Pellet Stove Fuel
Pellet stoves are designed to use waste product that is derived primary from waste products such as sawdust, used pallet or other wood products that normally could be ending up in our landfills. The waste products are compressed into small pellet of wood, similar to what we associate with rabbit food.
Pellet fuel comes in two different grades. The premium grade makes up about 95% of the fuel produced, where as standard grade make up the balance. All pellets are required to meet certain size and uniformity to ensure a uniform feed rate and reduce jamming or bridging to occur. The optimum size is less then 1.5 inches in length and preferably even less then 1 inch to prevent bridging in the hopper where the pellets drop onto the auger. The premium grade will have less them 1% ash content when the pellets are burned. High ash content is normally caused by an excess amount of bark mixed into the pellet. The lighter in color the pellets are will indicate the amount of bark, e.g. very light means no bark, very dark means a lot of bark. Premium grade pellets can be made from both hard woods and soft woods. The wood that is used is usually determined by the local source of wood that the pellet mill has available to them.
It usually is a good idea to test burn several brands of pellets before making your final choice to determine what you what to stock up on to keep you warm for the winter. Different brand usually will have different prices. Don't rule out the less expensive brands without testing them 1st. Do a visual on the pellets when you empty the bag full of pellet into your stove hopper, make sure there is not a lot of loose sawdust in the bottom of the bag although some sawdust will be normal. Some pellet stoves do not feed this loose fines very well, nor do these fines produce a lot of heat value as they usually just turn into fly ash, meaning more intensive cleaning to keep you pellet stove air flows from being restricted. Some consumers actually screen the fines out of the pellet to ensure correct pellet flow from the auger. Do make sure that the pellet manufacture is supplying premium grade of pellets, as this should be listed on the bag. Most pellet manufacturers belong to an organization called the Pellet Fuel Institute. The Institute has set standards and grades of pellets to help the consumer to better chose the grade that is suitable for their particular pellet stove. Checking to see if the manufacturer belongs to the institute is another indicator the pellet manufacture is trying to supply a quality product, and again this should be listed on the bag.
One big question that is ask over and over, can my pellet stove burn corn kernels. The answer is yes maybe, but in a mixed corn/ pellet mixture only. Corn burns hotter and could shut your stove down due to much heat, so be careful not to be too aggressive with a high heat setting. Corn has a lot of what are called clinkers which are hard substances that build up in the burn pot and have to be removed more often than the buildup from pellets. If these clinkers are not removed, airflows are disrupted and the stove does not function correctly. Most pellet stove manufactures do not recommend corn to be burned in their appliances, as they know of the potential problem the consumer may have. If you do decide to try to burn corn, begin with a limited quantity mix thoroughly with your pellets. The rule of thumb is not to exceed 30% to 50% corn to pellet ratio. You need to ask yourself, why do I want to burn corn? There really are only two answers. First, if there is a shortage of pellets in my area. Second is the price of corn substantially cheaper than pellets to warrant the extra work.
Remember, pellet stoves are a great economical way to heat your house, but you do need to read the owners manual and follow all operating instructions and follow the periodic cleaning recommendations carefully. It is always wise to buy your pellet stove from a company that deals in hearth products, as they are better suited to answer your questions and help you if your stove is not functioning correctly. Most big chain stores and multi product web site do not provide you any service. Often they say call the manufacturer. Please realize that a hearth store or Internet site that did not sell you the stove has no obligation or desire to help you. The manufacture sometimes will help you but in very limited manner, as they expect you to deal with the company that sold you the stove, and usually, when you need the most advice and or help is in the main part to the season when the manufacture is experiencing their highest call volume and may not even respond to your call. Price is important, but if your stove does not work, how much money did you save? A good technician can often walk you though your problem without even showing up at your door, and have your stove back up and running in a shorter time.