Updated: September 2017
Pellet stoves are a popular option for homeowners who want a cost effective way to heat their homes, and like the rustic allure of a wood heat. The problem is that there are hundreds of options on the market, and it can be difficult to separate the good from the bad. That’s where we can help. We’ve researched the top selling models on Amazon, and our proud to present you with this year’s top 5.
Our Top 5 Best Rated Picks
Read Our Reviews
#1 Castle Serenity 12327 – (The best value for the money)
- Heats 1,500 sq feet
- Greater than 78% efficiency
- Great Price
The Serenity is one of the most popular small varieties on the market. This type of support most likely comes in response to the Serenity’s sturdy construction, reliable heating, and advanced features.
The product is well crafted, and does not have many interior parts, which helps ensure it is easy to clean. It is able to accommodate a 40lb bag of pellets in it’s hopper, and requires minimal installation work. The heat output is consistent and radiates a comforting warmth throughout the room.
Where this mini machine truly shines is with its programmable features. You can use the controller at the top of the unite to set specific temperatures based on the day and hour. This means you can have the temperature set lower during the nighttime when you are sleeping, and higher during the day when you need more warmth. You can still manually adjust the thermostat or burn level (5 levels) if you don’t wish to program it. The best part about all of this-there’s an included remote that can do everything we just mentioned.
The high quality and innovative features would be in vain if the customer service were shoddy, but this is the polar opposite with Castle. They are the only company in this category that offers live customer support. In the event that a part needs replacing they stock all service parts to make maintenance a breeze.
The only downside we can think of is that the Castle Serenity might be a bit small for some homeowners, but this is a minor complaint in light of the other benefits. Overall, if you have a smaller home and want a highly reliable pellet heater with programmable options-this is the purchase for you. For a more in-depth look check out the full Castle Serenity Review.
#2 The Pleasant Hearth – (best for large house)
- Heats up to 2,200 sq feet
- 120lb hopper
- EPA certified 85% efficiency
Pleasant Hearth is a big player in the industry. You may have read about them in some of our other content, but we love them for making a great product at an affordable price. With this product their philosophy is no different-maximum value for minimum price. Overall, this mentality works out well, but there are some quality control issues we will cover below.
To begin with, this unit is a powerhouse in both heat output, and hopper size. If you want to warm a large area this model has what it takes. A woman living in Colorado mentioned that it kept her toasty even in 5 degree temperatures. The temperature will remain constant due to a control system that automatically maintains the temperature you initially set.
The hopper can hold three bags of pellets at 40 pounds each, so you will be able to wait a day between refills if you like.
The product is shipped attached to a pallet, so when you get yours you will have to unscrew the legs. Other than this simple step, setup is considered relatively easy by most users. As always, we recommend professional installation to ensure safety and adherence to local zoning regulations.
Appearance wise, it takes up a relatively small footprint in the house, and is styled after a steel made burner. The chrome accents on the handle and ceramic glass viewing window add to this cozy vibe. It is worth noting that the flame pattern will not be as beautiful as a log version.
The majority of reviewers find this unit to be a workhorse that keeps them comfortable, but some have also had issues with the reliability of the components. Most common, the fan or augur (feeds pellets to the hopper) has stopped functioning for some buyers. There is a 5 year limited warranty, but most important components only have a 1 year warranty making the decision slightly riskier. d
Overall, if you need maximum heat and want a machine that can cover a large area efficiently-this is an ideal buy for you.
#3 Comfortbilt HP22 LARGE– (Highest Quality for a large house)
- Heats up to 2,000 sq feet
- 86% EPA rated efficiency
- Built to last
- Large fire viewing window
The Comfortbilt is very similar to the Pleasant Hearth in heat output and efficiency, but differs in its construction and reliability. Whereas the Pleasant Hearth had some complaints for poor quality parts, the Comfortbilt has received accolades for its hefty construction. Customers have raved about the high quality of certain components like the door’s rope gasket.
Aside from quality manufacturing, the product comes with the normal suite of electronic control features such as 24/7 automatic runtime and a programmable thermostat. These are fantastic, but some reviewers struggled to actually understand how to use them.
In regards to general usage this large machine is well regarded for its high heat output. The efficiency rating is higher than the industry average, which means you will get more heat per bag of fuel. Speaking of pellets, Comfortbilt claims the hopper can hold 55lbs, but in customer experience it seems that around 40-50lbs is more accurate. One minor quibble is that the hopper opening is small relative to the size of fuel bags, so you have to be careful when loading.
Finally, the design is a slightly more modern aesthetic, but the large window helps showcase the fire, and lend a cozy atmosphere to whatever space the product is in. Some pragmatic design features also include a built in ash pan and automatic ignition.
It is worth noting that the US distributor is very helpful to his customers, and does everything in his power to leave them satisfied. There is a one year parts warranty, and if you ever need any help with installation/technical work there is support.
Overall, this is a great choice for large spaces. The downside is that it costs about 400-500 more than its closest competition the Pleasant Hearth. In the end the decision is up to you, but if you have the choice go with the Comfortbilt.
#4 US 5500M King Pellet Burner
This article is technically meant to point out exclusively our favorite products , so in this case we thought it necessary to briefly cover the worst as well. There are takeaways that will help you understand warning signs in other products you may be thinking of purchasing.
One of the biggest complaints about this product is that the parts deteriorate. One owner had the augur (feeds pellets to the machine) break down multiple times another had to have the electronic components replaced multiple times….the list goes on and on. Read through the amazon ratings, and all you’ll find are dissatisfied customers who have become close with USSC’s (bad) support.
Another issue with this item is a fire hazard caused by two holes on the bottom of the unit. There are supposed to be bolts inside those holes, but that is not always the case as one user found after his version started smoking.
Quality control errors as egregious as those outlined above should never be the most well known features of a product. If you want to save money then purchase a Castle Serenity or save up for a bigger model, but do not, I repeat DO NOT purchase the US 5500M King Pellet Burner. It is more like a peasant than a King.
#5 Bay Front Wood Heater 2015
- Electronic Ignition and Digital Thermostat
- Heats about 1,800 sq feet
- 40lb hopper
This is a small little unit that will get the job done without too much trouble. It has a pretty slick operating interface, which allows you to see temperature, what phase of combustion it’s in, and whether the feeding motor is working. Other than the display the rest of the design/features is admittedly average, which is not a bad thing.
We have a few qualms with it though. One is the high price, which does not make sense considering the size of the hopper. Another, is the unclear heat output. In a response to a customer’s inquiry the manufacturer stated that the model would heat 1,800 square feet easily, but could even go as high as 2,500 square feet based on the height of the room. This approximation is exceptionally wide, when you consider other manufacturers will give a single digit response. There is truth to the fact that heat output will vary based on room size, but the lack of a specific number seems odd to us.
Overall, this seems to be a reliable product, but is relatively unpopular with consumers. If you don’t like anything by Comfortbilt, Pleasant Hearth, or Castle then this is probably the choice for you.
How Does it Work?
It works by burning wood pellets (vs. logs like a wood stove), which are compressed pieces of wood waste such as sawdust.
- The pellets are loaded into the hopper (storage area)
- They are fed into the burn pot (steel bin for burning) by an augur (corkscrew conveyer belt). There are also gravity fed versions that do not require an augur, but these are normally much larger machines.
- They are ignited by an electric ignitor or manually with a grill lighter.
- A series of electric combustion fans and air intakes causes them to burn intensely, and the heat to radiate around the room (also excretes exhaust gas).
As you may have noticed from the step-by-step, these little machines require electricity to operate the fans, thermostat, and circuit board which controls the operation. These electrical components make the final product more hands off than log burning burners, but the downside is that you are reliant on electricity. A simple solution would be to connect a backup battery pack that uses an inverter and a battery from a small car or boat. There are non electric varieties, but those are rare.
- Efficiency: Since the internal air circulation is managed by electrically programmed and optimized fans/blowers, pellets burners have a high average efficiency. The actual number is between 60-80% efficiency depending on the model (as rated by EPA). This means you will be getting more heat from your fuel.
- Save Money: Overall, the cost of heating is cheaper than using electricity or oil (but still not as cheap as natural gas). Additionally, there are some states that give tax incentives.
- Clean: They burn cleanly and produce only a fine ash. If you take care of your model it will not produce creosote, which is a sticky black substance that can accumulate in the exhaust, ignite, and pose serious damage to property.
- Easy Maintenance: Simply dump fuel in, and clean the ash out
- Approved for RV homes: ALTHOUGH not all of them, so make sure you check that yours meets requirements for use in a mobile home.
- Horizontal Venting: Unlike a other stoves, which requires a vertical exhaust pipe, these have a double walled exhaust pipe that is oriented horizontally. This mean you can route it directly outside same as you would while cooking.
We recommend hiring a professional to handle this step for you. This is a complex process, and involves drilling holes into your walls for airflow and ventilation. The average price is between 300 to $1,000 depending on how much work will be needed. This may be steep, but it is better to be safe than sorry. If you are installing on your own then this video from This Old House may help.
There is less maintenance involved, because the overall burn is cleaner. That being said, here are some helpful tips.
- Refill daily (depending on the size of the hopper)
- Empty the ashpan once a week (average if you are using daily).
- Examine (daily) the burn pot to make sure the air vents are not being blocked by anything.
- Professional cleaning/examination once a year. This will take care of hard to reach stuff like vent cleaning, and give you peace of mind.
- Ash vac: An ash vacuum is a great way to easily get rid of all the ash that wasn’t caught in the ash pan. It’s worth noting, that if you try to dispose of ash by dumping it some particles may become airborne. Ash particles are not healthy to inhale, so using an ash vac will limit airborne exposure. Finally, you’re less likely to make a mess vs. dumping the ash into a plastic bag.
- We recommend the Bad Ash Vacuum it has rave reviews, and an affordable price. It will hold 5.3 gallons of ash, so it will be weeks before you have to worry about emptying it.
- Coal Scuttle: These can be helpful for scooping wood pellets into the hopper if you don’t like/don’t have the strength to dump the entire 40lb bag in at once.
Q: Where to get fuel?
A: The best woodfuel is going to have 1% or less ash content (per 40lb bag) additionally you will want to decide whether to purchase hardwood or softwood pellets. Softwood has a 10% higher heat output, so that is what we recommend. You can buy pellets from stores or online.
Q: How long before you refill the hopper?
A: It depends on the size, most will go through 40lbs of fuel a day. If the hopper can hold more than 40lbs you will be able to wait more than a day between refilling.
Q: What is the best one for RV?
A: Not all mini stoves are certified for mobile home usage, but the Castle Serenity is certified and capable.
Q: What is the best small version?
A: Again, this depends on personal preference, but the most popular by far is the Castle Serenity. This is a great option, but if you are looking for something less expensive then we have a full guide to cheap pellet stoves.
Pellet heating can be a great source of warmth for your home, and depending on what you currently use as fuel (eg. heating oil) it can be a cost effective alternative. We hope you enjoyed this article, and as always be sure to contact us if you have any ideas for future content we should include.