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Pellet insert - able to heat entire house?

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I'm looking to get a pellet insert installed into an existing fireplace. I've gone to 2 sellers so far. The one told me I wouldn't be able to heat the entire house with a pellet insert. He said it would probably only be able to heat the immediate area and a large part of the first floor from which the fireplace is on. The other place didn't say anything about that.

Does anybody have any insight into how much of the house a pellet insert would be able to heat???

My house is 1800 sq ft. the living room where the fireplace is located is on a split level part of the house. from the living room there is an opening into the stairwell to the 2nd floor which makes me think a big part of the heat produced from the insert would go up to the 2nd floor?

I've also heard of people using the fan of their central ventilation system to distribute the heat throughout the house. thoughts?????

any comments and recommendations are appreciated.
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Civil Engineer
5,832 Posts
I have a traditional wood stove fireplace insert. We looked into a pellet insert, but concluded that the additional cost of pellets vs. solid wood, and the fact that the pellet stove will not run in the event of power loss, made the traditional insert more appealing.

That said, every insert we looked at was rated in terms of BTU/hr output. Our particular model (a Jotul) was rated 40,000 BTU/hr. You have to be a little skeptical about the ratings, I think our insert probably only puts out 30,000 BTU/hr, and then only on full burn, with dry hardwood properly stacked inside the insert. By the way, the manufacturer's information claims that the particular insert we got could heat a 1800 square foot house, which is simply not the case, since we have an 1800 square foot house and the insert only heats the ground floor, and then only to about 68 degrees F in the room in which the insert is located, on a very cold day (say 15 degrees F, which is cold by MA standards).

So what I am saying is do not believe the ratings on the stoves, they are likely to be optimistic. Definitely do not believe the claims by the manufacturers about how many square feet they will heat. Do the heat load calculations for your house. This can be done if you know the insulation value in your walls, the area of walls, the area of windows and the R rating for the windows, and the insulation in your attic. There are sites on the web that will compute the heat loss for your house based on input parameters.

You also need to know the number of heating degree days you get, which can be found on standard charts easily available off the web. Then you can take the manufacturer's claimed output, drop it by say 20 percent, and you will have a pretty good idea how much house you can heat.

Last year we went through 4-1/2 cords of hardwood, and about 300 gallons of fuel oil. Prior to getting the stove, we would go through about 1000 gallons of fuel oil. Obviously your house will be different, depending on weather conditions, insulation, windows, orientation etc.
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