Pellets are heating fuels made from compressed sawdust and recycled wood materials. In a way, they can minimize the pollution coming from wood burning, especially when used with efficient pellet stoves and boilers.
It’s easy to find pellets in local fireplace dealers, feed & garden supply stores or through local programs like the MESys (Maine). To find them in North America, you can use the HPBA earth retailer locator (Locator) or contact the Pellet Fuel Institute (see more information here).
Wood pellets come in bulk or bags of 40 lb (18 Kgs). Current prices are in the range of $200 to $250 per ton ($5-$10 per bag).
The Pellet Fuel Institute estimates at about 1,000,000 US the residences and businesses currently using pellets. Heating with pellets is becoming popular in many parts of the world.
The high-density of wood pellets allows a more effective burning than wood, and with less ash. A 40-lb high-grade pellet bag provides about 20 hours of non-stop heat, and less than a cup of tea of ash.
Pellet stoves and pellet boilers burn more efficiently than wood stoves and other wood heating systems.
Wood pellets vary in their quality... When buying, look for a certification label.
Qualified pellets – meeting the standards of organizations like the Pellet Fuel Institute – ensure a high heat output and small levels of ash (less than 1%) and moisture (less than 8%).
FACTS ABOUT WOOD PELLETS
Fuel option for stoves, fireplace inserts, boilers and other heating equipment;
Sold in 40 lb (18 Kgs) bags or by bulk;
Where to buy: big improvement stores like Lowe's, Home Depot or Walmart (intermittent supply); other local suppliers;
Prices by bulk: $200-$250 per ton;
Prices by bag: variable: $5-$10;
Grades: Super-Premium, Premium, Standard
Ash of Premium pellets: Less than a cup per bag;
Performance criteria: Ash content, Moisture, Heat Output
Heat equivalence: 5 pellet tons of top pellets = 300 gallon tanks of #2 heating oil
Heat output, ash and moisture content (the lesser the better) are the main criteria to assess wood pellet quality. The heat output of wood pellets is measured in BTU/lb. The best pellets have a moisture-free BTU value in the range of 8,200–8,800 BTUs.
Critical view on the environmental impact of biomass pellets: Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences PDF
- Benefits of using pellets, according to the Pellet Fuel Institute: Benefits of pellets.
- Pellet grade standards
- MEsys Maine Pellet Boiler Program and pellet purchasing in Maine and New Hampshire (Bethel/Rumford/South Paris, Bangor, Lewiston/Auburn, Mid-coast, and Portland areas): Purchases.
- For a comparison of the heating costs of the different fuels, see: Heat Calc NEIC (Excel Sheet) or Pellet Fuels Institute.