How Does a Pellet Stove Work? Everything You Need to Know

Josh Miller

Josh is a contributing writer to the site and former HVAC specialist.

Last Updated on June 9, 2021

Pellet stoves are a modern and convenient alternative to wood-burning stoves. They use wood pellets as a fuel source, so you don’t have to chop and store large quantities of firewood in your home.

All models work with a thermostat that monitors the temperature, and many have digital controls that you can link to a smartphone. This allows you to set the temperature remotely or for a specific time during the day.

Pellet stoves heat a room differently from wood stoves. They use a convection blower to draw air into the furnace, heat it, and blow it out into the room.

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Table of Contents

How Pellet Stoves Work

If you have ever used a pellet grill or have learned about them, you’ll recognize many of the same features in a pellet stove. They have a series of components that run on electricity, including an auger, a thermostat, or blowers.

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Components of Pellet Stoves

The question of how a pellet stove works isn’t difficult to answer. Pellet stoves are more complex than traditional wood stoves, even though they can look very conventional from the outside. However, behind their simple appearance, there’s a well-built electric engine system. These are the main components of pellet stoves:

  • Hopper: a box where you store the pellets. The opening is usually on top, but some models have the hopper on the bottom.
  • Auger: a small electric engine that feeds the wood pellets into the main fire pot on the stove.
  • Two blower fans: pellet stoves usually have a combustion and blower fan. The combustion fan draws in air for the pellet combustion and then blows out fumes through a stainless steel exhaust vent. The blower fan draws in air to heat it and blows it out into the room.
  • Firebox: this is what you can see from the outside through the glass door. It’s where the pellets burn, and it has an igniter and an ashtray right below it.
  • Igniter: there’s an igniter in the fire pit inside the firebox. The igniter can be manual or automatic.
  • Thermostats or heat sensors: pellet stoves can have different heat sensors, consisting of a small electronic device that monitors the temperature and sends information to the auger.

Energy Sources

Pellet stoves work both with electricity and pellets. They have to be plugged into the wall since the auger, blowers, heat sensors, and analog or digital controls need electricity to function.

Pellets are a fuel source that’s easy and convenient to use. You simply load the pellets on the hopper, and the auger takes care of moving them into the firebox once you start the stove. Also, pellets are a more eco-friendly heat source than gas, producing less carbon emissions than wood or coal stoves.

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Controls on the Stove

A pellet stove has analog or digital controls that allow you to set the temperature. Some stoves have simple low, medium, or high controls, while other models have more advanced settings that allow you to set the stove to specific temperatures.

Some models allow you to link them to your smartphone, and through an app, you can preset the stove to turn on at a specific time. For example, some people like to set the stove for 6:30 AM, so it heats the house in the morning before waking up. 

Inner Mechanism

When learning how pellet stoves work, it’s critical to understand how the various parts interact inside the stove.

When you turn on the stove, the auger will start feeding the pellets into the firebox. On most models, the ignition is automatic, and as soon as the auger starts moving pellets, they start burning in the fire pit.

Near the firepit or right underneath it, there’s usually a thermostat or heat sensor that communicates with the auger. These sensors monitor temperature and tell the auger the rate at which it has to feed pellets to keep a steady temperature. There are never more than a handful of pellets in the firebox.

As the auger moves the pellets into the firebox, the fans start drawing in the outside air. The combustion fan draws in air for combustion and moves out smoke through a vent. The convection fan brings in cold air from the room and expels clean hot air, slowly warming up the room.

Advantages of Pellet Stoves

If you are considering buying a pellet stove, there are several advantages and disadvantages to consider. Compared with a traditional wood stove, pellet stoves are much more convenient, but some people enjoy the process of starting a fire with wood logs.

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1. Clean and Efficient Combustion

Wood pellets might be small, but they burn well and produce a decent amount of heat. A medium-sized pellet stove produces around 40,000-50,000 BTUs per hour, enough to heat a 2000 ft² house or apartment.

Also, wood pellets produce very little ash, making them easy to clean. Most models have an ashtray right underneath the firebox. Using a button or lever on the stove, you can move the ash from the fire pit to the ashtray. Even if you use the stove every day, you’ll most likely have to empty the tray once a week.

2. Easy to Use

Thanks to its analog or digital controls, pellet stoves are very easy to use. You can set the temperature without monitoring the fire and feeding it more wood. Also, wood pellets are very convenient for several reasons. The bags don’t take much space, and you won’t spend a lot of time chopping wood or carrying logs.

3. They are Safe

Well-maintained pellet stoves produce very little creosote, which is the flammable, sticky substance that causes chimney fires. Also, the heat sensors on most pellet stoves have safety features that turn off the stove in case of overheating.

Disadvantages of Pellet Stoves

One slight disadvantage is that pellet stoves need regular maintenance. Of course, you can hire someone to do the maintenance, but if you’re going to do it by yourself, you’ll need to vacuum the fire pit once a week and clean the stove every few months. Also, some models might make noises because of the fans and the auger. On high-end models, the noise should be almost unnoticeable.

Enjoy a Cozy Fire With Your Pellet Stove

Pellet stoves are an excellent way of providing a nice and cozy fire for your home without going through the trouble of starting and monitoring a fire on a wood stove. Consider learning about the different kinds of pellets. There are different kinds at different prices, and some burn a lot more cleanly and efficiently.

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