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Pellet Stove Vs Wood Stove – Which to Choose?

Is a wood or pellet stove the right heating solution for you?

Welcome to our article discussing the differences between a pellet stove and a wood stove! Read on to learn more, or use this table of contents to quickly jump ahead to the information that you need most.

Having worked in the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry for more than a decade, I’ve installed and maintained both traditional wood stoves and pellet stoves for plenty of happy customers.

A wood or pellet stove is an increasingly popular alternative heat system to oil or gas furnaces, but what are the differences between wood and pellet stoves? How do you know if a pellet stove or a wood stove is the new stove for you?

Keep reading, and we’ll discover the answer together!

Pellet Stove Pros
Environmentally friendly
Safe to use
High energy efficiency
EPA certified
No need for a chimney, uses a direct vent
Easy to use
Stable fuel prices
Pellet Stove Cons
Pellets come in bags that can be heavy and cumbersome
Expensive upfront costs
Regular cleaning
Most require electricity to operate
Larger than wood stoves
Wood Stove Pros
Reduces energy bills
High heat output
Low emissions
Burns less firewood
Aesthetically pleasing
Smaller than pellet stoves
Wood Stove Cons
Initially expensive
High installation costs
Regular maintenance

Difference Between Pellet Stove And Wood Stove

Environmental Friendliness

Both wood and pellet stoves are considered renewable energy sources, but which type is the more eco-friendly?

The best quality wood stoves burn at around 70% efficiency, meaning 70% of the heat produced will actually heat your room and the remaining 30% is expelled as waste gases. 

Pellet stoves have even higher efficiency ratings, and some new models can burn at around 90% efficiency. As a result, there are fewer particle emissions and harmful gasses released into the environment. They’re regarded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the cleanest solid fuel residential heating appliance. 

Pellets are considered more sustainable than firewood logs since they’re made from wood waste byproducts like wood chips, sawdust, and paper. They have a low moisture content of only around 7%, so they combust more efficiently compared to firewood which has around 20% moisture.  

Burning wood on a more traditional wood stove produces around 2 to 7.5 grams of smoke per hour, but pellet stoves produce less than 1 gram of smoke per hour.  In effect, pellets use less wood than firewood logs to burn for longer, more efficiently, with lower emissions.

Powering Your Stove

One downside to a pellet stove is that the vast majority usually require an electrical power supply to operate, using around 100w of electricity per hour. This is only around the same as you use to power your TV, but it isn’t great if you’re planning off-the-grid heating, or you want to provide heat in a home where you can expect a regular power outage. 

In this regard, a wood stove is a perfect option as a backup heat supply in the event of a power outage. They don’t need any electrical power to run unless you want to add optional blower fans which can aid in circulation and performance.

Safety

As long as they’re correctly installed and operated properly, both pellet stoves and wood stoves can be considered safe household appliances. 

Both pellet stoves and wood stoves burn fuel in a sealed metal combustion chamber and use a vent to expel any harmful waste gases outside. The fire can be easily controlled and is only accessible by opening the door, so they’re definitely safer than an open-hearth fireplace. 

They also burn pellets or firewood fuel very efficiently, significantly reducing emissions into the atmosphere. 

Of course, both types of stoves can get extremely hot during the combustion process. It’s important to keep young children and pets away, and not attempt to touch the unit without wearing a protective glove.

Ease Of Use

Because they operate using electronic components, pellet stoves are easier to use than wood-burning stoves. 

They can make your home heating more automated since as long as the pellet stove has enough fuel in the stove’s hopper to burn, the process of generating heat can start with the touch of a button on the digital control screen. 

After that, the user only needs to carry out basic maintenance like emptying the ash pan and refilling the stove’s pellet hopper. There’s no need to manually add fuel to the fire.

Wood stoves need more manual operation vs pellet stoves. You’ll need to build up your firewood and ignite the flame, then control the fire by adjusting the air vent. If your firewood is too wet, or there’s an insufficient draft, you may struggle to keep your fire burning at the necessary temperature to heat your home.

Maintenance

Wood stove maintenance can be tricky, and costly. A wood stove requires yearly visits from a professional chimney sweep to inspect the system, cleaning out residue and soot from the chimney pipe and other components. 

The catalytic combustor, which is the part of a wood stove that cleans the air leaving through the chimney and reduces harmful creosote, needs to be inspected and cleaned 3 times per season. These inspections cost around $250 per visit but can be much higher depending on where you live in the US.

Pellet stove maintenance is relatively simple. You may need to clean excess debris from interior components and carry out some basic checks, but you’ll have far fewer professional visits since there’s no connection to a chimney.

Performance

The performance of a wood-burning stove or pellet stove depends on the size of space in your home you want to heat, and the amount of heat the stove can produce. 

Heating capacity is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). The BTU of a stove is directly correlated to the size of the space it can heat. 

Calculate the BTU you need by multiplying the length by the width of the room you want to heat. Then, multiply this number by 20, since 1 sq ft = roughly 20 BTU. For example, if your room is 1,000 sq ft then 1,000 x 20 = 20,000 BTU of heating capacity needed. 

Most pellet stoves are capable of burning wood pellets to produce between 40,000 and 50,000 BTU per hour- enough to heat 2,000 square feet.  That’s roughly a single story of a mid-sized two-bedroom home, or an entire apartment or mobile home.

Wood Stove Vs Pellet Stove Cost

Upfront Costs

Generally, pellet stoves cost between $1500 and $3000 for the unit and materials and an additional $500 to $1000 for installation. That’s an overall upfront cost of between $2000 and $4000. 

Wood-burning stoves are similarly priced, however, the installation is more expensive. Wood stoves usually cost between $1500 and $3000, but since they require a chimney to operate, installation can cost from $1000 to $2000, with an overall outlay of between $2500 and $5000.

Fuel Cost: Wood Vs Wood Pellets

Now let’s consider the long-term costs of wood stoves vs pellet stoves. 

Pellets are usually sold in 40-pound bags and average around $5 per bag. Pellet stoves require around 40 pounds of pellets to heat for 24 hours- more pellets if you set your thermostat higher. Pellets can also be delivered as 1-ton pallets, with 50 bags of pellets, costing about $250. 

Firewood is measured in ‘cords’, and a cord of firewood will also cost around $250 but will burn for a shorter time, with less heat, than wooden pellets, so the running cost of a wood-burning stove is higher than that of a pellet stove. 

Of course, if you have your own firewood supply from say, your own wooded land, then you don’t have to worry about the cost of buying wood. Just make sure you have the proper permissions to chop down this wood first!

Is Pellet Stove Or Wood Stove The Right Stove For You?

From all the factors discussed above, a pellet stove may well be the better investment for you and your home. They burn fuel with higher efficiency, cost less upfront and to maintain in the long run, are easier to use than a wood stove, and are exceptionally eco-friendly.

They do have their downsides, however. Most models require an electrical power source, and it can be harder to find a consistent supply of wood pellets as a fuel source than a supply of firewood. 

Pellet stoves are also significantly larger than wood stoves. But if you have an existing fireplace, you may consider a fireplace insert. Fireplace inserts ensure a pellet stove fits snugly into a fireplace cavity, making use of an existing feature and taking up less floor space.

Who Can Install My Pellet Stove Or Wood Stove?

Both free-standing wood-burning stoves and pellet stoves can be installed by anybody without prior training or expertise. A wood stove requires a chimney to operate, though this can be replaced by any type of vertical venting through a roof. Pellet stoves are more versatile and can be vented vertically or horizontally through a sidewall. 

I’d still recommend enlisting a qualified professional to install your new stove since incorrect installation can mean you’re potentially putting yourself and your family in a dangerous environment filled with poisonous gasses. Installation may seem expensive, but it’s nothing to the cost if something does go wrong.

Pellet Stove Vs Wood Stove: Frequently Asked Questions

Are Pellet Stoves Safer Than Wood Stoves?

Sparks, creosote buildup, and fires are all risks when it comes to wood stoves, but both types of stoves can be considered safe household appliances– as long as they’re installed, operated, and maintained properly. 

New models of pellet stoves come with numerous safety features to regulate heat and contain flames, sparks, and embers, and will shut down automatically if electronic sensors detect an unusual combustion rate or higher than normal temperatures.

Can You Burn Wood In A Pellet Stove?

Firewood cannot be burnt in a pellet stove, either as logs or kindling. As the name suggests, pellet stoves must always be fuelled with pellet stove wood pellets. 

Wood stoves have a larger firebox that allows traditional firewood to be burnt inside, but pellet stoves work differently, and can only take combusted pellets of a certain type, size, and length.

Are Pellet Stoves Cheaper Than Wood Stoves?

New pellet stoves and wood stoves both cost around the same upfront, usually between $1,500 and $3,000. However, wood stoves can be more expensive to install, taking the total upfront outlay to between $2,500 and $5,000.

Pellet stove installation is usually around $500 cheaper. In terms of fuel, $250 worth of wood pellets will burn longer, and with more heat, than $250 of firewood, so it’s a cheaper fuel source in the long run.

Conclusion

In the great wood stove- pellet stove battle, I’d say that the pellet stove wins out. As we’ve discovered, they’re more efficient and eco-friendly than a wood-burning stove, they’re safer to operate, and cost less upfront and in the long run, with lower maintenance and fuel costs. 

I’d recommend a pellet stove as the better option, but ultimately it comes down to what factors are most important to you!