Choosing a reliable, robust and repairable pellet stove

Would you like to invest in a reliable, high-quality pellet stove that will last a long time? Find out more about the key points and LONGTIME®-certified products here.

How to choose the right pellet stove?

Good heating and energy savings are essential these days. Les solutions techniques se sont diversifiées et le chauffage à bois a fait un saut technologique majeur grâce à l'arrivée des poêles à granulés.
Whether you're looking to reduce your electricity bill, are planning to renovate your home or have decided to build a new house, whether single-storey or split-level, a pellet stove can be an economical, sustainable and low-carbon solution. It can easily replace a wood-burning stove or be used as the main source of heating;

You've decided to replace your old, classic open fireplace or insert, or you want to heat your home with wood. But even if it means investing a little money (on average between €5,000 and €8,000 all-in) vous désirez acquérir un poêle à granule durable, c’est-à-dire fiable et réparable et être ainsi tranquille pour de longues années ? We're here to guide you;

Because we believe that knowledge is power, let's get a little technical. If the rest of this article seems a little complex, simply put your trust in the LONGTIME® label. Pellet stoves have recently been awarded the label after being independently assessed against our 41 sustainability criteria. And what's more, they're 100% French.

How does a pellet stove work?

Pellet stoves are particularly recommended pour qui cherche à se chauffer de façon écologique, économique et sans les contraintes du poêle à bois. They come in all sizes and designs, can be programmed and regulated, and some can distribute heat to several rooms in the house, or even upstairs. They provide warmth and comfort while reducing the burden of loading wood and the chore of lighting it. In some cases, they can even heat your water.

But what exactly is a pellet stove?
The operating principle is simple. A reservoir, usually on the back of the appliance, automatically feeds pellets into the fireplace via an endless screw; the fuel is there, we just need the combustive agent.
In addition to the pellet supply, the stove will also manage the quantity of air, the combustive agent, which arrives in the firebox to modulate the power of your flame.

We have the fuel (pellets), we have the combustive (air), all we need is a spark. Depending on the temperature of your room, the stove will heat a spark plug (not the one in the cake, the one in your car). This will ignite the pellets in your brazier. Lastly, once your stove is in operation, an extraction fan takes care of evacuating the smoke into your chimney.

How do you check the reliability and robustness of a pellet stove?

What type of pellet stove should I choose? To ensure you make a safe and reliable purchase, there are certain features and points to which we recommend you pay attention; let's decipher them for you.

Combustion chamber or heating element :
The combustion chamber is where... combustion takes place!
Your combustion chamber can be made of cast iron or vermiculite-coated steel.
Provided they are made from high-quality materials, both options offer the same durability characteristics.

  • Cast iron is very strong, provided it is dense and properly melted. The other point to bear in mind with cast iron is the welding of the various plates that make up the combustion chamber. It is important that the welds are carried out in accordance with the rules of the trade, by highly qualified workers, so that they can withstand many years of heating.
  • Vermiculite or chamotte are refractory bricks that can withstand very high temperatures, allowing heat to be concentrated and radiated into the firebox. Vermiculite or fireclay walls often line the inside of fireplaces that are not made of cast iron, and are more sensitive to knocks and blows. But in the case of pellet stoves, the risk is low, unlike wood stoves, where the risk of damaging the walls when loading logs is high. In the event of an accident, these parts should normally be removable and replaceable. Check with the manufacturer to make sure they are available.

The pellet stove circuit board :
Each pellet stove contains a set of electronic components all controlled by the main electronic board. This is the brain of your stove, and is responsible for regulating it, understanding and processing the information from the probes and sensors, and all the operating phases of your stove.
As usual, the quality of the electronics is crucial to the life of your stove. The quality of the components, the quality of the design and the architecture of the board are crucial.

You should also bear in mind that the best electronic board in the world, equipped with the most reliable components but running with poorly developed internal software, will not give you satisfaction. On this point, the company's know-how is essential, and you can find several diagrams:

  • Almost all entry-level stoves use the same Micronova board, whose basic software is very limited.
  • This same Micronova board can benefit from joint software development with the manufacturer, which is already a small plus.
  • Last but not least, some experienced manufacturers design 100% of their own boards and the software that goes with them, giving them complete control over their products.

Be absolutely sure to check the company's policy on electronics: how long boards are available, the possibility of repairing components, reconditioned electronic boards, board protection against overcurrents... don't be afraid to ask questions!

The geared motor and worm :
To transport the pellets from the tank to the brazier, your stove uses an electric motor coupled to gears (a bit like a spindle-turner). This assembly, known as a geared motor, drives a worm screw, which is sometimes visible at the bottom of the pellet tank. The gearmotors must be well designed for quiet operation and must have a high enough torque to be able to break pellets that are a little too large for the auger.

Crucible, Brazier, Godet :
The name may vary, but the same part is always used to burn the pellets. Made of steel or cast iron, the quality of the brazier must be flawless to withstand the very high temperatures. Poor-quality crucibles deteriorate rapidly and eventually burst. Check the quality, thickness and finish of the piece.

The spark plug :
The candle is essential when you light your stove. For a few minutes, the candle will glow red (like the resistance of an electric oven) and heat the air flowing along the candle. This extremely hot air leaving the candle tube will ignite the pellets in the crucible (a bit like a heat gun). The candle will go out when the smoke temperature sensor reaches around 50°.
The design of the spark plug support tube, in particular its diameter, and the quality of the spark plug itself are decisive factors in ensuring trouble-free ignition for many years. Ceramic plugs heat up faster, are more efficient and operate for around 20,000 cycles, compared with 10,000 cycles for a traditional quality plug.

Fume extractor :
Unlike a wood-burning stove or chimney, pellet stoves do not exhaust combustion fumes independently. A turbine located at the back of the stove and upstream of the smokebox is responsible for extracting this smoke. A quality turbine that is well adjusted in terms of design will be a source of performance for your stove and comfort in terms of noise.

Heat fan :
Sometimes called a tangential fan, you'll find this part on ventilated pellet stoves. Don't hesitate to ask for a demonstration in shop to listen to the sound of the fan, as there are significant differences. A quality fan that is properly adjusted should not produce any vibrations.

On-board electronics :
Pressure sensor, flue gas temperature sensor, room temperature sensor, pellet level sensor. These various elements communicate permanently with the electronic board, ensuring both regulation of your appliance and safe operation.

For all these components, the choice of quality materials and the company's design and integration expertise will have a major influence on the lifespan of the stove and its ease of use. So beware of low-cost stoves, which may still represent an investment but will not give you complete satisfaction.

Which pellet stove to choose?

Pellet stoves with natural convection, channelizable pellet stoves, waterproof pellet stoves, connected pellet stoves, home automation or electricity-free, how to choose?

Several factors can influence the choice of a pellet stove. To determine which pellet stove is right for you, it's a good idea to look at several key factors. It's a good idea to take stock of what's really important to you, as well as the constraints associated with your home. There are a number of features to consider, many of which we'll look at here.

Stove power

Determining the power of your stove is essential. Generally expressed in KW, this will be influenced by a number of criteria, and we advise you to seek professional advice to determine precisely the power required for your comfort. Here are just a few of the factors that influence the wattage you should choose:

  • the surface area and volume of your home
  • its insulation
  • its geolocation
  • housing configuration
  • stove efficiency
  • central heating vs. auxiliary heating

It's obvious that for a poorly insulated 120m2 house in the high mountains, you'll need to choose a more powerful stove than for a 100m2 RT2020-compliant house in Toulouse.

Smoke control and technical feasibility

Stove installation :
If your house already has a chimney flue, installation will be simplified. Installing a pellet stove requires a special flue pipe, but this is small in diameter and should therefore probably pass through your flue without any problem.
If there is no flue, you will need to create a path for the smoke pipe. Ideally, this should exit above the ridge;
Finally, for the most complex situations (e.g. double semi-detached houses), there are sealed pellet stoves that can be installed with a suction cup. This means that the flue can exit from the front of your house, for example.

Operating noise :

A pellet stove is a source of noise, and there can be big differences between them. If you are sensitive to noise, it is important to consider the following. During the heating phase, the quietest pellet stoves on the market emit around 33 to 35 decibels, while the noisiest are in the 43 decibel range or more. That's no small difference.
Here are the different elements that can generate noise:

  • The worm. Coupled to a small electric motor, the auger is responsible for supplying the brazier with pellets from the reservoir, rotating at appropriate intervals. Depending on the design and quality of the geared motor and worm, the rotation will be more or less audible. Choose a stove with a worm gear that runs continuously, which is quieter than intermittent operation.
  • The brazier. The hearth houses the brazier or crucible. Depending on its design and material, the brazier absorbs to a greater or lesser extent the noise of the falling pellets fed by the auger. Consider that cast iron absorbs noise better than steel.
  • The wind tunnel. With the exception of natural convection stoves, which have no blower, pellet stoves are equipped with a hot air fan. As with a range hood, the higher the fan speed, the louder the noise. In the case of a ducted pellet stove, in addition to the usual blower, there is a second fan designed to redistribute the warm air in additional rooms, which is an additional noise factor.
  • Smoke extractor. This turbine, located at the back of the stove, is responsible for extracting and evacuating the smoke from your stove to the chimney flue. The quality of this essential part must be beyond reproach to generate as little nuisance as possible.
  • It should also be pointed out that almost all wood-burning appliances (but not only) generate expansion noise. Well-known to experienced users, these expansion noises are often unwelcome to people who have never had a wood or pellet stove before. These noises are normal and evolving, they can increase or decrease over time and do not depend on the settings of the equipment. It's a good idea to be prepared for it, but don't make a mountain out of a molehill.

You can find comparisons on the web to check whether the model you've chosen is quiet or noisy.

Heat diffusion technology :

Do you have a single-storey or two-storey home, with rooms that open onto each other or, on the contrary, are totally partitioned?
Like many wood heating solutions (insert, wood stove), pellet stoves essentially heat the space in which they are installed.
When choosing your stove and its heat distribution technology, you need to take into account as much as possible the configuration of your home to provide you with the best possible comfort. Professionals in the sector will be able to advise you as best they can on the technology best suited to your home, but here are some general points to bear in mind:

  • Poêles à granulés à convection naturelle : There is no blower here: the fresh air, close to the floor of your home, is drawn in at the bottom of the appliance and comes out at the top after being heated by a heat exchanger inside the stove. These stoves also radiate a little more heat.
    This is the quietest technology, but beware: these models will have difficulty heating rooms that are far from your stove. Similarly, if your home is heavily partitioned, the heat will have difficulty circulating;
    Keep in mind, therefore, that this technology is best suited to homes with an open plan layout, possibly homes that have another method of heating for remote rooms (bedroom and bathroom) or for two-storey homes where the bedrooms are above the room where the stove is installed. In the latter configuration, if your floor is not too thick, the hot air from the stove will stagnate in the ceiling and serve as underfloor heating for your bedrooms.
  • Poêles à granulés ventilés : These stoves have a fan capable of pushing and distributing the heat further than natural convection models. They are particularly effective on single-storey houses if the house is not too large. Ventilated pellet stoves generally distribute the hot air horizontally across the front of the stove. Other models distribute hot air vertically from the top of the stove. The latter solution may be considered for multi-storey homes.
  • Poêles à granulés ventilés et canalisables : These stoves operate in the same way as ventilated stoves, but with the option of distributing the warm air to rooms adjacent to the stove. In addition to the diffusion fan, a second fan pushes the warm air through a duct, allowing a partitioned room (bedroom, living room, dining room) to be heated or a little heat to be diffused further away. This can be useful for single-storey houses with large floor areas. Please note: rooms further away will be tempered by this system, not fully heated.
  • Poêle à granulés hydro (poêle bouilleur) : These models are rarer, but if your home already has a network of radiators (water radiators, underfloor heating), they are an excellent solution. Thermostoves work in the same way as the others, but they have the added advantage of being able to heat the water in your system, giving you an efficient central heating solution like a boiler. However, having a boiler installed in your living room is not without consequences in terms of noise, and you should choose a particularly quiet model.

Pellet stove autonomy:

Once again, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right stove for your needs. Here are a few parameters to help you choose the right equipment:

Main or auxiliary heating system :

Your stove is your main heating system, so we recommend a model that can hold enough pellets to operate for at least 24 hours. Reloading is one of the constraints of a pellet stove, and even if it's lighter than for a wood-burning stove, it's important that the way your stove works fits in with the way you live.

  • If you leave for work at 7 a.m. and return home at 7 p.m., the stove's pellet reserve must be sufficient to keep it running until your return.
  • If you get home between 12 and 2pm, you'll have the opportunity to recharge your stove, and the reserve factor will be less important.

Stoves can hold between 1 and 3 bags maximum, and the average consumption of a stove is generally around one bag per day. Some stoves can interact with the indoor AND outdoor temperature for greater economy and comfort.

Accommodation :

The more "granulovorous" your home, the greater the autonomy of your stove and therefore its loading capacity. Cold region, poorly insulated house, main heating rhymes with large load capacity

Stove cleaning :

To operate properly, a pellet stove needs to be maintained, especially the brazier, to ensure nominal operation (ignition and combustion). To alleviate this constraint, we recommend choosing a model with an automatic brazier ash removal option. This option offers you greater comfort in your daily work.

Energy label

Considered EEE, electrical and electronic equipment, stoves have been required to display an energy label since 2017, in France and Europe. As with other energy labels, it enables you to understand and compare the energy performance of different pellet stove models.

Don't hesitate to ask or look for it, as it's not always available in showrooms. The energy label classifies pellet stoves according to their energy efficiency, and also provides information on the pellet stove's rated output, efficiency, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

How to make your pellet stove last as long as possible?

There are three key factors in extending the life of your stove: installation, maintenance and pellets.

  • A state-of-the-art installation:

For your safety and comfort, installing a pellet stove is not something you can improvise. The installation of the flue system, the connections and the combustion and control settings must be carried out in strict compliance with the state of the art. Builders often require your installation to be carried out or inspected by a Qualibois-certified professional to activate guarantees in the event of a problem. A professional trained in the brand he is installing is also highly recommended.
Home insurance policies may also include restrictive clauses concerning these appliances.
A poorly installed stove won't work properly (over-consumption, poor heating), with the risk of premature wear and tear on your appliance and, above all, a risk to your safety.

  • Pellet stove maintenance :

The maintenance of your pellet stove has a major influence on its lifespan, as does its proper use.

A watchword: "Read the use and maintenance instructions" for your pellet stove.

Pellet stoves require varying degrees of periodic attention. Brazier, ashtray and glass should be serviced daily to weekly. Annual maintenance is also required to ensure thorough cleaning and sweeping of the flues. Proper maintenance will prevent the stove from clogging.

  • Pellet quality:

Last but not least, pellets must be of high quality. Poor-quality pellets that are too moist and contain too much dust will cause clinker in your brazier, blockage in the auger, deposits in your ducts and blackening of the glass.
Although often called into question, standards can help you identify premium-quality pellets that will preserve your stove. If you can, choose locally produced pellets too. It would be a shame to lose all the ecological benefits of efficient wood heating by importing pellets from the other side of Europe or the world.

How do I repair my pellet stove?

On a pellet stove, there's no reason why accessibility to the main components should be impeded.

To avoid breakdowns and problems with a pellet stove, there are a few basic rules to follow:

  • Choosing the right pellet stove for your needs, your home and your region
  • Have the stove installed by a certified professional approved by the manufacturer.
  • Adjust the stove on initial start-up
  • Comply with usage and, above all, maintenance instructions
  • Use quality pellets and store away from moisture

If you follow these few basic rules and choose a stove that is durable, i.e. robust, reliable and repairable, you should be relatively safe. However, no brand is immune to failure, and no product is infallible.

In the event of a breakdown, check the warranties first:

  • If your stove is less than two years old, contact the distributor who sold it to you. He is legally responsible for the legal guarantee of conformity.
  • If your stove is more than two years old, check that you have taken out additional insurance or an extended warranty. Also check manufacturers' warranties, as these may be extended to take over from the legal warranty of conformity.

Your device is no longer under warranty, so don't panic! Pellet stoves are absolutely repairable in the event of a breakdown:

  • In all cases, first contact the after-sales service of the brand of your product, either directly with the manufacturer or through the installing dealer.
  • Before undertaking any repairs, always check that the stove is correctly powered by checking your plug. To do this, unplug your stove from its electrical socket and plug in another appliance (bedside lamp, clock radio, telephone charger). If nothing happens, there's a good chance the problem is with your electrical network.
  • Your stove is correctly powered but displays an error message or code. Refer to the operating instructions to understand the problem.

Pellet stove ignition failure :

  • You've forgotten to refill the pellets and your stove won't start. Each stove has its own ignition procedure for this case. Check your manual or the manufacturer's website.
  • Your pellet stove is loaded with pellets, but they're no longer falling into the brazier. Put your ear to the ground to find out if your auger is working properly. Either the auger is blocked by agglomerated pellet dust or the geared motor has failed.
  • The pellets arrive in the brazier but nothing happens. It's possible that the spark plug has failed and needs replacing.
  • The pellets arrive, the spark plug works but the ignition is not optimal. First, check that nothing is blocking the combustion air supply to your stove. Then check that your brazier is clean and that its orifices are not blocked by clinker.

Pellet stove failure during operation:

  • The stove may trip during operation. Note that in high winds, some stoves trip (pressure switch).
  • Check your flame to make sure your stove's combustion settings are right (set air flow and pellets).
  • Make sure your pellets are of good quality and free of moisture.

Pellet stoves and DIY

For the more do-it-yourselfers among you, some problems can be solved by DIY (self-repair). The Internet is full of explanatory videos, and there are many groups on forums. You'll learn how to check your gearmotor, test your spark plug for example, but be careful... as with all electrical or electronic products, and particularly pellet stove appliances, make sure you have a solid grounding in order to intervene in complete safety and not damage the safety of the appliance.

When it comes to durability, make sure your stove's manufacturer has a high-quality after-sales service. All LONGTIME®-labeled products are repairable, so don't throw them away.

To sum up, when choosing a pellet stove

  • Choose brands with genuine technical support and a training program for installers.
  • Check not only the availability of spare parts over time, but also the lead times and prices of these parts.
  • Make sure the various priority parts are accessible: electronic board, gearmotor, spark plug, tangential fan, smoke extractor...
  • Find out about the quality of all the stove's electronics, and visually check the quality of the firebox and brazier.
  • Try to see the stove in operation and ask about the frequency of maintenance.

Would you like to buy a pellet stove without having to get your electronics engineering diploma or comb through 15 blogs and 4 consumer magazines?

Take a look at our product directory and you're sure to find what you're looking for!

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