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Both types burn wood, which is carbon neutral, making either choice better for the environment than natural gas or petroleum-burning heaters. Wood may be more accessible, but wood pellets offer the added benefit of burning cleaner.
Wood stoves still remain the traditional choice, but wood pellet stoves are gaining in popularity for their convenience and Earth-friendly appeal.
Wood PelletsWood pellets typically come from mills, furniture manufacturers, recycling centers, roadside scraps, nuts, sawdust logging residue or paper packaging.
They have the lowest particulate matter emissions of all fuels, and are dried and compressed into small cylinder-shaped pieces of wood similar in shape to rabbit food.
Their density allows them to burn more efficiently, producing a lot of heat and very little ash.
Pellets are sold in bags or by the ton, and vary in size from 3/8 inch to 1 inch.Wood Pellet Stoves by the Numbers
• Freestanding models can heat from 1, 000 to 3, 000 square feet
• Burns about 15 percent more efficiently than wood stoves
• Uses less electricity than four 100-watt light bulbs on the “high” setting
• Pellets contain about 15 percent to 50 percent less moisture than wood
• A 40-pound bag can provide 20 hours of nonstop heat
• Some hoppers can hold 240 pounds of pellets
• One ton of pellets equals 2.8 barrels of oil
PerformanceWood stoves warm through radiant heat and many have a built-in or optional blower to help distribute heat more evenly over a larger area. This helps save fuel and increases the overall comfort level in the space being heated.
Some models provide enough surface space to cook on and most provide an enjoyable view of the flame.
Even basic wood stove models are often much more effective than older units. Some newer models include a catalytic combustor resulting in cleaner exhaust gases.
Wood pellet stoves operate at much lower temperatures, are often cool to the touch, and utilize a built-in blower to help warm a room.
The wood pellet stove has a built-in pellet hopper and automated feed system that delivers wood pellets into the stove’s burn chamber where combustion air is forced through the fire to create a furnace-like effect. The feeder system allows the fire to burn longer without loading than a traditional wood stove. State-of-the-art technology helps control fuel-to-air ratio within the stove and ensures a more complete combustion of the fuel.
Maintenance depends on your stove choice. A non-catalytic wood stove may take longer to heat and produce more smoke, but it is less expensive and requires less servicing. A catalytic wood stove must be inspected regularly and serviced.
Wood pellet stoves are easy to maintain, but routine maintenance is necessary to ensure it functions properly. Before the start of each heating season, you should have your stove and chimney inspected by a professional.
FuelsWood remains the more popular choice of fuel because it is widely available, affordable, and pleasant to view as it burns. You can vary your heating capacity based on wood type and seasoning. It may require chopping and is cumbersome to stack and load. It also creates smoke, requiring a chimney exhaust.
Wood pellets are tightly compacted and dense, creating a more efficient and consistent burn than wood. The low emission levels produce minimum soot, ash and creosote, which helps protect the environment.
Freestanding and fireplace insert stoves can be accented with these additional features:
Wood Pellet Stoves
|Heat transfer||• Radiant
|Power source||• None, unless using a blower
||• Requires 110-volt outlet
• Uses about 110 KWH per month
• Battery packs available
|Smoke output||• Yes, requiring chimney/flue
||• Minimal; does not require
|Maintenance||• Frequent ash removal
• Yearly inspections
• Catalytic combustor must be checked three times a
season and replaced as recommended
|• Moving parts require periodic
• Minimal ash removal
• Regular servicing
|Stove placement||• Must accompany converntional chimney
||• Must be near 110-volt outlet
• Can be 3 inches from wall
• Requires hearth pad and
separation from combustible items
|Burn efficiency||• 60-75 percent||• 75-85 percent|
|Fuel availability||• Wood is inexpensive
• Very accessible
|• Pellet availability may depend
|Fuel storage||• Tough to transport
• Must split/stack wood
• Must be seasoned
|• Easy to transport
• Easy to stack/store
• Comes in 20-40 pound. bags
InstallationBoth wood and wood pellet stoves are available as stand-alone units or as fireplace inserts that make use of existing masonry or prefab fireplace and chimneys. Inserts require less space, but can be more difficult to install.
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