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Can You Burn Wood in a Pellet Stove? Important Facts & Tips

pellets and stove on the background

Pellet stoves are becoming more popular because they are affordable and put out good heat. Since most pellets are compressed sawdust, many people wonder if you can burn wood in the pellet stove instead. Unfortunately, the short answer is no, but keep reading while we explain why. We also discuss how to choose the right pellets, how long the pellets burn, and more.

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Can I Burn Wood in a Pellet Stove?

Unfortunately, the design of the pellet stove only enables it to accept small pellet-based fuel. The fire chamber is too small to handle large chunks of wood, and there are several other issues.

  • All fuel for a pellet stove goes through a hopper, unlike traditional stoves that enable you to open the front door to add wood.
  • An auger feeds the pellets into the fire chamber, and large pieces of wood can jam it up.
  • Manufacturers compress the pellets to burn at a specific rate; regular wood is far less dense and may cause the fire to burn unevenly.
  • Since normal wood is less dense than pellets, it will not be able to achieve the high temperatures associated with pellet stoves.
fire on pellet stove
Image By: Samuel Faber, Pixabay

How Does the Pellet Stove Work?

A pellet stove is a device that uses electricity to automatically move small, usually wood-based pellets from a hopper to a small combustion area where the pellets ignite. The flames heat a large metal plate, and a built-in fan moves air over the metal plate to heat it and send it out into the environment. Speeding up the auger will create a larger heating element in the combustion chamber that will raise the temperature of the metal plate. Decreasing the speed will lead to a smaller fire and cooler temperatures. You can also usually adjust the blower fan with higher speeds, sending the warm air farther into the room at a cooler temperature.

How Large Are the Pellets for a Pellet Stove?

Pellets can vary in size quite a bit, ranging from ¼ inch to 1.5 inches long, though they are generally only about ¼ inch in diameter. It’s critical that you read the owner’s manual that came with your stove to ensure that the pellets that you intend on burning will work with your stove. If you notice problems with frequent clog-ups, reducing the pellet length might help.

putting pellets on the pellet stove
Image By: Reflexpixel, Shutterstock

How Long Do Wood Pellets Last in a Pellet Stove?

You will likely purchase most of your commercial pellets in a 40–50-pound bag. How long that bag will last will depend on how large your pellet stove is and how high you have it turned up. Most people report that one bag usually lasts about 24 hours. More expensive brands might use a higher quality wood that can burn longer.

Are Pellet Stoves More Efficient Than Wood Stoves?

Yes. Pellet stoves are more efficient than wood stoves because each pellet has the same ingredients, and the manufacturer compresses the ingredients to about 40 lb./sq. ft., which provides consistent fuel to your combustion chamber. Conversely, wood can have knots, holes, and other inconsistencies that will affect how it burns and how much heat it gives off.

Should I Choose Light or Dark Pellets?

Most experts recommend choosing light-colored wood pellets when given the option, unless the brand states that it uses Douglas fir wood, which is high quality. Dark brands are usually of low quality. Some dark brands might even have bark mixed in, which will burn up faster and create more ash.

pellet stove with burning flame
Image By: Stefano Ember, Shutterstock

Do Wood Pellets Go Bad?

Yes and no. Wood pellets will stay good for a long time if you store them correctly. Rough handling or stacking them too high can cause them to disintegrate. For example, a bag containing many cracked pellets or dust will not likely burn as hot or as long as a fresh bag. Another thing that will shorten the lifespan of your pellets is water. Moisture and humidity can make the pellets swell, fall apart, and burn incorrectly. Storing your pellets in the basement or other humid environments will likely cause them to go bad faster than they might if you stored them in a dry area of the home.

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Unfortunately, you cannot burn wood in a pellet stove, even relatively small pieces. The pellet stove is a complex device that requires pellets to burn efficiently. Attempting to burn wood can jam up the auger, which might require professional maintenance to repair, and the wood would also burn faster and at a lower temperature. Therefore, we recommend reading your owner manual to learn what size pellets your stove accepts and purchasing a high-quality brand in that range. If several options are available, lighter-colored pellets are usually of higher quality.

Featured Image Credit: Matt Becc, Shutterstock


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