Do you burn firewood? If you use cord wood as a primary or secondary heating source, you might be wondering if you should change over to wood pellets.
Federal and state regulations for burning firewood are increasing yearly. If you’re worried that you might not be able to heat your home using your existing wood stove or wood furnace, changing over to burning wood pellets is a smart move. We’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Ways Wood Pellets Beat Firewood to make the decision easier:
Wood Pellets Burn Cleaner
Wood stoves are getting more efficient, but the quality of the firewood can affect how cleanly a stove operates. Even under the best circumstances, wood stoves and furnaces produce more soot and other pollutants than pellet stoves.
Wood Pellets Take Up Less Space
The amount of useful energy in a cord of wood varies a lot. The species of tree makes a big difference. How well it’s dried also affects how much heat you get. In general, however, a cord of firewood and a ton of pellets contain about the same amount of energy. A cord of firewood is a neatly stacked pile that’s 4′ x 4′ x 8′ long. A ton of pellets consists of 50 bags that weigh 40 pounds each. A ton of pellets fits easily on a wooden pallet, and makes a 4′ x 4′ x 4′ cube. That’s exactly half the size for the same amount of heat.
Wood Pellets Are Neater
Pellets are sealed in 40-pound plastic bags. They can be stored and moved around inside your home without making a mess. Firewood is usually stored outside, and leaves a trail of dirt everywhere you move it. Even after you open a bag of pellets, there is very little sawdust left in a bag after the pellets are poured out. Every time you handle firewood, it leaves bits of bark and dirt everywhere.
Wood Pellets Don’t Have Insects in Them
Pellets are manufactured by grinding up wood, sending it through a dryer, and then ramming it through an extruder. There is no way for insects to survive the process of making a pellet, and sealing the pellet bags makes it impossible for them to get in after the pellets are packaged. Firewood always attracts insects, including bugs like termites, powder post beetles, and ash borers. These bugs can easily be brought into your home where they can do a great deal of damage.
Wood Pellets Are Available Year Round
It’s necessary to dry firewood for long periods before it’s ready to burn. Drying firewood in a kiln to speed up the process makes it very expensive. It can be very hard to find dry firewood during the heating season, or even green firewood in some cases. The wood fiber used to make pellets is dried during the manufacturing process, so a batch of pellets can be produced any time of the year.
Wood Pellets Are Predictable
The amount of heat you can expect from firewood varies from load to load, and even from stick to stick. Logs from the top of the woodpile won’t burn the same as logs from the bottom of the same pile. Different types of trees have different amounts of BTUs in each pound of wood. Pellets aren’t like that. Different brands of wood pellets have different amounts of BTUs per pound, but the difference is small. You can tell almost exactly how much heat you’ll get from a bag of pellets.
Wood Pellet Stoves Can Be Automated
Even the most up-to-date wood furnaces require a lot of tending. The amount of heat that a wood burning stove or furnace produces changes as the load of wood is consumed by the fire. Pellet stoves run exactly the same way all the time because the fire is fed a constant stream of pellets using automated feeders. Pellet stoves with big hoppers can run for days at time at a defined heat output without any attention.
Wood Pellets Produce Less Ash
Wood pellet manufacturers list the amount of ash their products produce on their bags. The amount of BTUs from brand to brand doesn’t change all that much. The amount of ash, however, varies a lot. No matter what brand of pellets you use, there’s a great deal less ash than when you burn firewood. Ash is more than a nuisance. Many house fires are caused by improper disposal of ash from wood stoves.
Wood Pellets Don’t Require Kindling
It can be difficult to start a wood fire. Today’s pellet stoves have automatic ignition that will ignite wood pellets without any help. Storing kindling and fire starting materials like newspapers and matches can lead to unsafe conditions.
Wood Pellet Stoves Run Longer on a Single Load
There are now a lot of very large wood furnaces on the market, but even the biggest requires almost constant attention. Pellet stoves use big hoppers to hold enough fuel to keep the stove running at a steady output for much longer than any wood burning device can.
Let’s Hear From You
Can you think of any more reasons wood pellets beat firewood? Or would you like to point out ways that fire wood beats pellets? Let us know in the comments!
24 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways Wood Pellets Beat Firewood”
So what happens when the pellets are not available any more(SHTF)? Way more expensive than DIY. Sounds like YUPPIE CRAP. Real men cut their own firewood and are not dependent on the fragile supply chain. Man up or freeze.
Hello Fishdawg- Thank you for reading Wood Pellet Facts, and for leaving a comment.
We have encountered the point you’ve made many times in print, but have never found it to be persuasive. From personal experience, I can assure you that’s it’s entirely possible to run out of firewood in the middle of a harsh winter, and have no way to get any more. Firewood must be dry, which takes time, so effort doesn’t matter if you need it immediately. Wood pellets are much easier to find any time of the year, and can be purchased one bag at a time, or by the ton.
Thanks again for reading and commenting.
The biggest reason to NOT do pellets is being tied to an industry. Why subject your winter comfort to another energy company if you don’t have too? and what is the point of using a pellet stove, if not for that reason? baseboards are much cheaper if all you want is some area heat. I can get wood anywhere, and I don’t need power in order for it to burn, ( if your power is out as a pellet burner, you are now without heat ) concerning the availability of wood, You can get dry wood all year long.
A ton of pellets is around 200- 250 bucks, and you have no choice or options in this if you want to use your stove, however, with wood I can either get my own wood, and heat my house for my own labor, or pay for it, or a combination of both,( I can even burn pellets if i choose )… But I have options… Pellet burners only option is to pay to burn, or do without, so long as there is no power outage.
Hi Larry- Thanks for reading Wood Pellet Facts, and for leaving a thoughtful reply. Some observations about the points you’ve raised:
We use the VG 5790 Vogelzang pellet stove to heat our home. It is one of the larger freestanding pellet stoves on the market. It only requires about 3 amps of power to run. That is easily supplied by a power inverter during power blackouts. It is not possible to heat a home of any size with any non-powered wood-burning stove. We have experience burning firewood for heat, and woodburning furnaces require the same backup system for blackouts. You can use your car’s engine with an inverter for days on end in a real emergency.
It is important to compare apples to apples. Green firewood can’t be burned, and its cost is not comparable to wood pellets. Kiln-dried firewood costs nearly $400 a cord, substantially more than pellets, and produces less usable heat. It’s also much harder to find. In our experience, no firewood sold as “seasoned” is suitable for burning as-is. It’s simply less green than green firewood.
“Free” firewood usually isn’t. It requires a great deal of equipment, and heavy, sometimes dangerous work. Enough firewood to use as your primary heat source would require a big woodlot, which isn’t practical for very many people. Pellets are made by many small local suppliers, as well as larger companies, so you always have choices about who your supplier is.
Thanks again for reading and commenting.
I have had a “high end” pellet stove for 5 seasons. Very convenient, but the price of pellets has gone from $225 to $275 per ton (same brand). I have had sudden malfunctions each season, minor and major, despite yearly service. The manufacturer is non-communicative and the good repair folks are hard to find. The user’s maintenence is somewhat burdensome when used full-time.
Last season I had to compare the cost of pellets vs electric-based heat. It is a now about the same. If I get another pellet stove it will be for part-time use and will be of very simple design.
Hello Mike- Thanks for reading Wood Pellet Facts, and for leaving a comment.
One of the reasons we started this website is so that users can compare notes . Your observation about the cost of pellets is spot on, but we have found that the time of year affects pricing more than any other factor. Late summer deals on pellets are usually the cheapest.
Like you, we have also found that many manufacturers have poor to non-existent customer service. Pellet stoves are a long way from being a set it and forget it type of household appliance. They still require a lot of maintenance and know-how on the part of the owner.
We’re curious where you might be from if electric heat is economical for you. In Maine, the cost of electric (resistance) heat is something like 4 times the cost of pellets.
Thanks again for offering your observations.
Interesting article. Seems focused on people switching to pellets from some non-renewable heat source, and used to the convenience, cleanliness and simplicity of other heat sources. One down side I see are all the plastic bags that are generated. Cordwood has no such problem. Also I thought this article from TreeHugger (sorry) http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/pellet-stoves-vs-wood-stoves-which-is-greener.html
has some other useful info for folks. I think it doesn’t make sense for people who already burn wood to change to pellets particularly because they like the culture of burning wood and the freedom of getting the fuel and no reliance on electricity.
Hi Richard- Thanks for reading Wood Pellet Facts, and for leaving a thoughtful comment.
The plastic bags are made from LDPE 4 plastic, which is recyclable. We use them as a replacement for small trash bags.
Our family has burned firewood, and then pellets, as our sole heating source in Maine. It’s not possible to heat a home with firewood without relying on electricity, either. A wood furnace large enough to heat large areas relies on a fan. Our very large pellet stove only draws 2 or 3 amps when it’s running. We hook up a small inverter to our car battery with an extension cord running to the pellet stove during extended power outages. We get some interesting looks from our neighbors when we have heat, lights, and a laptop running while the area is dark.
Thanks again for reading and commenting.
I considered cord wood & pellets a long time before going pellet stove. The girls can handle scooping pellets into a hopper or even carry a 40 lb bag into the house the way they do groceries. I live in the country, the power goes out occasionally, but really, how often does it happen and how long does it stay off? Usually it’s reliable & restoration of power is pretty good. I’ve had issues with my pellet stove but was always able to correct them myself. For the money & heat value pellet stoves are great
Hello Andy- We’ve found that a wood furnace that can compete on BTUs with a large pellet stove needs much more attention, plus constant reloading. As you said, almost anyone can handle bags of pellets, and with a large hopper, you can go days without refills. Wood stoves and furnaces can’t.
I used to heat with cord wood for years. Made the switch to a pellet stove 4 years ago, after the cost of cord wood went up in my area due to the ash borer infestation. I’ve never regretted the change. Cleaner, easier to stack and handle, and I always come home to a warm house instead of a cold stove in need of stoking.
I, too, see the drawbacks. I now depend on a supply chain for the fuel rather than being able to cut and split my own. I now need electricity to have heat. Maintenance is required for both options, and replacement parts, too, so that’s pretty much a wash. 25 years heating with cord wood. 4 years heating with pellets. As long as the price of pellet fuel stays reasonable, I’m never going back.
Hello again Mike- Your experience is similar to ours. We burned cord wood for years, and then switched to pellets. We still occasionally use our wood furnace as a backup for the pellet stove. It’s handy when the pellet stove needs a repair, or to supply additional heat in the dead of winter when the temperature gets down to 10 or 20 below. We’ve switched to burning biomass blocks instead of firewood, though. They cost more than firewood or pellets, and they don’t burn as long, but you can buy them any time you need them, and they store nicely.
And ya don’t gotta chop or saw them to size, and using an axe or saw, well, ya could hurt yerself real bad. And that ain’;t good.
I have a wood stove- purely for backup. Wood fired, coal, and pellet boilers are simply way too expensive to purchase. If I had a much smaller house, I would consider a pellet stove as a primary heating source. But a boiler or forced air furnace is the best way to heat a larger multi-story home.
For the guy above who needed customer service: I purchased a pellet stove from England’s stove works (https://heatredefined.com) back in 2006 and have used their support on many occasions. They even have videos on how to fix things. I also communicate to them via email whenever I have a question. I think it’s a great DIY stove with great support. And no, I don’t work for them.
Hello Ken- Thanks for visiting Wood Pellet Facts, and giving our readers the benefit of your experience with England’s Stove Works.
Went to pellet stove 05 saved 30k over oil yes it is a little bit of work but I’m warm and cozy love the savings
Hello Paul- Thanks for visiting Wood Pellet Facts, and for leaving a comment. We’ve estimated that we’ve saved between $1500-$2000 a year by using wood pellets over heating oil. The cost savings over electric baseboard heat is even more striking. It’s about $5,000 per year cheaper to burn 7 tons of pellets than the equivalent heating value of electricity.
I wish you would say more about the power inverter hooked to the car battery to keep the pellet stove going during a power outage. I burned wood from 2011-2018 but the guy who I was able to get a good supply of seasoned hardwood from fizzled. Last year, as an experiment, I shut off sections of the house and used baseboard electricity. That was quite expensive. I’m thinking of going over to pellets but in the area I live in the electricity goes out with disturbing regularity (maybe 3-5 times a year when it’s cold) so I really need some kind of backup other than an inconvenient generator that needs to be given gallons of gas every couple of hours.
Hello Msjadeli- Thanks for reading Wood Pellet Facts, and for leaving a comment.
As you pointed out, running a gasoline-powered generator during a blackout can be a hassle. We’ve solved that problem with a power inverter. Power inverters aren’t cheap, but they’re much cheaper and easier to use than generators.
Even large pellet stoves don’t draw a low of amperage while running, so you don’t need a big inverter to run a stove and a few lights. We live in a climate that routinely goes way below zero F, so being without our main source of heat is a real hardship. During blackouts long enough to chill the house, we hook up a power inverter to our car or truck battery, and then run an extension cord into the house to power the stove and a light or two. An inverter will drain a car battery in a few hours, so we have to run the vehicle the whole time. A typical car will be able to idle for days without running out of gas, so we’re able to heat our home even during long blackouts. It’s important to point out that your vehicle must be outside for this to work. Running a car engine in a garage, even if the door is open, is very dangerous. You can buy inverters from online retailers like Harbor Freight.
Thanks again for your question.
I’ve burned wood for over 35 yrs. I get it cut split and delivered, so I do have to stack it and move it to the house. This is not the worst thing. It’s invigorating and connects you with the outdoors. We heat our whole house (1500 sq. ft.) at 70-80 degrees with our glass front stove and 4-4.5 cords. We’re spoiled by the radiant heat. Last year we took down some trees that were leaning toward the house–that’s a good part of this year’s supply. Same for other trees that need thinning. As far as the ashes go, we love the woodstove ashes–after an ice storm it’s the best thing for my long driveway–we collect them in buckets and always keep them handy.
Too many good aspects–practical and aesthetic–to switch to pellets.
I use a small generator as my power backup. For 500 dollars this past summer I picked up a 3000 watt Generac unit with 5 hours of use on it. I lose power much more frequently than I like and the way the circuits are laid out am one of the last streets to get power restored when it comes back. My generator will run over 7 hours on a gallon tank and will run the stove, some lights, and the microwave if needed. I am adding a suction type cap and a 5 gallon auxiliary tank for about 35 hours duration. I have a whole house generator but it gets expensive at current fuel prices.
And I haven’t bought trash bags in many a year lol.
Hello again Bob- Thanks for offering our readers the benefit of your experience with your pellet stove, and with using a generator to power it during blackouts.
Well, we’ve burned cord wood for nearly 25yrs… heavily in the cold months. In the past, we heated our ranch home , appx 1100sq ft, exclusively with the glass front, average size wood stove (No catalytic converter), which accepts 15″long splits easily. Wood costs…$0.00. fuel and oil for the chainsaws…5gal every two years. Wood splitter, 5gal every two years roughly. Sometimes..less. chainsaw maintenance, splitter maintenance…labor is me. Parts? You wouldn’t believe me if you waterboarded me all summer long…two chains a season for the first five years and starting to replace them on a yearly occasion… A deliming saw and a 24″ stihl…sharpen them myself with a $30 Oregon sharpener bought 25 years ago…burn between 5 to 7 cords a season that lasts from Sept to late may. Warm winters it’s less and cold Winters it’s more. Here it is 2/2/22 and I’m 4 cords into it. Mostly a burn all day and all night unless we are at work…so…there’s about 9hrs no fire.but I work 4 days a week, and the wife 5 days with only 1 day overlap of days off…Soo …we haven’t spent much on heating. Far, far less than others and I doubt anyone here can beat us by much. But here’s the rub, I’m on in years…so is the wife. We love this bares repeating, WE LOVE the radiant heat. Something you do not get with forced air from gas or electric forced air. Not nearly the same with a gas fireplace stove. The feel of a wood stove is comforting…a nd this brings me to the point. The issue. The “rub” if you will. What will I need to do to switch over to pellets? How can that compete with what I’ve been doing for over 25 years and quite honestly, am tiring of the work involved. Labors cheap but I’d be paying a small fortune to have others do it. A medium pellet stove but the cost of pellets, every year…how about a good choice for consideration…