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Pellet vs. Wood Stove vs. Fireplace

Here are the various similarities and differences of pellet stoves, wood stoves and fireplaces showcasing their advantages and disadvantages to know which is the right pick for you.

A mother and daughter warming themselves in front of the fireplace.

As winter approaches, you start to plan how you and your family will keep yourselves warm. It can be difficult to decide which one to go with, with all the options out there, including fancy gas heating options. Pellet stoves, wood stoves, and fireplaces all produce a tantalizing amount of heat, but which one is more of a good investment?

The fuel source of a pellet, wood stove, and fireplace all differ. Fireplaces, much like wood stoves, burn wooden logs, while a pellet stove uses wood pellets as a fuel source. The amount of heat produced by all three differs significantly due to the different fuel sources.

When comparing pellet stoves, wood stoves, and fireplaces, there can be a great disparity in cost and efficiency. You need to consider the size of your house if you can easily access wood and wood pellets in your area, and the maintenance that each of these requires. So, what are the main differences between pellet stoves, wood stoves, and fireplaces?

Related: Living Rooms with Fireplaces | Types of Fireplaces | Fireplace Alternatives | Gas Fireplaces Pros and Cons | Types of Stoves

What Fuel Source Do Pellet, Wood Stoves, and Fireplaces Use?

These are pine pellets and fire wood.

A pellet stove usually burns biomass pellets or compressed wood continuously fed into a burn pot through a hopper. On the other hand, a traditional wood stove burns solid wood, and some models may also burn coal instead of wood. Fireplaces are similar to wood stoves as they also use solid wood as a fuel source.

How Much Maintenance Does Each of these Need?

This is a man on the roof cleaning the chimney.

Maintenance is required regardless of which one you decide to go with. Unlike pellet stoves, fireplaces and wood stoves create creosote, which needs to be removed from the chimneys. For daily maintenance, you need to check the pellet hopper and the burn pot when it comes to pellet stoves, while wood stoves and fireplaces require you to remove built-up ash.

Weekly maintenance for pellet stoves consists of emptying and cleaning the ash pan, while woodstoves require that you check the door seal and clean the glass.  Professional clean and safety checks may also be required yearly for pellet stoves, while wood stoves and fireplaces also need professional chimney inspections.

Pros and Cons of Pellet, Wood Stoves, and Fireplaces.

This is a modern dark iron pellet stove.

Newer pellet stoves are considered to be 70% to 83% efficient. They are environmentally friendly and cost-efficient. To run the electronics, the fan on a pellet stove, using the national average of, say, running it 100-kilowatt hours per month, would cost you $9 per month.

Pellet stoves are much cleaner than wood stoves and fireplaces, and they don’t attract bugs, and you will be safe from the dreaded splinters. However, pellet stoves only use a single fuel system, which prevents you from using any other fuel source like wood or oil because it is pellets or nothing, making you at the mercy of your current supply.

Pellet stoves also run on electricity, which would require you to have a generator or some sort of a solar setup if you are off-grid. You would have to keep an eye on any failure with the electronics as the circuit board can fail.

Wood stoves and fireplaces are charming due to the atmosphere that they create. You also control most of the costs when it comes to the fuel, whether you’re buying wood and having it delivered or you’re going out and cutting your wood. Wood is a renewable source as well, which means that you will have a constant supply.

Some of the drawbacks are the amount of work you have to put in and the convenience. You have to wake up early to manually start the fire to get the stove going, and sometimes that’s not ideal, especially during winter. The fire may not start as well as you’d like it to, so you may end up having to sit there and babysit it.  

A conventional wood stove can emit around 2 to 7.5 grams of smoke per hour, and the older non-EPA ones can emit around 40 grams per hour. In contrast, a pellet stove only emits 1 gram or less per hour, making it a favorable choice, especially when you are trying to play your part in saving the world and lowering pollution.

How Simple are They to Install and Use?

This is a wood stove installed in a countryhouse.

Getting a wood stove and getting it installed is a pricy affair. It can cost you around $3000 to $5000, depending on the model you decide to go with and if you’ll be bringing in a pro to install it.

In comparison, a pellet stove will cost you around $3500 to $4000, including installation costs. Depending on the kind of fireplace you are planning on getting installed, whether it be electric, gas, or wood, these can cost $100 to $2200, $2300 to $4000, and $1900 to $3300, respectively.

Pellet, wood stoves, and fireplaces all produce comfortable radiant heat. Compared to a pellet stove where you can feed the pellets in, set the thermostat, turn it on, and be done, wood stoves and fireplaces require you to be a little bit more hands-on because the wood needs to be regularly reloaded as needed to keep the fire going.

A wood stove and fireplace also require a fully insulated chimney that has to extend at least to the peak of your roof in order to comply with building codes and operate safely and efficiently. A pellet stove can operate on a direct vent system, or it could go right through your wall to the outside, or it can utilize a small, less expensive chimney.

Conclusion

Although these require additional maintenance and work, they are great for supplementary heating and overall comfort in your home. If you’re after efficiency, then the pellet stove is the better choice between the three because the smoke output is very minimal, and pellets burn more efficiently than wood.

Woodstoves and fireplaces still burn very well and can save you money, especially if you are able to cut your wood. Each has its ups and downs, but it ultimately boils down to what you would prefer.

References:

The Spruce: Wood Stove vs. Pellet Stove

Carolina Country: Fireplace vs. Wood Stove