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Wood Pellets for Sale: How, When, and Where to Shop
Congratulations if you're heating your home with wood pellets. As of
December, 2013 it's 36% cheaper to heat with wood pellets than oil, almost
60% less expensive than heating with propane, and only 7% more expensive
than heating with natural gas - the cheapest heat available.

And if you're a homeowner who has decided to lower your heating bill with a
new pellet stove, your next consideration is the quantity, quality, and price of
the wood pellets.

Quantity
The average 1,800 square foot home requires 3 tons of pellets for one heating
season depending on the severity of the climate
and the quality of insulation.

You can purchase wood pellets in individual 40 lb bags or by the ton. A ton of  
bagged wood pellets can be stacked in an area as small as 4' x 4' x 4' - or
about half the space needed for a cord of wood.

Grades of Wood Pellet Fuel
The Pellet Fuels Institute has initiated new pellet standards to provide
consistency among North America producers and also to protect consumers.
There are four grades of wood pellets: Utility, Standard, Premium and Super
Premium.

The percentage of ash content is the most important component separating
the grades of pellets. Burning wood pellet fuel with 2.0% ash content vs 0.5 %
not only decreases efficiency but quadruples the amount of residual ash for
disposal.

Utility grade pellets (6% or less ash) are seldom used in residential
applications since the volume of residual ash requires an automatic removal
system.

Standard grade pellet fuel (2% or less ash) is usually derived from materials
such as sawdust containing tree bark (which contains more impurities) or
agricultural residues like nut hulls. Standard pellets should only be used in
stoves designated for their use.

Premium wood pellets (1% or less ash) are usually produced from hardwood
or softwood sawdust containing no tree bark. Ash content varies in premium
fuels from about 0.3% for some western softwoods to about 0.7% for eastern
hardwoods. Less ash means more Btu's of heat per pellet and less maintenance.

Premium pellets make up over 95% of current pellet production and can usually
be burned in stoves calling for either standard or premium fuel.

Super Premium Pellets (0.50% or less ash) differ from premium pellets in ash
content only. Since the difference in ash content between premium and super
premium pellets can be as little as 3/10 of a percent, super premium pellets
may not always be worth the additional cost.

Wood pellets also come in different lengths; usually between .25 inches and a
maximum of 1.5 inches. Shorter pellets feed faster than longer pellets so if you
change from one length to another you may have to increase or decrease the
feed rate of the stove.
Wood pellet heat content
The Pellet Fuel Institute does not specify BTU content for any grade of wood
pellets. Expect the heat content of wood pellets to range between 7,700 and
8,800 BTU per pound depending on the ratio of soft woods (higher BTUs) to
hardwoods and the grade of pellet.

Wood pellet dealers should specify the BTU value and ash content for each
brand in addition to price per ton.

Pellet durability index
The pellet durability index is a measure of how well pellets stand up during
handling. One hundred grams of finished pellets along with five 1/2 hex nuts
are placed in a tumbler for 5 minutes. The percentage of fines (broken pieces)
that pass through a sieve determines if the manufacturing process is
performing to minimum standards.

Price per ton
The average price of premium wood pellets for sale for the 2014 heating season
is  around $279 per ton plus delivery. A ton of pellets selling for $279 is the
equivalent of paying $2.46 per gallon for heating oil or $1.58 per gallon for
propane.

Delivery costs are determined by the quantity purchased and distance.
Depending on these variables delivery costs run between $20 and $40 per ton.
Some dealers will store your purchase until needed - or split-ship the order.
You might also consider pooling your order with others in the area for
additional savings.

Best time to shop for pellets
The best time to shop for wood pellets is when everybody else is looking for an
air conditioner. Seriously, if you wait until the beginning of the heating season
many of the best deals (lowest price per ton for highest BTU content) may be
sold out - possibly for the season.

Where to buy
You'll find a list of wood pellet dealers on the Wood Pellet Stove home page.
Pellet Fuel Intstitute Wood Pellet Standards
Pellet Properties
Super Premium
Premium
Standard
Utility

Bulk Density lbs/cubic ft

Diameter - Inches

Fines % (at the mill gate)

-Ash %

Moisture Content %

Pellet Durability Index %

40 - 46 lbs

0.25 to 0.285

0.5% or less

0.5% or less

6% or less

≥ 96.5

40 - 46 lbs

0.25 to 0.285

0.5% or less

1.0% or less

8.0% or less

≥ 96.5

38 - 46 lbs

0.25 to 0.285

1.0% or less

2.0% or less

10% or less

≥ 95.0

38 - 46 lbs

0.25 to 0.285

1.0% or less

6.0% or less

10% or less

≥ 95.0