Types of Pellet Fuel
Types of Pellet Fuel
The most common fuel for pellet stoves, wood pellets are available in standard or premium grade, and are sold nationwide in 20- to 40-pound bags. Wood pellets resemble rabbit food in appearance. They’re an excellent source of home heating that is becoming increasingly popular, since heating with wood pellets is cheaper than using gas, oil, or electricity.
How wood pellets are made
Wood pellets are formed by compressing recycled or leftover wood. Although the wood for making pellets typically comes from sawmills as scrap or sawdust, it is also obtained from furniture manufacturers, recycling centers, roadside scraps, logging residue, and paper packaging plants.
Pellet manufacturers dry, compress, and form scrap wood into small, cylinder-shaped pieces for burning in pellet stoves. These pellets are clean, produce no smoke when burned, and are environmentally friendly.
Where to buy wood pellets
You can find wood pellets in many locations across the country, supplied by more than 60 pellet mills in production. Pellets are shipped to hundreds of building supply stores and department stores, as well as home improvement, hearth appliance, and feed supply stores nationwide.
In addition, many online retailers will arrange for home delivery of wood pellets.
Storing wood pellets
Like regular firewood, wood pellets don’t burn well when wet. Make sure your wood pellets are kept off the ground and stored in a dry location.
If you store wood pellets in a garage or shed, keep them elevated from the floor and easy to access. For outdoor storage, place wood pellets away from buildings and cover only the top, leaving the sides and bottom exposed for air circulation.
A new type of fuel for pellet stoves, corn pellets offer the same cost-effective heating solutions as wood pellet stoves, with increased availability of fuel resources—300 million tons of corn are grown annually in North America.
The cost impact of corn pellets
Similar to wood pellets, 40-pound bags of corn pellets can be purchased for under $4 a bag. In addition to being easy on your wallet, using corn pellets helps to reinvest money in the U.S. economy by subsidizing farming jobs as the demand for corn grows.
The pros and cons of corn pellets
The major disadvantage to using corn pellets to heat your home is that you’ll need to invest in a pellet stove that’s designed specifically for corn. These pellets are messier than wood during burning, so wood pellet stoves can’t handle the excessive ash.
Corn pellet stoves cost around $3,000. However, they typically pay for themselves in a single season of use—if you load pellets every few days, you’ll spend around $30 a month to heat your home, compared to $200 to $250 for gas, electric, or fuel oil.
One main advantage of corn pellets is the environmental impact. These pellets burn cleanly, create recyclable and renewable energy, and are completely safe for the environment.
While the technology does not yet exist to develop stoves capable of handling grass pellets, which have a high ash content, strides are being made toward using grass as fuel for home heating and other applications.
There are many types of grass that have fuel potential, including switchgrass, reed canary grass, miscanthus, and several varieties of straw grass. The advantages that grass pellets would hold over wood or corn pellets are:
- Virtually unlimited resource—grass grows very quickly, without cultivation or special care, and is available all over the world
- Lower costs—the drying process for grass pellets is to simply lay it out in the sun, rather than having to build entire factories to dry pellets, such as with wood and corn
- Heat generation—burning grass pellets gives off as much heat as wood or corn pellets, and grass pellets dry out quickly
The idea of grass pellets is one to watch, as the development of stoves that can burn grass pellets would greatly reduce heating costs and reliance on oil products.