Pellet stoves vs Wood stoves
Now this is based on my circumstances, and yours may differ, but I thought I'd share my research and thought process FWIW. I posted this first in another thread that was mostly about pellet stoves, but realized a lot of people might not see it who might have something to add, too. Some others may find some things in it worth considering.
For a year I dithered between pellet and wood. I was going to put in a pellet stove last year, but circumstances prevented it. Glad it happened that way: it gave me more time to evaluate the options. A regular wood stove won out; I just ordered it and it will be installed in November. In my case, the delay is for scheduling the installation of the chimney, because all the chimney guys are booked so far in advance. I had no trouble finding the wood stove I wanted, because there is a huge demand for pellet stoves right now, and wood stoves are easier to find.
Here is why I decided on wood:
1. Businesses and corporations have or are switching to pellet and have contracts with pellet companies, which ties up a lot of product. Price of pellets have gone up and that is not likely to change. Availability of pellets depends on increasing manufacturing capacity and availability of raw materials. Though pellets can be made from non-wood materials, there is a huge question mark about how that is going to affect markets for other uses of those materials-- or the land needed to produce them.
2. Efficiency also needs to take into account the energy costs of manufacture, packaging, and transport. The fuel you choose may vary depending on these factors. I know that in some areas pellets are made of straw residue or other material that otherwise would be open-burned. For folks in those areas like that, that might be a responsible choice. It wouldn't be for me.
3. I live in New England. At this point, pellets for home consumption are actually being imported from the midwest (at least it's not the mid-east!). With a wood stove, I am not dependent on a manufacturer. I am supporting local guys who earn their living cutting on sustainable woodlots. For years a lot of those woodlots went unmanaged because there wasn't a demand. Now there is a resurgence of small-scale local industry and jobs. I like that.
4. Pellet stoves require electricity to run mechanicals, and battery backup is generally only good for a few hours. Electrical outages due to wind, ice, or lightening strikes are not uncommon where I live, and sometimes last for several days or longer. My wood stove requires no electricity to run. I stay warm.
5. I did the math for me: the cost of the stove, chimney and installation (pro installation is required here) will be paid for within 3 years by the difference in fuel savings (assuming oil continues to cost what it does now, a reasonable assumption). It would take a lot longer with a pellet stove, and with both stove and pellets costing more, I am not sure it would ever happen.
And ask any wood burner: after a while we develop an inbuilt sense of when it is time to stick another log in that's as automatic as any thermostat.
I bought this house over four years ago, and I think when I get that wood stove in, it will finally become home.