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Hardwood vs Softwood Pellets

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by MacP, Dec 16, 2011.

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  1. MacP

    MacP Member

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    First of all, I just want to thank everyone on this forum for their input. It's been extremely helpful.

    I placed my order for a Harman P61A on Columbus Day Weekend. It was finally installed on 12/6. I was hoping that it would save me some money compared to using oil to heat my 2300 sq ft home. I never knew it would turn to an obsession.

    Anyways, I've been on the hunt for wood pellets. I bought 1 ton NEWP in October. After discovering this forum and reading various threads, I wanted to try other pellets. See sig for the pellets I've purchased so far.

    Here's my question:
    Do hardwood pellets cause more wear and tear on the stove? Should I be using softwood pellets only?

    The reason I asked is because I purchased Oakies. The dealer said that hardwood pellets could cause things to break in the stove. Oakies have been the most expensive I bought so far. $293 per ton.

    Another question:
    When's the best time to purchase pellets? If I purchase in the spring, will "crappy" pellets be the only pellet to choose from?

    Any insight would be appreciated.

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  2. nksdad2007

    nksdad2007 Member

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    I believe hardwood pellets and softwood are equally hard after the are made. I think the dealer was looking for a reason to sell you the more expensive pellet, and therefore the more profit for him. As far as best time to buy, i would say it all depends on the area you are in. Around here, we usually find the best deal late summer to early fall for the big box stores. but you are limited to what they are carrying for the season. Green teams have burned the best for me, but i never seem to be in the right place to get a whole seasons worth. You will find what burns bets for your stove, and then a balance between cost, cleaning, availability and convenience. Enjoy the ride, and spend lots of time here. I have learned a lot in the past few years from a lot of very helpful people.
  3. whosthat

    whosthat New Member

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    hardwood pellets put out more heat then softwood, you'd run your equipment less as you'd get up to temp faster so hardwood probly saves on wear and tear.
    As for the Hardwood being to hard and causing wear on the stove that sounds like a complete flat out lie, I wouldn't deal with the guy. The only other thing is don't buy pellets in the winter, they cost to damn much buy when you can get ur favoriot brand for the best price.

    Im learning the hardway, costing 75 more a ton then just 1 month ago
  4. subsailor

    subsailor Minister of Fire

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    I have a P61A also and have burned more hardwood pellets than soft without any problems. The hardwood might crunch more in the auger, though. I also had good luck with Greene Team, but Lowe's prices went through the roof, so I'm on the lookout for a replacement. Choices in Maine are limited. Take your time and shop around. When you find a good deal, take advantage. You will find lot's of good posts on here covering what to buy and not to buy.
  5. MacP

    MacP Member

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    Good point.

    I'll have to make a few phone calls to different dealers to see what's available. I wish they'd update their websites more often with available pellets. I'll be on the lookout for green teams so I can try them out.

    Thank you.
  6. bugize

    bugize Member

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    Yes,after they are compressed...they have the same density...as far as heat,softwood puts out more BTU's than hardwood. its not like regular wood burning where hardwood is better,the softwood has more things in its make-up that produce more heat.
    Now...there are some real nice hardwood pellets that throw heat..Cubex being one,but too far for me to get some..and at 279 per ton,i can get Independence just down the road a mile or so for 239 per ton.
  7. whosthat

    whosthat New Member

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    FYI im also burning green teams from lowes and I can second that they are good pellets. I also burned 1 ton green supreme (also from lowes) and they don't put out quite as much heat, but they burn well and are 1/3 cheaper. Never tried the stove chief or whatever it is that they also carry.


    didn't know that softwoods put out more btu's, thats just the op of wood burning, I mean softwood puts out good heat but it burns so quickly that it could never match hardwood in a woodstove. I'll have to keep that in mind next time I buy pellets.

    p.s do softwood pellets burn quicker then hardwoods or not because they have the same density?they must burn faster/as well as hotter or am I wrong here?
  8. whit

    whit Member

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    As far as I can see, the difference isn't between hardwood and softwood in pellets. It's between well made pellets and not-so-well made. Part of that has to do with the quality of the wood input, which has a lot more variables than whether it's hardwood or softwood. So in some cases, where the pellets are a byproduct of fine furniture manufacture, it's the scraps and sawdust from well-selected wood. Fine furniture is hardwood. So those are sometimes great hardwood pellets. On the other hand, some of the softwood pellet makers are equally choosey about the quality of the wood.

    By the time it's run through the pellet mill, and sold by equal weight, the main difference in a wood stove - that hardwood is denser and just weighs more for the same volume, thus has more energy in it - is lost. A cord of one kind of wood weighs totally differently from a cord of another kind. But a 40 lb. bag of pellets weight 40 lbs. Is there bark in it? Is there filler? Does it leave tar in your burn pot, or massive clinkers? Those aren't questions about hard and soft, but about the quality of the wood and the pellet mill. The two best pellets I've burned are Vermont (soft) and Barefoot (hard). I've burned others that are hard, soft and mixed, and some were good enough. None were as good as those two. Now, I've never burned Turmans or Okies, which people here I'm sure rightly love. So I'm not saying those two are the absolute best. But they're damn good. And it's not whether they're hard or soft that makes them so.
  9. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    I haven't seen a pellet yet that would break my stove. Seen a few that broke the bank over the years. And I have burned lots of different brands over the years. Many that are no longer made and some made from some serious crap! I think what you need to worry about is how much ash is to much. Some will fill your stove quickly and some can run for a long time. Your dealer should have said hardwoods contain more ash than a softwood on average. So you could make a mess(wreck) of your stove. And you will need to clean more often. But there are some dandy hardwoods out there. Turmans is a good one to look for!

    Best time to get pellet from the pellet house's is usually in Late April early may. They have spring deals on the better brands. Box stores don't think pellets until the season rolls in. We are usually heating before many even get fuel. There price wars start shortly after!

    Once you get rolling you'll se what I mean. The Okies ash content is lower than the NEWP's you have. Once you burn some of each, Tell me what you think! But the goal your striving for is the hottest pellet with the least amount of ash you can afford. Some quick tips is select a few brands that are in good supply in your price range try some and see how you and your stove like them.

    Hope it helps.
  10. MacP

    MacP Member

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    You're posts have been really helpful. Thanks for simplifying it for me. The temperature will drop this weekend so I'll try the Oakies. I'm burning the NEWPs now on stove temp 2 and feed rate 3.

    Since the Oakies are a hotter pellet, should I drop the feed rate? I understand that the feed rate is something you should set it and forget it. Should I wait for the remaining NEWPs to go through the hopper before putting in the Oakies?
  11. subsailor

    subsailor Minister of Fire

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    Harmans are based on temp setting. I run my feed rate a little above 3.5 and never touch it. The processors will run the stove at the temp you set.
  12. subsailor

    subsailor Minister of Fire

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    Are you running your stove in room temp or stove temp?
  13. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    I'd do one thing at a time. Add the Okies and wait to see. If the house temp rises? Then drop the feed rate. As it gets colder you'll need more heat to compensate for the heat loss.

    Keep us posted!
  14. superchips

    superchips New Member

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    I think my stove puts out better heat when trimmed lean (burning 1 bag per day) on hardwood pellets. But softwood pellets take less cleaning time.
    I don't mind spending a little longer cleaning time when I'm paying under $200/ton instead of $300/ton.
    The best deal is quality pellets that haven't sucked up any moisture.

    I highly recommend trying a few bags before buying a batch by the ton.
    And never buy tons when they were shipped during heavy rain.

    After unloading enough bags from the tons you will get real good at telling which pellets feel right for consistence. Sort of like squeezing a loaf of bread in the grocery store.

    The absolute worst pellets I've burned were Future Fuel II. I think they were made from straw grass and turned everything black including my cap.

    Good luck
  15. MacP

    MacP Member

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    I'm still experimenting with room temp vs stove temp. If I set the room temp to 75-80, the thermostat on the other side of the living room is usually 68-73. Depending on the weather outside. I have the temperature sensor under the exhaust pipe. I also have a cheap temperature gauge next to it and it reads 79 when I have it set to 80.

    I tried stove temp last night before going to bed on 2 and feed rate at 3. Changed it to room temp on 75 and feed rate at 3. Before I left for work, I left the stove on stove temp 1 and feed rate at 1 in order to finish the NEWPs in the hopper. I haven't decided which pellet to use next. Forecast for this weekend will be in the 30s for a high.

    I'm going to try to stock up with pellets before next winter season. The prices right now for most premium pellets is around $270 a ton.
  16. sinnian

    sinnian Minister of Fire

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    That's just flat our wrong!

    MOST softwoods produce more heat than hardwood pellets.
  17. SmokeEater

    SmokeEater Feeling the Heat

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    Has anyone out there had a chance to try some of the biomass pellets, like grass pellets in your stoves. I thought I saw that Harman makes a stove called the PC 45 that is set up to burn other types of biomass. I found a website on a Canadian study to develop and build a business using switchgrass and it looked like a company could produce grass pellets and retail them for less than $150/T USD.
  18. nailed_nailer

    nailed_nailer Minister of Fire

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    MacP,

    Here is a site that has a lot of retailers stock and prices listed. Some listings are out of date.
    In most cases a contact # or website is listed. Call first before making any drives.
    This will give you an idea of what is around.
    Caution, not all local retailers are listed. There are many more local retailers.

    http://www.woodpelletprice.com/

    BTW, I burn whatever during the shoulder seasons but love softwood for heat season.

    And then there is this other site for pellet reviews.
    http://woodpelletreviews.com/

    Hearth.com is probably your best overall resource for info.
    ---Nailer---
  19. PA_Clinker

    PA_Clinker Member

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    Heat output and ash content might vary slightly between hard/soft wood pellet brands. But the overall quality of the wood being used is probably more important than the species of wood (hardwood or softwood).
  20. AndrewChurchill

    AndrewChurchill Minister of Fire

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    You've got that backwards. Pound for pound softwood has more BTUs than softwood. However, cord wood is sold by volume and not weight and since hardwood is more dense it has more BTUs per cord. Pelletizing the wood compresses the wood and makes the volume for both hard and soft wood the same and because of that the softwood pellet will have more BTUs per pound.

    I have used both soft and hard wood pellets and I prefer softwood because the ash was finer and with the hardwood pellets I often had clinkers in my burnpot.

  21. PA_Clinker

    PA_Clinker Member

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    I actually just found one online source that agrees with you.

    Q: What is better Hardwood Pellets or Softwood Pellets?

    A: Most people jump to the conclusion that "we have always burned hardwood in our woodstove so hardwood must be better" - Not true with pellets.

    The first and most important thing to remember is that you are buying pellets by weight NOT volume. A cord of dry hardwood vs. dry softwood weighs about 2-3 times as much. However, a pound of dry hardwood weighs the same as a pound of dry softwood.

    So what counts is the heat output of each. This is where softwood wins. Below is information from a study done by the wood industry.
    A softwood pellet will produce 10-20% more BTU's per pound than hardwood depending on the species and create a lighter ash.


    White Oak 8810 BTU/pound
    Yellow Pine 9610 BTU/pound


    Interesting.



  22. slls

    slls Minister of Fire

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    Hardwood could break my stove. I have always burned a mix pellet, this last buy of Energex I believe is all hardwood.
    After 3 days running the pot dump gets harder to move, may break some day.
  23. SXIPro

    SXIPro Minister of Fire

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    If a hardwood pellet could break your stove, you need a new stove. That is just ridiculous.

    When I bought my Harman the dealer pushed and pushed to onlu use hardwood and specifically NEWP. When I finally tried softwoods I wanted to go back to the dealer and kick his a$$. Softwoods gave much more heat. In hindsight I should have just realized the dealer was a salesman and thus just pushing the only brand he carried.

    I'm freakin surrounded by NEWP this year, I can't find anyone close selling softwood and it pisses me off.
  24. slls

    slls Minister of Fire

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    It's obvious you have not idea what you are saying.
  25. SXIPro

    SXIPro Minister of Fire

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    Prove me wrong that:

    1) A hardwood pellet will break any decent pellet stove.

    2) Hardwoods (NEWP specifically) throw more heat than a good softwood like a Vermont or an Okanagan.

    Enlighten me.
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