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Consumers Recommendations

General recommendations for consumers

The ratings we provided on six popular pellet stoves should help you think about attributes that are important to you and help you in doing further research and asking the right questions of retailers.

1. Purchasing: Buy from a reputable, local dealer who can service your stove. If you buy from a big box store, be prepared to do more of your own troubleshooting. There is also value in buying a popular stove that has been on the market for a number of years, which helps to ensure that the local dealers are really familiar with it. If a stove dealer near you does not service the stove you buy, it may be very hard to get service and repairs. The Englander that we tested is an example of an excellent value stove sold in chain hardware stores that do not service the stoves they sell. One reason Englander is such a popular brand is that the company offers good phone tech support to its customers, although wait times can be longer during the peak months of the heating season. Unlike wood stoves, most pellet stoves need repairs periodically during the first 5 years of their life and they also need annual professional cleaning, unless you are “handy” and prepared to undertake a substantial cleaning effort.

2. Pellets: Be prepared to buy pellets early, store them properly and make sure the pellet works well in your stove. We used a medium priced PFI certified pellet sold in big box stores in New England. We paid $250 a ton in the middle of the summer for four tons and bought more in the fall. It’s important to buy a few bags of a brand before buying several tons, to ensure that the pellet is a high enough quality to work in your stove. We recommend sticking to pellets that are PFI certified if you are buying less expensive pellets in big box outlets. Most pellets that sell for $300 and over are likely to be a better quality pellet that will not clog up your burn pot too quickly. Recent years have seen pellet shortages in the middle of the winter, partially because more and more people are buying pellets early in the season, depleting supplies. If you can, take advantage of lower prices in the summer and early fall, and store them off the ground in a dry, covered space.

3. Installation: We recommend having your stove installed by a professional who is certified by the National Fireplace Institute (NFI) or the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), or in Canada, Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT). Installing pellet stove inserts can be particularly difficult. The Enviro would be particularly complicated for homeowners to install, but the Englander, for example, is feasible, if you follow guidelines very, very carefully. Check with your county or town about whether you need a permit to install it and/or an inspection once it’s installed. Also check with your insurance company. For more on permits and insurance considerations, click here.

4. Research: Our reviews only covered 6 stoves and did not cover reliability. We tested the stoves intensively – but only for one month. Almost all pellet stove brands need repairs in their first 3 – 4 years of service, and some even more. It is important for consumers to research pellet stoves and it is not a simple task, as there are virtually no other independent reviews except for one 2009 review by Consumer Reports. You have to have a paid subscription to read the reviews but we have summarized them here. The Harman P68 and Napoleon NPS40 came out on top. They also rated 6 stoves, but did not test for emissions or efficiency. Neither we nor they tested for noise. We provide some guidance for which sites may be more helpful to research a pellet stove purchase. Most accept advertisements from the brands they review and that may impact their reviews on some of the sites.

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