What? A website dedicated to pellet heaters telling you why you shouldn’t buy a one?!?!? While I personally think a pellet heater is better than a wood heater and heat pump, like most things, pellet heaters included, they aren’t for everyone. I don’t want someone buying a pellet heater to waste their time and money only to find out after spending several thousands dollars that they should have went with a different type of heater. Here are the three mains reasons I think a pellet heater may not be right for some people.
Here’s a quick look at why pellet heaters may not be right for you:
- Maintenance: Frequent cleaning, servicing, and moving parts.
- Type of Heat: Uses convection heating, differs from wood heaters’ radiant heat.
- Fuel Availability: Pellet costs vary; distance from suppliers can increase expenses.
Pellet heaters need to be cleaned and serviced. Most of the time, anyone who dislikes or complains about pellet heaters is from people who neglected to properly clean their heater. Like a wood heater, pellet heaters need the flue cleaned at least once a year. However, unlike a wood heater, pellet heaters also need a yearly “deep clean”. This is basically cleaning out the insides of the heater, which can’t be accessed unless you pull it apart and open the various service ports to clean inside. How often should you clean a pellet heater? Deep clean once a year and a quick 10 minute clean weekly. This is something some ex-wood heater owners often neglect to do.
Pellet heaters also have fans and other moving parts that can eventually wear out. It may be several years before something needs to be replaced, but like a car, eventually something will need to be replaced due to wear and tear. Again, people coming from a wood heater often do not understand the importance of a yearly deep clean and don’t clean the pellet heater often or properly. What happens is the pellet heater burns fine for a year or two then starts to have problems, because it’s become clogged up with ash, the fire doesn’t burn properly, and parts begin to fail as they struggle to deal with excessive ash build-up.
The result is the owner thinks pellet heaters are crap, sells it and goes back to a wood heater but the reality is the heater failed because they didn’t look after it properly. This is often due to lack of education from retailers selling pellet heaters or retailers not providing servicing, so home owners buy a pellet heater and don’t know how to look after it. It’s unlikely you’ll need to replace many parts, but igniters typically only last a few years. They are cheap and easy to swap in and out but it’s just something people are not aware of until after they buy a pellet heater.
Type of Heat
What does heat have to do with why you shouldn’t buy a pellet heater? Keep this in mind if you are thinking of switching from a wood heater to a pellet heater. If you think it will heat exactly the same as a wood heater, they don’t. While it’s true the heat pellet heaters put out feels very similar to a wood heater, the main difference is in how they heat and how long it lasts. Again, this is an issue for some people switching from wood heaters to pellet heaters. If you are looking to switch from a heat pump to pellet heater then this won’t be an issue.
Most pellet heaters blow hot air into the room and heat via convection heating, just like a heat pump. The advantage of this is they can quickly heat a room as hot air is blown around warming the room up. Wood heaters for the most part are primarily radiant heaters, where they heat objects and people in the room. If you stand directly in front of a wood heater you can “feel” the heat in your bones. Radiant heaters typically take longer to heat the room they are in but continue to heat the room they are in even after the fire dies out, as the fire bricks and metal box of the heater slowly releases the heat it holds.
If you have an old, draughty, poorly insulated home, then a wood heater is probably a better option. This isn’t too say pellet heaters aren’t good heaters, it’s just that old homes with no insulation are very cold and need massive amounts of heat to stay warm, which wood heaters are better at. Also, wood heaters are much better at heating the whole house. Pellet heaters can definitely heat your house but again it depends on how well insulated and where the heater is located. Put simply, wood heaters put out a lot more “raw” heat, and possibly uncontrollable, than a pellet heater does. This makes them more suited to old homes that are leaky and lose heat quickly.
The price of wood pellets is another important reason why a pellet heater may not be the best option. The further you live from a pellet mill and retailers who sell wood pellets, such as outside of a city, the more you’ll pay for wood pellets. The more you pay for pellets the greater your pellet heater running costs in winter will be. If you have a ute or trailer and don’t mind driving to the mill or retailers in another city to buy your pellets in bulk, then this may not be a problem, but for many people this isn’t an option as they don’t have a suitable vehicle or it’s just not something they want to do.
In Australia, some retailers sell bags of pellets for up to $25 while other areas charge as little as $9.50. That’s a huge difference in price but it’s primarily due to demand and freight costs. With very little demand for pellets, some mills charge more for their pellets to make it worth their time. If you live in an area where there aren’t many pellet heaters and the nearest pellet mill is thousands of kilometres away, expect wood pellets to be very expensive. You may need to reconsider if a pellet heater is right for you if you don’t have easy access to pellets or are not prepared to travel and/or buy in bulk.
Pellet Heaters aren’t Wood Heaters
As you’ve probably guessed from above, some of the reasons why you shouldn’t buy a pellet heater is if you are thinking it is the same or almost the same as a wood heater. Don’t buy a pellet heater if you aren’t prepared to service it, either yourself or paying someone else. Check what pellets cost in your area so you have an idea of how much you’ll spend each year. Finally, if you live in an old, poorly insulated house then consider adding insulation or fixing up gaps around windows and doors if you have your mind set on a pellet heater.
If you don’t want to or can’t afford to insulate an old house, then a wood heater wood heater would be much more efficient due to the way it heats and cheaper to run. Pellet heaters are a great alternative to wood heaters, can definitely heat most houses but they do heat and operate differently to a wood heater, so you need to keep this in mind.