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March 26, 2021
By Brian Gray
Given the variety of wood pellet heating options and individual consumer preferences, there is really no such thing as a "best type of wood pellet," or "best overall wood pellet brand." There is, though, a "best wood pellet for you." How do you choose? Ask yourself these questions:
Which pellets are better - hardwood or softwood?
For traditional wood burning stoves, hardwood firewood is usually considered better because it burns longer and has more heat energy. With wood pellets this is not the case. Wood pellets are compressed, so the density of both hardwood and softwood pellets is about the same. Depending on the species of wood and other factors, softwood pellets can have 10-20% more BTU per weight than hardwood pellets because softwoods have resins in them that have a higher heating value than wood fiber.
What's the difference between regular and premium grade?
Even though some wood pellet producers manufacture a "regular" grade and a "premium" grade, there is no set standard for these labels. It's best to know the differences. For example, pellets can be made from:
- A single species of wood
- Mixed species of wood
- Either with pure hardwood or all softwood
- Lumber scrap
- Fillers like paper, cardboard, and bark
- Sustainably harvested forests
Do you want to buy locally produced eco-friendly wood pellets?
Some wood pellet brands are only available locally; some wood pellet brands are widely available in Big Box stores; and other wood pellets can only be ordered online.
There are many advantages to buying local including keeping local loggers and mill workers employed. Also, the energy required to transport wood pellets is huge so keeping the transport distances short helps the environment.
At the Energy Co-op of Vermont, we have been delivering premium quality wood pellets to our customers since 2008. We are proud to feature premium pellets from Vermont Wood Pellet Company which burn hotter and produce less ash than other pellets. These pellets are always ranked near the top in quality in many national surveys and are made in Vermont from whole debarked premium softwood logs. Here is why we recommend them:
- Heat output - This is measured in BTUs, so look for pellets that have higher BTU ratings. The best pellets are in the 8,000-8,500 range.
- Low Moisture Content - If you use low moisture pellets it won't take as long to light your pellet stove. The best pellets have a moisture content of 6.5% and below.
- Low Ash Content - This describes how much ash is left over in proportion to how much wood was burned. Having a lot of ash produced will make your stove run less efficiently, so look for pellets that are labeled "low ash content" A volume of .6% or less is a good choice.
- No additives or bark - Pellets without bark, cardboard, glue, or recycled materials burn hotter and produce less ash.
Interested in giving the Vermont Wood Pellets a try? Just call the Energy Co-op at 802-860-4090 to learn more about our wood pellet delivery program or stop in our headquarters in Colchester to pick up your free bag of wood pellets to "try before you buy".