Will a pellet heater heat my house? The short answer is “yes” and the longer answer is “yes, but it depends”. Pellet heaters, like all heaters, come in a range of sizes with different levels of heat output, from small to very large. The size or model you pick should match your home heating needs, how well your house is insulated and the size of the room the pellet heater will be installed in. However, it’s not all about the pellet heater. You need to give some thought to where you place the pellet heater along with how draughty or insulated your house is. All of these factors will help reduce pellet heater running costs by maximise the heating provided by a pellet heater.
Pellet Heater Location
Pellet heaters are space heaters, just like wood heaters and heat pumps, so unless you buy a pellet heater that has a hot air duct outlet, like some Piazzetta pellet heaters, the room the pellet heater is in will always be warmer than the rest of your house. However, there are plenty of things you can do to maximise how well your pellet heater heats your house. First, you need good air flow from the room the pellet heater is in to the rest of the house. Placing the heater towards the center of your house can improve how evenly heat flows to the other rooms. However, the flue and hearth requirement may limit where you can put the heater.
Open plan houses are ideal here as they are constructed in a way that maximizes heating due to how easily air can flow around the house, but if you don’t have an open plan house then try and place the heater somewhere that is connected to as many rooms as possible. An example of this is putting it in a corner of a room that is closer to the middle of house instead of on an external wall which is further away from the middle of the house. It’s best to speak to the retailer you are going to buy a pellet heater from. They should be able to advise on best location for the pellet heater.
If you don’t have an open house or can’t put your pellet heater towards the centre of the house, don’t worry as there are a few things you can do to help transfer heat around your house. Simple things like leaving doors open will help heat flow around your house to other rooms. You can also close doors to unused rooms, so heat is not wasted in rooms you rarely use. Some people also use ceiling or floor fans to circulate hot air around. If you are replacing a wood heater and have a chimney, then check out the freestanding vs insert pellet heater if that’s where you’d like the pellet heater to go.
House Size and Heating Needs
Like any heater, the bigger your house the larger the pellet heater you’ll need. A pellet heater should have no problem heating a standard single story 4 or 5 bedroom house, provided you pick a large model. If you are looking to heat a multi-story house then there are a few things to consider. First, as I mentioned above, pellet heaters are space heaters. A multi-story house is not going be as warm and have the heat as evenly distributed as a single-story or smaller house. If you absolutely must have all rooms the same or a specific temperature, then you should buy a central heating system like a hydronic pellet heater.
Pellet heaters, especially large models, can pump out enormous amounts of heat. You’ll get about 13kw of heat out of the largest pellet heaters, which is comparable to wood heaters and exceeds most normal heat pumps. If you have a very large house then I recommend getting as big a pellet heater as you can. A pellet heater can heat a multi story house but be aware you’ll have to run it on a high temperature for longer than in a smaller house. The best thing to do is use ceiling fans and close doors to unused rooms in a multi-story house. This will help transfer more heat to other rooms and keep your house warm.
If your house is really big, then consider getting a hydronic pellet boiler, which heats water that is pumped around the house in radiators or underfloor heating. Pellet boilers are used as central heating systems. They start at 18kw and go up to 50kw in heat output. They do cost more than standard pellet heaters but will create an even temperature throughout all rooms in your house that you have a radiator installed in. Not all retailers sell them due to the increased cost and difficulty of installation, but Pellet Fires Tasmania and Bass Pellet Heaters are two retailers in Tasmania that stock hydronic pellet boilers if you’d like to see one in person.
House Insulation and Pellet Heater Efficiency
How well a pellet heater heats your house also depends on how well insulated your house is. Wood heaters are great in very old draughty houses with no or very little insulation. Their massive amount of sometimes uncontrollable heat works well in these ice boxes because so much cold air is coming into the house enormous amounts of heat is needed to offset it. This isn’t to say pellet heaters won’t work in poorly insulated houses, but it will mean your heater is running on high longer. Pellet heaters are used extensively in Europe and America where it frequently snows (-10 degrees or more), so most houses in Australia will have no problem being heated by a pellet heater.
I would strongly recommend you at least look at what insulation you have in the roof of your house and if there are many gaps around doors and windows. Insulation batts for ceilings are very cheap and can be installed by a home owner. It may mean you have to spend a little extra money before you get your pellet heater but it will pay off. Better insulation will make your house warmer and reduce what you spend on wood pellets. Sealing gaps around windows and doors is easy and material can be bought at any hardware store. Again, doing this will improve heat retention in your home and just make it a much warmer place to live.
Personal Preference for Room Temperature
Finally, what you consider “warm” will play a big role in how well you think a pellet heater can heat your house. Many people are happy with 18 degrees and only want to heat their house to this temperature. Others, like myself, prefer 24 degrees and consider anything less to be cold. The room the pellet heater is in will naturally be the warmest but how “warm” you like it will have a big impact on how often you run the heater, how many pellets you burn and how warm you feel in the rest of your house. It’s just one of those things where everyone has their own level of preference when it comes to heating.
Hopefully now you can see why I said the answer to will a pellet heater heat my house is “yes, but it depends”. Naturally house size, how well insulated and where you place the heater are important, but unless you live in an igloo pellet heaters are great at heating almost any house and I believe the best wood heater alternative. To maximise heating consider closing doors to unused rooms and installing a ceiling fan in the room where the pellet heater is. Running the ceiling fan in “winter” mode will help push hot air from that room to the rest of your house.