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Pellet Stove Fuel Selection

Pellet stoves are designed to use a small wood pellet that is derived primary from waste products such as saw dust, shavings, or other wood waste product that could be ending up in our landfills. The waste products are brought into the mill to be compressed into small pellet of wood, similar to what we associate with rabbit food. The extreme pressure that is excreted onto the waste wood product will evaporate the moisture content so the final product has less then 12% moisture content. At this moisture content the pellet can burn extremely hot and clean, resulting in a combustion efficiency of 90 to 95%.

Pellet fuel is made in two different grades. About 95% of the fuel produced is the premium grade and the rest are standard grade. Most of the standard grades are used in the agriculture industry as animal bedding. We also do not recommend using standard grade pellets for burning as have a hThese standards have been imposed to help insure that all pellets are have a certain size and uniformity to help insure that the pellets will uniformly feed correctly and prevent bridging. That being said does not mean that all pellets are alike, in fact there can be a substantial difference between different manufactures, and even different lots of the same manufacture. Some pellets have lots of bark in them others do not. Some pellets are from soft woods others from hard woods. Since pellets are sold by the pound, hard wood or softwood can be a good choice. The optimum size is less then 1.5 inches in length and preferably even less then 1 inch to prevent bridging in the hopper where the pellets drop onto the auger. A very undesirable side effect from a high ash content pellet is that it will prematurely plug up the pellet stove. Usually high as pellets have a lot of bark mixed into the pellets will cause the excess amount of ash that can prematurely plug up the pellet stove. Lighter color the pellets are an indicator of the amount of bark, e.g. very light means no bark, very dark means a lot of bark. The wood that is used is by the pellet mill, usually is determined by the local source of wood that the pellet mill has available to them.

By test burning a couple of different brands of pellet fuel before making your finale choice to determine what you what to stock up on to keep you warm for the winter. Different pellet brands quite often have different quality, even if they say they are the same, also some pellet stoves handle lower grade pellets better then other brands. Often you will find one dealer will carry two or three brands of pellet, just buy a couple of bags of each brand and compare them in your pellet stove. Lower price does not always mean that the pellets will not perform satisfactory. Thy them all, if all equal, buy the cheaper pellets, or which ever is best suited for your stove. One word of caution, when you empty the bag of pellets into the hopper, observe that number one that the pellets are not to long, usually less then 1.5 inches and also make sure there is not a lot of loose sawdust in the bottom of the bag although some sawdust will be normal. Some pellet stoves do not feed this loose fines very well, nor do these fines produce a lot of heat value as they usually just turns into fly ash, meaning more intensive cleaning to keep you pellet stove air flows from being restricted. Some consumers actually screen the fines out of the pellet to insure correct pellet flow from the auger. Always make sure that the pellet you are buying are a premium grade of pellets, this information should be listed on the bag. The pellet fuel institute is a professional organization that most pellet manufactures belong to. The pellet fuel institute has set standards and grades of pellets to help the manufacture produce a quality product that the consumer can have better choices to find a grade that is suitable for their brand of pellet stove. If the manufacture of the pellets belong to the institute is another method that can shed light to find out if the pellet manufacture is trying to supply a high-grade product, and again this normally is listed on the bag. An alternate type of fuel that is often asked about is will the pellet stove burn corn kernels, the answer is yes, but in a limited fashion. There are a few stove that are manufactured that are what is called a multi-fuel stove meaning that these stoves are designed to burn either wood pellets and or corn kernels and even a few of these stoves can even burn different bio-mass type of fuels. On the average though most pellet stoves are designed to burn wood pellets. One of the biggest problems of trying to burn corn in your pellet stoves is a residual left by the corn in the burn pot called a clinker. This clinker has to be removed manually by scraping the burn pot frequently. True corn stoves have developed different methods to mechanically scrape the clinker out of the burn pot automatically. Most pellet stove manufactures don’t recommend burning corn or they will limit their recommendation as to the burning of corn to be a partial mix with the wood pellets. The rule of thumbs that is to use no more then 30% corn to be mix with the pellets, having said that there are a large number of consumers who have successfully mixed up to 50%. One work of caution, do not run the stove on any high heat setting as corn burns hotter then wood pellets. It would be feasible to trip a high limit switch, and or shorten the life of the burn pot. Wood pellets are cleaner and easier to use then corn with any stove. Therefore there are really only a couple of good reasons to burn corn. First: there is a shortage of wood pellets, second: the corn is an a lot cheaper then wood pellet to warrant the extra work and mess of the corn kernels.