How Many Bags of Pellets Equal a Cord of Wood?

Pile of firewood

When you are moving from a normal wooden stove to a pellet stove, you may be wondering just how the pellets compare to the wood you may still have piled up outside. Many people in more urban areas that use wood stoves can purchase cords of wood, with each cord lasting several hours. One bag of pellet wood lasts a lot longer, but how do the two compare to each other?

One ton of pellets takes up exactly half the space of one cord of wood, with one ton of pellets measuring at 50, 40-pound bags. One cord of wood is rarely enough to last an entire season and can be depleted in less than a week. One 40-pound bag of pellets typically lasts a full 24-hours, which means that two tons of pellets measure one cord of wood. 

Most people buy several tons of pellets before and during the winter seasons, storing the pellets in a building that is weather sealed. This supply is enough to last a full season and can comfortably produce enough heat that no one in the house ever goes cold. However, understanding why cords of wood measure so badly against pellets is important, with the efficiency of the stoves playing a large part in how the fuels are used. 

How are cords of wood measured?

Cords of wood are measured by the length, width, and height of the bundled wood. All packed together. The more you use the wood, you will experience that the pieces will shift and change. When you first get or make the cord of wood, it will measure a comfortable 4 feet wide by 4 feet high, by 8 feet in length. When you have started using the wood in a wood stove, the wood may have shifted and become spread out. 

Understanding that a cord of wood is not always capable of surviving an entire winter is vital, as most people have one or two cords of wood next to their houses for the season. Cords of wood last so much less than pellets because of the space between the pieces of wood. This means that the density of even one bag of pellets is almost triple that of wood that would take the same amount of space.

Generally speaking, the average home only needs one cord of pellet bags to last a family the whole of winter. Cords of wood are usually refilled throughout the winter season as you are burning up the wood and using them to heat your home. An important part to remember is that cords of wood are a simple measurement to determine the amount of wood that you have for the season and are not a standard measurement. 

Why is there such a difference in how the two are measured?

Bags of pellets are easier to measure than cords of pellets. With all pellets being sold in bags all at once, it is important to remember that you can only buy full cords of wood at certain shops. Many times people are moving from using wood stoves to pellet stoves, which means they already have designated areas for wood or pellets. If you do fill up the same space as a cord of wood with bags of pellets, you will have almost too many pellets for a season.

Many times purpose-built cord areas for pellets are only 4 feet by 4 feet. Allowing one line of pellets to be packed into space, with many considering having more at any one time, is too much as the pellets will become moist long before they are used. One average 40-pound bag of pellets measures 4 feet in length, which fits perfectly in the space of a pellet cord. 

One of the most important parts to remember when buying pellets is that stores do not use cords as measurements. Instead, they rely on the tonnage of the pellets, with most people buying at least one ton of pellets for the winter season. This is then only packed into a cord once delivered to a home or sometimes just packed into the corner of storage space. 

Which is more efficient?

Pellet stoves have long been considered to be one of the most efficient ways of heating a large open space in most homes. This is because the pellets are burned at around 95% efficiency leaving only a small amount of ash and oily soot. A lot of pellet stoves push the heat created from the burning of the pellets directly into the room the stove is in.

While wood-burning stoves are efficient and can heat almost any room in a few minutes, the waste and smoke produced means that the stove is not super-efficient. A significant amount of the energy produced from burning wood is lost to the ashes or smoke, usually causing even more heat to disappear out through the vent system. 

Using this comparison, you can see that pellet stoves are almost impossible efficient and, in most cases, can be used without having to worry about waste daily. This is a large part of why pellet stoves are left to be burning for several days on end. As the pellet stove creates heat and pushes it into the surrounding air.  

How long does a 40 pound of wood pellets burn?

One bag of pellets for a pellet stove will last around 24-hours depending on the temperature of a pellet stove. The stove will quietly and effortlessly burn through the bag after it has been entirely emptied into the hopper of the pellet stove. This is a key function as the stove is meant to be left to its own devices for most of the time you are using it, unlike a normal stove that needs constant attention.

You can find a larger bag of pellets sold at some stores, while many superstores will have smaller bags of pellets aimed at smoking meats. These pellets can be used but will change the length of time that the stove can be left on its own. It is vital to remember how your pellet stove has been built as well, with wall-mounted permanent pellet stoves having larger hoppers than a normal pellet stove. 

Freestanding pellet stoves can usually handle enough pellets at any one time to keep burning for a full 24-hours. Further, smaller pellet stoves that are used in bedrooms or studies have smaller hoppers. These are aimed at only being used occasionally or in extreme conditions, which is why they require some more work than a normal-sized pellet stove. 

How does the temperature setting of the pellet stove affect the cost?

The hotter a pellet stove has been set to, the more pellets it will start to burn. The more pellets it burns, the more waste it creates. Overall the effect of having the pellet stove burning the largest flame it can handle at all times causes the overall costs to become increasingly higher. Further, the built-in fan and auger may need to run more as well, causing the electrical drain to increase the total costs.

This is why you should only ever have the pellet stove on its highest setting until the room has changed in temperature. Once the room has become a more comfortable place to be in, you should work towards having the pellet stove at a lower temperature. This ensures that the room stays warm, but doing so does not cost you a lot. 

Many pellet stoves have built-in systems that allow for self-regulation and are specifically measuring the temperature of the unit itself and not the ambient heat. As the unit heats up, it changes the speed and size of its flames, allowing you to comfortably leave the stove to do what it needs to do. 


Pellets and cords of wood are not similar but can be stored in the same locations, with a large majority of people from wood stoves to pellet stoves. This means that much of the functions needed to keep the pellets dry and safe have already been built. 

Whichever way you are installing your pellet stove, just remember it’s pellets in the stove or nothing at all!

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