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Dealers Explanation of Pellet Quality

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by mrbean1025, Feb 11, 2013.

  1. mrbean1025

    mrbean1025 Member

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    I have been burning pellets for about 6 years now and have probably burned most type pellets available in my area (southern NH). I had just finished burning through some Greene Teams and wanted to try Cubex so I went into Stove Keepers in Brookline, NH (they sell Ambiance, NEWP and Northern) and started talking to the salesman. I started asking about the prices, quality of pellet and heat output expecting to hear that they get progressively better as the price goes up.

    I was told that basically, a pellet is a pellet. You may have more ash from one or a difference in pellet appearance and length but the heat output is pretty much the same. He said that a very poor pellet is about 8000btu while a high end pellet is about 8600btu. I explained that I had read several reviews about Cubex being great with his explanation being that the Cubex are a consistent pellet resulting in the good reviews but they are pretty much all the same pellets. He said that they sell 3 brands so that they can have one for everybody.

    I understand that there are several factors regarding burning pellets with stove cleanliness being number 1. Stove Keepers is also a shop that has a pretty good reputation for knowing what they are talking about so here is my question to you guys. How is it that an expert can say that all pellets are basically the same with only a 600btu difference yet so many people on here can say that one pellet basically doesn't create any heat yet another will burn so hot that they can't burn them in their stove? It's confusing to go into a shop expecting to pay more for what I expect to be a better pellet but then have the salesman basically talk me out of it by saying that the cheaper one is just as good.

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  2. Pelleting In NJ

    Pelleting In NJ Feeling the Heat

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    I think the BTU content of the pellets has more to do with the moisture content than with the species of wood used. I suspect that the BTU content of dry "crappy brand" pellets and dry "premium brand" pellets is not all that different. Certainly the ash of a pellet may depend more on the wood species used, but that is a stove cleaning interval difference, rather than heat output concern.
  3. newf lover

    newf lover Minister of Fire

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    When I bought my first ton of pellets, I was told the same thing, a pellet is a pellet. After 5 years and trying many different brands, no one can convince me that's true. You will see many posts from people who have tried different brands, measured the heat output with an infrared thermometer, and found brand X burned hotter than Y. Most of us suggest the same thing, try a few bags before buying a full ton. What burns great my stove might not burn so great in your stove. Only way to know is to try.
  4. jcleary47

    jcleary47 Member

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    So what's the deal with people burning "shoulder pellets" when it isn't the dead of winter and switching to more expensive pellets when it gets super cold?

    If the heat output is the same, what does the outside temperature really matter in that decision?

    Is it that one pelllet may use less pellets to achieve that heat output so they last longer?
  5. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    popcorn√
    Beverage√

    With a Harman it is said the computer will compensate for the size-density-BTU difference in a pellet. There should still be a variance on how long the bag lasts.

    In the other stove brands that don't have a computer. Size-Density-BTU content "will" effect the heat the stove produces.

    Why a dealer would say such a thing? Its in his best interest to brag the pellet he makes the most cash on would be my guess. But pellets are a different as the bags they are packaged in! Heck even the same brands can have a variance through out the production run. And its not just ash content IMHO!

    Search pellet tests here. You will see what I have found with my stove.
    SwineFlue and P38X2 like this.
  6. CT Pellet

    CT Pellet Minister of Fire

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    I love this type of question! Folks, I do not consider myself an expert on many things. When it comes to the mechanics of equipment, I consult with experts, and when it comes to wine, I try my best, but often will punt and take a recommendation. But when it comes to wood pellets, I am self-taught and study this industry EVERY DAY!
    Believe me, there is a huge spectrum of quality among different brands of pellets. And a wood pellet's "BTU" is a number that is often thrown around, but truly it is virtually irrelevant.(I will address this in a moment)
    What determines the quality of a pellet, before all others, is the quality of the raw materials that go into the pellet.
    Good, clean, dry sawdust without any bark and/or outside contaminants, compressed to the right density, with a length of 1/2": to 1 1/4" and containing a bulk density of circa 43 lbs per cubic foot is optimal. The definition of "good clean sawdust" is so subjective, that one manufacturer's "pride and joy" may be considered garbage by certain end users.
    The term BTU is a number that tells you how much "potential energy" is in one pound of wood pellets.Truly, this number could be written on paper and used as toilet tissue, because without knowing the moisture content, it is worthless. What you really want to concentrate on is how much of this potential energy will you be able to capture as "heat energy" which will ultimately end up in your living space! Here is a great example....You may have a pellet with 8900 BTU's per pound, but if the same pellet is 11% moisture, a lot of that potential energy is going to be expelled to evaporate the moisture before the combustion can begin. Therefore you will not enjoy all of those 8900 btu's as "heat energy."

    I have found that dealers who sell stoves (for the most part) really know their business of selling stoves. Most dealers who sell stoves, sell pellets as well, but more out of convenience than as a major product line. They may know their stoves, but are often "uneducated" when it comes to pellets. This forum is rife with members who I feel know more about wood pellets than many stove shop employees do. Shiit man....,the information is out there, you just have to put yourself in front of it.
    I would respectfully disagree with any salesman who says that "a wood pellet is a wood pellet.'
  7. skibumm100

    skibumm100 Member

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    I stopped at Stove Keepers on Friday and picked up two bags of the Northern's hardwood pellets. They performed about the best of any I have tried IN MY STOVE. They put out as much heat as the softwood LaCrete's and the Okie Black Hills. Looking at the pellets, they were generally fairly short compared to most I have tried. I think the reason they worked so well in my stove is that they fed really consistently and kept the burn going at a steadier rate. The flame across my burnpot looked more even from side to side which appears to be an issue with my stove. Being a shorter pellet also means there is more surface area for each unit of pellets. Maybe that accounts for why they burned so well for me.

    FWIW, the guy I talked to seemed like he knew what he was talking about. If you read about my saga with the installation of my ICC Excel pellet vent pipe, he knew exactly what I was talking about between the old and new style gaskets. I got a mix of both in my order of pipe. The ones that gave me so much trouble are apparently the old style. He also said the old style pipe and new style pipe don't play well together. Something to watch for if you're planning an install.

    Also FWIW, ICC never responded to my e-mail asking about the difference and whether there was a design change and for what reason. Nice customer service.
  8. imacman

    imacman Guest

    Well, in this case he may have the best profit margin on the cheap pellets. It doesn't always have to be the most expensive ones.
    CT Pellet likes this.
  9. fmsm

    fmsm Minister of Fire

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    What a GREAT response! The dealer the OP went to should take notes from you!
    Thaddius Wenderoth likes this.
  10. Dollabill

    Dollabill New Member

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    CT thanks ! My 1st question to myself was I wonder what CT will have to tell us ! I am not by no means an expert but have seen the differanced 1st hand and wish i could try some other brands that are not available here in Maine ! Cubex ranks high on MYList MWP very low these are just two on my ever expanding list !
  11. CT Pellet

    CT Pellet Minister of Fire

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    Many times, my cheaper pellets have bigger margins than the high end pellets that command a higher dollar.....Actually, almost always. Why? Because cheap pellets cost me. They cost me time listening to unhappy customers, they cost me customers who buy them and are unhappy so they do not come back, they cost me in referrlas from unhappy customers and they cost me in reputation for selling what some consider "garbage." I will tell you that universally, without question, I do not keep a secret that the lower priced pellets do not compare in quality to the higher end pellets. When a customer comes to me and asks about the difference in the pellets that I sell....They get the plane and simple truth. There is no grey area and there is no uncertainty in their mind as to what is good quality and what is a good price.
    On the other hand, there is some stuff in my line up that I know if I sell it to a customer, I will never hear back from them until it is time for them to re-order! That alone has a value to me.
    That is not to say that there is no place for cheap pellets in my line up. As we all know, sometimes price alone is what motivates a customer. I hear customers tell me from time to time that my cheap pellets burn just as clean and hot as the expensive ones. I do not argue with them and I do not try to correct their way of thinking. I just ring up their order and say "thank you." In reality, I strongly believe more often than not, that they are trying to convince themselves that this is the case. Sheer numbers can show that this is not the case, but hey......Who am I to tell them what they like?
    pelletdude and Augmister like this.
  12. briansol

    briansol Minister of Fire

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    You'll find this everywhere, not just in the pellet world.

    If you're INTO something, odds are, you know more than a dealer does "in most cases". I've bought cars and schooled the salesman on how much hp at what RPM and boost it had.. I've schooled the guy at staples about why I don't need 16 gb of ram. The cell phone store, yup... I can read the 4 bullet points too. they all have storage and processors and an OS. but few can probably tell you why the SIII is better than the iPhone4 (bring it :p ) I schooled the highschool girl at starbucks on what Arabaca means.
    And I HATE startbucks. lol

    moral of the story is that with very very few exceptions, if you want to be, you can be smarter than the person you are buying something from with a few hours of research online.
    Thats why I LOVE it when dealers PARTICIPATE on the boards. Because even if their motive is not 100% pure (and i'm not saying anyone here is), they still see the info going around the board and keep up with the times and absorb info like a consumer doing research would. It shows their interest in the topic is more than just money deep. They WANT to KNOW their product.

    The 16 year old kid drving the fork lift at your local yard or box store probably doesn't know a dang thing about our market.
    The vendors here who KNOW their stuff do, and yes, their products will cost a bit more. But it's for good reason.
  13. Snowy Rivers

    Snowy Rivers Minister of Fire

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    The pellet is a pellet is a tad vague.

    Some manufactures use some real crap to make pellets. Bark and other poor quality materials result in a somewhat dirtier burn.
    Bark that's ground and used will generally have dirt and other non burnables in it, and this leads to clinkers.

    Premium pellets have clean wood only and will burn clearer without clinkers.

    The lower priced fuels will leave a clinker, which will look like a grayish hard lump in the pot.

    Snowy
  14. PoolGuyinCT

    PoolGuyinCT Feeling the Heat

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    I hear the same thing about pool chemicals.. Sure chlorine is an exact molecular substance, if it weren't it would be an art and not chemistry.. Now how you package the chlorine is the clincher, I can sell a bucket of chlorine that is bound with paraffin wax, takes a boat load to achieve residual levels, but is cheap per pound..

    On the other hand I have a line of chemicals, that is top shelf, not formed and bound with cheap waxes... I'm rather transparent about it. Like CT said guess which buyers pools are ready to rock and roll all summer & I hear for their refills like clockwork.

    Guess what the guy with a cloudy pool or green pool is buying from me, and jumping from box store to box store is buying?

    This brings my mind to shoulder pellets, yes weak waxed down chemicals will do the deed if you don't use the pool and temps are on cooler side, so yes you can "cheat" with shoulder products.. But when it's time to extract top performance, it takes top shelf product.
    pelletdude and Augmister like this.
  15. Dollabill

    Dollabill New Member

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    I own a Used Car Lot, I know I know, We sell some cheap cars high mileage low price but Ive learned quality trumps price evry time thats my opinion and I live by it ! But if someone comes in and must have a kia and I have one who am I to say no !I learned he lesson from my Parents and every time I went against it seems I had troubles by the bucket full 1
  16. Dgopetactical

    Dgopetactical Feeling the Heat

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    Great thread,
    Enjoyed reading it
  17. Jason Knapp

    Jason Knapp Member

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    Wow, that salesman needs to be beaten with a wet noodle! I know, firsthand that pellets are different. I went from burning Penningtons to Barefoots. BIG difference! I know that my brothers stove, a Breckwell P23 burns about anything and burns it well. However, he goes through a lot more of the cheap ones than he does the top quality ones.
  18. mepellet

    mepellet Minister of Fire

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    Stove keepers sell Harman stoves by any chance? I am do not think many of the "super premium" pellets are worth the price they are getting. No one has been able to convince me. I bought a Harman. Might as well use it's brains and save my money.
    Bigjim13 likes this.
  19. Jason Knapp

    Jason Knapp Member

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    I will admit, after seeing my friends Quad and my brothers Breckwell burn just about anything makes me want to upgrade to a better quality stove. But for now, I'll use my Englander with a better quality pellet until I can by a new stove. I'm seriously considering a Enviro M55 Multifuel. They claim 55,000 BTU. Sounds like a stout machine IMO.
    pelletdude likes this.
  20. subsailor

    subsailor Minister of Fire

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    I'll buy MWP over Cubex all year long.
    Harman Lover 007 and CT Pellet like this.
  21. mepellet

    mepellet Minister of Fire

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    X2
    CT Pellet likes this.
  22. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    These 2 are weighing in on one of the biggest difference's in a pellets! The dollar

    Hopefully they can agree that there is other difference's in pellets?
  23. mepellet

    mepellet Minister of Fire

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    Oh I know there are other differences but because I clean my stove regularly, the other differences don't matter too much since the stove is a "smartstove."
  24. CT Pellet

    CT Pellet Minister of Fire

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    I sold MWP back in 2009 when they first came out. It was a difficult situation, as they were not a good pellet to puit it mildly. When I realized that I was sitting on several hundred tons of sub-par pellets, I reduced them to $199 and was in no way afraid to tell customers why they were cheap and that under no circumstances, are there any returns. But, as I have touched on in previous posts, companies that make bad pellets will find one of two things happen; either they improve or they go away. MWP is still around. I do not sell them any longer but i will tell you that last year, I grabbed 10 bags of them to try and gave them a shot- strictly out of curiousity to try and quench my never-ending thirst for wood pellet info! They were not the same pellet that I was stumbling over back four years ago. They were like the nerdy girl in 8th grade that grows up and becomes a beauty queen! Burned relatively clean and relatively hot. Not the absolute best pellet but far from the bottom where they had once resided.
    As they were headed up in the right direction, Cubex was headed in the opposite direction. My guess is that as MWP was on its way up, it passed and waved to Cubex on its way down somewhere in mid 2010 or so. Not to say Cubex is bad, as it is not, but it is not what it used to be in 2006 and certainly deviates from the quality that a top-priced bellet should display. Today, MWP vs Cubex would end in a fourth round KO victory for MWP. That's just my guess and my opinion.
    Jack Morrissey and briansol like this.
  25. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    There are several things associated with the dollar factor. Its not just the lowest priced pellet most think. Its also comparing quality of pellets. Often you can find a pellet that has a reasonable price that will perform right with a "name" brand pellet.

    For the most part the high dollar pellets are there for a reason. But every know and then, The name on the bag is has more weight than what they put in the bag. One of the reasons why we try them before the large purchase. Its not fool proof, But could save more than just a few dollars, Every know and again it could save you from excessive cleaning or clinker ville syndrome!
    fmsm likes this.

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