PELLET STOVES: Tips for Installing This Economical Heating Appliance

Q: What’s involved when installing a pellet stove as a heating appliance? We’re planning to build in the country next year, and I’m sold on the cost savings of this heating system. Can you recommend specific models? Do pellet stoves need to be installed by a specialist? Does the flue pipe need to be encased as it goes up through a second floor?
This is the Kozi pellet stove we used at our place for a number of years. Stoves like this give the cheery glow of a wood fire, but pellets require much less work than cordwood.

A: We heated with a pellet stove at our house for many years before I installed an outdoor wood boiler and I can recommend pellet technology to anyone. Pellet stoves automatically feed compressed wood pellets into a combustion chamber where they’re burned along with a jet of fan-driven air. Except for a small puff of smoke that comes out of the flue pipe on start up outside, pellet stoves burn smokelessly.

Before I installed an outdoor wood boiler, we used a KOZI brand stove at our place and it worked very well. I sold that stove to someone else and it worked perfectly for them for years, too. My only complaint with pellet stoves is the fan noise. When you’re selecting a stove, be sure to ask about fan noise and listen for it on display models in the store. The constant sound can be annoying to some people, and top brands include design features that reduce the background whir of the internal fans in the stove. Enviro is one brand that has made special effort to reduce fan noise considerably. Friends of ours have enjoyed excellent results with their Harman pellet stove, too. Click here for a more detailed tour of the pellet stoves out there and their comparative features.

pellet stove installation flue pipe
This small, diameter, double-walled pipe is especially rated for use with pellet stoves. All joints must be sealed using high temperature silicone caulking.

One of the best things about pellet stoves is that they don’t need a chimney. Just extend the 3- or 4-inch, double-walled exhaust pipe outside through an exterior wall, and you’re done. There are special technical restrictions depending on where you live (pipe mustn’t exhaust closer than 4-feet to a window, it mustn’t come out underneath a porch, among other things) so check out these local details before you decide on a location for your stove.

During use the double-walled pellet stove flue pipe gets slightly too hot to touch near the stove, but not nearly as hot as the pipe on a conventional woodstove. But since the flue pipe can be put through a wall, you rarely need to have a long run. Your pipe probably won’t need to you through a second-storey living area, but if it does enclosing it would be best. You’re not required to have a specialist install a pellet stove, but it is more complicated than installing a regular stove because of the kind of pipe involved and the way it goes together. Hire a licensed pro if you’re not experienced working with pipe and sheet metal.

pellet stove installation
The red goop here is high temperature silicone caulking. Since the exhaust gases inside the pipe of a pellet stove have positive pressure, all exhaust pipe joints must be sealed tightly.

The main thing to understand about installing a pellet stove is that the exhaust gases are expelled from the stove by a fan, not drawn out by the natural draw of a chimney. Why does this matter? With positive pressure inside the pellet stove exhaust pipe, all joints must be sealed with high temperature silicone caulking as they go together. If there’s any break or gap in the seal, smoke will be pushed into your room instead of going outdoors. Sealing pipes sounds daunting, but it’s not really. Just buy the kind of pipe meant for use with wood pellet stoves, then put a generous bead of silicone on the joints as they go together. You should also contact your insurance company to talk about your plans. They may require an inspection after the stove is in place.

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