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Woodstoves versus Pellet Stoves

Woodstoves versus Pellet Stoves


During the winter season, most homes in the United States use different methods of to heat their homes. Among the common means used for heating today are the woodstoves and the pellets stoves, which are simple domestic heating devices. In woodstoves, small pieces of wood logs are burned to generate heat, while the pellet stoves use wood pellets as the raw material for the same purpose. Wood pellets are specially made compacted logs, used similar to wood logs, and made from sawdust, other wood waste materials and biomass waste (Environmental Protection Agency 10). Over the years, concerns have been raised about the pollution by the smokes emitted to the air by these stoves during the winter period both indoors and outdoors. In winter, the air is often stagnated, and thus, emissions during this period saturate in the surrounding air, causing direct air pollution and adverse health effects (Environmental Protection Agency 12). This paper will compare and contrast the impact of the older wood stoves versus pellet stoves on indoor and outdoor air quality and the possible health effects in the United States.

Comparison between woodstoves versus pellet stoves

Both the woodstoves and pellet stoves use either wood or wood-related substances like biomass. It means that both devices have similar by-product waste, which is smoke (Environmental Protection Agency 13). The smoke is mostly released into the open air by the use of chimney and piped vents. The emission of the smoke into the open air negatively affects the outdoor air quality. However, the indoor air quality is also affected by the smoke. Ineffective stoves, broken pipes or a damaged chimney may cause smoke pollution of the inside air. Additionally, the smoke emitted out remains suspended in the immediate environment due to the stagnant winter air. Consequently, these small smoke particles concentrate in the surrounding air and return into the houses as cold air replaces the warm air.

Residential stove smoke air pollution is a matter of concern to agencies and policy makers in the United States. This type of air pollution makes as high as 10% of the total air pollution in some states, with Washington being an example (Environmental Protection Agency 18). In average, the total air pollution caused by wood burning and other substances in the stoves amount to 2%-6% of the total air pollution in the United States. Much of the smoke is produced during the winter season when it forms more than 5% of the total air pollution during this period (Environmental Protection Agency, 20).

Concerns have also been raised regarding the health effects caused by the smoke from the stoves to the surrounding individuals. In this regard, it should be stated that young children and elderly people are the most affected groups. Respiratory diseases are accelerated and, in some cases, started due to the exposure to smoke from the stoves (Stieb and Ling 14). According to the American Lung Association Agency, the respiratory disorders increase during the winter period by 30% due to smoke exposure (Stieb and Ling, 23). The study also states that, in general, about 36% of the respiratory complications in the United States occur due to smoke from the stoves. Among the most common short-term infections as a result of smoke emission (stoves included), are congestion and wheezing mostly in children aged one to five years. Cough, sore throat, chest tightness and phlegm were the common symptoms in elderly people (Stieb and Ling 25).

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The study also revealed that the smoke from the stoves had a high correlation with the long-term infections and disorders such as reduced lung function, asthma attacks and development, as well as chronic bronchitis (Stieb and Ling 30). Other effects included heart problems and premature mortality among other common respiratory infections. The report also states that almost 30% of the all mutagenic materials emitted into the atmosphere in the United States derive from the smoke exposure according to the calculations done in 1981. The mutagenic materials are mostly associated with cancers. Thus, excessive exposure to smoke was concluded to be one of the sources of increased cancer infection in the respiratory organics. In fact, it has been found out that excessive wood smoke is 12 times more dangerous in causing cancers as compared to cigarette smoke (Stieb and Ling 27).

Woodstoves versus pellet stoves

Apart from the above-stated similarity of the two heating appliances as far as pollution and health are concerned, the two stoves also exhibit significant differences. Most of all, they vary in the amount of smoke emitted during burning. The old woodstoves have been already banned in many states in the United States of America due to their excessive emission of smoke into the air; the woodstoves are ineffective and do not arrow full combustion of the wood logs (Pahl 36). As a result, excessive smoke is emitted into the environment, causing outdoor air pollution and reducing air quality.

During summer, as a result of this emission, a thin layer of smoke covering is formed in the homes’ surroundings as air is usually stagnated during this period. The woodstove also causes high indoor pollution mostly by smoke leaking when adding more logs or because of ineffective chimneys. The woodstove is 50% inefficient as compared to the modern pellets stoves that are well developed to save energy and avoid pollution (Environmental Protection Agency 22). The old woodstove emits an average of 40+ grams of smoke per hour, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified wood stove produces 2-7.5grams of smoke per hour.

On the other hand, the pellet stoves are more efficient and safe. They have been named as the cleanest solid fuel residential heating appliances (Pahl 16). They are very effective and are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in America. They emit less than one gram of smoke and hence are preferred to be used in heating. Despite being costly and dependent on electricity, the pellet stoves are much greener than the old woodstoves. In connection to this, it is fair to state that they are also health-friendly and are likely to cause minimal complications in humans. The stoves are said to be 70%-83% efficient in terms of heat emitted and completion on combustion (Environmental Protection Agency 25). 

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The two stoves differ in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide they emit into the environment. The more the smoke, the more the carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a dangerous gas if produced in excess. It is believed to have the greenhouse effect, thus raising the environmental temperature, which results in global warming (Lillemo et al. 23). As mentioned above, the woodstoves are just 50% effective, which means that the remaining 50% of the burned materials are emitted into the air with smoke. The apparent highest component of smoke is carbon dioxide, and thus, the woodstoves are the prime sources of carbon dioxide compared to pellet stoves.

Pellets stoves, on the other hand, ensure complete combustion of pellets in the stove. They regulate the supply of pellets, as well as air supply during combustion. This way, the stoves can effectively utilize an adequate amount of air for full combustion of pellets. As a result, less smoke and carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere, which has significantly lower adverse effects on the surrounding, as compared to the woodstoves. Therefore, with over 80% efficiency of the combustion of pellets, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from the pellet stoves is minuscule to have a substantial direct effect on the global warning (Fine et al. 14)

The material used for heating in the two stoves also sets them apart in terms environment conservation. The woodstove uses wood logs. The wood logs are directly acquired from the trees, thus, to assure an adequate supply of logs a large number of trees are cut (Lillemo et al. 15). Therefore, the woodstove does not only affect the environment by emitting excessive smoke, but also it acquires primary raw material through deforestation (Pahl 16).

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The pellet stoves use pellets that are made of waste biomass, waste woods, and sawdust. It means that the pellet stoves do not only conserve the environment by emitting an insignificant amount of smoke into the air, but also eliminate the excessive biomass that would otherwise be left to continue polluting the environment. The pellet stove thus doubles its contribution into the protection of the environment (Fine et al. 23)

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The importance of cheap heating in winter among many households in the United States is obvious. Heating stoves, either woodstoves or pellet stoves, are the cheapest way to heat homes during the cold period. However, according to the research, the wood stoves are the most dangerous means of heating in terms of health effects as well as air pollution. The woodstoves have been identified as one of the most harmful means of heating, emitting excessive carbon dioxide, as well as encouraging deforestation due to wood logs demand. The woodstoves lower the air quality both indoors and outdoors subjecting people to the health risks. Thus, the use of pellet stoves is highly recommended and encouraged due to lower health risks and minimal pollution effects.