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With winter coming, you might be considering options for better indoor heating. If you're dependent on a heating fuel that's skyrocketing in price, like oil, it might be time for something new. You've heard lots of people talk about how great and efficient pellet stoves are. But you have one worry - do they smell? We've checked with stove manufacturers and heating experts for everything you need to know about pellet stoves.
Pellet stoves shouldn't really have a noticeable odor, even when burning pellets for a long time. They work in a sealed environment—the air in the stove vents directly outside without ever entering the room itself.
But are there any reasons you might have a bad odor from your pellet stove? Are pellet stoves healthy - or can those fumes be toxic? Where should you install a pellet stove in your house anyway? We'll cover all that and more, so keep reading!
Do Pellet Stoves Smell?
Pellet stoves work by creating a sealed environment. The process of combustion occurs behind sealed doors. When the stove is properly vented, fumes should exhaust back outside.
As a result, the air inside the stove never enters the room that it is heating. There really shouldn't be many, if any, noticeable odors. If the smells are particularly noticeable, it's a sign to check the stove for problems.
In particular, it may indicate that the stove is not sealed correctly - most often, a gasket has gone bad. Fans meant to extract fumes and send them outside may not be working. Or, the ventilation system might be inadequate, like an improperly sealed/installed flue.
Stoves that aren't regularly cleaned may also begin to smell. The stove can't operate as designed when it's dirty. Clean and service your pellet stove regularly, in line with the manufacturer's recommendations.
Avoid burning poor-quality pellets. They are often high in moisture and do not burn efficiently. This inefficiency creates excess waste and residue, and you'll need to clean your stove more often as a result.
The only exception to this is brand new stoves. A new pellet stove may smell when you first operate it. This smell is normal.
How Long Does It Take For A Pellet Stove To Stop Smelling?
It's normal for a pellet stove to smell the first time you use it. Before turning on the stove, make sure that the room is well ventilated. Doing so will help keep the odor from being as troubling.
It won't take long for the pellet stove to stop smelling - typically, only a few hours. This odor is primarily due to the heat-resistant paint on the stove. It takes a few hours to 'cure' and burn off any associated foul aroma.
Are Pellet Stove Fumes Toxic?
Are Pellet Stoves Bad For Your Health?
Whether pellet stoves are bad for your health is a bit debatable. It depends on the criteria you're using to define "bad."
Many people who already have lung issues, asthma, or other health problems are particularly sensitive to even small amounts of air pollution. If you're one of them, a pellet stove may not be the best choice. There are cleaner sources of heat, such as electric fireplaces or solar-powered heat. Even natural gas has lower particle emissions than wood-burning fireplaces.
However, for many people in typical health, pellet stoves remain one of the better choices. Unlike traditional wood-burning fireplaces, pellet stoves produce almost no smoke or soot. They ventilate outside and little if any pollution enters the room itself because of the way they are sealed.
Many professionals consider pellet stoves to be the best option as far as burning organic material (think coal, wood stoves, etc.) While solar-powered heaters might be better for the environment, pellet stoves do much less damage than other stoves and fireplaces.
For the cleanest burning, most efficient heat, pick a stove made in 2015 or later. The EPA standards changed in 2015, meaning newer models are even more environmentally friendly.
For most people, the dangers of pellet stoves are more related to their operation than the stove themselves. For example, most stoves use some electricity, so use proper precautions to avoid electrocution. Remember that stoves get very hot, and always monitor pets and children near the stove.
Where Should I Put My Pellet Stove In My House?
The right place to put a pellet stove varies from one home to another. But just consider a few key things about your needs and home arrangement, and you'll know exactly where you should put a pellet stove in your house.
- Heat rises, so you'll probably get the most use out of a pellet stove on the lowest level of your home. Not only will it heat the immediate area, but it will also add heat to the upper stories as the heat travels.
- Don't put your stove in the way of major foot traffic. Stoves get hot, and it's just not safe to have people walking back and forth around a hot stove all the time.
- Keep the stove about 36 inches away from flammable material, like furniture or drapes.
- To prevent discoloring the walls, try to keep the stove at least 7 inches away from any sidewalls.
- If you're trying to heat a large area in the house, pick a relatively open location. It will make it easier for the heat to disperse throughout the majority of the house.
- Remember that you need to stay near an adequate power supply (or be willing to wire one near the final location). Most pellet stoves need power for the fans, the circuit board, and the thermostat.
Can You Vent A Pellet Stove Straight Out A Wall?
It is possible to vent a pellet stove out of a wall. You don't need to install a special chimney - though if you already have one, you can use it as an exhaust vent.
But if you don't have ventilation already installed, a simple horizontal vent is one of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to go. This is one of the reasons some people pick pellet stoves for heat. Sticking a vent pipe out of a wall is much simpler than building a chimney.
In fact, the rules for venting out the wall are simple. Just make sure the vent extends at least 6 inches outside. Also, use a wall protector plate inside, to prevent discoloration around the pipe.
Where Should My Vent Go?
While a horizontal vent might be easy, there are still a few factors to consider. You need to make sure that whatever ventilation you chose complies with your local building regulations. There might be requirements on how high the vent must be off the ground, or how close it can be to a door, for example.
Also, make sure the vent won't exhaust out into people's faces. You don't want it at eye level, pointing to your neighbor's driveway. This may be covered by your local regulations as well. But even if it's not spelled out in building code, don't be "that guy."
Make sure the vent isn't too close to the air intake (if you have one). If it is, you'll just be recirculating the exhaust right back into the stove.
Pellet stoves work in a sealed environment that keeps the air in the stove from circulating with the air in the room. As a result, you really shouldn't notice any kind of a smell from your pellet stove. If you do start to notice that the pellets are leaving an odor, it's probably time to inspect the pellet stove.
A gasket might be preventing the stove from remaining sealed. The stove might need a thorough cleaning. Or, the stove may never have been properly ventilated. In any case, smells are a sign of a bigger issue because the stove isn't working as intended. If needed, find a quality chimney expert to service the stove for you.
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