Pellet stoves: style and substance

Specflue’s Ian Sams explains why pellet stoves offer an ideal heating solution for self-builders, from their environmental credentials and aesthetic appeal to the best units’ ease of use and installation

As any self-builder knows, the secret to a successful project lies in the planning. Whether you project manage yourself or employ an expert, failing to plan is planning to fail. And with so many considerations and priorities to juggle, from choosing a builder, specifying fittings and getting services on site, not to mention managing relations with your local planning officer, secondary heating choices tend to fall way down the list!

The decision on how we heat our homes is not just a matter of aesthetics. We must be mindful too of cost, reliability, efficiency and emissions. Substance as well as style is key, and a modern pellet stove can offer the perfect combination of both.

Future-proof heat

With a wealth of benefits such as smart controls, ease of use, low maintenance and efficiency, pellet stoves tick all the boxes when it comes to environmental credentials. Under EU Ecodesign requirements that come into force in January 2022, pellet stoves must have a minimum efficiency of 79 per cent. Many models on the market today already far exceed this, offering efficiency in excess of 90 per cent with A to A++ energy efficiency ratings.

Similarly, with tough new maximum particulate emissions levels being set by Ecodesign and the Clean Air Strategy, and with the maximum permissible particulate emissions for pellet stoves being half that of log burning stoves, a pellet stove is the perfect choice for the discerning self-builder looking to future-proof their new home, renovation or extension.

Many pellet stove manufacturers have already overhauled their product ranges to ensure that they meet 2022 requirements today, so keep your eyes peeled for phrases such as “ecodesign ready” and “2022 ready/compliant” when you shop around – your local stove showroom will also be able to advise on which models fit the criteria.

While pellet stoves, also known as air stoves, are the focus here, bear in mind that you can also get hydro pellet stoves that provide both room heating and hot water, pellet boilers which can replace a central heating boiler to power underfloor heating as well as room heating and hot water, and there are also a range of removable pellet inserts on the market designed for installation into an existing fireplace.

A pellet air stove is an ideal solution for secondary heating, perfect for extensions, garden offices and conservatories and can be used to heat either a single room or multiple spaces with a ductable model.

Cutting-edge technology

If smart tech is your thing then a pellet stove offers the ultimate in connectivity and controllability. From a basic appliance-mounted digital display control and hand-held remote controls, through to smart phone connectivity that gives on/off and temperature control from anywhere, programmable pellet stove control technology is second to none. Some manufacturers even offer additional functions such as Wi-Fi temperature probes that allow you to set a desired temperature at any given point around the home.

Stylish good looks

This level of control gives pellet stoves the edge over their log burning cousins, and while you may have heard the purists argue that the ‘flame picture’ of a pellet stove is no match for the log burner, even that is now a myth.

Thanks to ongoing innovation in brazier design – the brazier being the metal tray that holds the burning pellets – the flame picture from a pellet stove is now better than ever. Look for a long, narrow brazier as this will distribute the pellets more evenly for a wider view of the fire.

And speaking of looks, pellet stove design is not exclusively utilitarian chic – there are plenty of choices to suit all interior styles from Scandi style cylindrical in any number of colours, to the squared look of the traditional log burner.

In terms of installation, a pellet stove is no more complex to install than a traditional wood burner, but you will need an electrical point. As with a wood burner, you will also need the appropriate flue. Your best option is to use a HETAS registered installer to ensure that your chosen pellet stove and flue meets Building Regulations and is safe to use.

When it comes to fuel, the pellet stove offers yet another smart choice in terms of future-proofing your heating. With fossil fuels being closely scrutinised under the Clean Air Strategy, pellets, or biomass as they are often referred to, offer the ultimate in sustainability.

Manufactured from pulverised biomass using a variety of compression and extrusion processes, pellets offer a number of advantages over wood logs, not least in terms of size, weight and burn consistency.

This offers a number of benefits including ease of storage – a bag of pellets takes up considerably less space than the equivalent kw output of logs, and ease of use – some pellet air stoves only require a daily fill depending on the size of the hopper and length of appliance use, compared to every couple of hours for a log burning stove. Also, because they produce little ash and chimney creosote, cleaning is minimised.

Check the Woodsure website to ensure your pellet manufacturer or supplier conforms to the required standards for biomass fuels and just like wood logs, make sure you protect your fuel from moisture to ensure burn consistency and optimum appliance operation.

Ultimate control

Pellet stoves offer you ultimate control and maximum efficiency with hands-off operation – perfect for today’s busy lifestyles. Automatic ignition, power modulation and combustion control are all things that pellet stove users take for granted. The flexibility offered in terms of whole house or single room heating makes them ideal for both new build and retrofit renovation projects where reliability, efficiency and aesthetic appeal are demanded.

Specifying a pellet stove for your project will also help guarantee the environmental credentials of your build and future fuel security.

So if you’re looking for style and substance, invest your hard-earned pounds in pellets.

Ian Sams is commercial director at Specflue