Just How Eco-Friendly Are Wood Stoves and Pellet Stoves Anyway?

Just How Eco-Friendly Are Wood Stoves and Pellet Stoves Anyway?

In some parts of the world, electric or gas furnaces aren’t always an option for keeping your home warm. Wood and pellet stoves have been used for years, but with many consumers becoming concerned about their carbon footprint, they are turning away from some of them. Can woodburning stoves be eco-friendly?

Woodburning Stoves

Human beings have been burning wood to heat their homes for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1557 when the first woodburning stove was patented. Today’s woodburning stoves have come a long way from the smoky creations of yesteryear though. Modern woodburning stoves have been designed to be more efficient, creating less smoke and burning at a higher temperature.

Woodburning stoves also have to be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (in the US anyway) and need to have a higher efficiency rating. A modern wood stove can have an efficiency rating upwards of 80 percent. This means it produces four times more heat from a single log than older stoves.

When it comes to being eco-friendly, wood stoves utilize a renewable resource for their fuel. Trees might take longer to grow, but they are renewable, whereas things like oil and natural gas are not.

Are Wood Stoves & Pellet Stoves Eco-Friendly?

Pellet Stoves

Pellet stoves also rely on burning wood products for their fuel. Instead of using whole logs or branches for fuel, though, a pellet stove burns wood pellets that are made from pressed sawdust — waste naturally generated by the lumber industry. Anything that cannot be used for primary production can be ground up and pressed into pellets for these stoves. This robust and eminently renewable biomass is made up of things that would usually be discarded to biodegrade on their own, turning it into fuel pellets that can be burned in any pellet stove.

While modern wood stoves are designed to burn hotter and more efficiently, they don’t hold a candle to the efficiency of pellet-burning stoves. The pellets are denser than the wood they are made from and contain less water because of the compression process. Wood pellets have less than eight percent internal moisture. Regular cords of wood, even dried, hold between 20 and 30 percent internal moisture, meaning they can’t burn as hot as the dryer wood pellets.

Pellet stoves can be even more efficient than wood stoves as well. Top-of-the-line pellet stoves can have an overall efficiency rating higher than 90 percent.

These pellet-burning models tend to be a bit more complicated than woodburning stoves. They are designed with an internal hopper that will usually hold a day’s worth of fuel, so you fill it in the morning and don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day. Top-load hoppers prevent the fire from burning into the hopper but can get clogged with ash.

Harman Allure 50 Pellet Stove - Are Pellet Stoves Eco Friendly?
Credit: Harman Allure 50 Pellet Stove

Which is more eco-friendly?

When it comes down to it, which of these stoves is more eco-friendly if you’re choosing between the two?

The clear winner is the pellet stove if you have access to pellet fuel. They are inherently more efficient than wood stoves, emit less smoke and carbon dioxide and are more straightforward to use. All you do is load them with fuel pellets and go.

If you’re going to be out in the middle of the woods where it is more challenging to have bags of pellets delivered, an efficient modern wood stove can be a good option as well. You will need to keep restocking the furnace with fuel throughout the day, but you can quickly chop your wood or even go out and collect sticks and branches to fuel the stove.

Choosing a stove

What should you look for in a wood or pellet stove if you’re concerned about your home’s carbon footprint?

First, look at the size of the stove. You don’t need an enormous stove for a small house, so choose one that’s sized appropriately for the square footage you need to heat. A large stove might warm your house quickly, but it will also end up wasting fuel and inadvertently increasing your carbon footprint.

Look for a stove that’s certified by the EPA. Keep in mind that the more efficient a stove is, the fewer emissions it will generate. These higher-efficiency stoves also tend to be safer because they don’t produce creosote, which can create a fire hazard.

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Finally, look at the efficiency of the stove. The higher the efficiency rating, the hotter it will burn and the more heat you will get for each unit of fuel.

If you have an old wood stove in your home that’s been in place since your parents were children, it might be time to upgrade to a newer and more efficient model. Modern wood and pellet-burning stoves can be energy efficient and even eco-friendly. They rely on renewable resources for their fuel, which no gas or oil furnaces can claim.

If you are looking to upgrade your home’s heating and have access to wood pellets, a pellet-burning stove can be a great option. Not only is your fuel renewable, but it is also made from organic waste that would otherwise be dumped in landfills. Burning wood to heat your home has changed over the years, and it doesn’t have to be bad for the environment. Updating your home’s heating system can help lower your carbon footprint, even if you are using wood as your fuel source.

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Title image credit: Hot Box Stoves

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