If you are looking for a way to heat your home using a classic wood fire, a stove is the way to go. Many people have stoves installed because of the heat they provide, the amount of money they can save on heating bills, and their beautiful, relaxing appearance.
There are two main types of fuel for wood-burning stoves - firewood and wooden pellets. While both pellet and wood stoves function in similar ways, they have key differences. This guide introduces those differences to help you decide between a pellet stove and a wood stove.
When pellet stoves were first introduced to the market, their designs were immediately recognizable, and it was easy to differentiate between pellet and wood stoves. Pellet stoves were boxy and basic, looking industrial and even ugly in many cases.
Fortunately, those days are in the past as modern pellet stoves come in essentially the same wide range of shapes and styles as wood stoves. It is often difficult to tell the two apart, with both styles coming in insert and freestanding models. So, you have a wide choice, no matter which type you choose.
Many people prefer the appearance of a wood stove over a pellet stove purely because they see the wood logs burning, providing that classic, rustic look that so many people associate with a stove. Pellets do not have the same effect but can provide big orange flames.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when buying either a wood stove or pellet stove is choosing one that is an adequate size to suit the space you want to heat. A stove that is too large will be too powerful and quickly overheat the room, while one that is too small will not be strong enough to warm it up.
A stove rated 60,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) can heat a home of around 2,000 square feet. Since both wood and pellet stoves come in dozens of designs and sizes, you can usually find the right one to heat your home.
The point of a stove is to produce heat, and this is where we see a real difference between the two stoves. While both stoves provide heat of various levels to warm you up on frosty nights, they perform differently.
A wood stove needs to be stoked and added to over time to provide the same heat level. A pellet stove, however, offers thermostatic control and continues running consistently as long as pellets are in the hopper, and the power is connected.
This brings us to another difference. Pellet stoves need electrical power, but wood stoves do not. If you would rather not hook your stove up to an electrical supply or worry that a power outage would leave your house unheated, a wood stove would be better.
Efficiency is one of the advantages of a pellet stove over a wood stove. Pellets are one of the most efficient solid fuel sources around. According to data from Penn State University, pellet stoves have an efficiency rating of about 80%, while wood stoves only manage 60%.
This means you need to use more wood to create the same amount of heat. Modern wood stoves are becoming more and more efficient, producing less smoke than previous models, but it is clear to see that pellet stoves are the winners in this category.
Installation of a wood or pellet stove depends on what model you buy, as well as the conditions in your home. For example, if you already have a fireplace and chimney, the installation will be much simpler.
Some pellet stoves only need a direct vent or small chimney system to operate. In general, this makes them easier to install than wood stoves, which usually require a large chimney system.
However, it is also important to remember that pellet stoves must be hooked up to an electrical power supply, so this is another factor to consider. In either case, it is best to hire a professional when installing any stove.
The base costs for both wood and pellet stoves are similar, but the installation and general running costs vary. For a pellet stove, expect to pay around $1,500 to $3,000 in materials, and another $500 to $1,000 for installation, leading to overall costs of approximately $2,000 to $4,000.
For a wood stove, expect to pay around $1,500 to $3,000 for the unit and associated materials. The installation, however, ranges from $1,000 to $2,000, depending on how much chimney work needs to be done. This leads to an overall cost of $2,500 to $5,000.
You can buy a 2,200-square-foot ComfortBilt Pellet Stove for $1,500 and have it installed for $750, for a total cost of $2,250. You can also buy a 2,500-square-foot Hi Flame Wood Stove for $1,600 and pay $1,500 for installation, for a total of $3,100.
Next to consider are the running costs. You can purchase about a ton of pellets for $250 and a cord (4 x 4 x 8 feet) of wood for about $250. But a ton of pellets provides you more heat and longer fires than a cord of wood.
Prices and availability of pellets vary in certain areas, so check how much they cost near you and how easily you can buy them before purchasing a stove. If you live on wooded land and have the option to cut down your own trees for fuel, it is clear that a wood stove would be cheaper for you to run.
Whether you are buying a wood or pellet stove, maintenance is essential to prevent anything from going wrong. Stoves are big investments, and it makes sense to maintain them properly.
Since wood stoves produce more smoke and ash, they require more thorough maintenance in general. For a wood stove, you need to have the chimney inspected and cleaned regularly, as well as clearing away built-up ash and soot in and around the stove.
For a pellet stove, you also need to clean up ash and soot, but there will be less of it overall. You need to clean the unit and check parts like the hopper, but the overall amount of maintenance required for a pellet stove is less than for a wood one.
Regarding safety, modern wood stoves have come a long way when compared to older models, but they still have risks that simply do not exist in pellet stoves.
For example, wood stoves give off little sparks, which can land on your skin or clothes as you stoke the fire, potentially leading to injury or burn damage. This is not the case with a pellet stove because the flames are more contained and burn consistently without the need for human intervention.
Creosote deposits can also build up in wood stoves, which leads to a higher risk of house fires if left uncleaned. This is not a problem with pellet stoves, which are cleaner and safer overall. They are equipped with various features like automatic shutdowns and pressure switches that detect when the vent system is not working properly.
And, consider the fuel material. When you bring firewood into your home, you may bring in unwanted pests or mold with it. This is not the case with pellets, which are far less appealing to insects.
The average wood stove can last up to 25 years, while the average pellet stove has an estimated lifespan of 15 to 20 years. So, wood stoves are more durable and longer-lasting in general.
This is mostly because pellet stoves have more components, including electrical parts like wires, switches, and motors that are more prone to breaking. Wood stoves are simpler in construction, with fewer things that can go wrong.
In terms of ease of use and comfort, there are advantages and disadvantages to both models. For a wood stove, you can store your wood outside and then easily carry it in, piece by piece.
For a pellet stove, however, pellets should always be kept in a dry, indoor location, either in the home or a building like a garage or shed. They are usually sold in 40-pound bags, which can be challenging to carry around.
At the same time, pellet stoves have the advantage of running consistently and automatically without needing to be stoked or added to. With a wood stove, you must keep an eye on the fire and make adjustments to keep it going.
Pellet stoves are generally regarded as the better option for those who like to live green, but there are pros and cons to both models when it comes to their eco-friendly aspects. Pellet stoves are very efficient, requiring less fuel to produce the same amount of heat as wood stoves. They also have very low emissions.
However, pellet stoves use electricity, which means that they are not entirely eco-friendly. Plus, pellets are not always available in your local area, so you may have to drive to collect them or have them shipped.
Modern wood stoves, which are certified by the EPA, are also quite efficient and burn cleaner than older models. Plus, wood is usually more accessible and can even be found on your own property. So, it may be more eco-friendly to use wood over pellets, depending on where you live.
Overall, pellet stoves are more eco-friendly. They burn cleaner, require less fuel, and are designed with energy efficiency in mind. As long as you can get the pellets, they are great option for green living.