Installing a pellet stove
Last updated 1/22/2020
Compared to many home heating and cooling options, pellet stove installations are relatively straightforward. In fact, a pellet stove is almost fully self-contained - the only real external equipment you’ll need to have installed is a vent to the outside for exhaust fumes. As such, pellet stove installations are a much easier DIY project than other heating and cooling systems, such as air source or geothermal heat pumps.
Importantly, there are a few key differences between installing freestanding versus insert pellet stoves. For example, with a freestanding pellet stove, you’ll need to cut a new venting hole in your wall, whereas with insert pellet stoves, you’ll need a chimney liner to funnel exhaust fumes up and out of your home through your existing ventilation structure.
Before installation: learn your heating needs
Before you install a pellet stove, your home contractor may visit your property to assess your heating needs. Alternatively, you can roughly estimate the size pellet stove you’ll need on your own. As a rule-of-thumb, according to the Department of Energy, a pellet stove rated at 60,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs) can heat an open-plan, 2,000 square foot property. Of course, if you’re only looking to add a heating element to certain parts of your property, a smaller pellet stove will likely get the job done. On the other hand, larger, multi-story properties may need a pellet stove rated closer to 80,000 to 100,000 BTUs.
Freestanding pellet stove installation in four steps
There are four main steps to a freestanding pellet stove installation:
1. Install a hearth pad and place your pellet stove
First, you’ll need to place or install a fire-resistant hearth pad in the spot where you plan to place your pellet stove. Hearth pads protect floors from potential sparks, embers, and high heat coming from your pellet stoves to prevent any chance of a fire breaking out. They are often made from cement or stone.
After installing a hearth pad, you can move your pellet stove into place. It’s important that your pellet stove is both close to an electrical outlet and a suitable wall to cut a hole in for ventilation.
2. Cut a hole for the vent
Next, a hole needs to be made in the wall in order for proper ventilation of the exhaust fumes from the stove. The size of the hole depends on the size of piping you’re installing but is generally around three to four inches wide.
3. Insert vent thimble and piping
Once you’ve drilled your vent hole, the next step is to thread the vent thimble, which is a sleeve for the actual piping, and the piping itself through the newly-made hole. It’s important to seal around the vent thimble on both sides of the piping, as well as to install a cap and screen on the outside opening to prevent precipitation and debris from entering your ventilation system.
4. Connect your pellet stove to the piping and an electrical outlet
Lastly, plug in your pellet stove to a standard 120-volt outlet and connect the ventilation piping to the stove’s exhaust pipe. Fill up your pellet stove’s hopper to start generating heat!
Insert pellet stove installation in five steps
You can also install a pellet stove in an existing fireplace opening. There are five main steps to an insert pellet stove installation:
1. Prepare your fireplace
First, it’s important to make sure your fireplace is properly cleaned and cleared to allow for a pellet stove to safely sit inside of it. To create enough space for some pellet stove models, you may have to remove your fireplace’s damper, a rotating flap that keeps cold air out when the fireplace isn’t in use and allows exhaust to escape during normal operation. It won’t be necessary with a pellet stove setup.
2. Insert the chimney liner
Next, you’ll need to install the proper piping and exhaust systems. Instead of drilling a hole in an external wall like you would for a freestanding pellet stove, you can use your existing chimney to funnel exhaust fumes away from your stove. You’ll need to put a chimney liner through your chimney, which is either a rigid or flexible metal pipe that carries fumes upwards and out of your home. Chimney liners are often most easily installed by threading them down the chimney from the roof instead of from the ground up.
3. Attach the liner adapter and plug in your stove
Once the chimney liner is in place, you’ll need to clamp on an adapter piece to make sure it will fit on your stove’s exhaust port. Additionally, make sure to plug the stove into a standard wall outlet - it’s much more difficult to connect these components after the stove is in place inside the fireplace opening.
4. Place the pellet stove in the fireplace and connect the liner
Next, you can move your pellet stove into the actual fireplace opening and connect the liner to the stove’s exhaust port, which is usually on top of insert pellet stove models.
5. Cap the liner at the top of the chimney
The last step in an insert pellet stove installation is to cap the liner emerging from the top of your chimney. Installing a liner cap holds the liner in place and prevents outside weather from getting into your stove and home.