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How To Determine A Good Pellet For Your Stove

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by EastMtn, Sep 28, 2013.

  1. EastMtn

    EastMtn Member

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    I finished my first bag of pellets and I'm on to the second brand now. What characteristics and feedback do you look for in order to determine if a pellet is better or worse for your stove?
    The first bag I used was Tiny T'Embers which uses urban clean wood waste to make their pellets. Excerpt From their site: "cut-offs from truss manufacturers, framing contractors, pallet manufacturers, and many other businesses that have clean wood waste available."
    That bag turned the glass dark black from head to toe within an hour and the burn was inconsistent and sometimes incomplete.
    The second bag that I'm currently burning is the Home Depot re-branded bag of Forest Energy's which is a softwood out of Arizona. Compared to the wood waste bag I've noticed that the glass has approx 70% less soot on the glass and the pellet ash is not leaving any larger pieces in the ash bin. What about BTU content? How are you determining if one pellet brand burns hotter than the next?

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  2. iron stove

    iron stove Feeling the Heat

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    Not familiar with your stove, but some stoves need a air adjustment when switching brands, especially from hard to soft wood. Heavy black sooting is a sign of air starvation.
  3. iron stove

    iron stove Feeling the Heat

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    As far a s BTU's, if your really concerned, you can get a stove thermometer, or test to see how hot the air is coming out of the stove to see what burns hotter. Variables are you must keep same feed rate, and pellet size can increase or decrease burn rate and heat output ( Shorter pellets feed more, increasing temp)
  4. Bob Sorjanen

    Bob Sorjanen Member

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    I like to use pellets that burn clean, meaning they don't turn the glass black right away. Also the ones that don't blacken the glass also leave less ash. As far as heat output I go by how hot it feels coming out of the stove on different settings. I don't do any scientific readings on the heat. If it feels warmer in the house on a certain setting compared to other pellets that is how I tell. I only care that the house is warm in the winter.
    Bob
  5. P38X2

    P38X2 Minister of Fire

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    I wouldn't bother with ANY pellet made with construction/pallet byproducts, IMO. The chances of there being "other" stuff in there is too great.

    I'm not familiar with your stove but that bad of sooting in that amount of time sounds like your stove needs tuning.

    As far as heat output goes, some stoves convection output tems can be measured and compared with various brands of pellets. Harmans, for example, are not that easy. It's more of a "how long did it take to burn through a hopper of pellets?" thing. Pellet manufacturers claims can give you a rough estimate of the potential output of a pellet, but unless you get all "scientific" with your research, yer best bet is to try as many options as possible and go from there. You'll know when you find something that works for you. Pellet reviews are a great place to start.
    Lousyweather likes this.
  6. EastMtn

    EastMtn Member

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    I'm on my fourth burn with this new stove. It's possible that it may need to be tuned but at this point I'm still getting use to how it behaves. I obtained a programming manual but haven't sat down to read it in detail yet. I'm 2hrs into a burn this morning and this 2nd bag of softwoods is a night and day difference from the first bag. I won't be using that wood waste pellet again. I've still got 2 more brands to try after this load finishes, a sawmill soft/hard blend where the blend is determined by what moulding was manufactured that week, and a Lignetics softwood. Just took a pic.

    I see the thread posts about the various brands you all prefer and was mainly wondering what drives your selection other than price. So far I've gathered a good pellet can be determined by the amount of soot on the glass, the amount of ash, oh and try as many as possible.

    IMG_20130928_082846_127.jpg
  7. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    Determining BTU content within the stove isn't possible. Pellet testing labs use an expensive piece of equipment for that. They measure how much thermal energy is in a pound of fuel. Lots of variables that the lab test don't even consider........ In the real world in general, We look for the most heat and and how long they might last. Then how clean they are. Stat or stove control is another un-charted variable!

    The most heat usually comes from a pellet that deliver's the maximum amount of fuel(by volume) to the burnpot. Usually its a high density pellet that is just the right size to pack the auger flight which in turn feeds that to the burnpot. Draw back here is they usually don't last as long as a lower filling less dense pellet. More fuel more power, Less fuel less power or heat output. But they should last longer.

    One variable is a lower BTU rated pellet can have the same output of a higher BTU pellet because of the size factor of this. If a higher BTU pellet(usually denser) has long pellets in the mix you loose volume. To a lower density lower BTU pellet that has decent size to get good volume to the burnpot. Temp output could be similar and so should burn time length. Getting confusing yet?

    Add the stoves control or a thermostat and we can even out some of the variables. Some controls vary the feed to try and keep a exhaust specific temp. So the feed is varied to adjust for the fuel(Harman is one of these stoves). Now on to the stoves with stats. The stat is controlling the on/off cycle of the stove. Hotter pellet in general warms the house quicker(more BTU's released quicker) and the stove is turned off(or idle). Lower heat pellet the stove has to run longer. Add in the variables from above and your head starts spinning!

    I test a lot and honestly I am confused myself. I just chart the stuff....... Then I let my stat help control the hotter cleaner pellets I can find at the most reasonable price. If I can only find a lower heat pellet my stove has to work harder to proved the heat. So stove horsepower is now in the equation. Adding a little more confusion to the mix.

    So then I drink more beer and loose my notes. Sure is fun though! ::-)

    Oh, And you get to do it all over next season because no one is carrying the fuel you worked so hard to find last season or they jack the price up to an un-affordable level! :mad:
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2013
    EastMtn likes this.
  8. Cincinnati Kid

    Cincinnati Kid Feeling the Heat

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    From the looks of the flame in the picture, it appears your stove needs more air.
  9. iron stove

    iron stove Feeling the Heat

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    Second that Big Time ! Find the damper directions !
    IHATEPROPANE likes this.
  10. EastMtn

    EastMtn Member

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    Thanks for that. I'm at altitude of 7300ft and have a Selkirk DT oak installed(15ft of 3in OAK 4in exhaust) so its preheating the air as it comes in. Any recommendations to get more air?
  11. will711

    will711 Minister of Fire

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    That's the universal solution for everything;)
    slvrblkk, IHATEPROPANE and jtakeman like this.
  12. EastMtn

    EastMtn Member

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    Doesn't seem to have a damper or setting for air flow. Neither manual mentions this. Correction it does state not to install a flue damper in the venting.
  13. IHATEPROPANE

    IHATEPROPANE Minister of Fire

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    Do you have combustion blower trim settings? If so, turn it up
  14. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    Might have a blower rate adjustment in the controller? IMHO its hard to tell with a pic. Videos are a better judge of flame.

    Some stoves(don't know yours) don't have great airwash systems and you need to clean the glass more often. Color of the ash/soot can be a good judge, Light gray is good. Black is bad.
  15. schoondog

    schoondog Feeling the Heat

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    I think it needs more air too. Phil do has a Piazzetta, maybe he can help ?

    Schoondog
    will711 likes this.
  16. EastMtn

    EastMtn Member

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    Found the combustion blower speed setting. The settings are within acceptable operating parameters but there is room to move up. Smoke probe temp was 270::F. 176-353::F acceptable limits.
    blower was running at 2440RPM at highest setting P5. Stated limits at P5 are 2410-2800rpm with no factory setting.

    Next time it runs I'll have a look and take some video for critique. Room temp got to 81 (42 outside) while I was playing with settings so I had to turn it off. It got the house hot in a hurry.
  17. stillersnut

    stillersnut Member

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    Its
    A white active flame is perfect, with pellets dancing in burn pot. Ejecting pellets out of burn pot = too much air.
  18. save$

    save$ Minister of Fire

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    Best test will come when it is below freezing. You get to run the stove at optimal levels then. Record both the inside and outside temps at the same time. That is the only way to be objective about how well the pellet is providing heat for your home. Also note your stove settings. Ash and dirty doors are secondary and not an inclusive indicator of how well that brand of pellet is for heating your home. Some brands heat very well, but are very dirty. Not necessarily, or usually the case, but it happens.
  19. SmokeEater

    SmokeEater Feeling the Heat

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    A little physics is offered here when it comes to which is the best pellet to burn and that can only be determined by trial and error and probably depends on the stove and the operator. The temperature (physics part) of the burning pellets is not related to the Btu content of the pellets. Hotter or cooler (relatively speaking) won't have any bearing on how much heat energy there is in the wood. Temperature is a relative measure of the velocity of the particles of a substance, not the energy released by the burning process. A pound of wood will release about the same amount of energy if it is completely oxidized no matter what temperature it occurs at. If a pound of wood rots in the forest, and is oxidized over a period of years, it will release approximately the same energy as a pound of bone dry wood pellets that are burned in fifteen minutes in a pellet stove. So the best pellet will be the one the works best in each stove controlled by it owner. Water content of the pellet is the greatest factor determining the net output of heat energy from the pellets. The best pellet is the cheapest one that burns well in a particular stove whereby all of the energy from the wood is released and the stack temperature is the lowest. the ash is low in amount relative to the input, no creosote, and that will yield the most amount of Btus per dollar spent.
  20. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    Hi

    The amount of soot on the glass can also vary with the heat level that is set. On low heat levels you may get more build up because the exhaust blower is going slower so the air wash is not keeping the soot off the glass as much as it does on the medium and higher heat levels.

    What is your heat level setting?
  21. subsailor

    subsailor Minister of Fire

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    Also, stoves that are on a T-stat that shutdown and start up will create a lot more ash on the glass too, especially early and late in the season. In midwinter when the stove is running steady, it's not usually a problem.
  22. EastMtn

    EastMtn Member

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    The stove was set on P3, on a 1-5 scale, for the wood waste pellet. for the softwoods I used P3 for the first hour then went to P5 to continue the break in period referred to in the manual. I still have 3 more hours to burn at P5 to complete the break-in for a total of 6hrs.
  23. stillersnut

    stillersnut Member

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    You
    You just blew my mind, I had a flash back from my college chem. lab, which I failed! I need a beer!!!
  24. EastMtn

    EastMtn Member

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    Drink two. You'll feel better
    will711 likes this.
  25. EastMtn

    EastMtn Member

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    Found a published paper from MIT on wood pellet efficiency. it states: " It should be noted that the pellet feed rate has a direct influence on pellet combustion occuring in the burn pot, i.e. too small rates
    lead to starvation or shortage of pellets whereas at higher feed rates the combustion dies out due to shortage of air."
    http://web.mit.edu/~npdhye/www/Wood_Pellet.pdf
    video of my flame at 2600rpm combustion and 4.1 per 12 sec feed rate. How does it look now?
    stayfitz likes this.

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