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Athens Wood Pellets intial review

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by Fire It Up, Oct 8, 2008.

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  1. hossthehermit

    hossthehermit Minister of Fire

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    "Until last week I thought my stove would burn anything and anyone who had a problem with pellets generally had a problem with every encounter in life and keeps a shotgun near the door."

    Well, 4124, if your remark was directed at me. I would suggest that you hone your reading comprehension skills a bit. Shotgun is in the bedroom.

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  2. lessoil

    lessoil Minister of Fire

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    Here is a picture I posted early on in this thread.
    http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/viewthread/24941/P132/

    The Ash buildup can be seen along the front edge of the burn pot.
    We can deal with this issue(most of the time) just have to clean more often.
    Other designs do not like this at all.
    The ash did snuff out the fire once. Have combustion fan maxed out.

    I do think that Athens will modify their process to meet our needs.
    I hope they do as I want to support a Maine business.

    I have an email in to Bill Carden.
    Have to call our distributor if we want to pursue replacement. (Which Athens has been doing)
  3. novah

    novah Member

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    I have taken the time to become a pellet expert at http://woodpelletsguide.com/home-based-checking-of-quality-pellets/ as
    recommended by 4124elad. I tested the pellets made by Athens Pellets and purchased in August 2008.

    Athens passed with flying colors. There, that should put a smile on our resident pellet expert and self proclaimed Athens Pellet champion (who has never had the pleasure of burning them).

    Unfortunately, there is more to a premium pellet than passing these four tests and believe it our not, our sharp tongued peer apparently is not savvy enough to know this.

    What I am experiencing with the Athens Pellets is insufficient binding of the ingredients. As you may have read, premium pellets are made of hardwood and or softwoods without any bark. Resins and binders (lignin) occurring naturally in the sawdust hold wood pellets together. Heat is used in the extruding process to cause the particles to stick together.

    After reading many posts on this forum, it is obvious that Athens is experiencing a lack of process control in their mill. I say this because a variety of symptoms have been described by forum members. Those that reported dark pellets with a lot of ash had pellets containing too much bark or dirt. Those that reported pellets that broke and were loaded with crumbles and fines had too little binders.

    Both of these conditions are easily corrected and Athens can become a viable manufacturer if they want too. They seem to be taking their bad pellets back and I hope to return mine this weekend. That indicates a desire to remain in business and I bet they do recover from this.

    Everyone that has their pellets has to make a decision. If you can adjust the stove and live with it, go that route. If you can't get them to stay together and feed through your stove then you can mix them with other pellets if you can afford to buy more. In my case, I have to return them because the stove will not transfer them to the burn pot and I can't afford to buy more pellets to mix them 50/50 or what ever it will take.

    Take a look at the picture of a sample from my pellets. Note that there are a lot of small pieces. This is where I start. When I dump the pellets in, I believe I break some and then the auger continues to break them until it is clogged with powder and pieces of pellet the size of a match head.

    Attached Files:

  4. pellet0708

    pellet0708 New Member

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    This is exactly what my pellets looked like. In fact there are some in that picture bigger and more formed than any of mine. This was not an occasional bag, We burned through a whole ton of these bag after bag. They burned up the pieces so fast that we went through the ton pretty fast.
    That is a great picture, no further tests needed to prove anything.
    As I stated in my previous post, how could these leave the line looking like this and no one notice?
  5. gutterboy2ca

    gutterboy2ca Member

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    Hartland ,New Brunswick,Canada
    Hey Guys, also been experimenting with different kinds here in New Brunswick.Only 2 USA brands i have been able to try are the Green Heat and Maine Woods.Both were over priced to me, but hey i think its just the shortage this yeark, hopefully cheaper next year.
    My Experiance with the Maine Woods Pellets has been quite terrible to be honest.Only purchased 2 bags just to try,as you can see in the pic, they really don,t resemble the other pic,major diff in size. Heat output in my stove was a steady 220 F at output tubes, Exactly 2.5 cups non compressed ash /Bag,window needed cleaned severly after 2 bags(all i had)Dirty,medium heat output,they need to change the recipe.
    On the other Hand,Green Heat Pellets from Ashland Maine are Decent,Very Clean,Low ash,Under 2 cups/Bag,$7.00/Bg 300 F, would def buy these again next year,nice job on these,but still not as good as EnergeX.

    Attached Files:

  6. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    gutterboy2ca,

    By any chance did you weigh your non compressed ash?

    The biggest indicators of grade are:

    1. Weight per bag of ash produced, it must be less than or equal to 1% or 6.4 oz per bag for premium pellets.
    2. Heat content per pound of pellets, must be 8,200 BTUs or more.
    3. Moisture content less than 8%

    Those home based tests for pellets do not address these at all.
  7. gutterboy2ca

    gutterboy2ca Member

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    no i did not Smokey and i agree, its not really technical data here, but as i am in same boat as most of the consumers here,not really interested in doing complete Lab tests for each brand,you know after running a couple bags of a brand thru your stove within 2 days whether the pellet brand is up to your desired specs or not. In this case they were at the lowest end in performance of the 8 or so brands i have run thru the stove since purchase in Oct. So i am in no way a seasoned veteran for pellet annalisys,just posting for other consumers who may be interested.
  8. akakii

    akakii New Member

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    This conversation sure has taken an odd turn in the few days since I was last here. 4124elad, I don't understand why you've got your panties in a bunch. No one has slandered anyone here. The Athens pellets suck, plain and simple. The owners of the Athens pellet mill have admitted that they had some problems with their pellets and are accepting returns from any dissatisfied customers, no questions asked. If you'd read through the various threads on this topic you'd probably see some of the stuff I posted about my communication with the Maine Pellet Fuels Association. All of the member manufacturers, of which Athens is one, recently got together to discuss the problems with quality. They realize that they are all in this together and that any damage one firm causes to the reputation of Maine pellets does damage to them all. As I was told by them following their meeting, "one firm had been manufacturing pellets using "waste wood" -- branches, bark, etc. While this is an optimum utilization of Maine's forest resources, it turns out to not produce the required product, and the firm has ceased use of such wood."

    So if the people burning them had a problem with the pellets and the producer that made them admits that they had some problems with the pellets, is there really any question remaining as to whether these pellets are bad or not? You can dump all the pellets you want into a glass of water and report the results and it's still not going to change the fact that I was unable to heat my home with Athens pellets. Because of that, it will take some doing for me to burn them again. I understand that they're having some growing pains but I don't appreciate being used as their guinea pig. I sincerely hope that they get their issues sorted out.
  9. pduby

    pduby New Member

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    I have also called Athens directly, they were very professional and straight forward that their product was inferior when the plant first opened, and "want to make it right" with the consumer. Their distributors also feel this way, as I spoke to one as well. The distributors are more than willing to accept returns. I found them both to be very honest and updstanding in wanting to make sure the product they sold was satisfactory to the consumer.

    Our Dealer who we purchased our 6 tons from on the other hand, is still saying that they haven't received many complaints and "are in talks" with the distributor to accept returns. The Dealer "offered" to sell us 1 ton "at cost" of another brand to mix with the athens, but are refusing to accept any returns. When I called the distributor where the Dealer purchased these from, they confirmed as I mentioned above that they will take these back, and were VERY concerned the dealer would not take these back - to the point they told us to bring the pellets to them direclty - that the dealer KNEW returns are authorized.
  10. novah

    novah Member

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    Yesterday, I went to my distributor with a bag from each of my 4 pallets. They looked at them and immediately declared them bad. I asked how they determined it so quickly and they said the diameter of the pellets. They continued to say that the die that extrudes the pellets had worn out and no one at Athens noticed.

    They said Athens is willing to replace pellets with pellets that are made with the corrected process but they won't refund money. They also gave me 4 bags of the improved pellets to try. I will do that today. In the mean time, I submit the attached photo of the new pellets. Notice that they look a little better than those in the picture I submitted several posts above but not like those posted by gutterboy2ca. I still think they are not crisp and they break like a brownie rather than a toothpick. I still see the crumbles too.

    I will post my results tomorrow.

    Attached Files:

  11. novah

    novah Member

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    j00fek - what do you expect to see in a review? We have been describing our experiences with the Athens pellets. Everyone seems to be trying to give information that is helpfull to those struggling to run their stoves with Athens pellets. Isn't that what a review is, to describe your experience with a product?
  12. j00fek

    j00fek Feeling the Heat

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    it wasnt about the pellet review, it was about people attacking each other in a review thread...
  13. novah

    novah Member

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    I see - my mistake. I have the new, improved Athens in the stove. Evaluation to come.
  14. novah

    novah Member

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    As I posted on Saturday, the new improved Athens Pellets looked a little better but the end result is the same. My auger is jammed and nothing is feeding into the burn pot.


    EDIT - I didn't realize the names of the pictures wouldn't be in the attachment. From left to right is the original pellets, the original jammed auger and the auger jammed with new improved pellets and the new improved pellets

    Attached Files:

  15. Setterpete

    Setterpete New Member

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    Here is my latest experience that I posted on another thread.

    I’ve been trading in bags of Athens pellets that I purchased in August for newly produced bags for the past month and a half. I noticed a good difference about a month ago and even better difference last week. I have it on good authority that Athens has worked out their problems and are actually spraying the pellets as they are produced, with steam. The steam gives the pellets better integrity and a nice shine. I noticed a huge difference in the lesser amount of “fines” and the length of the pellets are slightly longer. I’ve burned six or eight bags and love them. I, like many on these boards, told myself I’d never buy Athens pellets again because of their quality. After using the latest version from them I don’t have any reason to buy anything else. Dysart’s had 70 tons on Monday and said they were going to build inventory to around 200 tons. The price is still $249 per ton. My guess is that the price per ton will drop by February. The drop in oil cost has to have an affect.
  16. gutterboy2ca

    gutterboy2ca Member

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    Still seems a bit strange to me why theres such a diff in appearance in the ones i bought a month ago, to the ones pictued above which were also prob a month old,hmm, like they came from 2 diff plants.Oh well..I still personally prefere the Green Heat Pellets from Ashland, just my own preference though so don,t anyone get Pissed off,lol.Happy New Years to All..

    Attached Files:

  17. novah

    novah Member

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    Yesterday, I received a return phone call from Dave Carr, Plant Manager at Athens, regarding the message I left complaining about what I have posted on this forum. We had an open and honest conversation and he concluded that my distributor did not have the latest and the greatest pellets. He is Fed-Exing (free of charge) two bags of the latest to try in my stove.

    Needless to say, Dave gets a gold star for customer service. I look forward to taking delivery and will report my results.

    Also, I want to correct my description of the auger being jammed. It is not jammed. It turns when the power is applied but the dust and crumble mixture stays in place. The auger rotates without transfering anything.
  18. pellet0708

    pellet0708 New Member

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  19. novah

    novah Member

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    Have you tried taking the crumbles and fines out? I have not had clinker or high ash problems with Athens - they just don't feed into the burn pot. I went to Home Depot and bought the PVC to make a Shop Vac powered pellet cleaner described elsewhere in this forum.

    That is todays project. I plan to clean them and see if they will feed properly. I suspect part of the problem with Athens pellets is the auger breaking the pellets and I don't expect this to work to my satisfaction but I want to prove or disprove this suspicion.
  20. pellet0708

    pellet0708 New Member

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    I had some of the first batches. Most pellets were 1/4 " and they crumbled when touched. So yes, I think a lot of the problem was the auger breatking them up even more so sifting them would not have helped and there would have been nothing left to put in the stove.
    I wonder after seeing the photos of the longer new pellets if they still break apart easily. If so then they will have the same problems.

    You are right there were no clinkers using these I suspect because they did not get hot enough to form any. The heat output with pennington, spruce Pointe, and lignetics is amazing and we are experiencing some clinkers but well worth it for the heat output. As I have said before, I can turn the stove down 50% with these new pellets and we are getting roasted out of the house.

    We use the athens we have left for warmer days just to keep the stove going.
  21. sparkydog00

    sparkydog00 Feeling the Heat

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    Just started a new ton of these pellets.
    Was hoping that there would be an improvement...but after burning the Cubex marker bags...it is worse. The pellets don't seem to burn with the same intensity as before. I would call the burn more lazy...and yellow in color. they produce the same copious amounts of ash that make these pellets standard grade at best.
    Am thinking about using them to keep the walkways around my house safe...as they will serve more purpose than burning them.
    Another satified customer.
    NOT!
  22. hot tomato

    hot tomato New Member

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    I have bought 20 bags of this stuff and have played with the settings on my stove. I find it works good with feed rate down low to about 1.5 or so and stove temp mode med to high to burn it hot and output temp set around 70 to 75 degs. It kept our house (26x24 2 storey, stove in basement) at about 73.5 deg on main floor with an outside temp of 15 deg. F + wind chill of -13 deg F. Kept up with demand and burned for 20.5 hours with full hopper. The ash output was more than the Eastern Embers brand we usually burn which are a real premium pellet but easily pushed it's way out of the burn pot. I did watch it and did empty it a couple of times, but was only about 1.5 inches wide and same high piled straight across the burn pot, but overnight was pushed into the ash pan with no problem.

    I agree with all of you the ash content is rediculous when I kept the same settings as the premium brand we usually burn. The pic from the guy who has the P61A2 I think his nickname is Lessoil or something was exactly the same as I had only 2 hours of burning it. But with a couple adjustments, I have seen better results. Maybe some of the stoves don't have the same or additional settings that I have, but I found it worked ok. No jams, no up / down flames / no burn outs etc... not saying this is good, but get rid of the bark and could be a better product in my mind.
  23. gbeane

    gbeane Member

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    Sorry for beating a dead horse, but I *just* started burning these Athens pellets I got in October (that is a long story, but not related to this thread). They are all fairly small (1/4 - 1/2 inch, occasionally I see a longer one) and dark in color. I have been burning them in my Enviro Empress stove. According to the manual this stove can burn pellets up to 3% ash, which I assume is "standard grade".

    I burned about 3.5 days non stop without cleaning out the stove. When I did clean it the ash pan was completely full, and there was quite a bit of ash inside the stove. No clinkers or much build up in the burn pot. I haven't had to clean the stove a couple times a day like some people with these pellets.

    The flame is quite irregular, one minute is is barely out of the burn pot and the next it is 8 inches high.

    The glass also seemed to get quite dirty.

    My biggest complaint is that the pellets don't slide down the side of the hopper very well and if I don't push them down the sides occasionally the stove will go out. It can burn overnight if I fill it before going to bed, but I'm gone from the house from 5:45AM until 5PM 4 days a week and it can't run that long. Friday I got home and the stove was out but still a little warm. There were pellets inside but they didn't slide down to the auger.
  24. look4life

    look4life New Member

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    I consider myself lucky that I did not get any of the Atherns pellets. I was told by several sources that several local distributors had to replace whole truckloads of the Atherns pellets because of problems with poor ignition, jamming and high ash. Tech who worked on my stove had nothing good to say about them but praised the eneretex I had. Then again, I have not been satisified with the amount of ash i have been getting from the eneretex. Maybe I just got a few bad bags??

    Ash content can be due to a couple of things. Dirt, bark, ect. But one thing that many people do not consider is species of wood used. Some species have a much higher percentage of material that will not burn and is left over as ash. For example, burn a pound of aspen and weigh the resultingash left over. there won't be much. Now burn a pound of Hophornbeam, (also known as ironwood), and weigh the leftover ash. There will be a lot because the plant cells contain a lot of minerals that do not burn and are left over. Also the reason it will dull a knife or saw in a few cuts. Any other thoughts on this??
  25. dbjc364

    dbjc364 New Member

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    gbeane- if there is a way to add an extension hopper on your stove I highly recommend it.
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