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Wood and Wood Pellet Stoves

 
Buying Guide: Wood and Wood Pellet Stoves
 

Overview


Consider a wood or wood pellet stove as a great solution to reducing your high heating costs. Each offers not only a dramatic focus to any room, but also a great way to add a primary or secondary heating system to your home. Both burn wood, which is carbon neutral, making either choice better for the environment than natural gas or petroleum-based fuels. Although wood may be more accessible, wood pellets offer the added benefit of burning cleaner.

Wood stoves still remain the traditional choice, but wood pellet stoves are gaining in popularity for their convenience and earth-friendly appeal.
 
Whether choosing either type of stove, use the following questions to find the right solution for you:
 
  • What type of installation do you want? 
  • Freestanding or insert?
  • How much space do you need to heat?
  • How much effort do you want to take to heat your home?
  • What type of fuel do you wish to burn?
  • What options or features do you want?   

Learn More


Whether you want a free-standing unit or a fireplace insert as a heating source for your home, we make shopping for a wood or wood pellet stove easy. Find out what it takes to install, learn the performance benefits and drawbacks and how to choose the best fuel for your lifestyle.
 

Installation 


Both wood and wood pellet stoves are available either as stand-alone units or as fireplace inserts that make use of existing masonry or prefab fireplace and chimneys. Inserts take up less space, but can be more difficult to install.

Unlike traditional wood stoves, wood pellet stoves don’t require a conventional chimney and flue. Freestanding models can go almost anywhere if within reach of an electrical outlet. Although wood pellet stoves are less expensive to install than wood stoves, it is recommended that you use a professional installer to ensure the safety of the exhaust system.
 

Performance


Wood stoves warm through radiant heat and many have either a built-in, or optional, blower to help distribute heat more evenly over a greater area. This helps save fuel and increases the overall comfort level in the space being heated. Some models provide enough surface space to cook on and most provide an enjoyable view of the wood flame. Even basic wood stove models are often much more effective than older units. Some newer models include a catalytic combustor resulting in cleaner exhaust gases.

Wood pellet stoves operate at much lower temperatures—often cool to the touch—and utilize an integrated blower to help warm a room. The wood pellet stove has a built-in pellet hopper and automated feed system that delivers wood pellets into the stove’s burn chamber where combustion air is forced through the fire to create a furnace-like effect. The feeder system allows the fire to burn longer without loading than a traditional wood stove. State-of-the-art technology helps control fuel-to-air ratio within the stove and ensures a more complete combustion of the fuel.

Maintenance depends on your stove choice. A non-catalytic wood stove might take longer to heat and produce more smoke, but it is less expensive and requires less servicing. A catalytic wood stove must be inspected regularly and serviced. Wood pellet stoves are easy to maintain, but routine maintenance is necessary to ensure proper function. Before the start of each heating season, you should have your stove and chimney inspected by a professional.
 

Fuels


Wood remains the more popular choice of fuel because it is widely available, usually inexpensive, pleasing to view as it burns and you can vary your heating capacity based on wood type and seasoning. However, it may require chopping and is cumbersome to stack and load. It also creates smoke, requiring a chimney exhaust.

Wood pellets are created from leftover wood materials. They are tightly compacted and dense, creating a more efficient and consistent burn than wood. The low emission levels produce minimum soot, ash and creosote which helps protect the environment.

Sold in 20-to-40 lb. bags or by the ton, pellets range in size from 3/8’’ to 1’’ in length with the look and feel of rabbit food. Safe, easy to transport and store, wood pellets can be produced and sold locally. Unlike heating oil and natural gas, they pose no threat for explosions or environmental spills and their storage poses no threat to water or soil for contamination.


Options


Both types of stoves, whether as a freestanding or insert model, can be accented with these additional features:
 
 

Wood Stoves

Wood Pellet Stoves 

Heat transfer • Radiant
• Convection 
• Convection
Power source? • None, unless using a blower
 
• Requires 110-volt outlet
• Uses about 110 KWH per month
• Battery packs available
Smoke output • Yes, requiring chimney/flue
 
• So minimal it does not require
  EPA certification
Maintenance • Frequent ash removal
• Yearly inspections
• Catalytic combustor must be checked three times a
  season and replaced as recommended
• Moving parts require periodic
  attention
• May face tough cleaning
• Minimal ash removal
• Servicing contract
   recommended
Stove placement • Must accompany converntional chimney
 
• Must be near 110-volt outlet
• Can be 3" from wall
• Requires hearth pad and
   separation from combustible items
Burn efficiency • 60-75% • 75-85%
Fuel availability • Wood is inexpensive
• Very accessible
• Pellet availability may depend
   on location
Fuel storage • Tough to transport
• Must split/stack wood
• Must be seasoned
• Easy to transport
• Easy to stack/store
• Comes in 20-40 lbs. bags

Wood Pellets: 


Featuring the lowest particulate matter emissions of all select fuels, wood pellets typically come from either mills as scrap wood, furniture manufacturers, recycling centers, roadside scraps, nuts, sawdust logging residue or paper packaging plants.

They are dried and compressed into small cylinder-shaped pieces of wood similar to dynamics of rabbit food. Their density allows them to burn more efficiently, producing a lot of heat and very little ash. Varying from 3/8’’ to 1’’ in size, pellets are sold in bags or by the ton.   
     

Wood Pellet Stoves By the numbers: 


• Freestanding models can heat from 1,000-to-3,000 sq. ft.
• Burns about 15% more efficiently than wood stoves
• Uses less electricity than four 100-watt light bulbs even on the “high” setting
• Pellets contain about 15%-50% less moisture than wood
• A 40-lb bag can provide 20 hours of non-stop heat 
• Some hoppers can hold 240 lbs of pellets 
• One ton of pellets equals 2.8 barrels of oil