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December 8, 2018
By Brian Gray
At the Energy Co-op of Vermont, we are highly encouraged to see the positive trends in the use of wood pellets for heating fuel. Wood pellets are an important ingredient in reaching Vermont’s goal of heating our residences and buildings with 30% renewable sources by 2025.
Whether you use a wood pellet stove or an advanced whole-home wood pellet heating system, you are already making your contribution to achieving Vermont’s renewable goals while reducing your own personal carbon footprint.
In the big picture, the Pellet Fuel Institute estimates that there are currently 1,000,000 homes and businesses in the U.S. heating with wood pellets. Every ton of pellets used vs. oil reduces CO2 emissions by about 1.5 tons. Total emissions offset this year from burning wood pellets will be nearly 4.5 million tons of CO2.
On an individual level, a homeowner who uses 3 tons of pellets per heating season at an average price of $289/ton would spend about $867 for the season. This is the equivalent fuel cost per million BTU of $22.03. To offer a fuel cost of $22.03 per million BTU, #2 fuel oil and propane would have to be priced at $2.43/gal and $1.61/gal, respectively!
However, not all pellets are created equal, so it’s important to burn a high-quality, low-ash pellet. Here’s what to look for:
- 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.
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.
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. The Co-op is also the only wood pellet provider in Vermont that offers an EASY PAY budget payment plan so that our members can spread the cost of their pellet purchases over ten months of the year.
Interested? Just call the Energy Co-op to learn more about our wood pellet delivery program or stop in to our headquarters to pick up your free bag of wood pellets to “try before you buy”.