There’s nothing quite like the smell of burning timber, however the relative inefficiency and high levels of pollution of wood stoves has led many families to steer clear of wood heating in favor of oil and other kinds of fuel. The introduction of wood pellets, which burn cleaner and more efficiently than other types of timber, has directed some homeowners to return to the tradition of wood heating. Before you switch, then weigh the advantages and disadvantages of heating with pellets versus oil to compare prices, availability and other critical features.
The typical family requires 50 to 150 thousand BTUs to heat a house for the winter, according to the Forests Products Laboratory. To compare prices for various kinds of heating fuels, it’s helpful to look past the cost per unit and consider cost-per-thousand BTUs of heat. A 2011 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that pellets cost $19.43 per thousand BTUs, while oil was priced at $36.33 per thousand BTUs. Prices for oil and pellet heating vary by year and location, but generally speaking, heating with pellets prices less than heating with oil.
Of course, low average costs for pellets mean very little if you can not find pellets in your area. While 11 percent of all homes use oil heating, less than 3 percent of the populace heats with wood pellets, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That means pellets may not be readily available in all markets. Before you invest in a pellet stove, check online or in the telephone book for local pellet vendors. If none are available, the cost of shipping pellets to your residence may be restrictive, making oil the cheaper of the two options.
Think about the Environmental Impact
When it comes to the environment, you will discover pros and cons to both pellets and oil heating. Wood pellets are a waste product and function as an ingenious way of recycling scrap timber. On the other hand, the “Foster’s Daily Democrat” reports heating with pellets produces 50 times more pollution than burning oil, despite the fact that pellets burn much more cleanly than conventional wood. While oil burns cleaner and produces fewer emissions than pellets, its biggest disadvantage is the fact that it is a fossil fuel. That means it’s in relatively small supply, and both costs and availability can fluctuate over time.
Ask About Maintenance Requirements
While looking for a new pellet or oil heating system, ask about maintenance requirements for each. Generally, pellet stoves have to be cleaned frequently to remove ash. They also require regular reloading to maintain a constant supply of pellets. Oil-powered systems normally require just seasonal cleaning of the chimney and exhaust systems and may be simpler for those seeking to minimize time spent on maintenance.