How to Buy Quality Pellet Stove Or Boiler
- Introduction In To Wood Pellets and Biomass Pellets
- Why are wood and biomass fuel pellets so popular?
- Why Being Dependant On Premium Wood Pellets Is Dangerous
- How the premium pellet fuel market is not sustainable
- Biomass Fuels Pellets From Resources Other Than Wood
- It’s not all about wood, other materials can make fuel pellets
- How Do Wood Pellet Stoves and Wood Pellet Boilers Work?
- Details on how pellet burners burn fuel pellets automatically
- Details On The PelHeat Wood Pellet and Biomass Pellet Boiler
- Information on the biomass pellet boiler installed heat a PelHeat
- Why Choose A Biomass Burner Over A Wood Pellet Burner?
- The advantages of been able to burn all biomass fuel pellets
- What Are The Differences Between Different Brands and Makes?
- No all pellet stoves are made to the same standards and quality
- Examples Of Problem Pellet Stove and Boiler Burn Pots
- What sort of issues during pellet burning can some stoves experience?
- Heating Your Home With Pellets Made Locally From Local Biomass
- Keeping annual pellet fuel costs to a minimum with fuel flexibility
- Help With Choosing and Sourcing Quality Pellet Stoves and Boilers
- How PelHeat can help you source the best pellet burners and the best price
Introduction In To Wood Pellets And Biomass Pellets
Over the last decade there have been two major factors, which have been driving the growth of the pellet fuel market. The first is consistent rise in the cost of fossil fuels and price instability, and the second is the increased attention of the effects of using fossil fuels such as oil and gas on the environment. Other factors, which support the case for pellets is they are a fuel that can be produced locally, from local wood and biomass materials. Pellet production and distribution can produce an affordable fuel, creating local jobs while keeping the fuels carbon footprint to a minimum.
But Why Pellets Instead of Just Logs? One question that many people ask is why have pellets instead of just burning logs? Well, there are many reasons, but firstly logs only come from trees, which in general, grow very slowly. Pellets can be made from practically any biomass material including straws, grasses, energy crops etc. For example hemp is set to be a biomass fuel
leader, from seed to harvest only takes 3 months, and hemp pellet have very similar combustion results to most wood pellets. The other main reasons for pellets over logs are that pellets burn much more efficiently, this means pellets produce less ash, less smoke and more heat. Also pellets have a uniform size, shape, density and moisture content. These consistent qualities make it possible to design highly automated combustion systems such as modern wood pellet stoves and boilers.
But Aren’t Pellets Much More Expensive Than Logs?
It’s true on a per weight basis, for example one ton of wood logs compared to one ton of wood pellets, logs are cheaper. However, you have to look at the details to do an accurate cost comparison. For example wood pellets always have moisture content below 10%, and in many cases it is lower than this around the 5-8% mark. You can be confident of this fact, as its impossible for a pellet to have a high density and smooth surface with higher moisture content. However, wood logs are often sold with practically no drying taking place, as a note a seasoned log takes about two years to dry and even
then you are still looking at a moisture content of minimum 25%, however these logs are more expensive. The logs that many consumers compare the price of to pellets have moisture content of between 40-50%. So these cheap logs are almost half water, and as we all know water doesn’t burn very well, and will just cause low combustion efficiency, low heat and increased smoke and ash. Therefore with wood pellets, a ton of fuel pellets last much longer than a ton of wood. Therefore on a cost comparison basis you should compare by heat generated, not by weight. On a heat-generated basis, the cost of wood pellets is very competitive to logs. This also does not factor in the advantages of been able to use pellets in highly automated wood pellet stoves and boilers.
Why Being Dependant On Premium Wood Pellets Is Dangerous
Wood pellet fuel, wood pellet stoves and boilers have actually existed since the 1970’s. A group of animal feed producers decided to experiment with their equipment to produce wood pellets for fuel. The innovation was sparked due to the 1973 oil crisis, which saw oil prices skyrocket, as we have also seen within recent years. The 1973 oil crisis lead to several alternative energy innovations, however as the oil prices returned to their previous levels, many of these innovations, including wood pellets and pellet stoves were forgotten. However, the last decade has seen a revival of alternative energy and renewable energy technologies, including that of wood pellets and pellet heating systems. Europe and Sweden particularly have embraced the wood pellet technology. For example in 2006
Sweden used 1.4 million tons of pellets, compare that to next closest which was Italy at 0.5 million tons. By 2020 Europe is expected to consume 50 million tons of fuel pellets every year. The US market is also rapidly expanding. Wood pellets have many advantages over fossil fuels. Not only are they a cheaper alternative, but they can also reduce carbon dioxide emissions and also support the economy with much needed jobs, and keep money spent within the local economy.
Premium Wood Pellets, The Staple of the Pellet Fuel Industry
When most consumers and journalists refer to wood pellets, what they are more specifically referring to is premium wood pellets. Premium wood pellets are produced from only a few selected wood species such as pine, spruce and oak sawdust, and this sawdust is mainly sourced from timber processing. The fuel pellets are referred to as premium grade, as they produce the lowest ash content of any fuel pellet, and therefore require the least amount of maintenance. To produce a premium
grade pellet, the sawdust must also be free from bark, to keep the ash content produced to a minimum. The premium fuel pellet was developed in Sweden.
What’s the Problem With The Premium Wood Pellet
As stated the premium wood pellet fuel was developed in Sweden. Sweden has huge forest reserves and a massive timber industry. Therefore it is obvious why Sweden saw the potential in wood pellets to provide them with a local supply of fuel using their own resources. However, Sweden also has a relatively small population of only 10 million people. Therefore they have easily enough waste wood residue to support their own population with premium wood pellets. However the same specification premium wood pellet is now a global fuel. It’s clear though that simply using pine, spruce and oak sawdust as a raw material is not sustainable to support and grow the global pellet fuel market. Yet, to this day the emphasis is firmly on premium wood pellet fuel, made from these resources. Not
surprising though really, as any increase in demand for premium wood pellets will increase the price
of sawdust, a material which the timber industry used to have to pay to dispose of. Therefore it’s in the timber industries interest to focus purely on premium grade fuel pellets, however it’s not in the best interest of consumers. The problem is most wood pellet stove and boiler manufacturers have been designing their products to the specifications of premium grade wood pellets. Which means if you buy one of their pellet stoves or boilers, you will be forced into buying only premium grade wood pellet fuel
Biomass Fuels Pellets From Resources Other Than Wood
Now, premium wood pellets are just one form of pellet fuel. The fact is you can compress pretty much any other wood resource of biomass material into pellet form, and use it as a fuel. However, as you would expect, each material has its own combustion characteristics.
Other Wood Resources Which Could Be Used For Fuel Pellets
There is so much potential wood waste that can be processed into fuel pellets, which cannot currently be used to produce premium grade pellet fuel. For example, waste generated from woodland management could be used, as much of this wood waste still goes to landfill or is burnt for no benefit. There are many other sources of wood that could be processed into fuel pellets. Other grades of
wood pellet fuel will produce a slightly higher ash content but the same heat value as premium grade pellets. However most pellet stoves and boilers cannot deal with the small increase in ash.
Biomass Materials Which Could Be Used For Fuel Pellets
Biomass simply refers to any organic material, which can be used as a potential fuel source. Therefore biomass includes all forms of wood, but it also includes grasses, straws and energy crops. All of these materials can be processed into fuel pellets. There are
many biomass alternatives to wood, which have a much shorter growing cycle. With a shorter growing cycle much more biomass can be produced to meet the demands of the fuel pellet market now and into the future. The biomass could be purpose grown or taken from existing industries, for example the straw from wheat and barley, or the cobs and stalks from corn production. Purpose grown biomass could include Switchgrass, Miscanthus, Reed Canary Grass or Hemp. Hemp is not marijuana, and cannot be used as a drug, and without Hemp the developed world wouldn’t exist. However, through propaganda a crop that was grown by 1 in 3 farmers is now hardly seen. However Hemp is making a return, and is an excellent resource for biomass fuel pellets. It only takes 3 months from seed to harvest,
and Hemp fuel pellets burn very similar to wood pellets. Hemp also requires no fertiliser and can be grown on land that cannot be used for food crops. Put simply, Hemp is the future of biomass pellets.
Burning Biomass Pellets In Pellet Stoves and Boilers
Some pellet stove and boiler manufacturers realise that wood pellets and particularly premium wood pellets cannot meet the future demands of the pellet fuel market. These manufactures have therefore designed their pellet burners to be able to deal with the challenges created through burning biomass fuel pellets, while still providing the consumer with an automated low maintenance-heating appliance.
How Do Wood Pellet Stoves and Wood Pellet Boilers Work?
Before we go on to differences between fuel flexible quality pellet stoves and other pellet stoves and boilers, here is a basic summary of how pellet stoves and boilers operate in general. The image to the right is of a Calimax Twist, which is a wood pellet stove with a back boiler. Calimax provide a clear diagram of the internals and components of the wood pellet stove, which is the reason for choosing this image.
Wood Pellet Fuel Hopper
As you can see from the diagram, wood pellet fuel is loaded into the top of the stove, with a pellet feed auger at the bottom of the fuel hopper. The auger turns and pushes the wood fuel pellets up into the top of the chamber, where the pellets drop down into the burn pot.
Drop Down Burn Pot Design
Once the pellet fuel falls down into the burn pot, a hot air igniter starts the fire automatically. A combustion fan then feeds the fire with the correct amount of air to achieve maximum combustion efficiency and minimum ash.
As you can see from the image, the ash generated from combustion falls through the grate into the ash draw below.
The Standard Pellet Stove and Boiler Design For Premium Wood Pellet Fuel
This is the internal design of the majority of pellet stoves and boilers on the market today, designed specifically around the characteristics of premium wood pellet fuel. However this also means these pellet stoves and boilers are extremely limited in their use of pellet fuel to only premium grade.
FREE PelHeat Consultation Service
The PelHeat Wood Pellet Stove and Boiler Guide provides concise information to show you what you need to know to find the best wood pellet stoves and boilers, you may have specific questions to do with a certain pellet fuel, stove or boiler which you need personal help with. Well, every customer of the PelHeat guide also receives free access to ask the PelHeat team your specific questions.
Heating Your Home With Pellets Made Locally From Local Biomass
Another positive from purchasing a fuel flexible biomass pellet stove or boiler as described in the PelHeat Wood Pellet Stove and Boiler guide, is the ability to use locally produced biomass fuel pellets. Some of you may live close to a premium wood pellet manufacturing plant, which would be your local supply, however this is not the case for most of us.
Premium Wood Pellet Fuel and The Import Market
The facts are that as the pellet fuel market developed in Europe and the US, the premium pellet fuel market started to see pellets imported and exported all over the world. For example the US currently exports much of the pellets they produce over to Europe, and import much of the pellets for residential consumers from Canada. Also, due to lower labour and operating costs, many of the fuel pellets for residential customers in the US and Europe are now imported from developing countries.
This has created various issues, for example many of the developing countries do not produce the pellets to the ‘premium’ grade to which they are advertised and sold. This has therefore created issues for consumers with pellet stoves and boilers designed to burn only true premium grade pellets, meaning in many cases the consumers have purchased tons of fuel which they cannot burn. Also, importing fuel pellets does increase its carbon footprint as well as its cost to the consumer. The alternative is small-scale local pellet fuel production using local biomass materials.
Small Scale Local Biomass Fuel Pellet Production Benefits
Generates local jobs in biomass collection, pellet processing and distribution Keeps money spent within the local area, further supporting the local economy Reduces the amount of biomass currently going to local landfills
Reduced raw material and finished pellet fuel transportation
Reduced transportation means fewer carbon emissions and reduced fossil fuel costs
Less transposition costs means small scale production is viable and profitable
Less transportation and using local biomass means a cheap fuel for the consumer
Only Fuel Flexible Biomass Pellet Stoves and Boilers Will Work
As you can see there are many benefits for the economy and the pellet fuel consumer with a local fuel supply chain. However, only consumers with fuel flexible biomass pellet stoves and boilers will be able to use the fuel. But also, for a local pellet production system to be possible, it needs consumers to own fuel flexible biomass pellet stoves and boilers. Therefore even though a local supply of biomass fuel pellets may not be available to you now, purchasing a biomass pellet burner as apposed to a wood pellet burner will mean you will be able to support a local start up, with the rewards of cheaper fuel.