Stoves range in pricing due in large part to their “smartness” and their heat exchanger. More expensive stoves will almost always have options like a built in thermostat that cycles your burning on when it’s needed and lowering the flame when your room is at or near an appropriate temperature. As technology becomes cheaper, however, you’ll see this technology become more and more affordable.
In reality, the biggest difference in inexpensive stoves and more expensive stoves is the heat exchanger. A better heat exchanger captures more heat from the same burn chamber to be pumped into your home. This means less pellets burned every year and less maintenance overall. There are a lot of good manufacturers out there, but Harmon and Quadra-Fire are some mainstays you can’t go wrong with.
Stove maintenance will varying due to the nature of stove types, pellets used, and settings. The manufacturer’s recommendation is to be followed, but a stove that is running inefficiently will need to be maintained more often with at the very least a good cleaning. This is in order keep the efficiency of the stove from dropping further. Yearly checks in spring and before fall are recommended to ensure a happy heating season. You absolutely don’t want any part of the nightmare that is to be trying to schedule an HVAC specialist when the weather turns.
Anecdotally, with a high quality softwood pellet and their stove tuned in, we’ve had customers who have gone an entire season without emptying their ash pans. I don’t necessarily recommend deviating from cleaning at least once a month, but a quality pellet and a complete burn do wonders for your stove. You can check out the pellet they used here.
The most common question we get from new users is how much they will need. This is not a very easy question to answer because there are so many variables to what it takes to heat your home. These include how tight your home is, how many square feet you are heating, the height of your ceilings, the type of pellet you’re using, and the quality of your stove’s heat exchanger. With so many variables, it is best to talk to your stove shop about how many they believe you should stock up on. A rule of thumb here in Northern Michigan is that a 1500sqft home would need anywhere from 2.5 tons of pellets in a warm winter to around 4 tons in a cold or long one. These numbers are very rough, but they are a good start for you to see what your needs might be during your first winter. While we sell pellets year round, many big box stores stop getting pellets in March. So that means buying a few bags at the end of the heating season isn’t nearly as much fun as having too many coming into spring. Remember, these pellets don’t go bad so long as you keep them dry. And if you do get them wet, well, they make a great mulch for your garden. So it’s always better to stock up with more than you need than it is to run out.
This is more along the lines of a matter of style.
These pellets are typically firmer and have fly ash. They are typically at a lower price point due to popularity of hardwoods in manufacturing leading to an abundance of dust. These pellets are easiest to find in Michigan and locally sourced pellets are of high quality due to our low mineral content in Michigan soil.
These pellets typically have half the ash content of hardwood pellets and contain no fly ash. That means less cleaning of your stove. They also burn hotter with more BTUs per pound than hardwood pellets when combusted at pellet stove temperatures. While less clean up is a big plus, their cost is usually a bit higher and the availability of a quality softwood pellet in Michigan is more sparse. The reason is that most softwoods native to Michigan make terrible pellets.
The short answer is yes no matter whatever else you may hear. For more info, read our article here.
Wood pellets are an incredibly affordable heating solution for you home. They offer a great mix of low price, safe use, personal control, and an environmentally friendly use that makes people incredibly happy with their stove purchase. Because wood pellets are dried sawdust, they burn hot and clean without the bug-filled mess of using cord wood. On the note of environmentally friendly, wood pellets are made of what was once waste material in manufacturing. This means that even less of a harvested tree is lost to waste. And remember, that tree has spent a lifetime removing carbon from the atmosphere.