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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.

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

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 foot

-Diameter - Inches

-Fines % (at the mill gate)

-Ash %

-Moisture Content %

-Length - no more than 1.5"

-Pellet Durability Index %

40 - 46 lbs

0.25 to 0.285 inches

0.5% or less

0.5% or less

6% or less

1.0% or less

≥ 96.5

40 - 46 lbs

0.25 to 0.285 inches

0.5% or less

1.0% or less

8.0% or less

1.0% or less

≥ 96.5

38 - 46 lbs

0.25 to 0.285 inches

1.0% or less

2.0% or less

10% or less

1.0% or less

≥ 95.0

38 - 46 lbs

0.25 to 0.285 inches

1.0% or less

6.0% or less

10% or less

1.0% or less

≥ 95.0