Differences between a pellet stove and wood-burning stove

Everyone's looking for ways to save on home heating costs. Two options are pellet stoves and wood-burning stoves. Wood-burning stoves have been around for years, but pellet stoves are relative newcomers on the market.

To start a fire in a wood-burning stove, you need tinder, kindling and wood. Sheets of newspaper can be used for tinder. Then, use small pieces of wood for kindling. Next, you place two pieces horizontally, then two pieces vertically on top of them. Continue in a log cabin-style pattern. Then, light the newspaper and the kindling will quickly catch fire.

Fire needs air, and the spaces between the kindling provide that. After creating a draft, place small pieces from the wood pile on top of the flames and leave the door open slightly for a few minutes to get the fire going. Then add wood to the roaring fire. You have to regularly check on the fire and add wood.

You'll have to do a lot less work to get a fire going with a pellet stove. A pellet stove uses electricity. You load pellets into a hopper and an auger, which looks like a screw, moves the pellets from the hopper to the burn pot. A pellet stove determines when more pellets are needed and automatically feeds them into the burn pot.

What are pellets made of?

Pellets contain leftover scrap wood from mills? woodworking tools, furniture-makers and recycling centers. Have you seen crews clearing roadsides of trees? Sometimes that ends up in pellets. Logging companies? sawdust? That?s in there, too, along with leftovers from paper packaging plants. The materials are dried and compressed, and the resulting pellets remind most people of rabbit food or pellets for small pets. Since the materials are packed tightly, the pellets burn well and produce only a little ash. You can buy large- or small-pellet stoves.

Which is more environmentally-friendly?

Wood-burning stoves and pellet stoves both use wood or wood products. Wood is carbon-neutral, so both are more environmentally friendly than gas or petroleum-based heating. A wood stove will produce more ash, but pellets burn cleaner. Because pellet stoves use leftovers from recycled and trees aren?t cut down to produce their fuel, pellet stoves are becoming more popular, especially with those looking for environmentally-friendly heating sources.

What about installation and maintenance?

Because a pellet stove doesn?t need a chimney or flue, it?s less expensive to install and can be moved anywhere as long as there?s an electrical outlet nearby. Pellet stove inserts can be placed in a fireplace, like wood-burning stoves. But wood-burning stoves are easier to maintain because pellet stove parts need to be inspected and serviced regularly.

Which will keep me warmer?

Wood-burning stoves have blowers to help distribute the heat, while pellet stoves operate at lower temperatures and are usually cool to the touch. Pellet stoves also use blowers, and use a thermostat to regulate temperature. That provides you with a consistent heating source. Compare the two types of stoves and decide if the pellet stove is the best option for you.

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