Custom Fireplaces & More

Pros and Cons of Burning Wood vs. Pellets to Beat High Heat Bills

Burning Wood


1. Cheapest possible heat in Middle TN area! An average ranch style 2000 sq. ft recently built home may use about 5 “ricks” (A “cord” is 4’ high, 8’ wide, and 4’ deep. A “rick” is also 4’ high, and 8’ wide, but the depth is however long you ask the wood to be cut. Ex. Two ricks of 2’ wood equal one cord.) 1. Average 2000 sq. ft. home will burn 2 tons of pellets in a cold winter in Middle TN. Locally available pellets are now running about $238/ton
2. High-efficiency wood is neater, cleaner, safer and less work than ever before. The smoke and creosote actually are 50% of the fuel value of wood but are normally dangerous waste products. The new hi-tech is able to burn these waste products as fuel to heat your home. Compared to older airtight woodstoves, you’ll use 1/3 to 1⁄2 less wood. Some smaller or less efficient woodstoves will not burn through the nigh without needing a re-load, although there are many that will burn 12- 15 hours (in Middle TN) on one load and still restart the fire easily. There is a lot of variation in fire-holding ability from one woodstove to another, so research and choose carefully! 2. A high-quality pellet stove or insert can turn itself off and on automatically, as needed according to a wall thermostat. Some larger pellet stoves can hold up to 115 pounds of pellets and run over 65 hours unattended on low. Great for lifestyles where you may frequently be gone overnight!
3. Wood in this area is fairly cheap, even when split, delivered and stacked. It is also available free for the cutting for those who own wooded land. Wood can often be had free for the hauling from those cutting down yard trees and from owners of tree trimming businesses. 3. Pellets are available in neat clean 40 pound bags, or by the ton (50 bags @ 40 pounds each) from Lowes and Tractor Supply in our area. DO buy your entire annual supply early to avoid being caught by late winter pellet shortages! Some pellet stoves can burn up to 50% (shelled) corn, which may cost quite a bit less than pellets, but is difficult to store in quantity without attracting mice. Sawdust pellets do not attract insects or rodents.
4. For those in areas subject to winter power failures, most woodstoves work fine without any electricity, and many have cooktop surfaces. 4. Pellet stoves & fireplace inserts need electricity to run the augers which feed the pellets, the blowers that are needed to keep the pellets burning well and the blowers need to blow out the heat. Battery back-ups are available.
5. Creating a chimney to vent a woodstove in a tall house with steep roof can be expensive, whether masonry or insulated stainless steel chimney pipe (usually the more economical and better performing choice). 5. If you can place a pellet stove up against an outside wall (preferably that has shrubbery outside), venting can be as simple as a short length of special stainless steel “pellet-vent” pipe 3”-4” in diameter, right through the wall (using a special kit), that ends outside using what looks like a drier vent. So the venting for a pellet stove can be significantly less cost, although pellet stoves usually cost more than most woodstoves.
6. Most woodstoves (with some exceptions) need to set at least one foot (usually more) away from a combustible wall. 6. Most pellet stoves can set from 3”-6” from a combustible wall.
7. High-efficiency fireplace inserts will re-vitalize an old inefficient fireplace. However, in many instances, the old chimney may not be safe to use or will be oversize for what the high-efficiency insert needs, so the chimney can be relined. This can add more than $1000 to the total cost. 7. Pellet stoves are also available as fireplace insert versions. The chimney will also have to be relined because it is far too large for the pellet insert, but the cost to reline (since much smaller pipe is needed) is way less than for woodburning.
8. For the fire-viewer, the flames from burning smoke and creosote with most of the air supply choked down can be mesmerizing – like watching your own private light show, not at all similar to a “normal” fire. Some woodstoves offer a screen option so you can watch a cracking old-fashioned fireplace-type fire. 8. There is lots of flame to watch when burning pellets, but it burns more furiously (since it is blown on) and is not nearly as romantic to watch.
9. Woodstoves are simple to troubleshoot, if a problem arises. Usually, the only things in the stove to need replaced is various gaskets and the catalytic element on catalytic stoves, or air injection tubes in non-catalytic stoves. Most problems in woodstoves arise from improper installation of the stove (or venting system) or improper operation techniques. 9. Pellet stoves have sensitive electronics that may later require specialized service. If you buy a pellet stove from a store that does not provide well-trained service, or from an internet source or mail-order catalog, you may end up getting stuck with an expensive problem which cannot get resolved.