Wood pellets are clumps of wood dust and other wood materials that are compressed together, sometimes with the help of a natural gluing agent. They can come in a variety of different grades, depending on the type of wood and other ingredients used in their manufacture. While the nature of wood pellets restricts their use to only a handful of fireplace systems, they can be used in a wood stove with the proper devices.
Pellets and Wood Stoves
Pellets are popular because they burn very hot and clean, providing heat with greater efficiency than wood. Most wood pellets are used in pellet stoves that are made specifically for burning the pellets in the right proportion and using their heat as effectively as possible. These stoves have hoppers to store the pellets and automatic dispensers that keep the fire burning continuously. They are also equipped with grills and ash collectors that can be cleaned out when the pellet residue piles up.
Wood fireplaces, on the other hand, do not have these components to help burn the pellets. This poses a problem, since scattering pellets on the bottom of the fireplace and lighting them is dangerous and will probably damage the fireplace itself, while not providing the necessary concentrated heat. You have two options to make pellets work in a wood stove. First, you can use only a small amount with your kindling to help provide a bed of coals for your wood to rest on. Second, you can use a fireplace insert that will allow you to burn pellets in your wood stove.
Fireplace inserts are essentially metal baskets designed to fit inside wood stoves and hold wood pellets so that they can be lit and used in a traditional fireplace. These baskets are made of fire resistant steel mesh so that the pellets can burn and the residue can drift down without endangering the integrity of the fireplace or letting the pellets drift around to the corners and provide uneven heat.
There are a couple of problems with inserts. They do not have automatic loaders, so you will need to add pellets manually, which can be difficult or impossible to do while the first load of pellets is still burning. Also, the pellets are not guaranteed to burn in an even way for maximum heat efficiency. They may require tinder or lighter fluid to get started, and do not always produce a large enough flame for quality combustion.
If you want to use an insert, measure the depth, height, and width of your wood stove to get an idea of the size you need. Several companies sell inserts such as the Pelleteer and Prometheus brands, which come in several different sizes depending on your stove. You should have a couple inches of space between the insert and the walls of your fireplace.