There are options out there for high heating costs. Two of those are stoves that burn wood or pellet stoves. Since your goal is to find a less expensive method, the cost will most likely be your first consideration. A wood stove can cost you between $3,000 to $4,200 with a professional installer. A top of the line stove could cost as much as $5,000. You also have to think about ventilation. If you have no chimney in place, the expense can quickly become almost prohibitive.

On the other hand, a pellet stove will cost around $1,700 to $3,000 without a professional installer. With one, it will cost $3,500 to $4,000. If you don’t have a chimney, don’t worry. These stoves can be ventilated through a small hole in the wall. This straightforward type of ventilation can allow you greater freedom of placement when compared to a wood stove.

Cost of Fuel

The main difference between a wood and pellet stove is the type of fuel used. Wood stoves will burn logs just as a fireplace does. Pellet stoves use small compressed sawdust or small wood chips. The cost of a cord of wood or one ton of pellets is about $190. Wood is relatively easy to find, and you will use 6.5 cords per season, according to the Department of Energy. You will use approximately 7.3 tons of pellets despite the fact that pellets burn longer. Also, pellets aren’t available everywhere, so you may have to order them and pay shipping costs. In this category, the wood stove comes out ahead.

Powering Your Stove

A wood stove is easy to operate, needing only wood and matches to run. A pellet stove, however, requires an energy source. Usually, this will be electricity. It’s necessary in order to feed the pellets from the hopper to the stove. If you should lose power, you could use a generator. If you don’t have a generator, you will lose your heater. In this respect, wood once again wins.

Who’s Greener?

The EPA closely regulate wood stoves. Today they release 2-7.5 grams of smoke per hour. This is a significant improvement over old wood stoves. According to the Biomass Energy Centre in the UK, pellets release almost no smoke ( under one gram per hour); wood releases 0.00612 pounds per kilowatt-hour of CO2. Pellets release 0.035 pounds per kilowatt hour. Also, the remains of burned pellets can be recycled. In this category, the winner is the pellet stove.

Stove Safety

History has taught us the danger of wood fires. They create sparks that can cause larger fires or catch on clothing. They can also build up creosote deposits, increasing the threat of fires in time. The chimneys are also known to allow in pests. The pellet stove uses a contained fire, so any sparks are contained. You also don’t have to deal with creosote deposits or pests. However, the stove can be scorching. You will need to watch children and pets around your stove. Pellets also win this category due to a reduced chance of fire.

Stove Performance

First of all, let’s define a BTU. It’s a measure of a unit of heat. Both types of stoves will release large amounts of BTUs. The question is, how much of it is usable? One cord of wood can produce 15.3 million BTU per cord of wood; 10.7 million will be functional. That gives you an efficiency level of 70%. A pellet stove will produce 13.6 million BTUs per ton, of which 11.3 million is usable. This gives the pellet stove and efficiency rating of 83%. Pellet stoves win again.

Stove Maintenance

A wood stove must be cared for in much the same way as a fireplace. You will have to pay a sweep at the start of each season to clean it and make sure it’s parts are working correctly. The soot and other debris will have to be cleaned out regularly, and the catalytic converter must be inspected at least three times a year. The pellet stove is easily maintained and can be done by the owner following the manufacturers’ instructions. The problem may be finding a repairman if your stove breaks down. It can be costly to repair. Still, the pellet stove wins in total maintenance costs.

Stove Aesthetics

Admittedly this one is hard to measure. Everyone likes something different. Both types of stoves come in various styles and designs so you can find one you want. The wood stove does let you sit and watch the flames. You could do the same with a pellet stove, but without the logs, it may not be as nice. Wood wins aesthetically.

So which should you choose? Pellet stoves win in the essential elements of being green, easier to maintain, and safety. However, if watching the flames and feeling the old-fashioned satisfaction of cuddling before the fire is important, then a wood stove, it should be.

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