What's Different About Wood Heat and Pellets?
Both types of stoves give off a dry, comfortable heat.
The fire in a wood stove must be kept going to keep the heat steady.
A pellet stove works when the hopper is full of pellets, which are the fuel, and the stove can be controlled by a thermostat.
There are also big differences in how firewood and pellets are stored and moved to the stove.
Most of the time, firewood is kept outside, covered or not. If needed, it can be carried inside in smaller groups to make the process easier.
Pellets are usually made from recycled wood waste. They need to be kept in a dry place, like a shed, garage, or room in the house.
Pellets come in bags that weigh 40 pounds, which can be hard to move to the stove.
Both wood-burning and pellet stoves can be built into a wall or stand alone.
Both pellet stoves and wood stoves can stand alone or be put into an existing fireplace.
In homes with a traditional fireplace that isn't used very often, a wood-burning or pellet stove insert may be a good choice.
These insert pellet stoves and wood burning stoves can be put in the fireplace and vented through the chimney.
You can also find pellet stoves and wood burning stoves that stand alone.
If you don't have a fireplace or want more options for where to put the stove, a freestanding model might be a better choice.
Traditional wood stoves make more ash and pollution than pellet stoves.
Stoves that use wood or pellets will need to be cleaned regularly.
To keep the appliance clean and free of rust, you need to clean out the ash from the inside.
But a pellet stove will make less ash than a wood stove, making it easier to clean.
Also, pellet stoves put out less pollution than wood stoves.
Both wood stoves and pellet stoves are better for the environment than heat sources that use fossil fuels. However, pellet stoves are better in this way than wood stoves.
Less mechanical and electrical parts can wear out or break on wood-burning stoves.
There are many electrical parts in pellet stoves, such as switches, fans, and motors.
When there are more electrical parts, there are more chances that something will go wrong or not work right.
On the other hand, wood-burning stoves don't need electricity to work, and they are made with fewer parts that can break or wear out.
Because of these differences, pellet stoves don't last as long as wood stoves and may need more repairs.
The average life span of a wood stove is between 20 and 25 years, while the average life span of a pellet stove is between 15 and 20 years.
Also, since pellet stoves need electricity to work, if the power goes out, they won't work.
If the power goes out, wood stoves will still be able to keep you warm.
Putting in a pellet stove is often cheaper than putting in a wood stove.
Even though some pellet stoves cost more than wood stoves, the difference can be made up by the cost of installation.
Most of the time, you need an insulated chimney system to put in a wood stove.
The chimney system must also be tall enough to go above the roof peak.
Many pellet stoves don't need a chimney system that is so complicated.
Most of the time, a direct-vent is enough for these models.
Since installing a direct-vent is much cheaper than installing an insulated chimney system, the total cost of putting in a pellet stove may be much lower.
To keep a wood-burning stove going, you often need to do more work and have more storage space.
For a wood-burning stove to keep working, you'll need a good supply of firewood.
Firewood is big and will take up a lot of storage space outside.
To fuel the stove, you'll also have to spend a lot of time and energy splitting the firewood and bringing it inside.
It is much easier to keep a pellet stove going.
You can buy packages of wood pellets. All you have to do is open them up and put the pellets in the stove.
Wood pellets are often sold in 20- or 40-pound bags, which can make them hard to carry.
Wood stoves use dry firewood, while pellet stoves use pellets made from recycled wood waste.
One of the biggest differences between pellet stoves and stoves that burn wood is the kind of fuel they need.
For a wood stove, you'll need dry firewood, and for a pellet stove, you'll need wood pellets.
Both firewood and wood pellets come from things that grow back.
They are a better choice for the environment than fossil fuels.
If you want the traditional sound and look of a fire, you might want to think about getting a wood burning stove.
On the other hand, if you want something quieter, a pellet stove might be a better choice.
With a pellet stove, you will still be able to see a bright flame, but it will be a little less intense than the flame from a wood stove.
The heat from pellet stoves is more consistent than the heat from wood stoves.
Both pellet stoves and wood stoves give off different amounts of heat.
Even though the amount of heat a pellet stove gives off depends on the quality, design, and type of pellets you use, this type of stove can keep the heat more consistent.
Many even have programmable thermostats that let you set the amount of heat to keep the room at the temperature you want.
But wood stoves can heat a room better than pellet stoves.
Most pellet stoves have a BTU rating of less than 50,000, but some wood-burning stoves have BTU ratings of over 100,000.
Keep in mind, though, that the amount of heat a wood stove can make will also depend on how many logs are used and how wet they are.
Price of Stoves
You want a new stove, so the price will likely be the first thing you think about.
Wood and pellet stoves have a lot going for them, but the price will definitely stand out.
Costs of Wood Stoves
Installation costs between $3,000 and $5,000.
When you pay a professional to put in a wood stove, it usually costs between $3,000 and $4,200.
About $5,000 could get you a high-end model with all the bells and whistles.
If your home already has a chimney and a fireplace, installation may be easier and you may be able to save money by choosing a fireplace insert that fits right into the firebox of the fireplace.
If you don't, you'll have to pay a lot to make a ventilation system.
Price: $3,500 to $4,000, including installation, for a pellet stove
On the other hand, pellet stoves can cost anywhere from $1,700 to $3,000 before installation costs, which could bring the total to $3,500 to $4,000.
That's already cheaper than the higher prices of wood stoves. Plus, pellet stoves can be vented through a small hole in the wall, so they can be put anywhere in the room and save money on chimney costs.
Winner: A pellet stove is the better choice because it is cheaper and can be put in more places.
The main difference between wood stoves and pellet stoves is what they are used to heat.
The cost of operating a wood stove
Cost: $190 per ton, or $1,235 per season. Fuel: wood, about 6.5 tons per season.
Wood stoves burn logs in the same way that fireplaces do.
This is usually easy and cheap, since you can sometimes gather and dry firewood on your own land (free wood!) or buy it by the cord at stores for low prices.
Pellet Stove Operating Cost
Cost: $190 per ton, or $1,425 per season. Fuel source: pellets, about 7.5 tons per season.
Wood pellets, which are made of sawdust or small wood chips, are used as fuel in pellet stoves.
These chips are put into a tank and burned.
Pellets are harder to find because they are made in a special place (not your own backyard) and not everyone sells them.
This fuel has to be bought from other parts of the US, which makes it less common, but there are still a lot of places that sell it.
Plan to buy and ship the item you want to use if you want to use pellets.
Pellets cost a little bit more per year than wood, but they burn longer.
In either case, the Department of Energy says that a cord of wood or a ton of pellets will cost about $190. (at 6.5 cords or 7.5 tons of pellets per season, factoring in that a ton equals 1.5 cords).
Winner: Since there is a lot of natural wood and it's cheap per season, wood is better than pellets because it's both cheap and easy to get.
How to Power Your Stove
Power is another difference between wood stoves and pellet stoves.
No power is needed for the wood stove.
Wood stoves work a lot like fireplaces. You put wood in, light it, and stir it as needed.
They don't need any power, like electricity, to work, so they can be used whenever wood is available.
Power Needed for a Pellet Stove: 100 kilowatt-hours per month, which is about $9 per month
No matter what, pellet stoves need electricity to work.
Electricity is a key part of how they work, so when the power goes out, your fire goes out too.
A motorized hopper that feeds pellets into the stove is powered by the electricity.
During a power outage, you can still run your stove with an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) backup battery or a generator.
Have some dry wood and a lighter?
You'll have fire.
Pellet stoves require extra resources and expenses.
If you use 100 kilowatt-hours (about $9) of electricity each month to run such a unit, you might be left out in the cold if the power goes out.
Friendly to the environment
The level of "greenness" of pellet stoves and wood stoves is different.
Making wood stoves
How much smoke is made: 2 to 7.5 grams per hour
CO2 is made at a rate of 0.0612 lbs per kilowatt-hour.
Wood-burning stoves that are approved by the EPA are tightly regulated. They can only put out between 2 and 7.5 grams of smoke per hour, which is a big improvement over older stoves that put out 40 grams or more.
The Biomass Energy Centre in the UK says that when wood is burned, it gives off 0.00612 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt-hour.
Making a Pellet Stove
About 1 gram of smoke is made every hour.
CO2 is made at a rate of 0.035 lbs per kilowatt-hour.
But pellet stoves don't give off much smoke—less than 1 gram per hour.
Since they leave such a small mark, the EPA doesn't keep an eye on them.
Also, since pellets are mostly old pieces of wood, using them is a way to recycle wood and keep it out of landfills.
The UK's Biomass Energy Centre says that when pellets are burned, they give off 0.035 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt-hour.
Winner: Pellets stoves.
Both wood stoves and pellet stoves have come a long way in terms of how clean they are to use. However, pellet stoves produce less smoke and CO2 and also encourage recycling.
Both are "carbon-neutral," which means they don't cause much harm.
"Playing with fire" is always dangerous, and when you're taking care of a fire, you need to take the right safety steps.
It may be important to use the right kindling and wear gloves, among other things.
Even more important than this, though, is how safe the stoves themselves are.
Wood Stoves Safety
Sparks from wood stoves can cause burns, and creosote buildup on these appliances could cause dangerous house fires in the future.
Also, mold or bugs from outside could come into the house on the firewood.
Pellet Stove Safety
Pellet stoves burn cleaner and safer than other types of stoves, and they won't hurt you or your home.
Your family will be safe from flying embers and sparks because the flames are contained, but the pellet stove will get hot to the touch.
Everyone in your home should be aware that the stove will get very hot, and pets should be kept away from it as much as possible.
Wood stoves are the winner.
When it comes to immediate safety, wood stoves get a big "no," so pellet stoves get the spotlight.
Sparks, creosote buildup, and house fires can all happen when wood stoves are used.
The flames in pellet stoves are contained, so people don't get burned by flying burning debris.
The point of a stove is to keep you warm, so which type is better at doing that?
All of this depends on the BTUs, or units of heat measurement, and how well they are used between the fuel sources and to heat your space.
Every stove needs a lot of BTUs to burn logs or pellets all winter long.
But not all of this energy is turned into heat that can be used.
Making wood stoves
By the cord, firewood is used (stacked wood equaling 4 feet high x 8 feet long x 4 feet deep).
The Department of Agriculture says that 15.3 million BTUs are used for each cord.
You can use 10.7 million BTUs of that total to heat your home, giving your stove an efficiency level of 70%.
Making a Pellet Stove
On the other hand, pellets come in 40-pound bags, and each ton of pellets gives the stoves 13.6 million BTUs.
You can get 11.3 million BTUs of heat from this.
The result is that the stoves are about 83% more efficient than wood stoves.
Winner: Pellet stoves.
Repairs for Stoves
No matter what kind of stove you choose, it will need some care.
Cleanings, checks of parts, etc., must all be taken into account.
Taking care of a wood stove
Wood stoves need to be taken care of like chimneys. Every year, a certified chimney sweep needs to check the system, including the flue and other parts, and residue and soot need to be cleaned out every so often.
The catalytic combustor needs to be checked three times a season, which is one of the most important things to do for wood stove maintenance.
Pellet Stove Maintenance
But pellet stoves are easy to take care of as long as you do what the manufacturer says.
It could be as easy as making sure the motors and fans are working right or getting rid of any extra junk.
Taking care of a pellet stove is easy and might not cost as much as you think.
By following instructions, you can do many of the checks yourself and don't have to pay for as many inspections.
But if your pellet stove needs repair, it can be hard to find someone with the right skills, and fixing one of the three motors or the electronic circuit board can get expensive.
Winner: Again, pellet stoves come out on top.
Does wood get burned in a pellet stove?
Both wood stoves and pellet stoves burn wood, but as the name suggests, a pellet stove burns pellets that are made from wood.
Pellet stoves can run on their own because they use pellets as fuel.
As the pellet fuel burns, a control panel circuit board or "computer" tells the auger system to send more pellets to the burn pot to be lit.
When the stove is turned up, more pellets go into the area where they are burned.
Check out this animated side-by-side video that shows how pellet stoves and wood-burning stoves are different on the inside.
How do wood stoves keep the room warm?
The newest models of wood stoves have "automatic features" like pellet stoves. This makes it much easier to keep your stove at the right temperature than it used to be.
The woodstove automatically controls how much combustion air goes into the firebox by using control panels, thermostats, and temperature probes.
In addition to being able to control the temperature with a thermostat, some of the newest wood-burning stoves can also tell you when to add wood.
In addition to the many other great things about wood stoves and wood burning inserts, these extra features are great for people who burn wood.
Catalytic Wood Stoves, Advanced Combustion Wood Stoves, and Centralized Wood-Burning Boilers are all ways to heat your home with wood.
The most common way to burn wood is in a wood stove.
Up to 83% of HHV can be saved with new catalytic stoves and inserts (higher heating value).
Advanced combustion woodstoves give off a lot of heat, but they usually only work well when the fire is going full speed.
They can get as hot as 1,100°F, which is hot enough to burn gases that can catch fire. They are also called secondary burn stoves.
There are a number of parts in these stoves that help them burn flammable gases and particulates before they go up the chimney.
A metal channel that heats secondary air and feeds it into the stove above the fire is one of the parts.
This heated oxygen helps burn the volatile gases above the flames without slowing down the fire.
Many older stoves only have an air source below the wood, but modern stoves have a second air source that gives oxygen to the gases that are escaping from the top of the fire.
If there is enough oxygen, the hot gases will also burn.
Also, the firebox is insulated, which bounces heat back into it. This keeps the turbulence of gases hot enough to burn.
Most of the time, new advanced stoves that don't use a catalyst to burn fuel are 65 to 75% efficient, HHV.
The secondary channels also direct hot air toward the glass doors, which keeps them clean so you can see the fire.
They can also cost a little less than regular wood stoves with catalytic combustors.
Centralized wood-burning boilers have been made better over time, just like wood stoves.
Some modern centralized wood heaters use a technology called wood gasification to burn both the wood fuel and the gases that come from it. This makes them up to 80% efficient.
There are also systems that can switch from wood to oil or gas if the fire goes out.