Compare the pros and cons of pellet stoves vs. wood stoves to find the best heating option for your home. See how pellet and wood stoves work and the reasons to buy.
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Heating your home with wood and pellet stoves has many benefits and downsides.
These systems are perfect for homeowners who need to supplement an existing heat source, heat one or more rooms, and reduce heating costs.
Both options use traditional heating methods by burning renewable fuel resources such as seasoned firewood and wood by-products (pellets).
Also, due to higher electricity and gas prices or their unavailability, heating with wood pellets and firewood might be the best (or only) option in some regions.
Traditional wood stoves are different from modern pellet stoves. While both generate comfortable dry radiant heat, wood stove burning must be maintained often (manually), while pellet stoves are thermostatically controlled (automatic).
Wood stoves are excellent for those with a source of plenty of firewood to burn, while pellet stoves are for those who prefer a clean form of heating, looking for more convenience, but are okay with carrying heavy pellet bags.
They are often packed in bags and ready to use. You must ensure on-time delivery and store it in the appropriate place: firewood outside and protected from the elements, and pellets inside.
So, before making your buying decision, look at some key features such as overall cost, efficiency, energy use, pollution, lifespan, warranty, look, and difficulty to repair and maintain.
Pellet stoves are modern electric devices that burn wooden pellets to provide a cost-effective and eco-friendly option for home heating.
They use a motorized long screw-like part called an auger to move pellets from the storage or hopper to the burning pot, and the thermostat to control the pellet feed rate and heating process.
Thanks to the innovative design and pellet quality, pellet stoves can emit heat more consistently and burn cleaner, which results in increased comfort and lower pollution.
The cool air is sucked into the burn pot, picking up the heat while passing over the burning pellets, and then released into the room through convection.
Once the burning is completed, the burnt pellets are dropped down to the ash pot while exhaust gases are pushed through the duct and further to the outside atmosphere.
Pellets are usually made of wood shavings and sawdust but can also be made of grass, corn, and other plants.
Homeowners have two options; insert stoves and free-standing type.
Wood stoves are designed to burn seasoned firewood and generate dry radiant heat to supplement your existing heating system or heat one or two rooms. As opposed to pellet stoves that are thermostatically controlled, wood burning must be maintained to keep the heat unchanged.
Advanced models such as catalytic options are very efficient and cleaner, and if you live in an area where you can get firewood for free or cheap, your heating costs will be much lower.
Wood-burning stoves are also available as inserts or free-standing types.
Related: Heat pumps vs. wood stoves
Wood and pellet stoves use renewable fuels. Wood and pellets are carbon neutral when burning, making them kinder to the environment than other fossil fuels.
Since both stove types burn the wood or its byproducts, they need to be cleaned regularly. However, pellet stoves produce less ash making the clean-up easier.
Note that depending on the device, wood type, and quality, some wood-burning stoves release more pollutants, contributing to environmental hazards such as smog and acid rain. That is why modern and advanced models are the preferred choice of many.
Pellet stoves are very efficient. As mentioned before, their efficiency is around 90%, which is more than the efficiency of wood stoves.
The main reasons for high efficiency are innovative unit design, maximized burning, and low levels of moisture and ash. That means almost all fuel is burned and transformed into heat.
Modern wood stoves are also efficient but not as gas or pellet options.
For example, traditional wood fireplaces come with only 10-20% efficiency because most heat goes out through the chimney.
But, if you buy a modern advanced EPA-certified stove with a catalytic converter, you can expect to see an efficiency of approximately 80-85%. Not only that these models will spend less, but they are also better for the environment.
Note: Wood stoves have two types of efficiencies: combustion and overall. The overall efficiency is the one you should use as it shows how much heat is transferred to the space. Check out EPA-certified wood stove database for more info about these appliances
Both pellet and wood stoves can only operate if you feed the burner with fuel.
Firewood must be delivered, properly stored, and split into the correct sizes, while pellets come in 20- and 40-lb bags, which are easier to store and more convenient to use. You just have to drop a load of pellets into the hopper, turn the unit on and come back after several hours to refill the storage.
Additionally, burning firewood creates more ash, so you must clean and dispose of it more often.
With the wood stove, you must also call a professional to check and clean the chimney annually.
A chimney is one of the most important things to consider when installing a wood stove, and it must be fully insulated and extended above the roof peak.
It must be professionally inspected and swept before every season or once a year. Only a properly vented chimney ensures the safe release of exhaust gases and your safety.
Pellet stoves only need a direct venting system or a small chimney, which results in lower installation costs.
When choosing a pellet or wood stove, make sure to size it properly because only then they can deliver enough heat without wasting too much energy.
Heating with the oversized unit often results in energy losses, increased pollution, and costs because users will try to avoid overheating by burning fires with low flame intensity.
On the other side, an undersized unit is not capable of providing sufficient heat, so your comfort won't be as expected.
According to energy.gov, a stove rated between 42,000 and 60,000 Btu can heat a home with 1,300 to 2,000 sq. ft. space.
It is less expensive to install a pellet stove than a wood option.
As stated by homeadvisor.com, freestanding pellet stoves might cost you between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the type and size.
Installation costs range from $200 to $850.
Wood pellets cost between $3 and $7 for a 40-lb bag.
An average price for wood stove installation is between $1,200 and $4,500, and up to $7,000 with the installed chimney. Installation costs are from $250 to $800, while the unit can cost you between $400 and $2,500.
According to the experts and user reviews, wood stoves can last approximately 20-25 years, while pellet stoves can last up to 20 years as they use more electrical and mechanical parts, including fans, motors, switches, and electronics that can wear out or break.
In order to avoid high energy costs, homeowners often switch to wood or pellet heating because they are cost-effective and eco-friendly options, providing a pleasant and cozy atmosphere.
Wood stoves are an excellent option for supplemental home heating, where the firewood is free or available in abundance, and if you want to take advantage of the stove cooking. They can provide heat even if the power goes out.
If you like classic fire crackling and the dynamic glowing effect, this is the type for you.
Pellet stoves are a modern and quieter option that can deliver higher efficiency and more consistent heat, with the same cozy and old-time ambiance as wood stoves but more subtle.
DIY installation is not recommended because an improperly installed unit could pose a serious safety risk and lessen efficiency and longevity.