With temperatures going down and fuel prices going up, pellet stoves have become an increasingly popular method of heating. Pellet stoves are available in a wide variety of sizes and styles, meaning there are also a wide variety of prices. Other factors which determine the price of a stove include the size of the hopper (which holds the pellets) and whether it is a top-fed or bottom-fed unit. Pellet stoves come as both free standing stoves and as inserts which fit inside an existing fireplace and in many different designs. Prices range from $1,000 to around $5,000.
Cast Iron vs Steel
Pellet stoves are available in two main material options – cast iron and steel. There is very little performance difference between the two, although cast iron may hold heat a little better. The main differences between the two are cost and aesthetics. Cast iron stoves are molded and often feature fancy curves, along with different colors and an enamel finish. Steel stoves are welded together, are plain in comparison and are almost always black. While a cast iron stove can hold heat longer, a steel wood stove tends to heat a room a little quicker than cast iron.
One difference between the steel and cast iron is the joints on a cast iron stove are sealed with bolts and caulk, often requiring maintenance to prevent leaks. Steel stoves, on the other hand, are welded shut.
Because cast iron pellet stoves are much more decorative and aesthetically pleasing, they cost considerably more, around 20-30%. They both provide heat with very little difference in performance, but many homeowners consider a cast iron stove to be part of a home’s décor, explaining the higher price.
One good thing about buying a pellet stove is price transparency. Unlike HVAC equipment such as furnaces and boilers, stove manufacturers are not interested in hiding the cost of a pellet stove. These stoves can be bought at big box stores as well as at small hardware stores and independent stove shops. A homeowner can shop for different models and brands as easily as shopping for a new refrigerator.
The least expensive pellet stoves that we found in our research cost about $1,000. These stoves typically have a utilitarian display window that allows you to see the flame, heat between 1,000 – 1,500 square feet, and have a warranty for between one to five years.
The most common price point for pellet stoves is between $1,500 – $2,000. These stoves include a larger display window, nicer styling, and they offer larger capacities.
In the rarified air of the $3,000 price range, you start seeing larger hopper sizes, capable of holding more than three 40-pound bags of pellets, and running for up to 96 hours.
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The cost to install a pellet stove averages between $300 and $1,000. A free standing pellet stove should be installed in a wide open area and will need to rest on a heat resistant hearth pad to prevent damage to the floor. Hearth pads range in price from $40 to $300.
A pellet stove does not require a chimney, instead venting through a 3” or 4” pipe which can run out a side wall or through the ceiling. A short horizontal vent usually costs less than running one out through the chimney because of the length of pipe needed. Many handy homeowners choose to install their pellet stove vent, but unless you are comfortable with cutting holes in the side or roof of your house and making sure everything has a tight seal, it’s a good idea to leave venting to the professionals.
Pellet stove inserts, which slip into a fireplace, use the existing fireplace as a venting system. This means that no additional holes need to be cut, but if there is no chimney liner or the existing liner is in poor condition, a new liner will need to be installed. A chimney liner costs an average of $100 per foot of chimney height. Because it sits inside the fireplace, a pellet stove insert typically requires no hearth pad. (However, a hearth pad may be required if your hearth does not extend far enough from the front of the stove).
Pellet stoves also require electricity to run the unit’s fans, circuit board, and thermostat. This means that, if not readily available, an outlet will need to be installed nearby. Manufacturers also recommend a battery backup power supply in case the power goes out. This can cost between $150 and $500, depending on the size.
Most pellet stove dealers also provide installation and service work. If purchasing from a big box store, you’ll need to either install it yourself or you can request estimates from local stove installers.
Wood pellets for pellet stoves are usually made from compacted sawdust and other byproducts from the milling and manufacture of lumber. Because they are made from waste materials pellets are environmentally friendly. These pellets have a very low moisture content, allowing them to burn cleanly and efficiently. They do not create creosote buildup, and produce much less ash than wood. A pellet stove often needs to be filled only once a day and cleaned once a week.
Pellets usually come in 40-pound bags. As with most fuels, the price can vary but an average price is $4 to $6 per 40-pound bag. How long a bag lasts depends on factors including the temperature outside, the desired temperature inside, and how well the building is insulated. It is not uncommon to use a bag per day or more during cold temperatures.
Because of this, many homeowners choose to buy pellets by the ton. There are 50 bags of 40-pound wood pellets in a ton. An average price for a ton of pellets is between $250 and $300, although it may go higher or lower. Between two and four tons per year is average usage for a home with a pellet stove.