When economic times are tight, we begin looking at what prices we could control, and one cost that may get out of control, with fluctuating fossil fuel prices, is warming our homes. To reduce costs, more people are considering alternative heat sources, and wood pellet fireplaces are just one possible solution for this high-price issue.

Wood pellet fireplaces are capable of burning many different materials — often the byproducts of sawmills — that are shaped into small, compact pellets, which burn very efficiently.

Are you contemplating heating your home with a wood pellet fireplace? Read on to learn about 10 items you might want to know prior to making your purchase.

Fuel Flexibility

Wood pellet fireplaces have become exceptionally popular heating devices in Europe, and they are increasing in popularity in the U.S., as well. As of 2011, there are more than 80 pellet mills in North America, making over 1 million tons of pellets a year [origin: Biomass-Events. com].

One advantage of these fireplaces is they can burn many different materials. While some models burn only pellets made from sawdust, timber, bark and other wood byproducts, additional versions allow you to burn a wide variety of biofuels, such as corn kernels, soybeans, nutshells, barley, dried cherry pits, beet pulp, wheat, and sunflowers.

This flexibility lets you find the most affordable, highest-quality fuel available from local resources — only one eco-friendly advantage of these heaters.

Environmentally Friendly

Some consumers are installing wood pellet fireplaces since they simply need to spend less on home heating. Others might appreciate the cost savings but are even more excited about the eco-friendly nature of pellet fuel. Pellets and other biofuels are renewable resources, so they offer a lot greener way than burning nonrenewable fuels such as oil, coal or gas.

Burning biofuels can be carbon-neutral, therefore using wood pellet fireplaces means you won’t be adding to greenhouse gas impacts as you would with fossil fuels. Some experts believe that the utilization of wood pellet fireplaces leads to the elimination of 75 percent of carbon emissions that would be caused by fossil fuel heating.

Thus, you can not only save cash with wood pellet fireplaces however do your part for the environment, too.

Form of fuel

You need to research the price and availability of different kinds of pellet fuel — wood pellets (premium and regular grade), corn pellets, etc in your area since these variables will dramatically impact your choice of stove and the cost of conducting it. In some areas, pellets are not affordable. In New York state, as an instance, a standard-size bag of pellets may charge anywhere from $4.50 to $8, depending on the supplier, and be swallowed in only 10 hours at low setting. Know where you can get pellets everywhere and at what price before you take the plunge with a particular stove. If you think the yearly cost might be too good for a wood pellet stove, consider alternatives like a multi-fuel pellet stove or a normal wood stove.

Operation and maintenance

Pellet stoves aren’t short of moving components, motors, and electric and electronic gadgetry, so inevitably they require regular maintenance and servicing. Start looking for a model that gives easy access to regions that need checking and maintaining. For example, on some models, the heat exchanger may be cleaned simply by transferring an external rod handle back and forth, while other designs require a more elaborate cleaning procedure. Professional servicing at least once a year is a great idea, so think about taking out a service contract. Discover more about pellet stove maintenance.

Keep in mind you have to take the ash out about once a week with continuous use. An easy-to-manage, large-capacity ash drawer makes cleanup easier. Hopper capacity, which can vary from approximately 35 lbs to 130 pounds, is another important element. Just how much power you need depends on your heating needs, but you don’t wish to be meeting the hopper more than once each day through regular use. Find out more about how to run a pellet stove.

Top or bottom feed?

Some pellet stoves feed down a chute from the hopper, but others deliver the fuel from behind or on the side of the burn box. You have to take into account the pros and cons of each kind. A top-fed cooker cuts the chances of fire burning back in the hopper but is more likely to have its burn region obstructed with ashes and clinkers. That is the reason why many producers of top-fed models recommend burning high quality, low-ash pellets. Bottom-fed models don’t have the exact same demand for premium gasoline because the ash and clinkers are pushed to the ash pan during fuel delivery; on the other hand, they might not be quite as effective. Check individual model specs before choosing which way to go. Click here to learn more

Look and style

Not surprisingly, there’s a big choice readily available from the external design of pellet stove from slick contemporary to elaborate, old-world. More significantly, there is a range of different styles, including freestanding units, fireplace inserts, and pellet-fueled furnaces and boilers that can take the place of, or supplement, conventional forced-air heating systems.

Most pellet stoves generate a small, fire that’s concentrated in the center of the unit and not visually impressive. If you’d like a fire that is pretty to look at, then you need to only out stoves which have a fantastic flame pattern and a large glass. Some stoves allow using ceramic log-look-a-likes which help spread the fires out and give the fire a more traditional, heart-warming in addition to heart-warming look.

Other features to consider

How easy do desire your pellet stove is to clean and maintain? Just how much of the cooker’s operation do you wish to be automatic? Though some people enjoy a mainly hands-off strategy, others benefit from tending their passion.

Stoves with manual controls might require occasional modification of air inlet dampers as the speed of fuel feed has been changed. Models with more sophisticated (and costly ) controls may track burn conditions and also make such adjustments automatically. Other features might include automated ignition for a simple, reliable startup (a larger advantage in the case of stoves that are very likely to be used intermittently rather than continuously) and also an air wash system for keeping the glass clean from directing warm air within it during combustion.