Advantages of Wood Pellets
Because pellets are made from wood, they have the same advantages as firewood – they are a local, renewable, low-cost fuel. Wood pellets are very low in moisture (water) and ash content, so they burn hot and cleanly. Fuel pellets are limited to 1 percent (Premium-grade) to 3 percent (Standard) ash. Regular firewood has more ash due to the presence of bark. Wood pellets are also small and easy to handle. They are generally available in 40-pound bags, but in some areas they are available in bulk. There is very little dust and no bark. Many pellet-burning stoves have hoppers with feed screws that automatically feed the pellets into the fire when fuel is needed. Larger furnaces are available that have larger storage silos that also automatically feed fuel into the furnace when needed. Both systems require little maintenance because the pellets burn very cleanly. Pellets have a number of “environment-friendly” attributes. Pellets are usually made from wood processing byproducts (e.g. sawdust), so a valuable product is made from a potential waste material. Wood is inexpensive compared with most fuel options. Pellets are more expensive than some other forms of wood fuel (sawdust or firewood), but they are usually cheaper than oil, natural gas or electricity.
How Pellets Are Used
Wood pellets are generally burned for heat, although they may also be used to generate process steam and/or electricity. The stoves to burn pellets can range from large commercial boilers to small, residential heaters. Many pellet-burning stoves have hoppers (storage bins) and thermostatically-controlled augers that push pellets into the fire automatically. These stoves have to be loaded less frequently than traditional firewood-burning appliances.
In smaller operations, once the pellets are burned the remaining ash must be removed periodically (about once per week) from the stoves. The amount of ash is low compared with traditional firewood that has bark. Well-formed pellets will create very little dust or debris. All these factors make burning wood pellets a clean and convenient way to heat compared with traditional wood fuels.