Everything You Need to Know About Pellet Stoves, Part 2
Now that you understand how pellet stoves operate from Pellet Stoves Pt 1, Part 2 will provide you with more information about wood pellets and what makes pellet stoves the most environmentally friendly heating system.
Wood pellets are a recycled, renewable resource that does not contribute to increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, making them an environmentally friendly fuel source. This is not the only reason that pellet stoves are environmentally friendly.
The overall efficiency of pellet stoves is 78% – 85%. The low moisture content in wood pellets helps keep the efficiency very high. Pellet stoves produce so little smoke and pollution that they exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air standards for wood stoves.
Understanding Wood Pellets
Wood pellets are made from recycled wood bi-products such as wood shavings, chips, and saw dust. These milling bi-products, which would otherwise end up in landfills, are dried and compressed into pellets that look similar to rabbit food. They are cylindrically shaped and less than 1.5 inches long. The compression process causes the resin the wood by-products to act as a natural glue, keeping the pellets shape.
Due to the unique composition of wood pellets, they produce a far greater heat output than regular wood. According to a scientific study, wood pellets produce 77% more BTUs per square foot than firewood which means that less fuel is needed to produce adequate heat.
Pellets come in different varieties and grades depending on the types of wood and amount of bark used. The more bark used to make pellets, the more ash will be produced. Premium grades contain less bark which allows them to produce less than 1% of ash. You can purchase premium grade pellets made from both hard and soft woods. The types available in your region will usually be determined by the trees that are used by your local lumber mills. All varieties still burn hotter than regular wood and produce less ash and less smoke. They also produce little to no creosote.
The standards and grades for pellets are set by the Pellet Fuels Institute. This organization offers more detailed information about pellet fuel. Your local hearth store that sells pellet stoves can provide you with information about the various local sources of pellet fuel. Many of these hearth stores also sell pellet fuel.
Unlike wood, you do not have to wait for wood pellets to be seasoned. You can use them as soon as you purchase them. They come in 40 pound bags that can be easily stacked and stored. It is important to store them in a dry location. Pellets will swell with moisture and partly decompose into sawdust if they are stored in damp places and there are any punctures in their plastic bags. When this happens, these partly decomposed pellets should never be used in a pellet stove.
Average homes usually need around 3 tons of pellets, during a cold winter, to keep you and your family warm for the whole season. Your specific pellet use will depend greatly on how warm you keep your home, how large it is and how well it is insulated. You will need to fill the hopper of your stove every day or two, depending on the size of your hopper and desired temperature for your home. Before buying wood pellets in bulk, it is a good idea to try out different varieties to see which you prefer. Some brands produce more ash than others ash. Excess ash results in the need for much more frequent burn pot and ash removal. Trying out different brands and grades will allow you to select the best type. Most experienced pellet stove users find that paying a little more for pellets that have low ash is well worth the extra cost.
If you are interested in learning more about pellet stoves or finding top quality pellet stoves for your home, talk to one of our experts or stop back for the last installment of this series on the purchasing & installation of pellet stoves.