Years ago, heating your home with wood meant lighting a fire in a fireplace or wood stove and hoping the heat dissipated through the home enough to keep it comfortable. But now there's a better way to heat with wood: pellet stoves. These stoves burn wood pellets, which are typically made from scrap and recycled wood, and function similar to a furnace. They heat air, which is blown through a duct system to warm the entire home. Is heating your home with a pellet stove a good choice? Consider these pros and cons – then decide for yourself.
Pros of Pellet Stoves
You're burning a renewable resource.
If green, eco-friendly living is one of your priorities, then a pellet stove is a good heating choice. Instead of burning a limited resource – like natural gas or oil – you're burning wood, and more can always be grown. Wood pellets are also generally made from the scraps generated when lumber is milled, so burning them is just reducing landfill waste.
Wood pellets are easier to store and burn than lumber.
When compared to heating a house with a wood-burning stove, heating with a pellet stove is much simpler and more convenient. Wood pellets come in big bags. You can store them in tote bins inside your home. They don't need to be stacked outdoors like split logs. Also, you can shop for wood pellets at most home improvement stores. Firewood can be harder to come by; you often have to know someone with land or a lumber company in order to find it for a reasonable price. Since you can pick up pellets yourself, you're also not relying on a delivery service's schedule like you would be with propane or oil-based heating.
Keeping a pellet stove fueled is also easier than you might imagine. With a pellet stove, you can just load the automatic pellet feeder, which will add pellets to the burn chamber as needed over a period of a few days. Wood stoves require you to add logs every few hours, which can be majorly inconvenient if you work outside the home.
Cons of Pellet Stoves
There is some regular maintenance needed.
You'll need to empty the ash tray about once a week. At least once a year (and more often for some units) you'll need to have the entire burn chamber cleaned to prevent the buildup of soot and ash. This is a bit more maintenance than is required for your standard propane or gas furnace.
Someone will need to load the feeder if you go out of town in the winter.
If you travel a lot during heating season, a pellet stove may not be for you. Someone has to be around to re-load the automatic pellet feeder at least every couple of days to ensure your house doesn't get so cold that pipes freeze or burst.
For more information and details about pellet stoves and other heating options, talk with heating contractors in your area.