pellet stove vs wood stove

About Wood Stoves

Traditional wood stoves use a basic metal firebox to burn wood. Logs are placed inside the box and burned to create heat. Wood stoves are connected in the back to a chimney flue, which vents the smoke outside of the home.

Modern wood stoves have come a long way when it comes to energy efficiency. They require less firewood, and produce almost no smoke and very little ash. To maximize efficiency, look for a wood stove that is certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Newer EPA-certified stoves produce 2 to 7 grams of smoke per hour, whereas older, non-certified stoves produce up to 30 grams per hour.

Wood stoves can be freestanding or fireplace inserts. Some stoves are catalytic, which are more efficient, and others are non-catalytic, which are less expensive. There are also lots of options when it comes to size, energy output and design.

How Much Does a Wood Stove Cost?

All told, budget about $3,000 to $5,000 for the project.

Wood stoves and inserts cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on type, its size and materials used. On the low end of that price range, you’ll find small non-catalytic wood stoves and inserts. On the high end, you’ll find large catalytic models.

Delivery and installation usually add about $500 to more than $1,000, depending on complexity. A basic chimney system, for those without an existing chimney, adds another $100 to $400 (not including any type of masonry, which can add many thousands to the total cost). A blower, if one does not come with the stove, might cost another $150 to $350. A hearth pad, which is required underneath most wood stoves to prevent combustion, costs $100 to $300.

Operating costs depend on the size of the wood stove, your geographic location, the efficiency of the home and how you get the wood. Obviously, the wood is free if you gather it from your own backyard. Having a cord of wood delivered costs anywhere from $100 to $300, depending on your region of the country. If you live in a cold climate, plan to purchase about three cords per year.

Wood Stove Pros

  • More fuel options – You can burn almost any type of wood in a conventional wood stove, including firewood or scraps.
  • No electricity required – Wood stoves do not rely on electricity or any other source of power to run, so they’ll work in a power outage. You’ll have heat and a way to cook your food.
  • Cheaper to operate – Wood stoves are cheaper to operate if you have easy access to cheap firewood or plan to cut your own firewood.
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Wood Stove Cons

  • Dirtier – Wood stoves don’t burn as cleanly as pellet stoves, despite all the progress toward efficiency. They produce more ash and smoke, which can irritate anyone with respiratory problems. They also leave you with bark and wood chips to clean up.
  • Less efficient – Wood stoves are far more efficient than fireplaces but not as efficient as pellet stoves. The most efficient wood stoves are on par with the least efficient pellet stoves.
  • Expensive to install – Wood stoves usually require a fully insulated chimney system, which makes them more expensive to install than pellet stoves.
  • More maintenance – Wood stoves must be constantly monitored to maintain a consistent level of heat. You’ll have to continuously add wood to the stove.

About Pellet Stoves

Pellet stoves are newer and more efficient than wood stoves. They rely on wood pellets, rather than logs, for fuel. The wood pellets are typically made of waste such as sawdust and wood shavings – materials that otherwise might have ended up in a landfill.

Like wood stoves, pellet versions can be freestanding or fireplace inserts. However, they offer more modern features, including hoppers that store pellets and automatically load them into the stove. Most hoppers hold between 35 to 130 pounds of pellets and require refilling about once a day.

High-efficiency pellet stoves can be connected to the thermostat so they adjust themselves to produce the proper amount of heat. This is not an option with a wood stove.

How Much Does a Pellet Stove Cost?

Most pellet stoves cost $1,700 to $3,000, not including installation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Installation could add a few hundred dollars or several thousand, depending on complexity. However, pellet stoves are generally cheaper to install than conventional wood stoves because most can be direct-vented and do not require a chimney or flue. Because of the lower installation cost, the total cost of a pellet stove is typically lower than the total cost of a comparable wood stove.

Wood pellets are typically sold in 40 pound bags that cost about $4 to $10 each. Buying in bulk keeps the price on the lower end of that range. Premium pellets sold by the individual bag fall on the high end. Pellet stoves do require electricity to operate the feeder, controls and fans, but the electricity costs are minimal. They average about $9 per month, according to the DOE.

Pellet Stove Pros

  • Cleaner – Pellet stoves produce less smoke and ash. And you don’t have to deal with cleaning up leftover bark or wood chips.
  • More efficient – Pellet stoves are almost always more efficient than wood stoves, wasting less heat and fuel.
  • No chimney required – Pellet stoves can be direct-vented to the outdoors, eliminating the need for an expensive chimney installation.
  • Cheaper to install – Most pellet stoves only need a direct vent or small chimney system, not a fully insulated chimney system, making them less expensive to install.
  • Less maintenance – With most pellet stoves, simply fill the hopper, set the thermostat and walk away. There’s no need for constant monitoring.

Pellet Stove Cons

  • Expensive to operate – Pellet stoves typically cost more to operate. Pellets are generally more expensive than firewood.
  • Require electricity – Because pellet stoves require electricity to operate, they won’t work during a power outage.

Wood and Pellet Stoves – Choosing the Right Size

Size is extremely important when it comes to choosing a wood or pellet stove. A stove that is too small won’t provide enough heat. One that is too large will be a waste of energy and money.

Manufacturers measure heat output in British thermal units, or Btus. Most stoves have outputs ranging from about 20,000 to 80,000 Btus. The more Btus, the larger the space that can be heated. However, choosing on Btus alone is tricky: Few stoves should be operated at their full output, so a stove with 60,000 Btus doesn’t really produce that amount of continuous heat. For the best results, consult a local hearth professional for advice on size and Btus.

In general, a small wood or pellet stove will heat a single room or provide supplemental heat for living areas. Medium-sized stoves are suitable for the average house. The largest stoves are best suited for large houses or those that are not very air tight.

Author: Ashley Smith

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