Residential Pellet Stove Frequently Asked Questions

What percentages of New Yorkers use wood as their primary home heating source?
Overall, outside of New York City, only 3% of homes heat primarily with wood. However, in some counties, as many as 12% of homes heat with wood, according to the American Community Survey.**

**These figures may underestimate wood heating, as the survey does not include counties with populations of less than 65,000 and may not fully capture supplemental heating with wood (for example a home may have a whole house oil-boiler but the residents produce most of their heat with a wood stove).

What does a residential pellet stove cost?
Approximately $4,000, depending on size and model.

How much is the NYSERDA incentive?
A $1,500 incentive is available for homeowners who purchase a new, higher-efficiency, lower emissions pellet stove and recycle an existing wood stove at their primary residence. Low- to moderate-income households earning less than 80% of the area median income may qualify for a $2,000 incentive toward the purchase of a new pellet stove in a primary residence without recycling, and can receive an additional $500 if they recycle an existing wood or pellet stove.

Is financing available to help pay the remaining out-of-pocket cost?
Yes, financing is available.

Are pellet purchases subject to sales tax?
Purchases of pellets for residential use are exempt from state sales tax, as are all residential energy sources for heat.

What are the benefits of purchasing one of these pellet stoves?
All households that switch from a cordwood stove to a higher-efficiency, lower-emissions pellet stove benefit from improved temperature consistency, less maintenance and less pollution from their stove.

Where can I find a list of qualified pellet stove technologies?
NYSERDA has a subset of the latest approved pellet stove list available from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Which pellet stove system requires the least wood to heat the home?
The system that requires the least wood depends on the overall efficiency and configuration of the heating system. If a home is well insulated, a pellet stove in a central part of the home may provide the desired comfort. This will require a relatively low annual fuel use but, in many cases, only part of the house may be heated.

Where in the home should a new pellet stove sit?
Considerations when deciding where the new stove will go in a home include: How big is the stove physically? How far from the back wall and side wall will it sit? How will it be vented - through the ceiling and roof, or through the exterior wall? How does the design of the home fit these needs? Does the stove come with a pad? How large is the stove, and does it have clearance to combustibles? Additionally, a contractor will need to make sure it is possible to run electric wiring to the location, since almost all pellet stoves need electricity for pellet delivery and fans to deliver heat, as well as safe ventilation of the flue gases. A heating professional is also best equipped to assist you with the heat output sizing of a pellet stove for your location.

Will I be able to re-use my current vent pipe?
Most pellet stoves have a 3-inch vent pipe at the exhaust of the unit. If this exhaust will be run more than 15 feet (right angle elbows count as 5 feet), then the exhaust should be run through 4-inch pipe. The inner diameter of most wood stove vent pipe is 6 inches and may be considered too large or “oversized” for a pellet stove. Installation of a ‘liner’ may be possible, depending on other considerations, and when these are installed they should be clearly labeled. If replacing a pellet stove, the currently installed venting should be fully inspected and cleaned prior to installing a new stove on the existing vent pipe. Additionally, NYSERDA recommends pellet stove installations include the intake of combustion air from outside via direct ducting, whenever possible. These are all considerations to discuss with a heating professional. Properly installed, safe ventilation qualifies as an accessory that can be included in financing for customers who qualify for loans through Green Jobs - Green New York.

What about user maintenance?
Pellets need to be loaded into the stove. For most pellet stove users, this is done manually with 40-pound bags of pellets. The size of the bin in the stove will limit the burn time of the stove at a set burn rate. Additionally, the ash pan will need to be cleaned out at regular intervals, and ash in the burn chamber may need to be cleared periodically. Depending on the design of your stove, pellets are delivered to the burn chamber either from above or below. Some may need to be shut down periodically to clear the burn chamber of ash. The pellet delivery and burn chamber design, as well as the size of a stove’s pellet bin and ash pan, are considerations for the burn time between user maintenance of a pellet stove.

Is a pellet stove quiet like a wood stove?
The pellet delivery system will make some noise, as will the blower fans. The trade-offs are that a pellet stove provides a more consistent level of heat and will burn longer between user maintenance periods than a traditional wood stove. Ambient room temperature will be easier to control, and the stove settings allow control of the rate of fuel used.

What are wood pellets?
Wood pellets are made from compressed hardwood or softwood fiber and can vary in the amount of heat produced per weight, moisture content and ash produced. The type of pellet used in a stove can affect how well the stove burns the fuel, as well as the time between maintenance. Also, some stoves adjust better to different pellet types than others. It is recommended that a small trial quantity of pellets be purchased first to see how they perform in the stove prior to purchasing in bulk.

How should I purchase pellets?
Pellets can be bought in 40 pound bags, a ton (50 40-pound bags wrapped on a pallet) can be delivered, or bin delivery is available in a growing number of locations across New York State. Bin storage can also be installed through Renewable Heat NY to allow larger quantities of pellets stored onsite with automated feed into the stove, but the bins must be stored outside of the home. An advantage is that pellet delivery can be accommodated even when residents are away from home at the time of delivery.

How should pellets be stored?
Whether you use bulk or bagged pellets, a proper storage location is very important. Pellets stored in bulk quantities have been found to release carbon monoxide, and these pellets need to be stored in dry outdoor locations such as in silos or sheds. Outside storage of bulk pellets is required for residential and commercial installations supported by Renewable Heat NY.

We plan to study whether carbon monoxide is also released by pellets stored in plastic bags, and at this time have no requirement for outdoor storage. However, do not store pellet bags directly on concrete, as most concrete wicks water, and even the smallest holes in a pellet bag can allow moisture inside, ruining the pellets. Even moisture from air can condense when pellets are in contact with cold concrete or the ground.

How do power outages affect pellet stoves?
Some pellet stoves have battery back-up systems built specifically for the stove. Others have battery back-up capabilities that will not void the warranty. A battery back-up system built specifically to power only the pellet stove during a power outage is an eligible accessory under Renewable Heat NY for applicants who qualify for Green Jobs - Green New York loans.

Should a carbon monoxide or smoke detector be installed in a home with a pellet stove?
Yes. A contractor can help with the number and location of detectors as required by code and law. Amanda’s Law went into effect in February 2010, requiring essentially all residences, both new and existing, to have carbon monoxide alarms installed. Newer models are available with added safety features for children and individuals with special needs. Also check the detector periodically to make sure the batteries are working. Changes in daylight savings times are a minimal reminder to perform these checks.