Pellet Heater vs Wood Heater vs Heat Pump


Pellet heaters come out on top in a pellet heater vs wood heater vs heat pump comparison because they offer the lovely natural heat you get from a wood heater with the convenience of a heat pump. They aren’t perfect, but they have all the pros of a wood heater and heat pump with very few cons. Pellet heater fuel, wood pellets, doesn’t need to be dried or split, comes in handy bags with very little mess and are easy to transport. Pellet heaters start and stop with the touch of a button, like a heat pump, and quickly heat up rooms. Read on to understand why I think pellet heaters are better than wood heaters and heat pumps.

pellet heater vs wood heater and pellet heater vs heat pump
Pellet heaters heat like a wood heater with the convenience of a heat pump.


If real natural heat is important to you then you’ll love pellet heaters. For many people this lovely heat is the main comparison when comparing a pellet heater vs wood heater vs heat pump. The biggest complaint people have with heat pumps is the heat they produce is “stuffy” and doesn’t warm you to the bones. Because pellet heaters burn wood pellets to create heat from a fire, the kind of heat they produce and how it feels is very similar to a wood heater. It’s natural and “feels” warm. If you don’t like the “heat” from a heat pump and don’t want to mess around with firewood, then you should definitely take a look at a pellet heater.


There’s no denying heat pumps are the most convenient way to heat your house. With the push of a button they switch on and start heating within a few minutes. On the other end of the scale are wood heaters, which once cold can take hours before they bring your house back up to temperature, which is why some people run wood heaters 24/7. Pellet heaters are very similar to heat pumps in terms of convenience. They start with the press of a button and within minutes start heating the room and surrounding house. They can also switch on and off using a timer, which helps you save money with a pellet heater.


While wood heaters offer a natural heat that is second to none, managing firewood can be an absolute nightmare. Heat pumps are the easiest to “refuel” but for some people offer the worst kind of heat. Pellet heaters fall in between the two when it comes to work involved in handling “fuel”. Pellets are typically sold in 15Kg bags. Bags are much easier to move and stack than firewood. Furthermore, wood pellets contain less than 10% moisture content and are ready to burn straight from the bag. It means you don’t need to dry pellets before you burn them and there’s no need to have a backyard full of pellets drying for next year. You can buy wood pellets today and burn them tonight.


Efficiency in a heater means you get more heat from the fuel you burn. The higher the efficiency of a heater, the less fuel you’ll burn and the more money you’ll save. Heat pumps are the most efficient of the three, being about 200% to 300% efficient, depending on how cold it is outside. Wood heaters are the least efficient and are typically 60% efficient or less depending on how “green” the firewood being burnt is. Modern pellet heaters are about 90% efficient, which is considerably higher than wood heaters but obviously less than a heat pump. Pellet heaters are a more efficient heater than wood heaters due to wood pellets having a very low moisture content.


When it comes to features a pellet heater vs wood heater vs heat pump, pellet heaters shine. They offer multiple heat settings, can switch on and off using a timer or even remotely via WiFi, can heat a room to a set temperature and then switch off or go into low heating mode to save pellets. Basically, pellet heaters are much like heat pumps with a lot of powerful features, all of which help you save money. Switch your heater off and use the timer to come on an hour before you wake up in the morning so your house is warm. Going out? Switch it off when you go out and back on using WiFi before you get home. You can’t do any of this with a wood heater.


If style and design is important to you then you’ll love pellet heaters. Heat pumps are bland and boring. Usually a white box attached to a wall or near the floor. Wood heaters have some very nice designs. However, I think pellet heaters win here because of the variety of colours, shapes and sizes. Want an orange heater? No problem. What about red, white, black or grey? Again, no problem. If unique styles and colours to make your heater stand out is important, then you can get some extremely beautiful European pellet heaters, like Piazzetta pellet heaters and Palazzetti pellet heaters, which are amazing to look at and totally unique when compared with wood heaters and heat pumps.


Pellet heaters are mechanical machines with moving parts, so they need to be cleaned and maintained, just like a car. Most people rarely clean their wood heater. Once a year they’ll clean the flue and probably empty ash out of the burn box and maybe every now and then clean the glass door. Heat pumps are rarely cleaned. However, pellet heaters should be cleaned daily, weekly and yearly. It’s quick and easy but definitely more work than a wood heater and heat pump

The burn pot should be emptied daily, which takes a few seconds. Once a week clean out ash from the burn chamber, five minutes at most. Then at least once a year you should deep clean the pellet heater and flue. Probably two to four hours depending. Maintaining a pellet heater is not difficult but it is something most people coming from a wood heater are not used to and need to be aware of. Not cleaning and servicing a pellet heater means it will not perform and heat as effectively as it should.

Clean Burn

Pellet heaters produce no visible smoke once the fire has started and is burning. The only time you’ll see smoke is for a few minutes when the heater has just been switched. Their design means they burn very clean, produce no smoke and produce about 1/3rd of the emissions of a wood heater. Wood heaters have gotten cleaner over the years but are still heavy polluters and you know when someone has their wood heater going due to smoke coming out of the flue or chimney. The clean burn you get from a pellet heater is also appealing to people looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Heater Cost

An important factor of any heater is cost of the actual unit. Pellet heaters come in a wide range of brands and models and there is a pellet heater at a price that will suit anyone. You can buy budget Chinese heaters for around $2,500 or expensive European brands like a Piazzetta pellet heater or Palazzetti for over $10,000. Both Chinese and European brands are very reliable but come with different designs and styles. However, a $5,000 Chinese heater will put out the same amount of heat and function essentially the same as a $10,000 European brand. The difference is in brand and design. Regardless of your budget you’ll find a pellet heater to suit your needs.

Running Costs

Lastly, how much a pellet heater costs to run depends on a lot of factors and that’s why I saved this until last. The short version is heat pumps are the cheapest to run (unless you can get free wood and enjoy spending hours splitting, stacking and moving firewood), around 8c per kWh (tariff 41 in Tasmania). Wood heaters are a very close second, around 9c per kWh (based on $250 a tonne or less for firewood). Pellet fuel does cost more than firewood in most areas in Tasmania, roughly 11c per kWh ($7.50 per bag of pellets), which means based on the price of fuel they are the most expensive. However, the cost of wood pellets doesn’t paint the full picture when it comes to running costs.

All heaters can be compared in cost per kWh. Calculating this for heat pumps is easy. Find out the cost per kWh, which in Tasmania on tariff 41 is 17.265c per kWh. Heat pumps are at least 200% efficient, so you are looking at around 8.6c per kWh or less. Pellet heaters and wood heaters are a little more difficult to calculate. To calculate their cost you need to figure out the cost of a kg of wood and pellets. For wood, this can be difficult which is why it’s best to buy per tonne. If a tonne of wood costs $250, then a kg of wood costs 25c.

Wood pellets come in 15kg bags and the cheapest is $7.50 a bag, so $7.50 / 15 = 50c a kg. You might say wood is half the price of pellets so obviously the best choice, but now you need to look at moisture content of wood vs pellets and the efficiency of pellet heaters vs wood heaters. Both of these factors affect how much heat you can get from pellets and firewood, which has an impact on running costs. Wood, no matter if it’s firewood or pellets, contain energy which produces heat when burnt, called megajoules (MJ)

Firewood and pellets both contain about 19MJ of energy. There’s 3.6MJ per kWh. This is where heater efficiency and moisture content are important. Wood heaters are 60% efficient and firewood should be 20% or less in moisture content. So, a kg of firewood with 19MJ of heat becomes 19MJ * .6 (wood heater efficiency) * .8 (moisture content) giving 9.12MJ of heat. You lose over half of the heat in a kg of firewood due to moisture and heater inefficiency. Next, divide 9.12MJ by 3.6MJ per kWh to get 2.53kWh. This means a kg of wood will produce about 2.53kWh of heat. If a kg of wood costs 25c, then divide 25c by 2.53kWh to get about 9.8c per kWh.

Using the above formula for wood pellets, 19MJ * .9 (pellet heater efficiency) * .9 (10% moisture content) gives 15.39MJ. Yes, even though a kg of firewood and pellets contain the same amount of energy, because wood pellets have a lower moisture content and pellet heaters are more efficient, a kg of wood pellets will produce more heat than a kg of firewood. 15.39MJ / 3.6MJ gives 4.275kWh. If wood pellets cost 50c per kg, then .5 / 4.275kWh to get about 11.69c per kWh. Even though wood pellets cost double per kg compared to wood, you can see that the actual cost per kWh is still close to firewood.

All of the prices and calculations above were based on pellet prices in Tasmania. We’re lucky because we can buy wood pellets in Tasmania at much more competitive prices than the rest of Australia. However, this is changing and EcoPellets now offer pellets in Melbourne at prices never heard of before. The point here is that pellet price obviously plays a direct role on how much your pellet heater costs to run. Find out what wood pellets cost in your area and you’ll be able to work out the figures like I did above and get a good idea of what you’ll spend on pellets each year.

Pellet Heater vs Wood Heater vs Heat Pump Summary

That was a lot to take in, especially the last part on running costs. However, if you are comparing a pellet heater vs a wood heater then the good news is pellet heaters produce the same type of heat and cost roughly the same to run. They can actually be cheaper to run if you switch it off while sleeping and when you go out. The only downside is pellet heaters do require more cleaning and servicing. It’s not difficult and only once a year should you service your pelle heater, but it’s something people coming from a wood heater aren’t used to.

Pellet heaters also have the convenience you find with a heat pump. They start and stop by pushing a button and can heat your room to a specific temperature. They also have timers and many have WiFi, meaning you can schedule the pellet heater to come on and go off at specific times, something you can’t do with a wood heater. Also, the heat you get from a pellet heater appeals to some people more than a heat pump heat does. For me pellet heaters are the clear winner in a pellet heater vs wood heater vs heat pump comparison.

Disagree? Let me know if you’ve got your own thoughts on the winner in a pellet heater vs wood heater vs heat pump comparison. I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you are in Tasmania then check out where to buy a pellet heater in Tasmania. You’ll find retailers like Pellet Fires Tasmania and maybe some others you haven’t heard of before. Otherwise, if in states outside of Tasmania, then the buy a pellet heater in Australia post has a current list of retailers.

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