There's nothing quite like a wood stove for adding warmth, character and a touch of romance to the home. While traditional wood stoves were designed for burning logs, or cordwood, modern wood stoves offer an additional fuel choice for homeowners in the form of wood pellets. Sized correctly, wood or pellet stoves can heat your entire home, just like a furnace, boiler or other heating system. Both firewood and pellets serve as excellent fuel sources, but there are key differences between these fuels that homeowners should be aware of when making purchasing decisions.
No question about it – if you have an ample source of lumber near your home and don't mind putting in the work, traditional firewood is far more economical than pellets for fueling a wood stove. However, this advantage disappears if you're unwilling or unable to chop wood, or you live in an area without access to free firewood. In urban areas, for example, the price for pellets is competitive with the price for cordwood.
Burning wood has always been a major source of air pollution, including particulate matter that can irritate the lungs and worsen certain health conditions. While modern wood stoves are designed to reduce pollution, homeowners who want to minimize their impact should choose pellets, which represent the cleanest solid fuel source used in residential heating appliances, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, emissions from pellet stoves are generally two to five times lower than emissions from EPA-certified wood stoves.
Pellets are environmentally-friendly because they are made from wood scraps like sawdust. Firewood can be eco-friendly, because it largely comes from dead trees, but transporting solid wood has a greater impact on the environment than transporting pellets, which contain a much greater amount of heat energy than cordwood on a pound-per-pound basis.
Anytime you're burning wood for fuel, you end up with a by-product known as creosote, which can build up in chimneys or flues and cause fires. Pellet stoves are safer than wood stoves in this aspect because they burn so cleanly than they produce very little creosote. They also burn cooler to the touch, which reduces the risk of accidental burns. Of course, with annual cleaning of your wood stove flue, burning wood can also be a safe and effective source of heat.
Pellet stoves are more complex than wood stoves, which means more maintenance and more frequent malfunctions. Pellet stoves also require electricity to operate, which can leave you out in the cold when the power goes out, unless you have a battery backup. Most wood stoves, on the other hand, keep producing heat even when the power goes out, making them more reliable in areas subject to frequent outages.
Talk with professionals, such as those at Scott's Heating & Air Conditioning Services, for more information about wood or pellet stoves and how these heating systems can be installed in your home.Share