An independent assessment of popular pellet stoves conducted by the Alliance for Green Heat found that pellet stoves, unlike most wood stoves, can achieve low levels of emissions in real world settings that are in line with laboratory results.
The Alliance for Green Heat ran a battery of tests on popular pellet stoves designed to approximate how they would perform in the real world. The group found that half of the stoves operated as clean at the end of the thirty-day test than they did at the beginning and the others were only slightly dirtier.
All six stoves, from the least to the most expensive, operated well, and produced enough heat for a small to medium- sized home in most of the United States. One of the biggest differences was that the three more expensive stoves tested (above $ 4,000) needed very little weekly cleaning and maintenance. The less expensive stoves ($ 1,200 to $ 3,300) needed daily or at least bi-weekly cleaning of their burn pots and glass.
The study also found a lack of accepted reporting standards, leading to exaggerated claims about efficiency, BTU output and pellet hopper size on manufacturer websites and promotional literature.
The Alliance for Green Heat tested the stoves to give consumers better tools and make better purchasing decisions. The study is part of a yearlong Pellet Stove Design Challenge that assesses the state of existing pellet stove technologies. The Design Challenge will culminate in a competition for the cleanest and most efficient stoves, modeled after the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.
Approximately one million American homes are heated with pellet stoves, more than twice the number that have solar panels. In Italy alone, 2 million households heat with pellets. Pellet stoves often serve as primary heat sources, enabling homes to eliminate or drastically reduce fossil heating fuel. Last year, about 40,000 pellet stoves were sold in the U.S. and they may outsell wood stoves in the near future.
The Alliance tested the England Stove Works 25-PDCVC, the Enviro M55 insert, the Harman Accentra 52i insert, the Piazzetta Sabrina, the Quadra-Fire Mt. Vernon AE, and the Ravelli RV80. The group assessed each stove on its cleanliness, efficiency, maintenance, heat output and visibility of glass. The overall winner was the Quadra-Fire Mt. Vernon AE, which received top marks in three of the five categories. The Harman Accentra received top marks in two of the five categories.
The results of this study underscore that pellet stoves tend to burn substantially cleaner than wood stoves in real world settings, but it challenges the notion that pellet stoves generally have higher efficiencies than wood stoves. The efficiencies of the six stoves were low to medium, which is partially the result of companies not having to test and report actual efficiency numbers.
“Our testing confirmed that pellet stoves are an effective and affordable renewable energy technology,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. “We hoped to see higher efficiencies, but efficiencies should improve in coming years,” Ackerly added.
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The Alliance for Green Heat promotes modern wood and pellet heat as a low-carbon, sustainable and affordable residential energy solution. The Alliance works to advance cleaner and more efficient wood heating appliances and focuses on low and middle-income families. Founded in 2009, the Alliance is a 510(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Maryland.