Pellet Stove vs. Wood Stove – Compare to Know What’s Right for You

Pellet stove vs. wood stove – which one's better? If that's your question too, we'll help you compare the two so you can pick the right one for your home. If you’re considering heating your home with wood, then you have two options: a wood or pellet stove.

But which one’s right for your home? Read on to learn more about each heating method, and you’re well on your way to heating your home while saving on your energy bill!

Pellet Stove Vs. Wood Stove: What's the Difference?

But wait, before diving into the details, what's different about the two kinds of stoves, anyway? James O’Kelley, founder of Fireplace Universe, wood stoves and pellet stoves have several key differences.

It’s important to be aware of those differences so that you can make the right decision for your home. But there are also similarities that you might not expect.

When he talks about similarities, O'Kelley states that they have similar purchase prices and heat outputs, and they look very similar. But while they may look and largely function the same way, there are a lot of major factors that set the two apart.

The largest difference between the two devices is in how they’re fueled. Wood stoves are fueled with split logs from a variety of different trees, while pellet stoves are fueled by small pellets that are made up of compressed sawdust and other organic materials.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Pellet stove vs. wood stove

When it comes to ease of use and lowest maintenance demands, Regency Fireplace, a full-service online fireplace design and retail company breaks down the differences in maintenance between the two.

Wood stoves are much more low-maintenance than pellet stoves, because of their simple and timeless design. There are no mechanical elements that need routine maintenance, so they're a great option for someone who wants as little hands-on contact with their stove as possible.

According to Regency Fireplace, maintenance for a pellet stove is relatively straightforward and, in most cases, can be completed by the homeowner. But, they also require much more routine maintenance checkups than a wood stove.

Pellet stoves require regular (usually weekly) cleaning of ash to keep them running smoothly, and it’s recommended that you remove pellets seasonally to avoid rust. Since pellet stoves only use pellet fuel, cleanup is much easier than for wood stoves.

Normal maintenance issues with pellet stoves include rust, ash buildup, problems with the motor, and excessive noise. But generally, if you follow maintenance guidelines and keep up with weekly and yearly maintenance, pellet stoves are unlikely to have any major problems that need professional repair.

All in all, pellet stoves require more maintenance than wood stoves, but the repairs and upkeep are (usually) quite simple.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Tobie Stanger of Consumer Reports notes that homeowners who switch to a wood-burning or pellet stove can save big on their electric bills. That’s not all: thanks to the COVID-19 relief bill that passed in December 2020, qualifying wood and pellet stoves are eligible for a 26% tax credit on the total purchase and installation price (this credit is available through 2023).

But which one should you choose?

One of the biggest factors for any homeowner, when determining their heating solution, will be whether the device they're purchasing is fuel-efficient and also environmentally sustainable. If you're looking to decide which stove will burn the most efficiently and save you the most in energy costs, the best choice is definitely the pellet stove.

Wood stoves are the traditional choice, but they come up short in terms of energy efficiency. They're also slightly more polluting and not nearly as sustainable as pellet stoves. Homeowners can help counteract this efficiency problem, though.

According to The Spruce, woods like maple, oak, and birch burn hotter and more efficiently, while the experts at Full Service Chimney prefer oak, cherry, ash, and mulberry.

Pellet stoves burn much more cleanly than wood stoves; rather than logs of wood, pellet stoves use dried and compressed sawdust, making them a much more sustainable option. Since they burn cleaner and more efficiently than wood, they stand out as the clear winner in terms of environmental sustainability and efficiency.

Just make sure that the stove you choose is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Appearance, Aesthetics, and Specs

Pellet stove vs. wood stove

The two stoves look very similar to each other, but each stove comes in a variety of silhouettes and styles. Pellet stoves are mostly freestanding and portable, while wood stoves are usually installed in a preexisting fireplace or other fixed areas.

According to Fireplace Universe, pellet stoves often have a larger body size than wood stoves – this could be a pro or a con, depending on the individual's needs and size of home.

The simple reason for this is that they require more room to store more parts; wood stoves don't need as much room since they don't have any electrical or mechanical components to store. You would, however, need to store split wood logs for convenience.

Since both stoves offer a variety of styles for any homeowner, the actual difference in appearance between the two is in the flame that each one produces. When choosing your stove, consider whether the style of flame is important to you.

The heating experts at High's Chimney Service, mention that if the look and feel of a crackling fireplace is important to you, then you'll want to go with a traditional wood stove. Pellet stove flames burn brighter but look a little less natural, more like a blow-torch than a real roaring fire.

It also may not feel like a “real” fire since there are no logs involved.

Convenience and Ease of Use

Maybe you're considering how a wood or pellet stove will fit into your day-to-day life. If that's the case, then choosing your stove based on what will be the most convenient for you might be the way to go.

So which style of stove will fit your lifestyle better? That all depends on your priorities, as well as your physical abilities.

I know that seems odd but consider the fact that pellets are sold in 40-pound bags, which are significantly easier to store than a pile of firewood, but may be difficult or impossible to lift and move for some. It's a detail that may seem trivial until you have to move the bag yourself.

Wood-burning stoves may be a better choice if you're able to move a few logs at a time but not an entire 40-pound bag of pellets. On the other hand, wood stoves need to be manually started, which can pose a challenge for some. Not to mention the fact that you can't really control the temperature of the fire.

If you prefer an easy automatic start and the ability to control the burning strength, then the pellet stove will be a better option for you.

According to James at Fireplace Universe, pellet stoves are much louder than wood stoves. This is because pellet stoves use distribution blowers to spread heat away from the stove and throughout the room. This distribution makes more noise than wood stoves that make the sound of a crackling fire.

Depending on your lifestyle and preferences, this may be no big deal or a major deal-breaker.

pellet stove
Image: Mike

Lifespan and Overall Value

When considering the value of a wood or pellet stove and comparing the two, it's not so much about price (they both have similar purchase and installation costs) as it is about longevity and quality.

Both stoves have definite benefits, but there are a few considerations that may make the decision more clear for you. In some cases, the pros of one stove might be completely overshadowed by a major downside that could drop its value to your lifestyle.

Firstly, let's consider the average lifespan of a wood stove against the lifespan of a pellet stove. Mariette Mifflin of The Spruce states that the average lifespan for a pellet stove is about 15 to 20 years, while the average wood stove will last you about 20 to 25 years.

This difference is likely because wood stoves don't have electrical parts that can malfunction.

One major downside of a pellet stove, according to High's Chimney Service, is that since it runs on electricity, it's made completely useless in the event of a power outage. If your priority is to have a stove available at all times, even in an emergency, then the pellet stove is not the way to go.

As mentioned before, wood stoves have no mechanical parts and run completely on burning wood, so they're a great option in the event of an emergency or a power outage.

But on the other hand, wood stoves can be much more dangerous than pellet stoves. While pellets stoves are started automatically and will continue to burn as long as there is fuel loaded, wood stoves require you to start the fire manually and need constant tending, rearranging, and refueling.

That means sticking your hand inside more often which can lead to an increased risk of burns.

Pellet Stove Vs. Wood Stove – Which One's the Winner?

So which heating system has the right balance of energy efficiency, ease of use, appearance, and value? Every home is different, and it’s hard to recommend a system that will work for everyone. That sounds like a cop-out, I know, but hear me out.

If you're looking for a heating solution that is simple, reliable, and will operate under just about any condition, you'll want to go with a pellet stove. Just be sure that you have enough room to store your firewood.

If you learn how to start and load it safely, you'll have a heating element to last you a lifetime.

If you prefer modern convenience and energy efficiency, you really can't do better than a pellet stove. Keep in mind that it won't work without electricity and that pellets come in 40-pound bags!

What’s next? Continue your search for the perfect heating solution for your home by:

  • Contacting a local contractor or heating technician for more details,
  • Checking out top heating brands like Comfortbilt, US Stove Company, or Pleasant Hearth,
  • Reviewing the EPA guidelines for wood-burning stoves and ensuring your new stove will qualify.