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Wood Stoves vs. Pellet Stoves?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Dave M, Oct 23, 2012.

  1. craigsward

    craigsward Member

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    As others have mentioned i think the biggest factor is lifestyle. I work way too many hours, travel, try to stay in shape, and have two kids under the age of 4. To think i would have time to find, cut, stack, haul, and load wood jsut didn't make sense. Although i thinks it pretty proven if you don't equate time into the value, than a wood stove is your best bet. If you do value your time i would make the argument that a pellet stove is the best investment.
    A couple comments on things that were said and my experience with pellet heat:
    - Pellet stoves are a bit noisy, typically the higher end you go the less it is. I have a Harman XXV which is pretty top end, and if maintained i don't think its that loud. I have pretty much gotten rid of any auger squeek and rattles that use to be an issue for me. I have it in a main living area and have no complaints related to noise.
    - Heat output is less with a pellet stove. Although i will say i heat my 2800 sq foot house easily with my XXV, less some of the far upstairs bedrooms. I also think layout of the house and good insulation and tightness help this greatly.
    - Pellet stoves are easier to install and can be incorporated into a floor plan better to spread the heat. I kitty cornered mine into a large open floor plan and in a way that allows the heat to travel nicely upstairs. As for install i direct vented out the side of the house and ran pipe about 4 feet up. No issues with draft or soot on the house. It also makes for cleaning the flue a heck of a lot easier.
    - Cleaning is easy although i'm nazi about cleaning it every use, mainly just so i don't get additional noise, and heat output is best. Also there are more moving parts on a pellet stove compared to wood, so although there is typically less cleaning/emptying of ash, pellet stoves are more susceptiple to failure. Although i haven't really had anything break on mine, minus a replaced hopper due to the fork lift wacking my stove when i bought it.
    - Pellet stoves are safer. The reality is it all gets hot, but with little kids if they happen to touch the stove it will be a little burn if none at all. Does not apply to the glass.
    - Fuel costs have been consistent the past few years, i average around $200 a ton. I could buy cheaper at around $175 a ton but pellet quality is important. So last years mild winter i went through about 2 tons of pellets and maybe 50 gallons of oil.
    - One of the biggest factors for us was pellets are cleaner and less work. Pellets are so much cleaner, have no or very little smell associated with the burn, and in general just less work to load. I have a bench with built in storage by my stove so i can store about 10 bags right next to the stove. It makes loading the stove a non issue for my wife when i'm away on business.
    - For me the biggest pain with the pellet stove is power. I sure wish it didn't draw any power, but a decent battery backup followed by generator support will make it so during power outage you don't have the fire go out and smoke backup into your house.
    - Originally pellet stoves were pretty limited on their aesthetics but i think my XXV is not an eye sore and actually adds to the decor of our living space. The reality is its a tool, but the looks keep the wife happy.
    - My stove was expensive, but at the time i got an $800 tax credit for the purchase. Not sure what they are offering these days for energy efficient heat sources.

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  2. teutonicking

    teutonicking Feeling the Heat

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    I got a Progress Hybrid last year and I love it. We are able to keep our home at 74-76 degrees all winter long. The stove is beautiful to look at all year, and when its burning wood it is spectacular. Its true that if you want free wood and you do everything yourself, you will spend a lot on time and equipment (chainsaw, a splitter, etc.), and a lot of storage to dry the wood (probably the biggest factor if you live in a city) will be needed. But keep in mind that you can also avoid all of this work (if you want to) by just buying firewood and getting it delivered to your house in the early Spring and let it season until the Winter. This would cost about the same as getting several tons of pellets delievered.

    The fish may be a concern, so unless you have some back-up heating method for when you are on vacation, a wood stove may not work for you. Ultimately its what fits your lifestyle best. But for what its worth, I sure don't regret getting my wood stove. I think for me its the best purchase I have ever made.
  3. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I think VTRider and Craigsward have expressed it best . . . pellet stoves are great if you're looking for convenient heat . . . woodstoves are great if you're willing to adapt to a new way of life.

    --

    I'm glad some dual users and Pellet Pigs (and I do mean this affectionately) have chimed in so that this isn't a one-way love fest for woodstoves as pellet stoves definitely have a place and have certain advantages:

    -- Automation . . . both in the set it and forget it thermostat, easy lighting and safety features to allow it to shut down if there is an issue. To me this means any body can run a pellet stove . . . just load the hopper, set the temp level with the thermostat and away it goes with an easy ignition . . . and as for safety . . . I can only think of two incidents that the guys here have responded to and both were very, very minor -- more of a smoke issue (something often remedied nowadays by installers putting in a 3-5 foot vertical run in the exhaust instead of a straight horizontal run out the back of a home's wall.

    -- Fuel . . . while some pellet brands are better than others and produce more clinkers and what have you . . . I have yet to hear of any person saying they have bought Brand X and they couldn't get any heat out of them . . . although some brands seem to better than others vs. folks buying "seasoned" wood and then finding the wood sopping wet and a chore to get lit, much less extract some heat from the fuel.

    -- Cleaner . . . no wood chips, no sawdust, no bugs. Of course, not every wood burner has these things -- I have for example yet to see a bug in the wood I bring in . . . but it does seem as though hauling in wood often means a bit more of a mess to clean up as wood chips fall off, dirt falls off, etc.

    -- Easier Install . . . I cannot think of any pellet stove that requires anything more than ember protection (although there could be some out there that require a beefed up hearth) . . . and often times an install is simply punching a small hole through an outside wall, putting in the thimble and pipe and voila . . . install is complete . . . oftentimes cheaper and easier (and sometimes not having to go on the roof or up any great heights) to do the install.

    That said . . . I went with wood . . . and I think I may only consider pellets when I am older and no longer able to work with the wood. My original reason for going with wood was almost made for me since at the time buying a pellet stove and pellets was a) nearly impossible as the stock was being sold out and b) what was available was going for pretty high prices compared to woodstoves.

    Since then prices have seemed to moderate, but for me I am glad I went with wood since:

    -- Not worrying about power losses. My wife and I lost power in our home for 14 days during an ice storm many years ago. At the time we had no alternative heat . . . and until we bought up one of the last remaining generators at a Home Depot we only had a small, borrowed kerosene heater that we were using to try to keep the house from freezing. I like the idea that I can keep the home nice and warm regardless of how long I am without power, access to a generator, etc.

    -- The view . . . sounds dumb . . . I mean most of us heat with wood or pellets mainly for the "cheaper heat." But once you see that view of a fire . . . whether it be the robust flames of the secondaries or the alien glow of the catalyst combustor . . . you never fully realize the visual draw of a fire. I would wager there are a fair number of us woodburners who often in the morning or at night turn off the TV and just spend a few minutes watching the fire -- watching the dancing flames, feeling the heat, smelling the potpourri simmering on the stove top, etc. . . . sometimes it is a better "show" than what is on TV.

    -- The fuel supply . . . I don't have free access to a pellet factory . . . I do have free access to my own land. Other folks scrounge. But even when I figure in the cost of buying wood (tree length and processing it myself) I still end up ahead financially vs. buying oil or pellets.

    -- Maintenance. You do have to maintain a woodstove -- checking the seals every year, disposing of the ash and cleaning the chimney . . . but from the few manuals I've read with pellet stoves, if you do what is suggested there is more work to keeping pellet stoves in working order . . . again the key being if you do everything the manual suggests. More over, while a woodstove is not automated so that you can just fire it up and leave the home 3 minutes later, with convenience comes a potential price and that price is the greater likelihood that with more parts and more electronics there may be a pricey fix required at some point . . . not that woodstoves are immune . . . cats need replacing, broken baffles, etc.


    I think it was Pen who said it best . . . or maybe it was someone else . . . go with what works for you since there is no true answer as to which heating unit is best . . . only what is best for you.
    raybonz likes this.
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I replaced our pellet stove backup with electrons. A modern heat pump or high-efficiency mini-split is a nice backup for wood and shoulder season heat and the power company stores the fuel for me. The cost of operation is significantly less even when the cost of transport of the pellets is excluded.
  5. Hiram Maxim

    Hiram Maxim Minister of Fire

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    I love reading all these posts & different perspectives! :)
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  6. Trail_Time

    Trail_Time Member

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    I burn both and am glad I do not have to choose only one. There is a cost to both, even if you have free wood, you still have to invest time.

    The pellet is great, I use it all early and late season and do not have to burn the wood or turn on the heat. It does a nice job, is reasonably quiet and easy to maintain. I spend about a minute a day, and 10-15 minutes once a week for a full cleaning. It is on a programmable T stat and turns itself on and off and all I have to do is fill it up. This time of year a bag of pellets lasts me 2-3 days and it is very clean. In the dead of winter you will likely burn 1.5- 2 bags a day. The only heat you will get easier is from the furnace.

    I enjoy the entire wood burning lifestyle, and if you really want heat when it is cold, it provides much more warmth than the pellet. Not sure if it was mentioned but the heat of the two are actually quite different. It is hard to explain, but when it is really cold, the woodstove seems to really warm everything up and to be really warm with the pellet you have to stand directly in hot air being blown into the room.

    To me your choice comes down to two decisions: How much heat do you need/want? How much time do you have to invest, do you want ease of use, or a lifestyle?
    raybonz likes this.
  7. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    Please don't. I enjoyed it. Have never seen a home tank anything like that. We live and learn.
  8. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    The Woodstock Franklin Freestanding Gas Soapstone Stove!

    It should be mentioned that there is another option that might be appropriate for you, keep you warmer, be clean and troublefree, runs on a thermostat, and is attractive and gives you a nice fire to view and soft soapstone radiant heat, the best of both worlds: the Woodstock Franklin freestanding soapstone stove. It is inexpensive to install and direct vents through the wall, is thermostatically controlled. On sale until the end of October. Might be a better fit for your needs if you have propane or natural gas available. I don't think either would be more expensive than pellets, and
    the stove would certainly require less time and effort on your part. Don't know how big your house is, or if the stove is big enough. Will heat about the same amount of space as the Fireview, I think, and is not dependent upon electricity at all, so you can leave home and/or lose power and your home stays warm. They have very low clearances, so are easy and inexpensive to install. You could probably install two in different rooms for close to the total cost of a woodstove install, I suspect, if necessary. But I think the stove will very comfortably heat about 1500 square feet. You might take a look at their website and discuss the option with Woodstock if you are interested.
    raybonz likes this.
  9. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    I believe I asked the question and quite frankly am glad I did as I enjoyed that tank :) Would love to one that looked like that providing someone maintained it for me :cool:

    Ray
  10. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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    Is the fish tank really a problem?
    I've been involved with some commercial aquaculture, and we heated tanks (1800 gal I think) with electrical resistance. Small units that hung on the side of the tank. This had several advantages, including the ability to run off the large emergency power genset (up to a point).

    Years back, my sister kept a small tank, and when we were going to be away for a bit, we had a bubble wrap style insulation that we wrapped around the tank temporarily. Never lost a fish.

    I suppose you've already considered all that.
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  11. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Do you have one of these I would like to see some installed pics.. Just curious about them as natural gas will never come here and propane is too expensive..

    Ray
  12. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    I don't. I would have a small one in my bedroom (the mini-Franklin) if I had natural gas. It would eliminate the constant encouragement I get from my family to stop reading, get off the sofa, and go sleep in my bed. Many is the night I fall asleep on the sofa in front of the fire, warm under a light mohair throw, reading a good book as I drift off....I'm unreasonably afraid of propane, after seeing Southam's Island go up on my birthday quite a few moons ago...flames hundreds of feet in the air.
    Don't want a tank of it anywhere near my woods. Would love to hear from anyone who does heat with one, but I doubt they'll be on this forum...However, having experienced two of Woodstock's products and their legendary service, I have every confidence that the stoves do exactly what they say...and they too are backed by a six month money back guarantee.
    raybonz likes this.
  13. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    Pretty sure Firecracker has one. He seems to like it.
  14. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Like Quasi Moto the name is vaguely familiar but it doesn't ring a bell like Quasi Moto ;). I was curious is all.. I have no gas coming into my home and it will probably stay that way..

    Ray
  15. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    He's the poster with two Heritages.
  16. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    OK thanx I was just joking around..
    You're correct it is Firecracker_77 just found him..
    Ray
  17. TheMightyMoe

    TheMightyMoe Minister of Fire

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    It's all been said... I chose a pellet stove because I like fire, don't have the man tools or space for firewood (yet), install is very simple/cheap, and it can fit just about anywhere.
  18. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Tanks DD. ==c No need to delete the post, we are back on topic. If there is further interest in aquariums, feel free to continue the topic in the Inglenook forum.
  19. eclecticcottage

    eclecticcottage Minister of Fire

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    I would suggest going to a store that carries pellet stoves and has them burning in the showroom. No offense to the pellet folks, but I'd rather have a BK on my hearth looks wise, than have a pellet burner (for the flames). Perhaps the only exception, and I have yet to see on buring/video of one burning, is the Thelin and only because the design of it fits with the smaller burn pot and viewing area.

    Aside from the looks, there's the storage of the pellets. Also, the fact that even if you're buying wood, you're going to be hard pressed to have a shortage like they ran into a few years back with pellets-what would you do if you ran short and couldn't find any?

    Don't you have a heater in the tank? I've never known a salt setup to be room temp only....

    What we did was locate another place here at the Cottage and put in a vent free "fireplace". It's hooked to a small 100 gallon tank and set to the lowest setting. It's there mostly just in case we can't get home to restoke the wood stove, although it did run when we had a pretty good cold spell last winter. We also have a little blue flame hooked up in the "utility area". Eventually I'd like to get a DV stove to replace the vent free, when it's in the budget (I want a Thelin, I simply must have that potbelly look here...otherwise I could have picked a used one up off CL already). Perhaps you could do the same if you have no other back up heat source (DV, VF, blue flame, something as backup). We had considered putting a pellet Gnome in place of the VF but don't have the space for the pellets-the LP tank is a lot easier to store :p But it might happen that we find one cheap enough that we manage to find a place to store them anyway, who knows.

    One last thought having heated with both wood and gas stoves, I imagine pellets are more like the gas stoves. Anything thermostatically controlled is going to come on and off like your furnace-when needed (unless you crank the thermo). A wood stove will have a fire or coals as long as there's fuel. The ambiance is quite different. So is the heat, as someone else mentioned-it is hard to explain, but it is.
  20. Dakotas Dad

    Dakotas Dad Minister of Fire

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    At the risk of dragging off topic, and being fined by the thread police again..

    A "fish tank" is generally not a problem.. Fresh water fish, and to some extent, some SW fish, can put up with a lot. A fish that evolved in an area where summer drought or winter freeze is a yearly occurrence will be quite hardy.

    Corals have evolved in areas with VERY stable conditions. Water is always +/- a degree or two max, dissolved oxygen is always maxed out, nutrient flow is non-stop, light intensity and duration is very consistent, PH, ALK, salinity, etc, always rock stable...

    Since the OP is interested also.. here are a couple of pictures of the "support systems" for my tank. What you see in the full tank picture took a decade to grow up from little "frags", most smaller than your thumbnail.

    1st one is under the display tank.. you see timers and ballasts for the day/moon lighting, day/night wave pump controllers, and the hood fan controller.

    [​IMG]

    In the basement you have.. return pumps, protein skimmer, mechanical filter, water level top off system, Heating and cooling system, calcium reactor w/ co2 injection, and timers/lights for the biological filter area in the sump area in the middle..

    [​IMG]



    OT: Did I mention no pellets grow on my property?

    [​IMG]

    Just got this load C/S/S.. got another load on the ground now..


    SORRY BG, Took so long to type that, you posted before I was done.. If anyone else wants info.. PM me and I will open dialog in the inglenook...
    raybonz likes this.
  21. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    My brother had a pellet stove, a Harmon I think and he didn't like it. He said it created drafts because of all the air movement and the air dried out real bad plus it was noisy. I will say he is one nit-picky SOB though that can find fault in just about anything unless of course he had something to do with it then it becomes perfection lol.. He is also extremely cheap (not frugal.. CHEAP) and he sold it at a loss so there may be some merit to some of his claims. One big plus with pellets is you can buy seasoned fuel NOW and that's huge plus for many 1st time alternate fuel burners. Both have their pluses and minuses.

    Ray
  22. Dave M

    Dave M New Member

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    Man, you guys are great, so helpful. This would be my primary heat source, and I dont have a backup yet. I do have a small kero heater and a few electric ones, but not a true backup. All excellent points about the wood, thats why I posted here. I wanted wood users points of view, I also prefer it. But the wife hates it all of a sudden, I'm not happy. My contractor says we can buy a pallet of pellets and keep it covered in the yard, carry a bag or 2 in when you need it. I understand about the fish needing a separate backup system, thanks. I hate to say it, this is painful. But now I have to consult the pellet guys to choose a stove. Thanks again for all your help, everyone!
  23. mfglickman

    mfglickman Minister of Fire

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  24. mfglickman

    mfglickman Minister of Fire

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    Ugh. To be clear, my XXV is 8 months old. It does not squeak or rattle but the blower and pellet noise is really loud. It has been checked by he dealer and confirmed that it is working properly, its just not enough stove for my drafty antique 2000sf house. By itself on a 30 degree day it struggles to get the thermostat to 62. The 20 year old wood stove silently overpowers it. YMMV.
    raybonz likes this.
  25. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Consider the impending hurricane/noreaster/tropical storm potentially you could lose power for a week or more a pellet stove would not be the heat source of choice. Winter storms like Noreasters with power loss are not a situation I'd want to be in with a pellet stove. The situation would suck no matter what you have but it sure would be great to heat and cook indoors in a cold weather event. Too bad you can't just try out each to make the decision easier. Good luck with your decision!

    Ray

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