Safety, Cost, and Ecological Impact: Pellet Stoves vs. Electric Heat

Christine Herrington

Christine is our Chief Editor and a contributing writer to the site.

Last Updated on June 9, 2021

If you’re considering a pellet stove or using electric heating options like baseboard heat, you may wonder what the similarities and differences are between these two options. You’ll have to weigh considerations such as start-up costs, safety, efficiency, costliness, and efficacy.

Electricity is wonderfully energy-efficient, but wood pellets may be a more practical choice. Electric heat doesn’t cost a lot to put in but, depending on where you live, heating your home with wood pellets may be more cost-efficient in the long room.

Both are effective in terms of heating your residence, but pellet stoves give off a wonderful warm glow, adding coziness to your hearth but also emitting toxic gas.

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Table of Contents

Pellet Stove vs. Electric Heat

One of the primary necessities for humans is to keep warm. Over the centuries, humans’ methods of heating their homes have evolved from a simple fire to amenities as varied as wood pellet stoves and electric heating. Here are the significant distinctions between these two modern methods of heating the home.

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Pellet Stoves

Working with the same premise of a wood-burning stove, a pellet stove has several different parts – a pellet hopper, augur, burn pot, and combustion fan. The pellets drop from the hopper into the motor-driven auger, which propels them into the burn pot.

There are two ways that combustion happens in the burn pot, either you pay extra for electrical ignition or use a long butane lighter to ignite the pellets on a cold burn, which is when you start from scratch. Once the pellets are burning, the combustions gases go through the heat exchanger tube and out the vent to heat your room.

Some thermostats start blowing heat through the vents when the thermostat clicks on, but that can blow cold air into your room before the fire is hot enough to emit heated air. Another type of vent system has a sensor and automatically flips on when there is enough heated air to raise the ambient temperature in your home.

Electric Heat

There are two ways you can use converted electrical energy to heat your home – radiant heat and electric baseboard heat. These systems make heat out of passing electricity through a resistance wire, which then heats up.

  • Electric Baseboards – Resistance wires are housed behind a metal casing. When the hot air around the wires is released upward into the air, cool air comes in the bottom, and the convection current helps with circulation throughout the room.
  • Radiant Heat – Many people enjoy the feeling of warm floors against their bare feet, especially in the winter. Radiant heat works by warming a resistance wire embedded either in the floor or in the ceiling.
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Installation Fees

When considering which heating system is best for your home, budget, and lifestyle, you have to think about how much it will cost to put in the wood pellet stove or electrical heating system.

For the most part, a wood pellet stove is more expensive to install in a home, especially if you need to vent it. You will have to pay for the equipment, any renovations to your property for adequate ventilation, and a professional to install the pellet stove. On the other hand, although you still need a professional electrician to install your new baseboard unit, an electrical heating system is much cheaper.

Energy Efficiency

When you talk about a heat source being energy-efficient, you’re describing the amount of energy transmitted into heat and what’s lost.

With the most energy-efficient homes, which include details like triple-glazed windows, electric heat is the most efficient way to heat your home. But not everyone lives in houses that have superinsulation and tight construction. Being able to place your pellet stove away from potential drafts makes it a solid choice as well.

Electrical heating systems transform almost all the electricity they require into heat, but pellet stoves typically have only 75% effectiveness. In terms of pellet stoves vs. electric heat, it does seem that an electrical system is a more energy-efficient choice.

Eco-Friendliness

Being eco-friendly considers the type of fuel you use and how much of an environmental impact your chosen method makes. If you always buy eco-friendly wood pellets or even make your own, then choosing pellets made with care is another step in the right direction. That being said, pellets emit toxic gases when they burn, and a pellet-burning system needs a quality vent to make sure it doesn’t endanger the inhabitants. 

Since electric heat doesn’t create any toxic gas, this is a much more eco-friendly choice. If, for your home, energy efficiency is about how eco-friendly your heating methods are, then using solar panels to collect energy to heat your home is the best way to be green about keeping warm.

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Cost-Effectiveness

There is the initial start-up cost for your heating option, and there’s also how much it costs to run the heating system long term. You may have to do a little math to make sure you’re purchasing the right design for your budget and lifestyle.

Wood pellets are pretty cheap to buy, so it may be more feasible to install a pellet stove depending on your geographical area. Even though the initial installation is pricier, a pellet stove is cheaper to operate over the long run.

Safety

A comparison between the safety of pellet stove vs. electric heat is clear because nothing is burning in an electric heat system, but there are both moving and burning parts in a pellet stove, making it a more substantial threat to the safety of your home than an electrical system.

Pellet stoves create gas upon combustion and need to be appropriately ventilated. If not properly ventilated, these gases prove a toxic threat to your family.

But electrical heat isn’t always the safest option, especially in a blackout. If you don’t have a generator, then you won’t be able to use your electrical heating system in extreme weather conditions.

The Final Say

Suppose you’re weighing the benefits and detractions of pellet stoves and electrical heating systems. In that case, you need to think about where you stand in terms of initial start-up costs, long-term maintenance, energy efficiency, and eco-friendliness.

An electrical system is safer and easier to install than a pellet stove on most counts. However, over the long run (depending on your location), paying for electricity to fuel your heating system may not be practical. It also won’t help keep you warm if your power goes out, so having a backup plan is wise.

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