Before posting this I did a search for pellet stoves and heating. There was some useful (but rather old) information, with the most useful thread getting quite acrimonious towards the end. But time has passed and things changed, so a new thread seems reasonable now.
To summarise my situation: the house we want to heat is about 150m2 with 2 large rooms downstairs and 4 rooms upstairs. Insulation is minimal, although walls are >60cm stone and there are only windows on one side of the house (single glazed + shutters downstairs, double upstairs - not likely to replace them for now). Heating was 2 large storage heaters + small coal stove in the salon & a variety of stoves in the cuisine, upstairs is electric convectors. The house will be a (mostly) summer residence so I’m a little reluctant to go mad adding 40mm insulation to external walls, but would like some winter capability.
The plan was to fit a couple of decent size (say 10-12kW) wood burning stoves downstairs - the area around the house seems to be actively managed & cropped woodland - and keep the convectors for bedrooms. However this last weekend I carried in the usual weeks worth of wood in a single large load and found myself struggling under what’s really a fairly small load. This obviously then made me wonder about assumed choices, and from there 'tis but a small step to asking the questions that naturally arise.
So… Pellet stoves.
They’ve obviously been around a while now - are they reliable and user-maintainable?
Are there recommended makes and are there brands to avoid?
They seem quite spendy in France, but some (in other threads) bought more cost-effectively from outside - is this still a viable option or is it a bad idea?
Does room-sealing (with an air inlet pipe as well as flue) help with heat loss?
What do you do when the electricity goes off?
What are running costs like, and is bulk-buying pellets still a good plan?
Any other advice also welcomed.
The most likely scenario is that we would have a pellet stove in one room and a wood burner in the other to ensure heat in times of power loss, but having to store 2 kinds of fuel would be a drag.
I can’t help you with the pellet side, but if and when you do come to look at the window side of things, look at Leroy Merlin’s range, with a 15year guarantee they will see me out.
I am in the middle of replacing our windows and they are cheap especially compared to the UK and very good quality, I have replaced 4 so far and I am starting one of the bigger ones tomorrow 1200x1750 and there has been no problems with them at all so far.
I looked at pellet when the shifting and cutting of wood became too onerous, but rejected it on the grounds that it needed electric which may not always be there, and to install it meant replacing our wood burner, and I wanted to keep that as a backup if the electric, which now fuels our 2 air to air pumps, went down, or became too expensive.
When looking at pellet burners, take a look at their power requirements. I was surprised at the amount of power some needed baring in mind the power outages mentioned. I imagined it was just a fan motor running so low power but some with powered feed mechanisms require considerably more. A back up power supply is always a good idea if electrical outages are common. If you are considering a new EV the Huyandai and Kia’s also the latest MG have power to appliance feature so you can run your house from the car battery.
We have a stand by generator as out in the sticks we can get quite a few power cuts, we have had a few this winter with lines going down as our area is quite wooded and falling trees have been a problem lately.
Thanks for that. I would expect all the pellet stoves so have some kind of drive arrangement to feed fuel, even if there’s a certain amount of gravity assistance. I have no idea about reliability of electricity in this area, but having lived a long time in a rural place, so contingency planning seems good.
There are no plans to have an EV suitable to travel to france in the foreseeable future, but in another decade it could be a possibility.
It came down to cost, a. the farm had one and b. the power can go out for a day or two while they repair a power line or poles, this way we can run everything as normal especially as we have a few freezers full of fruit and vegetables and it does not happen to often normally.
we too have been considering a pellet burner (for many of the same reasons as you) to replace our Godin wood burner (which we are frankly still quite happy with) but having spoken to quite a few people about the options, the consensus seems to be that:
they are noisy
they generate a lot of dust
so we are sticking with what we have - which incidentally, supplements our heat pump providing both heat and aircon options (for the summer).
If cutting and storing heavy logs is a problem, have you considered the option of reformed “dense” wood logs which burn more effectively and hotter than traditional wood logs and are sold by supermarkets in ⅓m lengths (5 to a pack).
I think the combination of woodburning and pellet is a good belt and braces combo, unless you’re very short of suitable storage space for the latter (pellets, not braces). However, if you’re not here much in the colder months, presumably you don’t need that much fuel.
I was initially sceptical about pellet stoves, but have been convinced by several friends who have them and so we’ve just bought a 9KW Italian one to heat the middle floor of our house. There’s a 9KW woodburner on the ground floor that was cheap to buy, but very expensive to install (it also heats two bedrooms on the top floor) We also have four heat pumps, but only occasionally use their heating option and then for just a few minutes. However their dehumidifier is very useful when the temp gets above 40° (and more comfortable than the a/c) .
Our stove including ducting was half price in the French sales and the installation is very simple as we’re able to run the exhaust through a disused mediaeval chimney that was unsuitable for the log burner.
Battery - I don’t think we’d be around enough to maintain a battery properly, since we’ll likely leave the power off while away.
The noise aspect of a pellet stove isn’t ideal, though not dreadful either. The bedroom we stayed in on our Feb visit had one, and it whoosed gently with the fan while continuously making pinging sounds as pellets were fed down a chute to the firebox. It didn’t stop us sleeping, but it was quite noticeable. Dust is something I would NOT expect, since the unit effectively draws from the room unless sealed & using an external air source - it won’t put particles into the room.
We would definitely source the pellet stove in Europe (though possibly from Italy) to help with warranty/parts issues. Some supplier appeared to be offering reduced TVA if they fitted the stove along with a liner.
Thaks for the Poele a bois maison link Dr. Mark - looks like a good offer. I wonder if it’s possible to have a co-ax chimney arrangement the full height of the house, rather than going a short way through a wall?
Not convinced about reformed logs over conventional wood. It seems to me that one loses the benefits of the pellet stove (higher efficiency, hopper feeding) without gaining the benefits of wood (lower cost, no pre-fire processing of the fuel).
It was the fan and pinging noise we found annoying, my partner more than myself, we have separate TV rooms in both our houses and because we didn’t have music on at night it was quite distinct when everything else was quiet, the crackling of the woodburner doesn’t as we find it quite soothing.
We made the decision to stay with the Supra burner at the farm like Graham because we found it annoying and the Supra heats the whole house because of the ducted hot air system to all the rooms.
After a couple of decades (really) we’ve had a liner put in the chimney for our livingroom. This now has a terrific draw when the fire is on to the point where I can hear the air hissing through the vents in the stove. It penetrates headphonesand niggles at consciousness. It has also made the stove noticeably less effective, because a lot of heat is now being sucked up the chimney instead of making the stove really hot. I need to look into a flue damper to stop this happening.
Out of interest, did you buy from these people? Their prices seem remarkably good, but I wonder about fitting - in line with your comment, a cheap stove might prove expensive to have fitted by a 3rd party.
Yes, we got our stove from them. Re fitting, Some of our friends have done it themselves and I would too, if the stove inlet and outlet pipes were at ground floor level instead of several metres up. fortunately we have a friend who’s done a lot of work for us over the years as he’s a qualified electrician and plumber in the UK and France (a rare combo).
I think in urban France, the exhaust pipe can’t exit below roof level, so it must be possible, but of course would be costlier.