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 Intro: Pellet Stove Roundup

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These stoves provide practical, affordable heat. And who can resist an open flame?

Wood pellet stoves are easier to operate than wood or coal stoves, and they're less messy as well.

They emit so little smoke that the U.S. government exempts them from smoke-emission testing requirements.

The fuel they burn is a renewable resource -- and the ash they produce makes good fertilizer for the garden.

And if all that isn't enough, here's the best part about pellet stoves: Wood pellets are about half as expensive as petroleum-based fuels such as heating oil, kerosene or propane.

When you put all these tidbits together, it's easy to see why pellet stoves, boilers and furnaces are rapidly gaining popularity -- especially in small towns and rural areas where natural gas is unavailable.

On the pages that follow, we take a look at a variety of pellet stoves, from basic entry-level models to offerings on the high end.

The stoves in our roundup cost as little as $1,000 and as much as five times that. The pellets they consume are now widely available. (You'll even find them in the home-and-garden sections of big-box stores such as Lowes and Home Depot.)

As of this writing - mid 2011 - pellets cost an average of about $240 a ton. On a BTU basis, that's roughly equivalent to heating oil at $2 a gallon.

As a rule, pellet stoves need some sort of chimney. And as a rule, you need to plug pellet stoves into an outlet, as they consume a bit of electricity to power their blower fans and electronic igniters.

Of course, rules are made to be broken.

We look at one stove, for instance, that offers a battery backup for when the electric grid fails. And we look at another that requires neither a chimney nor even so much as a hole in the wall. Instead, it mounts in a window.

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Here at Ebricks, the building products guide, we live and play in the Eastern mountains of the U.S. and Canada. We like nice houses and fine furnishings. The rather eclectic group of sites we publish reflect these passions:

Furniture suppliers and furniture reviews - FurniturePlanners.com A guide to Eastern campgrounds, parks and ski resorts - EasternTrails.com