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.