Heat Pump Vs. Pellet Stove: Which One Is Better For Heating?

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

Heating and cooling are two of the most vital aspects of a home. While it may seem like the obvious answer is to go with central, ductless heating and cooling, that isn’t necessarily an option for everyone.

If you are considering upgrading your heating or air conditioning system, get a quote from local contractors in your area here.

That is where some look at the difference between something like a heat pump and a pellet stove. Heat pumps tend to be more efficient but more expensive to install. If you are looking for a cheaper heat source to install, a pellet stove may work just fine.

The Main Difference Between a Heat Pump and Pellet Stove

Heat pumps have been around since the 1970s. But back then, they were not terribly efficient. They were so lacking in efficiency that a backup heating source would be required for most homes.

That has changed today. Most of them are known as “all-climate” units that work even in temperatures well into the negatives. It is now possible to keep your entire home warm in even the coldest of climates with a single heat pump. Heat pumps are even used to heat commercial spaces.

A wood-burning or pellet-burning stove, meanwhile, does not offer the same efficiency. You may be able to heat a small home using a pellet-burning stove, but past that, it isn’t likely. A backup heat source will be necessary to heat other areas of the home. You definitely can’t use a pellet-burning stove for commercial heating use.

Purchase Price

This is perhaps the biggest difference between the two. It is also why some opt for a pellet stove instead of a heat pump. The installation cost is far more expensive for a heat pump than it is for a pellet stove.

You can find a pellet stove for a few hundred dollars in some cases. A heat pump, meanwhile, can start at around $2,000 and run past the $10,000 mark depending on manufacturer and features. That sticker shock can be more than enough to sway a homeowner into going with a pellet stove.

Operating Costs

While there is a stark difference between the two in terms of initial purchase and installation, operating costs should be taken into account. After all, you don’t just get to run your heating source for free.

While a pellet stove is much cheaper to buy and install, it is typically much higher than a heat pump. Using a heat pump may cost about $1,350 to run each year depending on the efficiency of the model.

A pellet stove, meanwhile, costs about $2,000 per year to run. If you have an EPA-certified stove, that might go down to about $1,500. Still, it is more expensive to run the stove than the heat pump, mitigating those initial costs in the long-term.


Part of the reason why a pellet-burning stove costs more to run is due to efficiency. Heat pumps move heat instead of generating it. That means less electricity used than some of the other heating options out there.

Heat pumps are capable of creating more energy than they consume, in fact. Pellet-burning stoves are more efficient than ever before, but there is one major caveat. If you have to run an additional heat source, that takes up energy as well.

Using an additional heat source can mean making your home too hot. That means opening windows to compensate, which wastes energy in another way. There is also the matter of finding a reliable source of pellets to burn, raising costs and time spent.


The good news is that you don’t need ductwork for either option. That means installation of either is pretty simple, though it is always advisable to have a professional perform the installation.

When installing a pellet-burning stove, you will need to have a considerably larger hole than you would for a heat pump. A smaller, ductless unit will require a smaller hole to vent the gasses from your home.


There is also the matter of where to place your heating unit. The good news is that you can put ductless systems just about anywhere. Whether you want to make a home addition, use it in a sunroom, remodeled shed, or garage apartment, you can do so relatively easily. You can even run ductless heating through your home.

The good news here is that you aren’t really seeing a major difference from one unit to the other. There is a huge range of styles to work with that fit your needs both aesthetically and practically.

If you plan to install a stove, however, you have to have the proper amount of space. Not only that, but you have to have the space for accessories like pellets and pokers if they are needed.

Clean your pellet stove if it makes a hissing sound.

Eco Considerations

While energy is an important consideration, there are other areas in which your choice can impact the environment. This is where you will see a major disparity between pellet-burning stoves and a heat pump.

A pellet-burning stove requires that you buy pellets in bulk. That can happen all at once or it can be through purchasing a ton of individual bags of pellets. Depending on your area, the availability of pellets may not necessarily be consistent.

There is also the matter of air quality. Wood and pellet smoke has several hundred chemical compounds in it that degrade air quality and can contribute to poor health. Some towns may even have restrictions due to air quality concerns.


Generally speaking, you can expect a pellet-burning stove to last longer than a heat pump. Heat pumps are more efficient than they were in their inception, but you can generally expect somewhere around 15 or 20 years out of one.

A pellet-burning stove, meanwhile, can last quite a bit longer. The difference here is that you may miss out on energy-efficient upgrades. So, even if you can avoid having to pay for a new unit, you will be costing yourself money so long as you use the stove.


While it may sound like there is a major difference in convenience between pellet-burning stove and a heat pump, the difference may not be as large as you think. It all depends on what model unit you go with.

There are some pellet-burning stoves that will feed in pellets automatically. For the most part, though, you will have to tend to the fire yourself. That is super inconvenient and you also have to find the requisite space to store your pellets.

When you have a heat pump, you can set it and be done with it. Most systems also have software capable of being accessed through smartphone apps. That means a greater level of convenience in managing the settings of that system.

What are the Pros and Cons of a Heat Pump?

There are plenty of pros and cons to a heat pump. For one, it is the more efficient way to heat your home. In a day and age where energy efficiency matters more than ever, a heat pump delivers.

Heat pumps also tend to result in a better overall quality of air. We tend to overlook the air in our homes. When the air is better quality, it can benefit those with respiratory issues. And having quality air to breathe in is just better.

The biggest con is that the initial installation can be really expensive. Not everyone has thousands to put towards the installation of a heat pump. While the long-term efficiency costs can help offset that, the sticker shock can be scary.

Heat pumps also require more maintenance in the long-term. That can be both expensive and more time-consuming between the two.

What are the Pros and Cons of a Pellet-Burning Stove?

Likewise, there are pros and cons of using a pellet-burning stove as well. For one, you can use recycled pellets. That means committing to a greener footprint, while also releasing fewer emissions than wood. For environmentally-conscious people, that is important.

The biggest benefit of a pellet-burning stove is that it is very easy to maintain. Compared to a heat pump, you won’t have to worry about a lot of maintenance and upkeep along the way.

The biggest downside is that you need to have a space to store it. With a heat pump, you don’t need to have any space to store it. You also need to find space to store the pellets.

Speaking of those pellets, you also have to find a supplier. Finding a local supplier can be difficult, though there are some online vendors. Compared to using a heat pump, that is a greater inconvenience than having a heat pump.

Which is Better?

Knowing all that we know about heat pumps and pellet-burning stoves, you may want to know which one is the best for you. It all comes down to personal preference and the size of your home.

On the whole, heat pumps are superior to pellet-burning stoves. They are more efficient, easier to use, and take up less space. You can even run your heat pump from the convenience of your smartphone.

Pellet-burning stoves are better for smaller homes. They are also cheaper to install upfront, though the costs can even out over time when you consider the efficiency of heat pumps. Unless you want to feed pellets into your stove regularly, an automatic one should be the only thing that you consider.

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Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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