Pellets are dense little(1" x 1/4") blocks made from compressed sawdust and sawmill remnants. Moisture is removed from sawdust as it is compressed allowing pellets to burn hotter and cleaner than even well seasoned firewood. Bags of pellets are readily available in Connecticut.
Pellets are purchased by the bag(40lb) or by the ton(50 bags) and stored in a dry place until they are needed.
The popularity of pellet stoves has meant that not all pellets are made from forestry byproducts. Trees may be ground up when demand is high, possibly leading to price fluctuations and scarcity of your favorite pellet brands.
Pellet Stoves operate much like a blacksmith forge, meaning air is blown into a fire to increase the fires intensity. Forced air combined with the dense dry pellets make for an extra hot, clean burning fire. Exhaust gases are expelled via chimney draft with the help of an exhaust fan. Many stoves have an additional fan or reroute some intake air to blow heated air into the living space, convection heat.
Every pellet stove has a hopper for holding ready to burn pellets . Hoppers vary in size, and generally hold 1 to 3 bags worth of pellets. Size matters....the bigger the hopper, the longer the stove will operate automatically.
Augers are used to feed pellets from the hopper to a burn pot. Auger systems are used to ensure that the stored pellets in the hopper never come in contact with the burn pot. Pellet stoves are available with either top fed or bottom fed auger systems. Top fed augers drop pellets into the burn pot and bottom fed augers push pellets into the burn pot. Bottom fed stoves clear away ashes as the pellets are pushed onto the combustion chamber. Top fed stoves are generally less expensive, however, pellets can occasionally fall onto a errant pile of ash build up, making the fire burn less efficiently.
All of the pellet stoves we sell and install are equipped with a self ignition feature. Self ignition units operate like an electric cooktop or car cigarette lighter. It takes a few minutes for the pellets to catch fire and get up to operating temperature, then the igniter will turn off automatically.
Pellet stoves have different control systems depending on the model of the stove. Auger speed and flow of intake air are controlled to achieve desired temperature and efficiency. Temperature and comfort settings can be controlled by simple knobs and buttons, stove mounted control panels , LCD control panels, or wall thermostats. Most pellet stoves can operate automatically until the hopper runs out or cleaning is needed.
Pellet stoves require AC power to operate fans and augers. Some pellet stove models convert AC to DC and can operate on battery power when the power goes out. Battery backups are built-in to some pellet stove models and optional on others. Many of us here in Connecticut lost power for over a week during the Halloween Storm Alfred 2011...something to consider.
Pellet stoves are available in many styles both as Freestanding Stoves and as Fireplace Inserts.
Pellet stoves have both benefits and drawbacks when compared to burning wood, gas, and oil for heat. Many of the drawbacks can be avoided once a homeowner gets familiar with their pellet stove and fine tunes their pellet burning routine.
Connecticut houses come in many shapes and sizes as do pellet stoves, no two pellet stove installations are the same. No two homeowners are the same either.
Learning when to fill the hopper and figuring out which settings to use and when to use them takes a little practice. Once a homeowner finds the perfect balance, of temperature and burn time, for their particular pellet stove installation they will remember what they did and didn't do to achieve that balance. With a little time and patience it becomes easy to figure out a good pellet burning routine that conveniently gives desired results.
The few dissatisfied pellet stove owners that we've encountered, or read about, seem to not have the time or patience to figure out a good routine or were trying to use somebody elses routine or a routine from a different stove or home.
The majority of pellet stove owners figure out a good routine in a few days or weeks and go on to enjoy many years of trouble free pellet burning.
Here in Connecticut pellet stoves are used as an occasional heat source, a supplemental heat source, or a primary heat source.
With a good routine many Connecticut homeowners run their stove all winter long, shutting down only periodically for cleaning.