Wood Stove vs. Pellet Stove – Which One is Safer for My House? 

difference between wood stove vs. pellet stove

With winters coming nearby, you may be looking for a new stove to heat your home. 

But with all of the different types and models of stoves on the market, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for your needs.

Particularly when it comes to the safety of your home and family, you want to make sure that the stove you select is not only effective but also safe.

In short, pellet stoves tend to burn cleaner and safer. Since the flames in a pellet stove are controlled and surrounded by metal, there is less of a risk of accidental fires and sparks due to flying embers.

The only drawback you need to consider is that they can become extremely hot to the touch.

Especially for kids and pets, this can be a hazard, so you need to make sure that your pellet stove is properly installed and vented.

In this quick comparison article, I will be discussing the benefits and drawbacks of wood stoves and pellet stoves in a bit detail.

By the end of the reading, you can hopefully make an informed decision about which one is right for your family this season.

Pellet Stove vs. Wood Stove Comparison 

A wood stove or a pellet stove, which one to choose? That can be a tricky question at first since both options offer considerable advantages. 

You can find wood and pellet stoves in a wide variety of styles, colors, and models.

Plus, you can purchase those that fit into pre-existing fireplaces or buy free-standing models that you can place where needed. 

With the shape, style, and models of pellet and wood stoves being roughly the same in terms of choice, the decision will be determined by factors directly associated with the pellets and wood itself. 

What follows is a breakdown of the major categories, so you can make the best-informed decision as to which one is right for your needs. 

1- Aesthetics

There is nothing like seeing wood inside a stove with the flames consuming the logs.

Plus, the aroma of burning wood is something that most people look forward to enjoying. 

Pellet stoves can deliver the bright flame but are lacking in the visual factor because pellets are not logs. 

Advantage: Wood 

In terms of aesthetic quality, wood stoves have the edge. If one of the most important factors is how the fuel inside looks when burning, then seeing logs aflame instead of mere pellets makes this an easy answer.

Of course, there is a downside to viewing all that beautiful wood as you must clean up a larger mess, but that is the price you pay for beauty in this case. 

2- Cost of Fuel

The difference will be in the fuel source, which determines the price. 

Sources such as highschimney.com indicate that with wood stoves, you can expect to pay on average $190 per ton of wood.

With an average of 6.5 tons burned during the winter, the average cost per season is about $1,235 if you purchase the wood from a store.

Of course, if you chop your own firewood on your property, then there is no cost apart from the tools that you use. 

The pellets also cost about $190 per ton, but they burn about 7.5 tons per season. This drives the average cost up to $1,425 for a typical winter. 

Advantage: Although both are equal in terms of their per-ton purchase, wood has the benefit of being available for free for property owners who have plenty of trees around their homes. 

You will need to let the wood properly dry and inspect it for mold or pests before using it, but that does not add to the cost. 

3- Environment

Both pellet and wood stoves release smoke and CO2 into the atmosphere. Both are considered harmful to the environment. 

Wood

  • Smoke: 2 to 7.5 grams per hour
  • CO2: 0.0612 pounds per kilowatt-hour

Pellet

  • Smoke: Less than 1 gram per hour
  • CO2: 0.035 pounds per kilowatt-hour 

Advantage: Pellet

Both in terms of smoke and CO2 release, pellet stoves are more environmentally friendly. The footprint is relatively small with a pellet stove. 

4- Maintenance 

Cleanup is a big consideration, especially with stoves that burn fuel which leaves a residue behind.

Because it is not just about the mess it leaves behind but also dangerous creosote that presents a danger to your home. 

Wood stoves are pretty much the same as chimneys. Every year it is recommended that you bring in a certified chimney sweep to inspect the stove.

This includes the flue and all other parts so that any residue can be properly cleaned away. 

However, it is the catalytic combustor that needs even more attention. This requires proper checking and cleaning at least three times during the season alone. 

Pellet stoves are far simpler to maintain. You start by following the instructions of the manufacturer, which includes checking the motor and fan to ensure they are operating correctly.

Plus, cleaning out any debris that is present. You do not need to pay for inspections with a pellet stove.

The downside is that if your pellet stove needs to be serviced, finding a qualified repairman may be difficult.

Especially if it is one of the motors that is involved in the operation of the device, be sure to check before purchasing that a qualified repairman is in your location. 

Advantage: Pellet stoves are the clear winner in terms of maintenance. 

5- Performance

All stoves are designed to keep you warm, but which one does a better job of heating up the space?

The answer is how wood and pellet stoves use the heating potential of their fuel and convert it to what you feel inside the room. 

A typical wood stove uses firewood which is typically stored in cords that are 4’ x 8’ x 4’. Each cord of firewood contains 15.3 million BTUs of potential energy.

A typical wood stove will burn at 70% efficiency, which translates to roughly 10.7 million BTUs

A pellet stove has 40-pound bags of pellets that contain about 13.6 million BTUs of potential energy. The conversion rate is 83%, or about 11.3 million BTUs, in terms of generating heat. 

Advantage: Pellet stoves are far more efficient and generate considerably better performance out of the energy source that is used. 

6- Powering Up

A wood stove works basically like a traditional fireplace. You put in the wood and kindling, light it, then stoke the fire as needed to power or boost up the heat.

There is no electricity required; all you need is the wood, some kindling, and a match.

Pellet stoves require electricity. So, if the power goes out, so too will your pellet stove. The electricity drives the hopper, which feeds the pellets into the stove.

While you can back up the power with a generator or battery, you will always need electricity to run the pellet stove. 

Advantage: Wood 

Whether you have power or not, the wood stove is going to work. 

7- Safety 

Because the wood and pellets are heated to temperatures that can cause injury when touched, safety is a necessary element in considering which one to purchase.

You should always keep safety in the front of your mind when around the stoves as they are operating.

From the start-up to the cooldown, you should wear the proper gloves and protection when in contact with a wood or pellet stove. 

For wooden stoves, the big issue is the sparks that come from the wood that may lead to burns. However, the real danger is not properly cleaning out the stoves after each use.

A buildup of creosote in a wooden stove leads to a dangerous situation of a fire getting out of control. 

A somewhat lesser issue is the mold and pests that may be inside the cheap firewood that you bring into the home. You should always check the wood before it comes in from the outside. 

For pellet stoves, they are generally much cleaner and safer compared to wooden versions.

The flames are far better contained, which means that sparks and flying embers are few and far between, if they happen at all. 

Of course, pellet stoves will get hot, so you need to keep your distance when it is operational and wear the proper safety gear when interacting with a hot stove. 

Advantage: Pellet stoves are considerably safer compared to wooden ones.

Not only are flying embers and sparks a much smaller issue, but the amount of creosote buildup is also minimal in a pellet stove.

Still, you should regularly clean your stove to prevent any buildup from occurring. 

8- Pricing 

Although price should be the last consideration, many people place it at the top of their list.

Ideally, you want the best stove possible at the most affordable price, not the other way around.

Still, there is a significant difference in the purchase cost that should be considered. 

A wood stove with installation will cost on average from $3,000 to $5,000.

This assumes that your home does not have a chimney and pre-existing fireplace unit, which makes the price considerably cheaper.

In such cases, a fireplace insert is probably the best solution. 

Pellet stoves have a similar cost, from $3,500 to $4,000 with professional installation. While the lower price is comparable to wood stoves, the higher price is considerably cheaper.

The big cost savings is that instead of a standard chimney, a pellet stove only requires a small hole to ventilate out the smoke. 

Advantage: Pellet stoves are cheaper in terms of unit price and installation. 

With all the major areas covered, you can now make the best-informed decision about which one to choose.

If you already have a fireplace and an intact chimney and have plenty of free wood available on your property, then a wood stove is the obvious choice. 

For most everyone else, the pellet stove has real advantages, especially in terms of maintenance and safety, which makes it a popular option. 

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