Buying Guide

How To Choose Wood and Wood Pellet Stoves

How Do Wood Stoves Work?

Wood stoves warm through radiant heat and many have a built-in or optional blower to help distribute heat more evenly over a larger area.

Blowers help save fuel and increase 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 flame.

Both wood and wood pellet stoves burn wood, which is carbon neutral, making either choice better for the environment than natural gas or petroleum-burning heaters. Some newer wood stoves include a catalytic combustor resulting in cleaner exhaust gases.

Wood pellet stoves operate at much lower temperatures, are often cool to the touch, and utilize a built-in 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 may 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 it functions properly.

Tip: Both wood and wood pellet stoves are available as standalone units or as fireplace inserts that make use of existing masonry or prefab fireplaces and chimneys. Inserts require less space, but can be more difficult to install.

What Are Wood Pellets?
Wood Pellets

Wood pellets have the lowest particulate matter emissions of all fuels. Their density allows them to produce lots of heat and very little ash.

Wood pellets typically come from mills, furniture manufacturers, recycling centers, sawdust, logging residue or paper packaging. The wood is dried and compressed into small cylinder-shaped pieces of wood similar in shape to rabbit food.

Pellets are sold in bags or by the ton, and vary in size from 3/8 inch to 1 inch.

Wood vs. Wood Pellets

Wood stoves remain the traditional choice, but wood pellet stoves are gaining in popularity for their convenience and Earth-friendly appeal.

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

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

Wood Pellet Stoves by the Numbers
  • Freestanding models can heat from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet
  • Burns about 15 percent more efficiently than wood stoves
  • Uses less electricity than four 100-watt light bulbs on the “high” setting
  • Pellets contain about 15 percent to 50 percent less moisture than wood
  • A 40-pound bag can provide 20 hours of nonstop heat
  • Some models can hold 240 pounds of pellets
  • One ton of pellets is the equivalent of 2.8 barrels of oil
Wood Stoves and Wood Pellet Stoves
wood burning stoves pellet stoves
Description Heat transfer: Radiant, Convection Power source: None, unless using a blower Smoke output: Yes, requiring chimney/flue Heat transfer: Convection Power source: Requires 110-volt outlet, Uses about 110 KWH per month, Battery packs available Smoke output: Minimal; does not require EPA certification
Other Considerations Stove placement: Must accompany converntional chimney Burn efficiency: 60-75 percent Fuel availability: Wood is inexpensive, Very accessible Fuel storage: Tough to transport, Must split/stack wood, Must be seasoned Stove placement: Must be near 110-volt outlet, Can be 3 inches from wall, Requires hearth pad and separation from combustible items Burn efficiency: 75-85 percent Fuel availability: Pellet availability may depend on location Fuel storage: Easy to transport, Easy to stack/store, Comes in 20-40 pound. bags