by Michael Scanlon, National Sales & Marketing Manager for American Wood Fibers

There is a misconception that softwood fuel pellets do not perform as well as hardwood fuel pellets. The reason for this is that many people believe the fuel used in pellet stoves performs the same as fuel for wood stoves.  That is incorrect. Conventional wisdom is that one should not burn softwood logs in wood stoves because the potential for creosote buildup can cause chimney fires. But fuel pellets behave differently than cordwood and pellet stoves have different ways of combusting fuel pellets to produce heat than cordwood stoves.

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  • In some cases cordwood is burned green (not dried) and even seasoned cordwood can have a moisture content of 25% or more, which will reduce the BTU output when burned. Creosote can be formed in a chimney when cordwood is burned due to incomplete combustion. The risk of incomplete combustion goes up with wet, bark covered or large pieces of cordwood.
  • Fuel pellets are typically dried to a moisture content of about 5%. This increases the BTU output over cordwood because heat isn’t wasted evaporating excess water. In pellet form, all the wood fiber is very consistent in size and moisture content, and the stoves are designed to provide enough air for complete combustion. With complete combustion all the fuel in wood pellets is used to create heat, rather than smoke, which is the case with cordwood.
  • Another misconception is that softwood pellets are not as dense as hardwood fuel pellets. Actually, independent testing shows that softwood fuel pellets and hardwood fuel pellets have the same density due to the pellet refinement process. Cord is a volume measurement and softwood cordwood is lighter weight by volume than hardwood cordwood. Because of this, if you buy firewood by the cord, you wont get as much heat per cord. But the compression in fuel pellets removes this difference between a hardwood fuel pellet and a softwood fuel pellet.
  • Fuel pellets are sold and tested be weight, so a 40 pound bag of softwood pellets equals a 40 pound bag of hardwood pellets.
    • A good quality hardwood pellet has about 8,000 BTU’s/lb- 320,000 per bag.
    • American Wood Fibers Ultra Premium Softwood pellets have about 8,700 BTU’s/lb- 348,000 per bag- 28,000 BTU more!
    • A good quality hardwood pellet has an ash content around 0.50%.
    • American Wood Fibers Ultra Premium Softwood pellets have an ash content around 0.25%- that’s 1/2 the ash!
  • Overall a good quality softwood fuel pellet will burn hotter and cleaner both in ash and clinkers in the burn pot than a hardwood fuel pellet.
  • There are different types of softwood fuel pellets on the market today. American Wood Fibers Ultra Premium Softwood pellets are produced from Eastern White Pine and out perform others on the market today that are made from other softwood species like Southern Yellow Pine.
  • Every pellet stove is different and it’s important to note that some minor adjustments to the air flow and feed rate may be needed to insure a proper burn. This is true of all fuel pellets regardless of whether or not they are made from hardwood or softwood.

 

For more information on wood pellets offered by Weaver’s Ace Hardware, see our Wood Pellets Sales Flyer.