Benefits and Disadvantages of Wood Pellet Stoves

Wood pellet stoves are generally small, and the bags of pellets are about the size of a mulch bag, making them easy to store. They're also easy to operate; they on­ly require loading pellets and igniting the flame. And depending on what size hopper your stove has, it may need to be loaded only once a day.

Because the fire is contained in a heat box inside the unit, there is a minimum of smoke, which lessens the smell in your home and prevents the outside of the unit from heating up. Pellets create considerably less ash than firewood, giving off less creosote, a flammable byproduct of combustion that can build up and cause chimney fires.

Wood pellets are made from recycled materials and are heavily compressed, which reduces the moisture content. Dry fuel creates more heat, causing the pellets to burn hotter and cleaner than their wood counterparts. Wood pellet stoves also emit fewer pollutants than traditional fireplaces. They're considered to be carbon neutral by many environmentalists, due to the fact that the pellets are made from trees that lived on carbon, so the two cancel each other out. The pellets also are inexpensive, and you can purchase them in small quantities as needed, versus the upfront costs of purchasing a cord of firewood.

Given the number of benefits a wood pellet stove offers, it's hard to believe there are any disadvantages. But indeed there are a few. Prices of wood pellet stoves range from $1,700 to $3,000 and usually require installation, which is an additional cost to consider.

Stoves are primarily manufactured in colder climates, such as the Pacific Northwest, so purchasing a stove from an authorized dealer close to where you live can mean paying more for freight costs. Also, if you have limited storage at your house, it could require multiple trips to the store to keep enough pellets on hand. And there's a chance that pellets aren't available at a store near you, which means paying shipping costs to get them delivered.

Stoves run on electricity, so if your power goes out, so does your stove. You can purchase a back-up generator to have on hand -- at another additional cost. And, the cost of pellets and electricity is generally less than what it would cost to run a gas heater per year, but slightly more expensive than a fireplace.