Wood or Pellet Stove: All the Answers You Need To Make the Right Decision
There are an increasing number of inquiries about pellet stoves and wood burning stoves. The truth is, at the end of the day, your unique situation, location, and preferences will be the deciding factors and not what other people tell you or what the majority are using. Your choice must adhere to things that are uniquely applicable to you. Some of the key considerations would be the cost and availability of wood in your area. Then there is the installation cost, stove maintenance concerns, and stove operation details that may or may not fit your home or even your lifestyle. Read on and explore the possibilities. In choosing between pellet and firewood fueled stoves, it is best to make the right choice the first time.
The cost of fuel
There are places in the US where firewood is relatively easy to secure, perhaps even free. Wooded areas would mean you can easily pick up some scrap wood around and store it for the coming winter. You do not even have to spend a dime to have fuel for your wood burning stove. In this case a log burner is ideal for you. However if you live in areas where wood is hard to come by and where you might need to purchase seasoned firewood for your stove, then a pellet stove can be an option worth considering.
Pellet stoves can burn wood pellets and other special fuel composites. Pellets are sold in 40-Lb bags although you have the option to purchase by the ton. Heating a 2000 sq. ft. home in winter might consume 2-3 tons of pellets. Depending on your location the cost can go more than $200 for each ton of pellets. Go through with the figures carefully so that you will know just how much you would shell out to operate a pellet stove or wood stove (if you have to pay for firewood).
The cost of wood stoves and pellet stoves might have considerable difference (pellet stoves being more expensive) but this is nothing compared to the difference of the installation costs between the two stove options. A pellet stove can be installed quickly. Placing it against a wall with a direct access to the outdoors will make it easy to install the venting for the stove. The next step would be just to install a short pellet-vent pipe 3”-4” in diameter through the wall. A special kit is available to do this with minimal difficulty. The stove vent will look like a drier vent on the outside wall.
Installing a wood stove on the other hand is a different matter. This will necessitate the installation of a chimney that must extend above the peak of the roof. If your house has a tall profile with a steep roof line expect to pay a lot to have your wood burning stove installed. It does not matter if you go for masonry or stainless steel chimneys, both would cost money.
Stove operation issues
Operating log burners would mean you need to tend to the fire throughout the day. You need to check if there is enough firewood in there and the flame is just right to maintain the ideal temperature inside your home. Depending on the size of your stove, you can dump in there up to 115 pounds of pellets that should heat your house for more than 60 hours straight! The stove can automatically turn off and on through a wall mounted thermostat. That is convenience you can never get from a wood stove.
Storing firewood on the other hand can be easier and would not incur any costs as these can be placed outside with no problem. Pellets however need to be stored indoors either inside the house or in a separate structure like a shed. Carrying a 40-Lb bag of pellet from your storage area to the stove can be laborious compared to carrying pieces of firewood in manageable batches to the stove.
In cases when the power is down, your pellet stove will also stop operating. This kind of stove needs electricity to run the augers. The augers feed the pellets to the combustion chamber. Electricity also runs the blowers that blow out the heat from the stove. A wood burning stove on the other hand does not need electricity to function. Plus wood burners can also come with cooking functions which make it very handy in times of power outages.
Stove maintenance concerns
Operating a wood or pellet stove entails different maintenance challenges. You might need to consider these challenges carefully (and honestly) to make sure that you will end up with a stove you would be willing to operate through the cold season. For a wood stove, prepare to spend a lot of time clearing ash, wood chips, and bark. Since you are burning firewood you will also expect a larger volume of ash compared to wood pellet boilers. Cleaning wood stoves can be a very messy exercise.
A pellet stove also demands regular cleaning for smoother operation. But because it burns pellets there is minimal volume ash minus all the wood chips and bark. Cleaning a pellet stove is quick and easy.
A wood stove also needs its chimney cleaned annually. This might require some professional help and adds to the maintenance costs of the stove.
Pellet stoves operate with sensitive electronics and this can inevitably break down. This will need specialized service. This is why buying your stove from a store that offers maintenance services is important.
Other key considerations
If you are particularly interested in green solutions for your home then a pellet stove would be the obvious choice. These stoves hardly emit any smoke. Studies have shown that in an hour, a pellet stove only produce a gram of smoke compared to the 7.5 grams of smoke a wood burning stove would likely produce. Wood pellets are actually recycled wood waste making them a huge help in the efforts of cleaning up the earth by preventing wood wastes to go to landfill.