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The heating season is approaching quickly and it is high time to install that wood burning stove or pellet stove you have been thinking about. Which one will it be?
The first thing to check is the availability of pellets in your area. At this point in time, you might not be able to purchase pellets locally. And purchasing locally is important, since it means that there is a sustainable fuel supply in your area.
Contact the nearest store that sells pellet stoves and ask about a list of pellet suppliers. Theres should be at least two in your area. Ask about prices, availability and where they get their pellets from. You want to make sure that the pellets for your stove are from a local and sustainable source. As with anything, shop around and compare prices, proximity, and delivery guarantees.
What Are The Differences Between Wood And Pellet Stoves?
Pellet stoves burn more efficiently and cleanly than wood burning stoves.
All pellet stoves require an electrical connection, while only those wood burning stoves with blowers require an electrical connection.
Wood burning stoves require a functioning chimney or approved vent, whereas most pellet stoves require a conventional flue. Important: check your particular model and your localcodes!
Pellet stoves distribute the heat by blowing hot air into the space. These stoves do notget very hot to the touch. This can be a deciding factor if you have small children. Pellet stoves are quick to provide heat, and quick to cool down, once the fire is out.
Wood burning stoves radiate heat. Some models also have fans to blow hot air into the space. Wood burning stoves get very hot to the touch and keep radiating warmth, long after the fire has burnt down.
Wood pellet stoves require less attention than cord wood burning stoves:
Pellets are delivered in bags, or filled into a pellet bin in your basement. You will have to bring the bags into your house.
Pellets are fed into the stove via augers. You fill the pellet hopper, which is integrated into the top of the pellet stove, with approximately 40 lbs. of pellets.
You set the temperature dial at the stove to the desired temperature. The stove can be a self-igniting model or be started with a starting gel and match. The pellets will feed automatically as required to maintain the temperature.
A wood pellet stove can heat your home for up to 40 hours, without requiring any more of your attention
You refill the pellet chamber as needed
You empty the ash bin every few days
Wood burning stoves require a good amount of work:
Wood is “dumped” in front of your house and you will have to stack the wood, cover it and bring it into the house as required.
Kindling is required to start the stove. You can buy kindling, collect it in nearby woods or from a wood-processing manufacturer (such as flooring or furniture manufacturers) or chop it yourself.
You will have to build the fire and start it manually.
You control the temperature by adding more wood, opening and closing the air supply damper. Keeping in mind that the wood burning stove is slow-reacting.
Your wood burning stove will heat your home, unattended, for up to 12 hours, depending on stove size, wood being burnt, and setting of the air supply damper.
You will need to empty the ash bin daily.
Wood pellet stoves are considerably more costly than wood burning stoves. You can find a good wood burning stove for under $ 1,000, whereas a good, reliable pellet stove will cost over $2,000.
Cost for pellets and cost for cord wood depend to a large extent on the region you live in. In some regions pellets are more expensive, in other areas cord wood tops the list. Some areas have experienced pellet shortages, with the increase in popularity of pellet stoves.
Wood burning stoves are more messy than pellet stoves.
Your Personal Preferences
After reading the above comparison, your personal preferences will also help you decide.
How important is it to you to have the cleanest burning and most efficient stove?
How much work are you willing to do? Some people like stacking and chopping wood. Building a fire in the stove every morning can be a wonderful ritual to start the day.
How much money do you have a available and are willing to spend on a stove?
Do you prefer the radiant heat of the wood burning stove or the hot/warm air blowing from the pellet stove?
Would you like to cook a winter soup on the wood burning stove?
Other Deciding Factors
In addition to the personal preferences, the following factors must be considered:
Are you physically able and willing to do the work required for a wood burning stove?
Do you have the time required to tend to the stove?
How easily can you install electrical power for you pellet stove?
How easily can you add a chimney or vent stack?
Are power outages a real possibility in your area? Will you have a back-up generator for the pellet stove, or will you need the wood burning stove as a heat source?
Heating your home with wood, be it pellets or cut wood, requires considerably more work than simply flipping a switch on your oil or gas-fired furnace. The benefits though, in my opinion, outweigh the hard work and the sometimes messy living room. No matter which option you choose, you can heat your home with a sustainable fuel with either a wood burning stove or a pellet stove.
Christiane Perrin is a registered professional HVAC engineer with a passion for the environment. She is excited about the building industry going green and wants to support homeowners on their journey to building and remodeling green homes. //www.greenandsustainablehomes.org