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Wood Burning Stoves VS Pellet Burning Stoves

By: Everett S
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Which is better? A modern wood burning stove or the new pellet burning stoves?

For those who don’t know what a pellet-burning stove is, it’s pretty much the same thing as a wood-burning stove, but slightly redesigned to burn specially-made fuel.

Wood burning stove or pellet stove?Proponents of pellet burning stoves cite lower moisture content, more heat, less smoke and particulate emissions, and an efficiency of somewhere between 75% and 90%. Another great thing about pellet stoves is that they are more convenient. You put the pellets into a hopper on most models, which is attached to a temperature guage. Once the temperature drops below a certain zone the hopper releases more pellets into the fire. Pretty neat!

But…

Other than the slightly higher price of the unit, the fact that they shouldn’t be installed in mobile homes in the United States – according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – and the ongoing cost of pellets, my main concern with pellet-burning stoves over the new wood burning stoves is that wood is readily available. If we’re snowed in and someone forgot to buy more “pellets” at the store, what do you do then? You would probably burn wood in there anyway at that point, but then it wouldn’t be optimized for wood because it’s a pellet stove.

Having a wood burning stove provides the security that as long as you have a wood lot on your property you will be able to keep your family warm all winter for free.

That’s why I think I’ll be going to read this wood burning stove review so I can get my head around all the different brands out there and start comparing the pros and cons of each. I’m still open to the idea of a pellet or corn burning stove, but they’d have to be 95% efficient and I’d need a two year supply of quality, inexpensive pellets. Also, if the pellet machine could run JUST as well on chopped wood – that would be a huge draw for me.

Also see a reader-submitted discussion on: Fireplaces VS Wood Burning Stoves.

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Category: Renewable Energy

Comments (21)

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  1. MARCIA GUYNES says:

    I AM A REALTOR IN LINCOLN COUNTY, NEW MEXICO. I AM WONDERING WHY IT IS ILLEGAL TO INSTALL PELLET STOVES IN A MOBILE HOME. I HAVE SEEN MANY OF THEM IN MOBILE HOMES IN OUR AREA. I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANY LITERATURE TO THE FACT THAT THEY COULDN’T BE USED IN A MOBILE HOME UNTIL I READ THIS ONE. COULD YOU HELP ME OUT ONE THIS ONE. THANX FOR YOUR HELP. MARCIA GUYNES, CAPITAN, NM.

  2. Off Grid Ebert says:

    Marcia, I’m going to correct that statement. It’s not “illegal” to install a pellet stove in a mobile home, but the stove model must be approved for use in a mobile home by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which makes additional requirements for solid fuel burning appliances installed in mobile homes. These “should” be listed in stove manufacturers’ installation instructions. I have read from several sources that HUD specifically forbids the use of pellet-burning stoves in mobile homes, but after extensive searching of the HUD website could not find that statement. You can call HUD to verify this statement and to get more information: (202) 708-1112.

  3. nitch34 says:

    You cannot burn cordwood in a pellet appliance. Pellet stoves can be put into mobil homes as long as they have their air intakes vented to the outside, I believe that is the distinction.

  4. [...] of the arguments I always had with myself against buying a pellet burning stove over a wood burning one is that I didn’t want to be dependent on someone else to supply my fuel. To me, that just [...]

  5. Laura S. says:

    If the electricity goes out, will the pellet stove still burn pellets? I have been told it would not. This is a consideration for me.

  6. countrygal says:

    If the electricity goes out…the pellet stove is out.

  7. Flex says:

    I did some research when I installed a stove in my mobile home. One factor worth considering is that pellets for the stove are a man made product. That means reliance on others, hardly “off-the-grid”. The price of pellets can fluctuate based on the manufacturers/retailers discretion, transportation costs, labor packaging, etc (increase is bad) and the stores can sell out if demand is high(which happened to a friend of mine). You can’t cut down the magical pellet tree in the forest to put in your stove. You are 100% reliant on others, just not the utility company…unless your pellet stove uses electricity to feed it, which has been mentioned in other posts. Using regular wood gives you more freedom and control over your heating costs and in tough times it is better to not have to rely on others for your well being.

  8. OldDuffer says:

    We have our own wood lot, however I would not say that the wood is free. Far from it. Cost of land, taxes, chain saw, fuels and oil hardly make heating with wood free. I do look at it as a form of exercise, and am heated more than once by my home grown fuel.

    Pellet stove? Not for me, I want something that will heat my home without being connected to electricity.

    People in my neck of the woods buy their pellets by the ton, fill the former wood shed with bags of pellets, so they are set for the winter.

    Prior to the pellet stove fad the huge wood company’s would sell the slash wood to frugal people for a few bucks a cord. You just had to have the gumption to cut it up and drag it home. Thanks to the pellet craze they no longer leave slash, it is all made into pellets. These company’s are now cutting down everything it site for the sake of pellet making. They have a fancy word for these lots “biomass”. What a joke. Clear cutting everything in site for pellets. Everything but the 4 trees the have to leave so they don’t call this a clear cut.

  9. Kate says:

    I have a friend in Humboldt County, Ca who has had a pellet stove for years, without hooking up to electricity….what is this about hooking up? She finally got rid of it because of the cost of pellets…got a wood stove and saved$$ even though cords of wood range from 200-350 around here.

  10. Lee says:

    As an owner of both a wood and now a pellet stove, they both have their good points. That being said, pellet stoves can run on a battery backup if there is a power outage, and their higher cost vs. wood is offset by the less expensive vent sections and the ability to direct vent a pellet stove. This actually can make a pellet stove cheaper to purchase. As to the cost per cord vs a ton of pellets, the price quoted of $200-350 a cord is about equal to the $285-300 a ton that pellets go for here in NY. They should be cheaper if you live closer to a timber producing area. As to the final argument: “We ran out of pellets and can’t get more”, I have run low on firewood also, and being in a suburban area, we don’t have folks selling cords on every corner. If you are producing all your own firewood, you can’t just run and cut more if you run out, any decent wood burner will season all their wood one season before use, so a reserve must be kept. Couple that with all the time spent cutting/stacking/feeding and tending the stove, and that wood takes up more space than pellets, and I think pellet stoves more than hold their own.

  11. irene.bialas@rexnord.com says:

    I have a plelet stove and have had it for 3 years now. For me, a pellet stove is preferable to a wood burner for a number of reasons:

    1. You can control the heat better.
    2. It’s move efficient
    3. I can handle pellets easier than wood and it’s infinitely more compact storage.

    I love my stove. It started out as a back-up to my propane furnace. (BTW for those of you who think propane is “green” you’re wrong–propane is made from oil not natural gas). I now use my propane as a back up to my pellet (I set the thermostat so the furnace will kick in if something happens to the pellet stove). I live in the country in Wisconsin. In January I pay over $300 per month for propane. When I switched to the pellet I found I was going through 1 40lb bag per 24 hours. $4 a bag–$120 for the month. Less than half the cost.

    Pellet stoves will also burn feed corn.

    I’ve had the electricity go out. The pellet stove works. The feeder and fan doesn’t so you have to hand feed the pellets in much as you would have to in a wood stove. Also, you would have to hand light the pellets rather than rely on the electronic ignition. Would I buy a pellet again? You betcha.

  12. Da-Yooper says:

    Well – One of the things that nobody really said because you mostly all live in urban areas is where the pellets can come from. Where I live there are two local businesses that make pellets. I am supporting local businesses when and if I purchase pellets.

    Some wood stoves such as the wood furnace in my basement can burn pellets. They’re just hard lignin compressed wood after all. They burn hot. They burn hotter than regular hardwood. My furnace can burn wood or coal so it’s cool to use pellets.

    I’m hoping to see more fuels develop with this wood pellet thing. You can make grass pellets. Think of all the stuff that can be dried up and squeezed together. You got your cattails and your corn stalks and brush and goldenrod and dandylions. You won’t need no stinkin’ propane. You can still go out in the woods and get yer own.

    Why don’t they make a stove that can feed chipped wood? Seems like a stoker could be designed for chipped wood. Than anybody can make their own fuel.

    Wood heat will be the best source of heat until the country wises up and builds some Thorium based nuclear reactors. It would be good to see one in the UP.

  13. [...] Solid Fuels Pellet fuels are the lonely middle ground between ubiquitous fossil fuels and traditional [...]

  14. leo bright-saranillio says:

    back to the land…. please share more instie to modern forms of becoming selfsuficient… what will we leave the next progenertors…will we “malama the aina” take care of the land?
    as a hawaiian i feel a personal responsibility torwards the perservation of the land..mahalo

  15. donna says:

    I am a disabled woman and my brother bought a pellet stove for a heck of alot more than I would, but anyhow I have used a wood burning stove for ever, country girl I am and I would never change ,I have respect for mother earth,I don,t cut down trees I just take what is put either on the ground or what has passed on the tree that needs to be removed for the trees health.I just wonder about people sometimes,how hard is this? golly gee I,m not that old either. Thank you for hearing me

  16. I am interested in makeing my own pellets and would like to know the cost of your unit? Could you also recommend a good pellet stove, a small one would be my choice with a trouble free ash unit.

  17. Michelle says:

    The best way to go with a pellet stove is to make your own pellets out of yard waste and branches with a pellet mill and hamer mill. This way you dont have to depend on someone to buy your pellets from.

  18. Steve says:

    Well pellet stoves if power goes out your sunk? No that isnt true battery backup? The best thing to do plug it in to a GENERATOR if you have one .works great!
    I did it for a week while power out no problem.

  19. suslog says:

    I was reading horse manure can be molded into bricks and used in wood stoves. Once it is dried it doesn’t have a smell and it is stated that it burns longer than wood.

  20. Brad Smith says:

    I have a wood burning stove in my home workshop. It’s an older Fisher stove from the 1970’s and therefore not as efficient.

    To help with heating efficiency, I have two box fans that blow over the stove. One across the body and one slightly higher that blows over part of the chimney and the top of the stove.

    This seems to fill the workshop with more heat than if I do not run the fans. I have photos posted on my workshop site: http://www.diybackyardworkshop.com/tag/wood-stove/

  21. KK says:

    I used a pellet stove last winter but sold it because of the noise mostly. Though it produced very little ash and had an easily removable ash pan below the door, it did require more extensive cleaning and blew a very fine ash through a B-vent outdside that was hardly noticeable. It did up my electrical bill somewhat but it was very convenient in being able to burn for a long time without refilling. The hopper took 3 bags. Summers Heat model 55.
    The biggest drawback was the fact that it was located in a living room and made too much noise when it was on high and had to be turned to a much lower heat setting to reduce the noise.
    I replaced it with a wood stove and burn all kinds of left over wood when it is easily available.
    Since there are many times it would be convenient to have a low burn that lasts a long time without refilling or producing a smoldering flame I decided to experiment with a pellet basket.
    The first basket I tried was a large stainless steel colander with some of the holes enlarged with steel bits. It burned all night and left very little ash. I used a little charcoal lighter to start the fire, which burned slowly at first, increased to a good burn which gradually tapered off to a low heat. While it doesn’t give off a lot of heat, it does work to heat evenly and for a long time.
    The colander cost $19 and it can be removed and cleaned quickly to allow refilling or be removed to burn wood.
    Your wood stove can burn pellets very well-quietly and without electricty.
    A pellet basket works better to produce a higher heat but the big colander with enlarged holes is good for heating when the weather is not too cold or overnight.

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