My Limited Experience With Pellet Stoves
In my area of the Northeast United States, propane is probably the most expensive home heating fuel available. I live in a ‘over-55’ manufactured housing community in which the park owner~probably for the kick-backs~contracts with Suburban Propane as the fuel provider. The residents have no other choice but to buy fuel from them… or freeze. On one of my outings in mid-November I found myself in the local Tractor Supply store looking at pellet stoves. I’d been considering “alternative-fuel heat” almost since the day we bought this place and moved in….. mid-November of 2015.
Each billing cycle from November-to-November became an adventure in economic rape! Each cycle seemed to be more and more expensive, without appreciable increases in fuel consumption. To be fair, I’ve never checked the month-over-month consumption rates. When we moved in there, my wife~The Young Miss Lovely~worked a full-time job which required a 24.5 mile~1.25 hour~commute EACH WAY!! While she was gone, I’d set the thermostat at 45 degrees so as to reduce fuel consumption. An hour before her return, the thermostat went up to 62 degrees until we went to bed around 9 PM. Due to the level of discomfort, I felt it necessary to find some other~affordable~heat source.
I had started my leisurely search at the local Lowes Home Improvement store. Their price for a suitable unit was in the $1,050-$1,200 range. I then checked with a local business “Big Ash Fireplace and Stove” whose similar units didn’t seem competitively priced. We on our~semi-routine~’Sunday drive,’ just happened to stop at the local Burger King for lunch. The business right next door~you guessed it~was a Tractor Supply store! As luck would have it, the store had the exact model I was interested in, ON SALE… but the sale ended at the close-of-business that day!! WE decided to put a unit on lay-away which we could cancel~without penalty~anytime until the end of the year. The price~again, on sale~was $949, one-hundred-dollars off. With our house being +/- 1,000 sqft, this unit~heating up to 2,200 sqft~was the smallest we could find. The unit weighed in at 240-260 pounds and with my~at times, severely~bad back/hips…[a ‘sports injury’-I fell off several bar stools duringMonday-Night Football]~it was necessary to enlist the family “strong backs” to muscle the unit into the house.
Who’s gonna~SAFELY~install this monster?!? I’d never been involved with wood, pellet, corn fueled heating units so I wasn’t sure I could do it, SAFELY! It came down to economics… some handymen wanted upwards of $200 to bore a coupl’a holes in the wall and connect the stove to the outside world. I figured~wha’ta hell~I can do this but ‘The Young Miss Lovely‘ wasn’t too keen on me doing the install. “OK, as long as you don’t burn the house down” was her qualifier. The it was off to the races!! If you intend to get one of these ‘alternative-fuel’ heat sources, CHECK THE COSTS OF WHAT’S NEEDED FOR INSTALLATION!! Like
an install kit [from ‘PelletVent’ Lowes-$199.95];
extra double-wall vent piping [Lowes-$30/foot];
heat-resistant mat [Lowes– +/-$60, 36×48″]
Be sure~especially with manufactured housing~that your home insurance policy covers alternative-fuel heating units. You may need a rider or you may need to find another insurance provider.
How the install went…
|Quite Similar to my 5502M|
Being leery about the install itself, I went to the Town of Clarendon Code Enforcement Officer to get “the whys and wherefores” involved. ‘Officer‘Melissa~such a cool gal~asked me one question: “You can drill a hole in a wall, can’cha?!?” Install it yourself!!
My stove’s~US Stove’s “King Pellet Stove,” model 5502M~instruction/installation manual can be confusing at times so I measured SEVERAL times to get wall clearances correct before any holes were bored.
- I located the several 2×6 studs involved in the exterior wall.
- After choosing which two studs to go between, I located~more or less~the center point between them.
- Then I used a hole saw [Harbor Freight Tools] and cut a 4″ hole through the interior sheetrock; a 4″ hole through the exterior vinyl siding and exceptionally flimsy sheathing.
- Interior-I attached the black portion of the wall thimble to an adjacent stud.
- Exterior-I marked, cut and removed enough siding to accomodate the square portion of the galvanized half of the wall thimble; attaching it to the stud.
- I then put a 2′ section of double-wall vent pipe through the wall thimble.
- Using two 90 degree elbows and a 1′ section of double wall vent pipe, I connected one of the elbows to the aforementioned 2′ length of vent pipe.
- To complete the ‘exhaust’ venting I put a stainless steel rectangular weather cap on the end of the 2′ pipe. This is a horizontal venting situation so the weather cap opening must be downward to preclude rain, snow, debris from entering/blocking the flue.
- To draw in exterior combustion air, I used 1-1/2″ Schedule-40, plastic water pipe which easily mates up with the stove’s 1-1/2″ intake nipple. There is a kit for this~Lowes didn’t have one at the time, so I have no idea of the price~but using the Schedule-40, I think I got off fairly cheaply!
After the installation was complete, I was forced to “fart-around” for 2-3 days trying to figure out why there was no fire, no combustion. The book is really not much help, one needs a technician to walk you through to the solution. While US Stove maintains a LOCAL customer support system, it’s kind of a b*tch to get through to a human. Finally~after several mis-tries~I discovered the best time to call is Saturday morning, 9AM, central!!
My ‘helper’ was a young lady who seemed to really know her stuff… NOT just reading from a script like those from Indonesia-stan… Let’s call her Julie….. Julie walked me through several diagnostic steps that weren’t even in the book! We~SHE~determined that there was a fault with a line involving a pressure micro-switch. Short story–Long… one end of a vacuum tube was not attached to a nipple on the back of the fire box. I attached that and voila… FIRE!!
Conclusion: In my case this has been a very worthwhile investment. With limited cooking and clothes-drying use, there’s been very little propane consumption….. and THAT’S A GOOD THING!! The installation was pretty straight-forward for someone who enjoys “re-inventing the wheel” from time to time!!
That’s all I got.