As people search for ways to cut their heating bills, pellet stoves are growing in popularity. Sales nearly doubled last year and with this year's federal tax credit, they could go even higher.
Consumer Reports just tested pellet stoves and found there are pluses and minuses.
Pellet stoves put out a warm fire, burning pellets made of compressed sawdust or other renewable resources.
"They burn more cleanly and are easier to handle than the logs you'd use in a wood stove," said Bob Markovich of Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports' Emilio Gonzalez tested six pellet stoves ranging in price from $1300-$4000.
"Pellet stoves produce a lot less ash, meaning they may not need to be cleaned as frequently as a wood stove," said Gonzalez. "So, for example, a 40-pound bag like this in this stove produces only this much ash."
That may be convenient, but refilling the stove with heavy bags of pellets definitely is not.
And Consumer Reports found a problem with the Lopi Leyden Pellet stove.
Two units jammed when burning longer pellets.
That not only put out the fire, but also made for a tedious job unjamming the stove chute.
Shorter pellets worked fine, but the problem is pellet size is not usually marked on the bag.
"We also found that pellet stoves aren't a surefire money saver. If you use natural gas, burning pellets will actually cost you over 20& more at current energy prices," said Markovich.
On the other hand, if you heat with oil, you could cut your costs by roughly 15%.
But even still, it'll take years to break even.
"No matter what you normally heat with, a pellet stove could take years to pay for itself, even after the tax credits, when you factor in purchase and installation costs."
But despite all this, if you still want a pellet stove, Consumer Reports recommends the Harman Stove P68 for $3900.
A plus-it has a big hopper, which means you don't have to fill it as often.
Many pellet stoves qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $1500 if installed by the end of 2010.
As far as the cost of the pellets, you can expect to burn about 150 bags a year, or around three tons.
That'll cost you around $750.