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High Fuel Oil costs install a Pellet Stove and save money.

Getting hit by high Fuel Oil prices, which are now at $3.28 a gallon, that is $656.00 for 200 gallons folks. I am and I checked out different types of alternative heating sources and decided on a wood pellet stove. I bought a Breckwell Big E Home Heater at my local Farm and Fleet store on sale for $1129.00 and two tons of premium hardwood pellets. One ton at Farm and Fleet is 50 - 40 lb bags, I bought them on sale for $175.00 a ton. I have been running the stove for 13 days and have used 1 bag a day, normally you burn about 3 tons a heating season. That depends on many factors such as the square footage and how well the house is insulated and how warm you want the house to be. I figure the stove and pellets will be paid for this year and next year I will only have the cost of the pellets. I have a total cost of around $2200.00 in the stove and pellets.
Here is a picture of our Breckwell Big E. It is considered the work horse of pellet stoves, ain' t pretty, but holds 3 bags of pellets and really pumps out the heat. I like this stove compared to the other stoves I researched. For one thing the top of this stove does not get hot, easier to pour a bag of pellets into the hopper and I only have to fill it every couple days. I looked at the Harman Stoves and for the money they are a great stove, but the it would have cost me around $2700.00 more for a Harman. I would have had less maintenance on it and they look really nice, but I just needed a cheaper way to heat and that is what my Big E does.
Breckwell Big E

This is a picture of the hopper that holds 3 bags of pellets.

Breckwells Big E Hopper

This is a picture of the clearances for the stove.

Breckwells Big E Clearances

Go to tab 2 for more info.

First I applied for a local Heating Permit from Planning and Zoning. Then I began the installation of the stove. Here is a list of what parts were needed for the installation:
  • Breckwell Big E Stove.
  • I bought the Simpson Dura-vent 3" double wall venting kit.
  • A steel over mineral fiber Hearth pad.
  • For the fresh air vent a metal sleeve with 2 clamps, 2" x 24" galvanized pipe, 22 1/2 degree elbow, 3" galvanized pipe, 2" to 3" 45 degree galvanized elbow, a stainless steel sink trap screen and a plastic vent.
  • Electrical, with mine I ran a 12-2 grounded wire and put it on a separate 15 amp breaker.
  • 1 tube of High temp Silicon caulking.
  • 1 small roll of high temp metal foil tape.
First I cut the corners off the Hearth pad so it fit in the corner. Then I marked out where the center of the pipes would be. I drilled a 2 1/4" hole for the Fresh Air Vent and then a 10" square hole for the Wall Thimble and framed in the opening. Next I positioned the stove on the Heather, I went with a 5" clearance from the corners of the stove to the wall, min is 3", this way I have more room in the back of the stove in case I need to check something. I installed the Wall Thimble and then caulked around the edges. This is a picture of the piping behind the stove.
Back of stove piping.

Next I assembled all the vent piping, putting a bead of High Temperature Caulking on each joint as I assembled it. I held back the 22 1/2 degree elbow and pipe adapter. Next I took the assembled pipes out side and slide them through the Wall Thimble, leveled the pipe and screwed the Wall Bracket to the House. Then went to the stove caulked the elbow and adapter and attached them to the outside piping and the stoves exhaust pipe. Then I caulked where the pipe enters the Wall Thimble and then wrapped the Metal High Temperature Metal Foil Tape around all the joints. Next I went back outside and caulked where the vent pipe exits the Wall Thimble. This is a picture of the outside piping installation.
Outside Exhaust Venting

Next I assembled the Fresh Air Piping, sealing the joints with the caulking. I assembled it from the stove out and then attached the 45 degree Elbow with the vent outside. After I assembled it all I caulked around the piping on the inside and outside of the House. This is a picture on the Fresh Air Vent Piping.
Outside Fresh Air Piping

Installation done, called for an Inspection, passed WOOT! Next I filled the Hopper with pellets and pressed the ON button, after about 10 minutes I had heat. It took about 2 hours to install. It has 5 heat settings 1-5 but you are not suppose to run it on 5 for more then a couple hours, I leave mine on number 2 during the day and if it cools down below 70 then I set it to number 3, which keeps the room at about 75 to 78 degrees.

Go to tab 3 for maintenance info.

Maintenance on the stove is really not to bad and considering how much money I am saving by not buying Fuel Oil, very minimal. I take some paper towel and once every day I open the stoves door and wipe the soot off the glass. Once a day I open the stoves door and stir the Burn Pot. On saturday, every week, I turn the stove off and clean the inside of the combustion chamber, this entails cleaning the Burn Pot, vacuuming out the ashes, I brush down the sides of the chamber and then open two small trap doors to vacuum out the Exhaust Passage, clean the glass on the door with special cleaner, put the burn pot back in and close the door and hit the ON button. It takes about 15 minutes to clean it. I have not cleaned the blades on the Blowers yet, will do that in a week to see how it goes.
Maintenance Scedule Breckwell Pellet Stove Big E

The nice thing about these stoves is that you are using a renewable energy source. The pellets are made from sawdust that comes from the sawmills, they come in 40 lb bags and all you do is fill the stoves hopper and hit the ON button. Depending on your heat setting the pellets are dropped into the burn pot at timed interval's. It is like burning micro logs in a blast furnace, with very little ash leftover. My stove has Automatic Ignition the pellets unlike a corn stove which you have to Manually Ignite and with corn you have the rodent factor. The other great advantage to Pellet Fuel is that it does not contribute to the green house gases. In fact pellet stoves burn so clean they are EPA Exempt from emission standards. I can also hook this stove up to a Thermostat and have it regulate the stove, just as with my fuel Oil Furnace. This stove puts out 55,000 BTU and has a blower that blows through 13 heat exchanger pipes to warm the room, pictured below.

Heat Exchanger Tubes

This is a picture of the Combustion Chamber.

Combustion Chamber

My cost for the stove was $1185.25 + the exhaust piping kit $333.35 + Hearth Pad $26.00 + caulking and tape $9.00 Total Cost= $1579.60 + 2 ton of pellets $350.00 Total with Pellets= $1929.60. I use 600 gallons of Fuel Oil per Heating Season which would cost $3.28 X 600= $1968.00. The savings from not having to buy Fuel Oil this year will pay for the stove and the pellet fuel I use this year. Next year if I only use 2 ton of pellets and can buy them on sale again for around $175.00 a ton I should save $1968.00 for Fuel Oil minus the cost of 2 ton of pellets $350.00= a savings of $1618.00 using my pellet stove, if I end up using 3 ton of pellets I will save $1443.00.
Update: I installed a thermostat to the Pellet Stove and now it shuts down when it reaches 74 and starts back up when the temperature hits 72. Keeps the house nice and warm and saves on pellets. I have stopped using this it is easier iust let it run at a low setting (3).
I saw the Fuel Oil delivery truck go past the house the other day and a big smile came to my face. Hopefully I will not need to buy anymore Fuel Oil this winter. If you are facing the high cost of Fuel Oil and are sick of the Oil Companies making HUGH Profits off us, check out a Pellet Stove you may like what you see and read about them and you just might be able to stop filling the Oil Companies Pockets with enormous wads of your Money.

01/13/2008 Update: The stove has been running great so far, did buy another 60 bags of pellets for $208.00 on the first of January plus a $43.00 delivery charge a Total of $252.00. On 01/12/2008 the convection fan started making a loud whinnying sound. I removed it and blew out the motor housing, oiled the bearings and it seems to be fine again. I have looked online for new convection and combustion fans and they do have upgraded models for them, pricey, but I may replace the originals with the new ones this summer or at least have them ready if one of them fails. I think dust from the Auger is getting into the motor bushings, going to buy a can of air and use that to blow them out once a month and oil the bearings. You should take the fans out after every ton burned and clean the fan blades and blow out the motor. Careful when you take the combustion fan out, the gasket is really fragile, I take out all the screws while holding the fan tight against the housing, once the screws are all out, I carefully remove the fan and gasket (going to buy a spare gasket). These pellet stoves do require a lot of maintenance, but it beats paying for fuel oil and this stove keeps my house a lot warmer then my Fuel Oil Furnace. I run my stove on number 3 most of the time, on a few really cold nights I have run it on number 4 and then turned it back down to 3 in the morning.
01/14/2008 Update: The convection fan was making squealing or whinnying noises again, I figured the bearings needed oil, they are sealed bearings and should not need to be oiled and should last longer then 3 months. I took the fan out and oiled the bearings, then hooked it up to an outlet and ran it for awhile. Put it back in the stove and set it on Manual verses on the thermostat. So far so good no noise yet. I emailed the tech support address on the Breckwell website but have not gotten a response from them yet. Seems that the A-E-033 fan I have, has been replaced with an upgraded fan C-E-029. Well will follow up with any new developments.
02/22/2008 Update: Have not gotten a response back from Breckwell. The fan has been running fine (knock on wood) no noises. I now run it on setting number 3 and when it gets to warm in the house I drop it down to number 2. It has been REALLY COLD up here in Wisconsin, I am so glade I am not burning Fuel Oil. I am down to 20 bags of pellets since I last bought them, so I have been really going through the pellets. It is still cheaper then Fuel Oil, I would be going through 200 gallons of Fuel Oil a month which would cost around $618.00, versus 50 bags of pellets at $209.00 a savings of $409.00.
03/08/2008 Update: Needed to buy more pellets, bought 10 bags but will need to buy I figure another 30 bags to get through April. March has been cold in WI and I have had to run the stove on 3 at night, so I am using more pellets. Hopefully it warms up, so far it looks like I will spend around $742.00 for pellets, verses $2641.00 to $3000.00 for Fuel Oil, I would normally use 600 gallons of Fuel Oil per heating season, because of all the cold weather, I figure I would have used 950 gallons, 150 gallons from Sept to the 1st of Dec, 200 per month for Dec, Jan, Feb and March, not sure about April. We could use less if we set the heat at 62 degrees and sat around shivering, but at our age we like to be warm. $2641.00 minus $742.00= $1899.00 estimated savings so far. Update: fuel oil was $3.49 on march 10 2008 in WI according to this site Fuel Oil Prices so 200 gallons would be $698.00 unreal!
03/29/2008 Update: Have bought 30 more bags and have been running the Stove on number 2 and if it is warm during the day I run it on number 1. If April is warmer I should be able to run it on number 1 which only burns about a half a bag of pellets a day. Been a really long and cold winter in Wi, I am still very glade we bought the stove, we have been warm and saved money. The Big E has been running great no problems at all.
11/20/2012 update: Still using my Big E and still love it. Some things I have done to maintain it:
I take off the left rear side panel where the control panel is located, first I unplug the power cord to the stove, then there are 3 screws on the back of the stove that hold that side panel on. I take out the screws and then lift the panel up and slide it back and pull the bottom out. I set it on the floor against the wall. Then I take a can of air that I use to clean computers and spray the fan blades, they get really dusty, if they are really dusty I use a Q Tip to clean the fins, then blow it out again. Then I take the vacuum cleaner and use the hose plus attachment and vacuum out what I can reach. Be carful not to disconnect any wires or hoses. When done slide the panel back in place, ( be careful to not bang the electrical control panel ) screw the 3 screws back in and you are done. Then I vacuum around and under the stove with the vacuum hose.
Another tip is to check the nuts that hold the top of the stove down, it has the door you open to put the pellets in. There are 4 nuts, 2 on the left and 2 on the right under the top panel, I checked mine and they were loose, so I took a wrench and tightened them up, careful to not over tighten them.. Probably a good idea to check all the screws and nuts on the stove if you do this. Pellet prices are now $4.00 per bag and $3.69 when on sale, fuel oil for our Furnace is very expensive, we only use our Furnace as a backup heat source or if we go away for more then 1 day.

Readers Comments

Hi Mike, I was reading your pages about you pellet stove. It was nice to read your story and relate to your experience with your stove. If you have a moment, here is my experience I'd like to share with you. I also have a Big E. I've run it now for the past two heating seasons. I love it! The first year I used it as a secondary heating source and ran the oil only when it got below freezing. But this year The rule was use oil only when it got around zero. And I only used 30 gallons of oil this year. :-) On that whining sound you heard, for me it started at the beginning of this season and on New Years Day the convection blower seized and the stove shut down. :-(. I order a replacement motor instead of the complete assembly. The motor cost was 75$ verses 160$ for the assembly. It took 5 days to get the motor in. In the mean time I disassembled the seized motor. One of the sealed bearings were frozen solid. I worked the bearing with oil and solutions and was eventually able to get the motor running. I checked it daily and gave it a new dose of oil to keep it going until the new motor came in. Now I have to order a new gasket for the combustion blower since I tore it up cleaning the fan. With all this aside, I still will stand my by Big E :-). It's well worth the effort. Dennis - My Website
From Deb, 2012: I have a 2007 Big E. It took one season to get used to what it burned on which setting, and therefor, it was initially the secondary source to oil. Since then, I have increased incrementally, my supply of pellets to use it as the primary heat source. I have 1/2 ton left from last year's 2 tons, as it was warm here, and now have 2.5 tons for this season. I don't like it too warm, but 72-76 is comfy. I find the use of a humidifier potentiates the usefulness of the Bug E, and the moist warmth is much cozier. On setting one I use 1/2 bag in 24 hrs, on setting 2 it rises to a bag a day, and so on... As to combustion motor whines anc noise...I was lucky enough to have read a blog that the noice is the bearing usually. It happened to me, my neighbor replaced the sealed bearing, and now it is good to go. Saved a LOT on a new motor. He's good with those things and everything else worked fine. Other than that last year, not one problem with this heater. Just wanted to add my 2 cents about the Big E. Regular cleaning, care and attention will keep it running efficiently, in my case anyway.


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