A pellet stove can provide your home with a heating source that's both cheaper to operate than an electric unit and more environmentally friendly and energy efficient than a wood-burning stove.
Instead of burning entire logs of wood, pellet stoves use compressed pellets — usually made from wood or corn — which burn more evenly and last longer.
In addition to being efficient, pellet stoves are very convenient and easy to operate. Most models have programmable thermostats or a remote control of some sort, while some of the fancier options offer features like smartphone integration and voice command compatibility.
While a pellet stove can be a great investment and save you money over the long run, the upfront cost can be substantial. Prices range from $750 to well over $2,000. So it's important to do your research and buy a pellet stove that best suits your household needs.
Pellet stove buying guide
When shopping around for a pellet stove, take the following into consideration:
• BTUs. This is the measure of the stove’s heat output. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want 20 BTU for every square foot of space, although that guide applies to perfect insulation conditions (and few homes measure up). For example, if you want to heat 1,500 square feet, the minimum recommended BTU would be 30,000, but that might not be enough to fully heat the entire area.
• Type of pellets. Each stove model is designed to burn a specific kind of pellet. The two most common pellet types are wood and corn, though there are a few more unusual ones, such as nutshells. Not every store carries every type of pellet, and online ordering is usually impractical and costly. So it's wise to check with your local retailers before you choose your stove, to ensure you can get your pellets in great quantity when you need them. Pellet costs vary, but you can expect a 40-pound bag to be priced anywhere from $20 to $40.
• Hopper Capacity. The hopper is the basket that holds the pellets. A bigger hopper lets your stove burn for longer without needing a refill. (Typically, a stove will burn a 40-pound basket's worth of pellets every 14 to 24 hours, so that's how often it will have to be refilled.) There are top- and bottom-mounted hoppers. The latter are easier to clean, but less efficient overall, since they burn through fuel at a quicker pace.
• Installation. Pellet stoves are designed to work as freestanding appliances or to fit inside existing fireplaces and chimneys. The kind of stove you get affects what installation is needed. Some freestanding models can operate right out of the box, though others require the installation of an exhaust vent in a nearby wall. (Most stoves that require a vent include the materials for installation with the purchase.) Fireplace insert models can also be easy to install, but might require a professional to set up a special lining for your chimney. Depending on the type and model of stove, installation labor costs can be anywhere from $600 to $2,000.
Best pellet stoves
1. Best overall: Comfortbilt HP22-N Pellet Stove
If a combination of form and function sounds appealing, then check out the Comfortbilt HP22-N pellet stove. With 50,000 BTUs and nearly 87% burn efficiency, it will do an admirable job of keeping large areas warm for extended periods of time. It also comes with an 80-pound pellet hopper, which can last for just over two days with the right quality fuel.
The Comfortbilt HP22-N has a programmable thermostat and multiple heat settings to help maintain the desired temperatures throughout the day. As a small bonus, its bay door design gives a nice view of the flames, which makes for an aesthetically pleasing substitute of the classic fireplace experience.
If you'd like your pellet stove to actually fit inside your fireplace, consider the Comfortbilt HP22i. It's a fireplace insert model that's slightly smaller than the HP22-N, usually available for the same price ($2,299 at Amazon).
2. Editor's pick: US Stove Company GW1949 Wiseway
Unlike many pellet stoves, the Wiseway doesn’t need electricity, which makes it particularly handy for areas with frequent power outages. Instead, it uses a gravity-fed system in which pellets keep falling into the burn pot as they are consumed. It can hold up to 60 pounds of fuel and run uninterrupted for almost 24 hours before needing a refill.
For a compact, non-electric model, it produces a respectable 40,000 BTUs at 75% efficiency and can comfortably heat up to 1,500 square feet. However, it does need to be cleaned frequently to prevent the pellets from getting stuck in the chute. Also, because it uses a natural air intake system to adjust the burn strength, drafty areas can make it burn through fuel inconsistently.
All told, the Wiseway is an affordable model that helps reduce heating and electricity costs, although many users say there is a learning curve to getting the most out of it due to its entirely manual operation.
3. Best for small spaces: Castle Serenity 12327 Wood Pellet Stove
This pellet stove has a 31,000 BTU output with 70% efficiency, which means it can provide solid heating for around 1,200 square feet of your home. The pellet hopper capacity is surprisingly large (40 pounds) for its small size. As a result, it should be able to run for a full 24 hours before needing a refill, depending on the quality of your wood pellets.
What makes this model especially appealing is its relatively simple cleanup process. Since the stove lacks hard-to-reach parts, it’s possible to simply vacuum out most of the ash after every use. It also comes with a smart remote that can program the stove to run on a daily or weekly schedule.
One annoyance: There’s no auto-shut off feature outside of its programmed schedule, which can be a small inconvenience if you’re making manual adjustments.
4. Best for savings: Cleveland Iron Works PS60W-CIW
Smart home technology is not uncommon in pellet stoves, but the models that include these features tend to be pretty expensive. Yet the PS60W is a compact, affordable model — generally under $1,200 — that you can control through your smartphone and voice command services like Amazon Alexa.
Since it’s on the smaller side, this model only produces 34,000 BTUs, which is enough for spaces up to 1,200 square feet. This means it works best either for small apartments or as a supplementary heat source for parts of larger homes. It also comes with a remote control, giving you multiple options for convenient operation.
The PS60W comes with a fresh air intake kit, which allows it to be installed in areas with little to no airflow, such as basements. Take note, however, that some professional assistance might be required to install this optional part.
5. Best for long burn times: PelPro Pellet Stove PP130-B
If a no-frills workhorse stove is what you’re after, this is a good choice to get your money’s worth: The PP130-B is sturdy, powerful, and reliable. Because it operates at 81% efficiency, its 50,000 BTU output can easily warm up 2,000 square feet, and it can work reasonably well heating spaces up to 2,500 square feet.
Though it doesn’t come with many of the convenient features of other pellet stoves, this model more than compensates with fuel capacity and a long operating time. A very generous 130-pound pellet hopper lets the stove run for days without a refill — perhaps up to a week, depending on usage.
The fire pot also cleans itself every few hours; all the owner has to do is remove the ash pan in between self-cleanings.