Hardwood or soft wood pellets ??

Sirata1January 26, 2005

Have a Harman Accentra insert and am currently burning Vulcan and Allegheny Premium pellets, have a ton of each. I prefer the Vulcan as it seems to create less ash. My question is I have seen several posts about softwood pellets burning hotter and was hoping to get some additional info on them. Such as: burn rate comparable to hardwood, amount of ash, and anything else.

Thx in advance,

Dana

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Xanndra

Just try lots of different brands of pellets and see which you like best.
Since you have a Harman, pellet quality is never going to be an issue with you. Burn anything. With those that are posting about softwoods, they are more than likely using top-feed pellet stoves and have a hard time using anything else.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2005 at 10:32PM
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Sirata1

Thx for the quick reply. I am located in central Ohio and pellet choice is almost nonexistent. Will try whatever I can find though.

Stay warm,

Dana

    Bookmark   January 27, 2005 at 6:18PM
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eric01

From my research I have found that there is no "technical" difference in burning a hardwood or a softwood. You have sawdust that is compressed into a pellet and packaged in a 40 lb bag. One way of looking at it is a ton of feathers or a ton of brick....bottom line is it is still a ton. The biggest difference between burning hardwoods to softwoods is the cleanliness. Softwoods seem to burn alot cleaner than hardwoods.

Since the feed rate is controlled by the auger you wont burn more softwood pellets than hardwood.

Try not to think in terms of a true wood stove, where softwood is tabboo.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 11:47PM
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Sirata1

I would have guessed hardwoods would have burnt cleaner that soft. I further assumed the primary difference is the density of the wood but questioned this due to the force exerted by the extrusion process.

Thank you for the information,

Dana

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 10:29PM
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brad_brown2

I have only seen one brand of pellets that are not specifically marked "hardwood". Those are the Bio-Plus wood pellets that Wal-Mart sells around here; $3 per bag. They are made by the Pennington Seed company - they might be softwood; I don't know.

I've used the Bio-Plus pellets from Walmart, Stove Chow from Home Depot, and Liginetics pellets from Lowes - and they all seem to give about the same amt of heat. The difference has been in ash and cleaning. The Walmart brand gives much less ash and clinkers; but the residue it does leave seems to fuse itself to the firepot, and I have to use a small sharp wood chisel to scrape it away every few days.

The Stove Chow and Liginetics brands leave more clinkers, but they tend to "clump" together and they seem a bit easier to remove from the firepot.

No big deal either way. I use all 3 brands; it just depends on what store I'm closest to when I need pellets as to what brand I buy.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 12:01PM
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ChuckWood

Not a chemist or anything but I would think that hard woods and softwoods have heating values (btu's per pound) that vary much like Propane and Natural Gas do.

I have burned the Bio Plus pellets ($2.89 a bag at Sam's Club but am told that the supplier, Pennington, is no longer in business). These don't seem to burn as well but have less ash but also don't put out as much heat.

With more heat put out you can run your auger slower thus using less pellets. At least that's the way it works for us.

Best I have found is a product named "Dry Creek" produced from hardwoods here in upstate New York. Priced at less than $4 a bag they are a good buy.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2005 at 8:02PM
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Sirata1

Picked up a ton from Central Tractor Supply and they seem to be loaded with sand. Normal?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2005 at 8:56PM
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Xanndra

I've never heard of or seen sand in pellets. Take them back. Can't burn dirt.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2005 at 10:52PM
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Sirata1

would guess it's from the finishing process, from sandpaper. It seems to burn great, almost no ash and no other issues. Also seems to burn a bit hotter than the Vulcan. Just get a bit of sand in the ash pan

    Bookmark   March 3, 2005 at 8:43PM
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Asatxj

any recommendations for the most efficient pellet? I'm using Pinnacle right now but willing to try others. Pinnacle are fir and I've not tried hardwood, anyone have a name of hardwoods that are available in Michigan?
TIA

    Bookmark   March 4, 2005 at 10:06PM
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auburn1

Hi, I'm getting a headache trying to get pellets for our new stove we don't even have yet(even they were hard to get right away.)Pellets are hard to come by around here in Maine. I've heard mixed messages about hard/soft pellets. I've been told that soft have more tendency to cause soot and clog burn pot holes. We might have to end up getting Pennington supposed to be 100% hardwood(oak) with low ash/moisture. We have also been told we should set temp at med. or high for less clogging or whatever. Our stove is top fed auger, does this really matter? It is an Avalon. We have to hurry and get pellets, unfortunately some places that are out may not have any until January. ugg! Thanks for any help/suggestions.
Confused in Maine

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 9:46AM
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berlin

"Not a chemist or anything but I would think that hard woods and softwoods have heating values (btu's per pound) that vary much like Propane and Natural Gas do."

they do - slightly. the problem is everyone is used to thinking of hardwoods and softwoods in terms of how much heat they give per chord- a VOLUME measurement; this thinking becomes uselees for pellets because they are sold by (fairly dry) WEIGHT. when measured by weight all wood has almost the same btu/lb (providing its been proporly seasoned, i'm not talking about wet wood here). the only variation is that some softwoods such as fir trees have lots of pitch which burns very hot and increases the btu content of the wood higher than it would otherwise be.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 12:07PM
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Xanndra

This year, you may not have a choice.

If you can find it, burn it.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 3:30PM
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Sirata1

Pellet plentiful in central Ohio. 2 weeks ago they were $175 a ton, now $220. Seems someone figured something out...

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 8:40PM
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jaa52

Time to get greedy, A ton of Pinnacle at a feed store here in Hanover, Massachusets $290.00 and you get to pick it up too. We could be back to oil and gas if the greed keeps up.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 9:32PM
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rayers2

Here we bought a ton of urika pellets from Walmart a month ago for 165.00 then we checked at the local feed store and they wanted 215.00 for the same pellets...

    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 6:29AM
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boxerkisses4me

My inlaws just brought us 2 ton over from Idaho , they usually bring pellets over when the visit us because they are cheaper then in washington state,and no tax . Last year they ran 125 a ton no tax , this year they are 150 a ton for lignetics.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 11:13AM
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begreen1

That's a good price for Lignetics. We paid $180/ton. However, isn't Lignetics western plant in SandPoint Idaho? Transportation costs are high this year and that is contributing to increased costs.

RE: softwood vs hardwood. I researched this to death a couple years ago and found that there was actually a slight advantage to softwood pellets as far as btu output. That surprised me. I've tried soft pine, hardwood, fir etc. pellets. Found that the quality of the pellet - consistent sizing and minimal fines - seems to be a better criteria. I never could snse a heat difference, but can see a difference in the way the pellets burn. Bad pellets will lead to an inconsistent feed and widely varying flame. They can also lead to more ash buildup. I see this is I burn stuff from the local grocery store under the Western Family brand. So I generally go by price + quality. Mostly buring Lignetics, though I am trying out Blazer by West Or. Wood Products this year (fir and cedar). They smell better than Lignetics, but seem to burn about the same. Check out Pellet Fuels Institute for more info. They have a btu calculator, supplier info, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pellet Fuels Institute

    Bookmark   November 5, 2005 at 1:46PM
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wavemaster

Softwood Softwood Softwood

A pound is a pound is a pound.

This is physics not marketing.

I threw in a link to some information between the two.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wood Pellet Information.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 3:30PM
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franktank232

We burn @ pellet called Golden Fire by Bear MTN...paying a little over 200 here in WI.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 12:28AM
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zeta

Paid 285 for a ton in Taunton, Massachusetts the first week in November. Even if it's not by much, it's still a little cheaper than oil. Most places here are rationing and will only sell 10 or 20 bags at a time. Lucky if you can find a place to sell you a ton. Lowes had them at 198 a ton but they sold out in a couple of hours. The price gouging is ridiculous.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 8:31AM
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jac2086

Pre-order.... I spent 165 a ton for premium pellets in August, recieved them in September. Four tons stacked in the garage and I am done for the season. All I have left to do is cleaning the stove and enjoy the warm house.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 8:13PM
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ron_marino_ieee_org

What actually are the pellets sold at Sams and Lowes that are manufactured by Pennington Seed (Madison GA). They are advertised to be premium hardwood and low ash. They are relatively inexpensive ($3.88/40 lb bag)or $194/ton which is the lowest I have seve seen it in NJ. I have been burning them for about a month and I appear to be going through them faster than my previous brand.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 6:46AM
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jaldinger_elknet_net

I'm new to this pellet stove thing. I have an Enviro and I live in Wisconsin. I still am not sure what type of pellet is better. My dealer supplied me with 1/2 ton of softwood pellets for free when I bought the stove. He claims softwood is better. I went back to him and he said that he's charging $4.50 for a 40# bag of what he considers the best pellets. OUCH!!! I went to Lowes and bought 10 bags of Pennington pellets on sale for $3.15 & no tax a bag which comes out to $150.50/ton. They are hardwood and claim to be low ash.

I'm still burning the softwood pellets so what I did was to stick a meat thermometer in one of the output tubes. It said 150 degrees F. I have it running at only the 2nd level out of 5. When I start with the hardwood I'll check it again. I know this doesn't sound very scientific but at least I should get an idea. As far as ash & clinkers, well that's another issue.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 5:30PM
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bikesr2tired

I have been burning these Pennington pellets for 2 days now and to be perfectly honest, I really don't see that much of a difference. The unscientific meat thermometer experiment indicated a range between 130 and 165 degrees at the same settings as in my last post. I also made sure that the stove was thoroughly clean in both tests. I believe that the inconsistent temperature readings was due to varying fuel rates by the auger. There may be a little more clinkering in the burn pot, but I don't see that as a problem because it doesn't seem to affect the output temperature and I clean the stove every 4-5 days anyway. I can't say that I've see any more ash than I did with the softwood pellets either.

To sum it up, I really think that the Pennington hardwood pellets are the better choice from a price standpoint. Performance is about equal & maintenance is a little higher, but the high difference in cost, to me, well worth it!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 7:03PM
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bikesr2tired

A follow up on my last post. The Pennington pellets perform as I said, but I have to clean the burn pot almost every day. There seems to be a lot more clinkering and sand. The amount of creosote buildup on the glass seems to be a lot less however. As I said before, I'm still new at this and still experimenting.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 6:46PM
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pennington_cust_serv

Issues have been brought up in this Blog about the quality of Pennington Wood Pellets. Concerns have ranged from how well they burn, the amount of ash and clinkers they produce, and an excess of fines or dust in the bag. The fact that many of you have encountered problems with our pellets is very concerning to us and we would like to work with you to resolve them.

Some background - Pennington has five wood pellet plants in the East and Midwest of the US. The pellet mills in Missouri and Virginia have been in operation for many years and make an excellent product. In the last 12 months, three new pellet mills have been built to help alleviate the pellet shortages from previous years. We have experienced some quality problems from these plants as they were started up. Pennington Seed has high standards for all of their products, and we regularly test our wood pellets for ash, length, fines, and BTU. Despite these tests and our best efforts, it appears some sub-standard pellets from these new plants made it into the marketplace.

If you have recently purchased Pennington Wood Pellets and not satisfied with them, you can contact Customer Service at 1-800-658-0410 or email mauge@penningtonseed.com. Please note the lot number on the bag (usually embossed near the top seal of the bag), where and when you bought them, and what the issues are with the product.

Below are some comments concerning other questions raised by several Bloggers on other sites:

Pellet storage - When possible, store wood pellets inside, out of the weather. If kept dry pellets can be stored from season to season. If this is not possible and you must store outside, keep product off the ground to prevent moisture from wicking from below, and cover with a tarp to protect from rain, snow and sun.

Small holes in bags - The small holes along the top seal are added to assist bagging and palletizing of the product during the manufacturing process. These holes allow air to escape after sealing. In the absence of these holes, the trapped air would blow-out the seals when product is stacked on a pallet.

Brands - Bio Plus and NatureÂs Heat are both manufactured by Pennington. NatureÂs Heat is a new brand launched in 2007 and is meant to replace the older Bio-Plus brand.

Customer Service  Pennington Seed

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 2:13PM
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bikesr2tired

My hat's off to Pennington for their heads up response to the issues brought up in this thread! I can only assume from their post that they are conscientious and want to correct a problem with their product. I am going to email them and hopefully this will help them in some small way.

Jim

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 12:24PM
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bikesr2tired

I do believe they've corrected the problem. I purchased some more pellets and have gone through 2 bags so far and the amount of ash is negligable and no clinkers. I'm going back today to get some more.

Jim

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 10:11AM
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pennington_cust_serv

Jim,

How are the pellets working for you now? BDB

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 12:25PM
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bikesr2tired

BDB,
The pellets are working great! It's been about a week since I had to clean the stove.

Anybody who thinks this may be a sales gimmick, believe me it's not!!! I have never seen a company so responsive to a product issue!!!!! I recommend them highly *****!!

Jim

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 6:27PM
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rf_wicks_nf_sympatico_ca

My pellet stove gets more heat from the hardwood pellets and they burn cleaner. The softwood pellets give off more soot and more clinkers in the burn pot.

Here is a link that might be useful: Shed building plans.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 6:10PM
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ke6seh_arrl_net

Softwood pellets have a slightly higher BTU output (about 9% more) than hardwood pellets. Results of one study show that white oak pellets (a serious hardwood) yields about 8810 BTU/pound, while Yellow Pine yields about 9610 BTU/pound. One explanation is that softwood has a higher lignin (also spelled LIGNEN) content. Lignin yields more heat when burned than does cellulose - these are the major components of dried wood. Also, softwood seems to yield less ash than hardwood, which indicates a more complete combustion -- hence, a higher heat output per pound.

If you are having clinker problems, this could be due to sand and mineral content (dirt in the wood) that is fused at the higher temperatures of the pellet burn in the pot. Try a better brand. Look for the symbol of the Pellet Fuels Institute as an indicator of quality. Pellets that meet the standards of quality of the PFI will be cleaner and less likely to form clinkers in a properly installed and adjusted pellet stove.

This summer I purchased a Dell-Pointe Europa 75. This stove pyrolizes the wood: it creates a heat bed that gasifies the wood. Air is mixed just above the heat bed allowing combustion at high temperatures (above 1200 degrees) while the pellet fuel pyrolizes at about 500 degrees so that any sand that may be present does not melt and form clinkers. It yields better than 85% thermal conversion with very low ash and fly ash. I am very impressed with ease and reliability of the Dell-Pointe Europa 75. It even has a battery backup to keep the stove running for over 5 hours if there is a power outage.

When it is 20 degrees outside, I can keep my 1500 square foot Cape Cod style home toasty warm with 60 pounds of softwood pellets for a 24 hour period. With oil at $2.50/gallon, heating with oil vs. heating with softwood pellets at $300/ton the heating costs are just about the same. But with wood pellets, I release less carbon into the atmosphere - more than a ton less per heating season. And, the ash goes into my compost heap, making the compost just slightly more alkaline ... great for my azeleas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pellet Fuels Institute introduces a new Pellet Standards and Quality program for 2009

    Bookmark   November 18, 2008 at 11:18PM
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countryboymo

I would like to grind up a few hedge 'osage orange' trees and press them into pellets bark and all. I would then get a few bags of regular big box store pellets and some 'good' pellets and make a comparison.
I find it hard to believe that grinding up a pine tree and making pellets is comparable to something like old hedge.
If this were the case and you pelleted a bunch of coal dust and compared it to pelleted ground up prairie grass it should be a similar output. I just solved the energy crisis!

Between what is available in most big box stores there probably isn't a huge difference.. but there are some woods that in pellet form would probably be very impressive, especially for them extremely cold days/nights.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 11:17PM
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radeeoh_sbcglobal_net

I have found that Bear Mountain pellets from Oregon are the best.
I have tried many others and the Bear Mountain are the only ones I will put through my stoves.
I have heard that some pellets are put together with animal fat and if that is true then I would imagine this would really crud up your stove and vent pipe.
A ton of Bear Mountain is going for $370.00 in Southern California.
This spring they were $292.00.
At this rate the pellet stove may become extinct in a few years.
Greed will have killed another fine invention and unfortunately I just put out $5000.00 for a new Austroflamm.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2008 at 11:40PM
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