When selecting a stove to heat a room or a larger portion of your home, the type of fuel you burn is one of the major characteristics you’ll be considering. Today, the three most popular types of fuel include wood, gas and pellets.
Each type offers benefits as well as disadvantages, so getting to know the different types and their respective advantages can help ensure the stove you choose is the best one for your needs.
Few things in life conjure up more romantic, rugged images of self-sufficiency and hominess than the thought of a wood fire crackling away. Wood is, of course, the traditional fuel choice and it remains one of the most popular.
Today’s stoves that burn wood must be designed to meet or exceed emissions standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and that means they’re much more efficient at burning fuel and producing heat than old-fashioned wood-burning stoves. Wood-burning stoves are available in many styles and materials, including steel, cast iron, and soapstone. Some stoves can be loaded from the top or side instead of from the front. In addition, some new stoves are available with electric ignitions, which makes getting your fire started a snap.
The primary disadvantage of a wood stove is acquiring and storing the wood. You must have a ready supply of wood cut to the proper lengths and properly aged as well as a dry place for storage. Unless you want to have wood cut and delivered during winter when prices are at their peak, you also need to plan ahead to ensure you have enough cordage on hand to last through the heating season. The type of wood is not as important as its state of dryness.
Especially in recent years, many homeowners desire the beauty of a fire without the inconvenience of gathering, cutting and storing fuel that’s associated with wood stoves.
Gas stoves offer a wide range of features that allow the homeowner to adjust the amount of heat being provided, including variable speed fans, heat output controls and flame height adjustment controls. Many stoves allow these features and others to be controlled remotely which means you can adjust heat and appearance while you lounge on the sofa. Direct-vent models can be installed without the need of a separate chimney, and can be installed on interior walls. Both LP and natural gas models are available, and like wood stoves, many gas stoves are offered in a wide range of styles and finishes.
The primary disadvantage of a gas stove is the lack of “crackle and flicker” and traditional ambience associated with burning wood; in addition, if you own wooded acreage or have access to well priced local fuel, you may find a wood stove costs less to operate.
Pellet stoves are especially popular among homeowners looking for an eco-friendly way to heat their homes. Made of recycled and pressure-condensed sawdust and wood scraps and byproducts from which most of the moisture has been removed, pellets tend to burn hotter and cleaner than traditional wood. Like cord wood, pellets produce enough heat to warm large spaces and the heat output can be controlled by the rate at which pellets are burned. Like gas stoves, pellet stoves can vent out a wall and they can be placed on interior walls. They’re also available in several styles.
The primary drawback of this style is the cost of the pellets, which tend to be more costly than wood. If you have natural gas available, burning pellets is not a good choice as the cost of generating heat will be less with natural gas.