Wood and Pellet Stove Reviews

Editor's note:
The top-rated pellet and wood stoves from our previous report have managed to nab the top spot for another year; they really are the best on the market. If you currently heat your home with oil or electricity, switching to one of these sustainable biofuel stoves can generate significant savings.
 
Harman P68
Specs that Matter
Heating power - 71,200 BTUsHeating area - 3,900 sq. ft.Est. burn time - 20-plus hours
Best Reviewed
Best pellet stove
Harman P68

The Harman P68 pellet stove is the most reliable and powerful model we evaluated, heating up to 3,900 square feet. Its hopper holds 76 pounds of pellets -- enough to keep the home fires burning all day or night -- and an exhaust monitor constantly adjusts the heat levels to keep your interior temperature within 1 degree of the set point. This stove is less finicky about pellet quality than much of the competition, giving you more flexibility when choosing your fuel.

Castle Serenity
Specs that Matter
Heating power - 35,000 BTUHeating area - 2,800 sq. ft.Est. burn time - 5-7 hours
Runner Up
Cheap pellet stove
Castle Serenity

The Castle Serenity pellet stove is reliable and well-made -- practically unheard of in a stove that sometimes sells for less than $1,000. A built-in heat probe and blower help the stove adjust its burn rate and then circulate the hot air, and maintenance is unusually easy for a pellet stove; just cool the stove, empty the ashes, then dust and sweep the inside of the stove and exhaust pipe. The company's customer service gets kudos, too.

Sedore 3000
Specs that Matter
Heating power - 125,000 BTUsHeating area - 3,000 sq. ft.Est. burn time - 12-plus hours
Best Reviewed
Best wood stove
Sedore 3000

The Sedore 3000 is an old-fashioned workhorse of a wood stove that's designed to last for decades. It's also a multi-fuel stove: In addition to burning just about any type of wood you can think of, including sawdust and wood chips, it's also capable of burning corn. Users love the Sedore 3000's simple, efficient downdraft design, and quite a few take advantage of the hot water coils that can be routed to your water heater or baseboards.

US Stove 2000
Specs that Matter
Heating power - 89,000 BTUHeating area - 2,000 sq. ft.Est. burn time - 7 hours
Runner Up
Cheap wood stove
US Stove 2000

If you want reliable wood heat on a strict budget, the US Stove 2000 cranks out up to an impressive 89,000 BTU. Its plate steel construction heats up quickly and radiates heat well, although the firebox's shape and drafting is admittedly a little quirky. Still, this is a great bargain. Users say that with a little practice, this stove will provide burn times of around 7 hours or just about a full day; the fire-brick lining helps retain and radiate heat.

Woodstock Soapstone Ideal Steel Hybrid
Specs that Matter
Heating power - 60,000 BTUHeating area - 2,200 sq. ft.Est. burn time - 12 hours
Runner Up
Best soapstone wood stove
Woodstock Soapstone Ideal Steel Hybrid

The Woodstock Soapstone Ideal Steel Hybrid stove beat out fierce competition to win the 2013 Wood Stock Decathlon. It's available in two models -- a basic fire-brick-lined stove, or a higher-end model with a soapstone liner and panels that provide lingering radiant heat after the fire has gone out. The hybrid catalytic/dual-combustion design can keep a fire going for 10 hours or more and, so far, user reviews show the stove's mechanisms to be simple and dependable.

Quadra-Fire Mt. Vernon AE
Specs that Matter
Heating power - 53,300 BTUHeating area - 2,900 sq. ftEst. burn time - All day
Best Reviewed
Best multi-fuel stove
Quadra-Fire Mt. Vernon AE

The Quadra-Fire Mt. Vernon AE is the highest-rated of the high-tech multi-fuel stoves we evaluated. It's advanced features make it almost as convenient to operate as a conventional home stove, and the hopper is large enough to heat up to 2,900 square feet all day (or night) without a refill. The Mt. Vernon AE can burn pellets, corn, wheat or sunflower seeds, and can be updated to burn other fuels as specs become available.

Fahrenheit Technologies Endurance 50F
Specs that Matter
Heating power - 50,000 BTUsHeating area - Whole houseEst. burn time - Up to 60 hours
Runner Up
Best multi-fuel furnace
Fahrenheit Technologies Endurance 50F

The Fahrenheit Technologies Endurance 50F forced-air multi-fuel furnace can be integrated into your home's existing ductwork, ducted directly into living areas, or run as a stand-alone heating stove. It can burn wood pellets, grain pellets, dried cherry pits or shelled corn, and the massive 112-pound hopper (with an optional extension) can last for days. Optional hot water coils let you link this furnace to your domestic hot water or baseboard heating.

Cut fuel cots with a pellet or wood stove

With the cost of heating by conventional fuels like oil, gas, propane or electricity constantly on the rise, pellet stoves and wood-burning stoves are more attractive than ever. Many stove owners say they've cut their heating costs at least in half -- and often more -- by switching to these renewable biomass fuels, either for supplementing central heating or replacing it altogether.

As of 2016, newly manufactured wood stoves are subject to elevated EPA performance standards. The new standards aim to improve one of the little-known downsides of wood stoves -- air pollution -- although today's stoves burn much more cleanly than those of decades past. If you already own a wood stove, don't worry; the upgraded standards don't apply to existing wood stoves and wood-burning heaters currently in use in people's homes. However, if you're concerned about local air quality, now might be a great time to upgrade.

Types of Pellet and Wood Stoves
Pellet Stoves

These use pellets made of wood waste products, like compressed sawdust. Many models come with convenience features such as auto-ignition and thermostatic control. This brings them as close as you can get to the feel of a conventional furnace while still burning biomass fuel, but also means that pellet stoves need electricity to operate. Some, but not all, pellet stoves can be hooked up to a battery backup in case the power goes out.

Wood Stoves

Are simpler and more intuitive to operate than pellet stoves with fewer moving or electronic parts that can break down. They don't require electricity, and less processing goes into preparing the fuel; all you have to do is cut and/or split wood, then let it sit until it's dry enough to burn cleanly.

Multi-Fuel Stoves

Some (but not all) pellet stoves are really multi-fuel stoves, capable of burning a variety of fuels including corn cobs or shelled feed corn, cherry pits and sunflower seeds. The price of wood pellets and other biomass fuels can vary drastically according to season, supply and demand, so having a multi-fuel stove gives you more options when it comes to selecting the cheapest or most readily available fuel in your area.

Choosing the right fuel

Pellet stoves are best if you either live near an inexpensive, consistent source of pellets -- think construction and other lumber-related industries -- or have the space to stockpile 1 to 2 tons of pellets, typically in 40-pound bags, when you find them at a good price. Pellet quality also varies widely, so be prepared to try several different brands to find the one that works best with your stove.

Wood is likely to be the best fuel for you if you live near a sustainable source of firewood, and are prepared to either pay for it or invest your own time and effort into cutting and splitting it. You must also store the wood for at least six months to a year or more before burning it. The exact storage time will vary depending upon wood type and local conditions.

This storage time lets the wood dry or "season" to less than 20 percent moisture content, which in turn means it'll burn hotter and cleaner than green wood. Most people using wood heat say they need about four cords of wood to get through a typical winter in the U.S. or Canada, although your needs will vary according to house size, insulation and climate.

Some people like the versatility that multi-fuel stoves give them. Having different options can allow you to experiment with what you prefer and perhaps help you save money on fuel costs because you can choose the type that's cheapest and most plentiful at the time.

Stove maintenance matters -- a lot

Although all stoves require regular cleaning and maintenance, many owners are surprised to discover that pellet stoves require the most upkeep, thanks to their extra moving parts and more convoluted internal construction. That often means daily cleanings, and in some cases you may have to do deep cleanings as often as twice a week.

When you invest in a higher-end pellet stove, part of what you're paying for is a (hopefully) easier maintenance schedule. Maintaining your stove does make a huge difference, because many of the complaints we found about parts breaking and stoves failing are, no doubt, due to inadequate maintenance. Scott Williamson, an independent pellet stove repairman and consultant for Alliance for Green Heat, shares data from his service calls on what he deems the most reliable pellet stoves. Between 60 and 70 percent of the time, a simple cleaning was all it took to get a non-functional pellet stove back up and running.

Installing your wood or pellet stove

Most homeowners should seriously consider the option of professional installation. This is for both your safety and the sake of the stove, since improper installation accounts for a number of malfunctions. If you don't choose professional installation, make sure you follow the required clearances, hearth sizes and venting requirements fastidiously. All of the above will be in the stove's manual, which can almost always be downloaded from the manufacturer's website if you misplace the paper copy. Last but not least, you'll usually have to pay for your own installation supplies, from vent piping or chimney installation to the hearth and heat shields.

Ultimately, no matter which type of pellet or wood stove you purchase, it should provide clean, efficient and reliable heat; be easy to run and maintain; and, of course, have a good safety record. Happily, the latter was a given for each of the top models we evaluate in this report.

Finding The Best Pellet and Wood Stoves
Our Sources1. Alliance for Green Heat
Reliable Pellet Stoves2. Wise Heat
Wood Stoves3. Hearth and Home Magazine
2016 Vesta Award WinnersSee All

We found just one comparative expert review of pellet stoves, published by the Alliance for Green Heat; they also offer recommendations for wood stoves. Meanwhile, user reviews remain the best gauge of how well a pellet or wood stove performs under real-world conditions. Sites like WiseHeat.com, which is dedicated specifically to user reviews of alternative home heating systems, were especially helpful in our research. When it comes to comparing one stove to another, industry awards such as the Vesta Awards and the Wood Stove Decathlon run by the Alliance for Green Heat were often just as informative as professional reviews.