Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Wood Stoves vs Pellet Stoves

My husband and I are having an interesting conversation about wood stoves vs. pellet. He bought a pellet stove pre me and I’ve always preferred a wood stove. Just like many others out there he always thought he was being ‘green’ and that the pellets were made from waste…thoughts or have you written on this?

Toni, Wickford

Pellet stoves were first introduced back in the 1980’s quickly becoming popular as a more efficient, cleaner, and an easier to handle and fill wood stove alternative. The pellets are a mechanically compressed wood fuel (CWF) made of the same material (hardwood sawdust, shavings, etc) as their larger brick relatives.

The real trick to being “greener” is how the stove operates, the age and efficiency of the stove, the source of the fuel, moisture in the fuel, and how the fire is managed. The EPA is expected to make a final ruling requiring manufacturers to redesign wood heaters to be cleaner and lower emitting. Wood stoves can now be equal to efficiency and BTU output as their pellet stove cousins. But there are pros and cons to each type of stove.

Pellets can be made from grass and other non-woody forms of biomass and are consistent and small in size, allowing efficient automatic feeding to the pellet stove. Their high density allows high BTU output (heat) and compact storage. Although many pellet stoves require electricity so losing power can be an issue. The pellets can be hard to find from time to time, and shortages and pricing fluctuations in a single source fuel can be frustrating. And “greener” pellets lose their greenness when they move from British Columbia to RI, as opposed to local products from Connecticut or Maine.

Wood stoves, on the other hand, use cordwood that is locally available, requires little transportation and energy (electricity, fuel, CO2), and is renewable. Older wood stoves manufactured before 1990 burn way less efficiently than their modern counterparts, wasting firewood, polluting the air, and creating dust inside the home.  Newer wood stoves can get a mix of CWFs, wood, coal, and other biomasses to manage heat output, consumption, and cost.

I like my wood stove since I can mix cordwood with CWFs. I buy wood local and CWFs from CT. If you have an older pellet or wood stove, chances are the pellet stove is more efficient and produces fewer pollutants. But if you are considering a switch, there are many other factors to consider like where the stove is going, how it is vented, and fuel storage. This is where a local wood heater supplier and installer can help. Tell them about your situation and even bring some pictures. Be careful to hire only reputable and certified installers, such as the National Fireplace Institute certification. If your unit acts up in any way, contact the installer immediately.   So the best choice is not so much the type, but really what is best for you.