Pellet stoves are highly efficient furnace units that deliver up to 90% burning efficiency. In comparison, a conventional wood-burning fireplace or stove operates at around 65-75% efficiency.
Wood burnt in log form produces up to 77% fewer BTUs (British Thermal Units) per cubic foot than pellets. Pellets produce way less smoke than log burners and, because they’re generally sold in 40 pound bags, take up less storage space.
Too many facts and figures, already! What does this all mean?
Why are pellet stoves better for the environment?
We should first examine the origin of the source material that goes into the creation of the pellets themselves. Bear in mind that the production of wood pellets does not directly contribute to deforestation.
We all know that logs burnt in the fire come from trees that are cut down specifically for burning. If trees are cut down unsustainably, there’s a negative impact on the environment because trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. If you cut down a tree without planting a new one, then there is more carbon dioxide in the environment, contributing to global warming.
What are wood pellets made from?
Pellets are made from waste materials (aka biomass); specifically from the by-products of the wood-milling industry. They’re just compressed sawdust and waste chips of wood.
Traditionally, this waste would have been tossed into landfill, contributing to the unwanted production of methane and soil contamination. Therefore, turning this waste into combustable fuel is a great way of helping to protect the planet.
The sawdust is compressed into pellets of around 1.5” long x 1” thick. They burn very effectively and leave less waste behind.
How much smoke is produced?
Smoke produced from wood burning stoves is one of the biggest polluters in cities these days. In London, UK, wood burning stoves have become so popular amongst the aspiring middle classes that the City Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has called for a ban on them in an attempt to limit air pollution.
A traditional wood burning fireplace produces 40g smoke every hour! A more modern fireplace, designed to increase efficiency, produces around 7.5g of smoke per hour.
In contrast, a pellet stove produces so little polluting waste gases that most models, legally, don’t require an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) efficiency certification.
The waste material used to produce pellets is much dryer than logs which contain a higher water content, producing more smoke. Because the moisture level is much lower with pellets, there’s a higher BTU output, and far less risk of deadly carbon monoxide, produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels such as wood, natural gas and coal.
So, all in all, pellet stoves are much better for the environment. If you’re looking for a pellet stove, this article will help you choose one of the best.
Why is a pellet stove more cost-efficient than a wood burning stove?
A pellet stove is a more complex beast than a wood burning stove, which is basically just a combustion chamber and a flue, leading out to a chimney.
A pellet stove is effectively driven by an electric fan which creates a forced draft, controlled by thermostat, to push air through burning pellets to ensure maximum combustion efficiency.
The pellets are fed through a hopper at the top of the unit. You can choose an exact desired temperature and the stove feeds pellets into the combustion chamber at an exact rate to maintain that specific heat.
This exact rate of combustion makes wood pellet burning much more efficient than burning logs. It’s very difficult to control the temperature output of a wood-burning stove which has a tendency to burn at its own rate, often creating too much heat for a room. I’ve had to open a window to get the temperature down! That’s terrible for cost-efficiency!
Because you can control the temperature output of pellet stoves with far greater accuracy, it means that you spend less to create that perfect room temperature.
You have to constantly attend to an open fire, throwing more logs on to keep it burning rather than to maintain the right temperature. In contrast, you load the pellet stove hopper once a day and leave the furnace to its own devices. It’s the ultimate set and forget.