Pellet heaters, unlike most wood heaters, have fans and other moving parts. Some people worry about these moving parts and ask are pellet heaters reliable? They worry all these moving parts may cause problems and result in the heater constantly breaking down. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. It is easy to understand why people make this mistake as many people have never heard of or know very little about pellet heaters and don’t understand how they work or how reliable they are. Pellet heaters are VERY reliable but like a car you need to make sure they are serviced and looked after.
Pellet heaters are reliable and it’s rare that you’ll experience a major breakdown. Like a car, have it serviced yearly and look after it and you won’t have any problem at all. So what’s in a pellet heater that might need to be serviced or replaced?
- Control box
- Exhaust and room fans
- Vacuum switch
- Temperature sensors
- Burn pot
You might think that’s a big list but the reality is most of these parts will last years and many may never actually need to be replaced. The majority of the parts in pellet heaters are very simple and low tech, so they last a long time and are very affordable. That’s the great thing about how pellet heaters work because they are nothing like modern cars with complex computers and expensive parts. They are very simple and straight forward mechanical devices.
Control boxes or boards are basically the brains of a pellet heater. They are a VERY basic motherboard that controls the ignitor, fans and regulates ow often pellets are fed into the burn pot. They are usually a small box with wires connecting it to other parts of the pellet heater. It’s highly unlikely you will ever need to replace this part and it should last the life time of the pellet heater. In the worst case scenario, you should get at least 10+ years out of it or even more.
Pellet heaters have two fans. An exhaust fan that keeps the fire burning and a room fan that blows hot air out into the room the heater is in. How long these fans last will depend on how often you use your pellet heater but even if running daily you will still get MANY years from them before they need to be replaced. I would say the fans should last anywhere from five to 10 years before they need replacing and some people never have to replace the fans in their heaters. Even if you do need to replace one, it’s as simple as removing a few wires, screws and swapping the fan over.
The vacuum switch in a pellet heater is a safety device that ensures the burn chamber is sealed properly, so any smoke and emissions from the fire is vented outside via the flue and not into your house. It is a very simple device that works by detecting the negative pressure caused by the exhaust fan as it blows air out of the pellet heater, into the flue and to the outside. It will last many years and possibly never need to be replaced. It connects to the burn chamber via a plastic hose that is easy to clean if needed.
The auger feeds wood pellets from the hopper into the burn pot which keeps the fire going. The auger is made of steel, so obviously it won’t break but there is a very small motor that turns the auger with some ball bearings inside. Like the fans, how long this little motor last depends on how often you use the pellet heater but again you should get at least five years if not more before it needs to be replaced. The ball bearings may need to be re-greased a little more frequently, but you should get three years before that is needed, again depending on how often you run the heater.
Pellet heaters use temperature sensors to know when a fire is going, when the fire has died out and to ensure everything is operating safely. There are usually three temperature sensors in a heater which function like a very basic thermometer. There’s no moving parts in these sensors, so they are usually never replaced because they don’t move and simply detect temperature. Again, these will last many years before they need replacing and I would be surprised if they didn’t last at least five years if not much longer.
The burn pot holds pellets and contains the fire in a pellet heater. Unlike the parts mentioned above which will typically last anywhere from five to 10 years if not more, burn pots will need to be replaced a little more frequently. The fire in the burn pot obviously gets very hot and this is what causes the burn pot to slowly wear away. How long it lasts depends on how often and hot you run your heater, but you should expect it to last anywhere from two to five years, possibly even longer. Replacing it is very easy and can be done by anyone. Open the door, take out the old burn pot and put the new one in.
Igniters start the fire in a pellet heater and are simple heating elements, like in old bar heaters, which get red hot. Again, how long they last depends on how often you use your heater but what causes them to wear out is the constant starting and stopping of your heater. Each time you switch on your pellet heater this causes the igniter to degrade a little bit. However, you should still get anywhere from two to five years before you need to replace the igniter. They are very cheap and easy to replace.
Are Expensive Pellet Heaters More Reliable?
I get asked this question so much I wrote an entire article about it. The short version is no, expensive pellet heaters are not more reliable. All pellet heaters essentially work the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Chinese heater sold by Pellet Fires Tasmania or a luxury high end Piazzetta pellet heater that Tas & Energy and Heating sell (these are Tasmania pellet heater retailers for those not in Tassie). While the exact design and placement of the above parts may vary slightly, they are essentially the same. Expensive pellet heaters are usually expensive because you are buying a “brand” or for beautiful designs that don’t actually have anything to do with performance of the heater.
Summary of Are Pellet Heaters Reliable
Pellet heaters might have more moving parts than a wood heater, but this doesn’t make them unreliable. If anyone asks me are pellet heaters reliable, I tell them yes because the parts in them will typically last MANY years before needing to be replaced. Some of these parts will probably last as long as you have the heater and will never need to be replaced. Like anything, look after your pellet heater, keep it clean, have it serviced properly and you’ll find it to be very trouble free. If you are looking to buy your first pellet heater, then ask the retailer about part prices so you know what to expect when it comes time to have your heater serviced.