happens if they go out of business, are non-responsive,unqualified, uncaring, etc.....? Then do you call the factory ? I am just worried. Here is an example that happened to me with a hot water boiler.

My mom couldn't get heat in her house from her boiler (5 years old), which had just had a new block put in it 1.5 years ago. The local dealer came out and told her she needed a new boiler and that it would cost her over $3,000. I quess this is what they do to elderly people that live alone.

Anyway, I got involved and called the dealer and they wouldn't call the factory to help her resolve it. That was too much work and they wouldn't make enough money on that way. I called the factory directly (didn't get hung up on), was given the area factory reps phone number for me to call. I called him, he was out the next day, made arrangements for me to get a free replacement boiler and I installed it myself.

This is what I thought would happen with owning a Harman but I think it may be different unless I am reading the service issue posts wrong in this forum.

I would hate to think that a large manufacturer like Harman would stake their reputation on the aptitude and attitude of their local dealer. Is their some sort of recourse if the dealer doesn't follow through with their end of the bargain or just plain doesn't care or are you on your own ?

It seems that it is easier to resolve problems with most other things you buy (TV, car, computer, etc..). Call the dealer - no response - call the manufacturer - done. Oh, yes, of coarse we have issues with other products as well and I am not trying to compare apples to oranges but it jus doesn't seem right that if I buy a Harman from the local dealer here in Dartmouth, MA that I am stuck with him to service it. He may be a great dealer and will stay in business forever - I have no idea. I don't know him.

Maybe I am reading all of these posts wrong????


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

I wouldn't worry about the warranty. It would be idiotic for them not to honor the warranty just because the original dealer is not in business or something. What most people don't know, is that dealers get paid from the factory to honor the warranties. The warranties are NOT from the dealers. So, it really is a win-win situation for the dealer. But---in the busy season (September-February)some dealers may try to get out of doing this as they are probably losing money by not being on other more lucrative jobs. Should this be the case, then it should be reported directly to the factory (i.e. go over their heads).

I would say that if you have real concerns about the warranty issue to e-mail Harman directly and ask them.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

I agree with you on the dealer thing. I was questioning that in my area also but was told by some sources that the dealer was a good egg. So I made the move hopefully my stove will never break. The problem that my dad had took 2 weeks to fix but the tech said that he used the last motor a day before my dads call. If my dealer were to stiff me I would be on the phone to harman in a heartbeat. If they would not work with me to get the issue resolved an attorney would. I would check with people in your area that have purcased from that dealer and if you don't know anyone ask for refferences if they won't give you any then I would not deal with them. The chances of you having an issue with a harman are slim and you would probably never have to deal with the dealer but it would be wise to check him out just in case. Harman still makes the best pellet stove and have been around for a long time. I have seen posts where people have bought other pellet stoves and they go out of business and parts are no where to be found. Also the other stoves that I have looked at were sort of cheap in design for instance the firepot. All other stoves that I looked at were steel vs cast on the harman. I am weary of the top feed stoves due to all the posts that I have read on flameouts and unburned pellets being knocked out of the burnpot when the pellets drop into the pot. The bottom feeder will burn any grade pellet so if you get 200.00 worth of pellets and the grade is off par you can still burn them vs eating the 200.00. What we need out there is another quality bottom feed stove manufacturer to compete with harman...


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

There was another good bottom-feed pellet stove called the PelletMaster. (I used to sell those too). It was unique as it had a rotating burn pot which was self-cleaning. The company went out of business in late 1998, I believe. I had bought a bunch of their remaining stock & sold them very inexpensively to some very happy & grateful customers. (I made sure that there was a stock of replacement parts available to customers before I sold them.) As far as I know, this was the last bottom-feed competitor.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

There is a lot of good pellet stoves out there except englanderstoves got one bad news we got one and bill next door his did not have all the gasket installed almost killed him,ours is falling apart noise to wake the dead,Tryed to get a hold of Tec support that did not work they would not help at all finaly got a hold of the main tec he was to call me to walk thru the stove he never called
called the dealer they could not get them to do anything good luck the stove is only 3 month old buyer beware


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

Does anyone have info on the Quadra Fire Stove.
Likes dislikes, value
We have a good dealer in our area and this is the lowest cost stove.

thanks
Bill


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

The austroflamm Wega was a really bad investment. No parts now and the company flew the coop after making promises to remain committed to the US market. So much for the Austrian version of commitment.

If there are parts out there anywhere I'ld like to have a shot at stocking up since the stove will undoubtably last for many many years but will require the periodic repairs common to anything mechanical or electrical.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

If anyone wants any stove parts, the only place I know to get them is www.stovepartsunlimited.com

I don't know if the general public can order directly. Any stove dealer or chimney sweep can order something from them IF the part is available. However, there isn't much, if any, money to be made on some parts so many dealers and sweeps won't even bother looking.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

We spent about a year researching pellet stoves for our 1,666-sf home. We finally decided on a Harman p38. It does everything we ask of it. It's a relatively inexpensive no-frills stove, but what eventually sold us was the bottom-feed design. The only complaints we have are that it's a bit noisy, and it's sometimes tricky to light; but, overall, we're quite pleased. It heats the entire house with no trouble at all, and we rarely turn the feed rate above 3.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

Recently bought a Breckwell Vermont. Been running 24/7 for a month. This unit was reasonably priced compared to Harmon and others. No problems. Seems to work well, thermostat control has been a good investment. Cleaning the window is a daily chore as well as keeping after ash buildup around the firebox, but it doesn't take more than about 10 minutes per day. Small ash bin on this unit, should be emptied weekly.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

We bought our stove 2 years ago. We only have 3 "major brand" dealers in our area: Quadrafire, Harman, and Whitfield. They all seems to have plenty of good, as well as quite a few negative postings about them if you search on google or hearth.com.

I ended up choosing Quadra Fire because it's fully automatic, hands-free operation. It runs on a thermostat only, and I use a digital programmable stat. It turns itself on and turns itself off as needed, just like our heat pumps. Of course, you do have to clean it once a day....geesh, if they ever figured out a self-cleaning pellet stove, that would be the one to buy!

Anyway, I paid $1695 for the "small" pellet stove by Quadra Fire. It's called the Santa Fe, and it's around 33K btu I think. I did have a control board go out on it after 1 year, but it was a simple unplug/plug the new one in swap, and it was replaced for free under warranty with a redesigned one. Other than that, it's great.

I have a friend that has a Whitfield stove that is about 6 or 7 years old, and he is happy with it, no problems. Another friend has an Englander pellet stove from Lowes, and he is satisfied with it.


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

Are there any publicly traded stocks for pellet fuel manufactuers in the US?


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove - Generator

Don't forget to buy a small portable generator.
If the power goes out, so does the stove.

Leave it outside (or the CO will kill you) and run an extension cord to the stove.

Make sure it has enough wattage to run the starter if it is a self starter. Then add in about 350 watts for the auger and the fan.

When it does, the stove 'backs up' and dumps a LOT of smoke into the room.
Nothing that a day or 2 later you could smell but kind of scary when it happended.

I have a 7.5 KW (big one) generator and the power went out this weekend for 2.5 days thanks to a snow storm and I would have frozen otherwise.


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no heat

I have a Dansons PelPro 120. Recently it just stopped supplying heat. I had not made any recent adjustments so that's not the problem. I had it cleaned out, replaced the convection and combustion fans, brushed the liner and put on a door gasket with no luck at all.
HELP!


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RE: Choosing a pellet stove

I'm back! I posted when I got my St Croix Prescott in 2005. It's now 2013 and my stove is still running strong. It runs 24/7 thru the heating season, never breaks. I love this stove. Do your research and don't drink the Koolaid. There is NO one stove that is the best there are many.


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