Wood Pellet FAQ
Q: What is the difference between premium and standard grade wood pellets?
A: The only difference between grades is in the ash content and price. Premium wood pellets burn a bit cleaner and are a little more expensive. Premium pellets should be less than 1%. Standard pellets contain more ash typically more than 3%. Premium is usually made of core wood (not bark). Below are five fuel characteristics prescribed for both grades.
- Bulk density per cubic foot (0.028 cubic meters) shall not be less than 40 pounds (18 kg)
- The diameter shall be 1/4 to 5/16 inch (635-794 mm)
- Maximum length shall be 1 and 1/2 inches (254-127 mm)
- Fines (dust) of not more than 0.5% by weight shall pass through a 1/8 inch (317.5 mm) screen
- Sodium content shall be less than 300 parts per million (ppm).
You can check pellet fuel quality by inspecting the bag for excessive dirt and dust. (Dirt can form clinkers in the stove.) There should be less than one half of a cup of dust at the bottom of a 40 pound (18 kg) bag.
Q: How are wood pellets used?
A: Wood pellets are burned for heat. The stoves to burn pellets can range from large commercial boilers to small residential heaters. Many pellet-burning stoves have hoppers (storage bins) and thermostat-controlled augers that push pellets into the fire automatically. These stoves have to be loaded less frequently than traditional firewood-burning appliances. Once the pellets are burned, the remaining ash must be removed from the stoves, generally once a week. The amount of ash is lower than that of traditional firewood that has bark. Well-formed pellets will create very little dust or debris. All these factors make burning wood pellets a clean and convenient way to heat.
Q: What are wood pellets made from?
A: Wood Pellets are made from compacted sawdust, wood chips, bark, agricultural crop waste, waste paper, and other organic materials. Some pellet fuel appliances can burn a wide variety of biomass fuels, including nutshells, corn kernels, small wood chips, barley, beet pulp, sunflowers, dried cherry pits, and soybeans.
Q: How many tons of wood pellets will I need to heat my house this season?
A: Pellets are normally sold in 40 pound (18 kg) bags. You can estimate how much fuel you will need for a heating season by noting that one ton of pellets is equivalent to approximately 1.5 cords of firewood. Many homeowners who use a pellet stove as a main source of heat use two to three tons of pellet fuel per year. Pellet fuel appliances are often less expensive to operate than electric resistance heating and propane-fueled appliances.
Q: Where will I store my wood pellets?
A: The amount of storage space required will be dependent on the amount of wood pellets needed. Wood pellets can be conveniently stored for up to one year.
Q: How can I calculate my potential cost savings?
A: To calculate your total fuel savings use the below Fuel Equivalencies chart and example calculations.
Fuel Equivalencies Chart
For heating, every one ton of wood pellets =
120 gallons of heating oil
170 gallons of propane
16,000 ft3 of natural gas
4,755 kilowatt hours (kwh) electricity
To calculate your potential fuel cost savings, you first need to determine the amount of heating fuel you use per year and multiply that by your average price per gallon. This gives your total heating fuel bill for the year, to which you will compare your estimated fuel bill if you were using wood pellets. For example, if you typically use 1,120 gallons of propane in a year for space heating (excluding any heating fuel that is used for water heaters or cooking) and your average price over the past year for propane was $1.75 per gallon, your total average annual fuel bill would be $1,960.
_______________ x $ ______________ = $ ________________
Total Units Price/Unit Total Annual Fuel Bill
Next estimate how many tons of wood pellets you require in a year. For example in the above scenario using propane, one ton of wood pellets are equal to 170 gallons of propane. Therfore almost 7 tons (6.6 tons) of wood pellets will be needed to heat your home for one year (1,120 gallons of propane divided by the equivalent 170 gallons of propane per ton of wood pellets). If the current price of wood pellets is $200 per ton, your estimated fuel bill using wood pellets would be $1,320 (6.6 tons of wood pellets multiplied by $200 per ton).
________ ÷ ________ = _______ x $ ________ = $ _______
Total Units Units/Ton Tons/Year Price/Ton Total Bill