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Pellet Boilers - Do different pellets perform differently

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by Dana B, Dec 12, 2013.

  1. Dana B

    Dana B Feeling the Heat

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    Most of the talk on here about how different pellets perform pertains to pellet stoves rather than pellet boilers. It seems like there are a fair amount of people here now that have made the investement in pellet boilers. I'm curious what other pellet boiler owners have experienced as far as different pellets performing differently and whether or not the higher cost of some pellets can be justified as most stove owners seem to think it is justified.

    Can you please list your pellet boiler make/model, the different pellets you've burned and any differences you've noticed?

    I have a Windhager Biowin and so far the only two pellets I've burned have been the MWP blend and Boundary Bay Blend. I only burned a few bags of the Boundary Bay. They were a horrible pellet. It seemed like every bag had moisture infiltration and I think this is what lead to seeing many pellets that were not even burned a quarter of the way through. I'd see a thin coating of black ash over a pellet that was 50% intact or more in my ashbin over and over.

    Having burned about a ton of the MWP pellets blend I can see that it is a much better pellet. The ash is a very fine greyish brown and there are no unburned pellets at all. The MWP are not the most expensive but they're also not the cheapest in my area. Home Depot carries the Fireside Ultra which I've read good things about. I will be burning some of those soon to see how they do. In addition to the ash I'm going to attempt to track the temperature/weather over a period of time and correlate it with the amount of pellets used for each different pellet.

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  2. DZL_Damon

    DZL_Damon Member

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    I have a Kedel K102. I've mainley been burning MWPs as well due to their very easy and inexpensive obtainability. In my area. I ran 400lbs of Firesides since most folks around here love them in some of the less expensive pellet stoves. I noticed little difference since the boiler cleans itself out. My o2 trend is the only indication of quality. The Fireside MAY have been a little more stable with o2, but recent tweaks to my fan speed curves and recalibrating my o2 sensor has made the MWPs o2 trends more stable.

    One thing I noticed about the fireside was a hard deposit left NEXT to the burner auger.... not in or on it. It was stuck in a harmless place next the the burnpot
  3. Dana B

    Dana B Feeling the Heat

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    DZL_Damon, what is the price difference between the MWP blend and the Fireside Ultras in your area. Where I'm at the MWP go for $250 and the Firesides are $219.
  4. foamit up

    foamit up Member

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    MWP blend here are between 215 and 229. My BioWin loves them. Very light gray fine ash. It burnt almost 3 ton before it needed to be cleaned and emptied the ash pan when it had burnt 3 1/3 tons. I have some all softwood MWP i am going to try when it gets really cold although it was 5 last night. Foamit Up
  5. Dana B

    Dana B Feeling the Heat

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    What do
    What do the MWP softies go for up there? i don't think I've seen them here in southern NH. I've only seen the blend.
  6. DZL_Damon

    DZL_Damon Member

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    MWP and Firesides are $209 at Home Depot. MWPs are $197 across the street at Wal Mart... bought 1 bag at Walmart, went across the street to Home Depot.... "Hey, do you guys price match?".... they beat it by 10% extra. $177/ton. Bought 11 tons for myself, Dad, and my grandmother.

    I'm amazed Firesides are the same price as MWPs here because I think they work better in the less expensive pellet stoves and lots of people are after them. MWP's have been getting better too. My friend couldn't burn MWPs before since they were too long and stalling his auger. All the ones I have now are nice and short.

    MWPs make a nice product for an inexpensive pellet. BTU content over the past 8 tests I've done on them avg 8250btu/lb as received.
  7. PassionForFire&Water

    PassionForFire&Water Minister of Fire

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    Smart! You got to love this country.
    I will let the Austrians know how you bargain on buying wood pellet in the USA;)
  8. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    An indirect answer to the original question might be "yes, no and maybe." The industry has standards which if met should result in approximate equality as the pellets leave the processing, but what happens after that could impact the results materially in the negative direction for one pellet vs another, and for the same pellet but subject to different handling/storage, transportation, etc. I suspect moisture contamination would be a likely culprit, either through direct contamination or through storage in ambient conditions which impact the equilibrium moisture content up or down.
  9. Dana B

    Dana B Feeling the Heat

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    I understand what you're getting at. I hear a lot of people say that even the same manufacturer can have widely varying product from year to year or batch to batch before the pellets even leave their production warehouse. It's a shame that there's not more consistency of product.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2013
  10. iceguy4

    iceguy4 Minister of Fire

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    I have burned some high class pellets...Vermonts, barefoots, O Malleys, sommersets,stove chow, north americans, andsome low class pellets too. Heat wise I cant tell the difference. ash, yea I get ash. the green supremes I burning now is an ashy pellet BUT its fluffy. I feel like my stove will burn dog food if necessary
    Harman man likes this.
  11. Mr._Graybeard

    Mr._Graybeard Member

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    Like Iceguy, I've got a Harman PB105. I've found little or no variation in performance based on pellet quality. I burned Uncle Jed's softies last year for half a season (I've seen reports that they're rebagged Bear Mountain, a very good pellet) and ended the year burning whatever I could load into the back of my car -- mostly Marth.

    I started this season burning Somersets and have gone to Lumberjack (blend) and Pro Pellets (hardwood). The Jacks and Pros I would regard as "better" grade big-box pellets -- some stove and fireplace shops stock them as well as the Tractor Supply types. I buy mostly on the basis of price and vendor proximity.
    iceguy4 and Harman man like this.
  12. AndrewChurchill

    AndrewChurchill Minister of Fire

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    I started with a Harman PB105 and I burned a variety of hardwood and softwood pellets both Premium grade and commercial grade. The Harman ate them with no problems. I did however notice that I would get a lot of clinkers with hardwood pellets.

    I switched to Spruce Pointe 100% softwood pellets from Canada about 4 years ago and I haven't seen a clinker since. I have burned over 30 tons of those pellets at my two houses with no issues. They typically run between $250 - $265 per ton which includes delivery. In my duplex I have a 3 ton bag bin and in my new house I have a 5 ton bag bin.

    I have a bulk delivery truck deliver the pellets to my apartment house but at my place I use a leaf blower to fill my bin. I can do about a ton of pellets an hour by myself and almost 3 tons per hour if I've got someone handing me the bags.

    I'm currently running a Pellergy PB1525 in two houses. I have a 500 gallon storage tank in my new house.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2013
  13. sinnian

    sinnian Minister of Fire

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    MWP blend burned horribly in my boiler. Very little heat, and tons of ash. Everything else as burned fine (Cleanfire hardwood, LG's, Maine's Choice, Okanagon, MWP softwood, Vermont, Energex Softwood)
  14. Dana B

    Dana B Feeling the Heat

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    I know with a stove it's obvious when a particular pellet is giving off more or less heat but how did you determine that the MWP blend gave off very little heat with your boiler?
  15. sinnian

    sinnian Minister of Fire

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    Boilers still give off heat, most of the time with the boiler running the basement is about 70*. When it was just the dino boiler running it is about 64*. With the MWP blend it was about 67*. Of course those are all averages ~ depends how cold it is outside, but I used the MWP's during the "warmer" (relative term) heating months.
  16. PassionForFire&Water

    PassionForFire&Water Minister of Fire

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    I agree, poorly designed boilers give off heat,... plenty of heat.
    State of the art boilers have minimal stand-by heat losses.

    I'm always shocked when I go to see potential customers.
    They have an oil boiler somewhere sitting in the basement and in summer they use this oil boiler to make DHW.
    In the vicinity of the oil boiler is an AC unit going full blast to keep the basement from going over 100F:eek:
  17. Dana B

    Dana B Feeling the Heat

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    The best way I can think of to compare pellets is to see how long they last under the same weather conditions and with the thermostat set at the same temp. Obviously on a very cold windy day in January you're going to use more pellets than on a mildly cold day in October when you've just started heating for the season. However if you have two different brands of pellets and under the same weather conditions and tstat settings a bag of the first brand lasts a day while a bag of brand 2 lasts half a day then brand 1 is the better (more cost effective) brand. I don't see how the amount or type ash plays into it unless you're seeing a lot of unburned pellets in the ashbin indicating that there's something about them that's not allowing your boiler to burn them and thereby costing you money. If both brands are burning clean through all the pellets but one produces a little more or less this is irrelevant. To me it seems the key indicator is how long they last with the temp of your house and the weather being constant. Am I wrong about this?
    iceguy4 likes this.
  18. iceguy4

    iceguy4 Minister of Fire

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    I believe this is the only way for me to tell what pellet is better...I don't have the time for that...IMHO my pellet boiler burns them all tha same.
    Sinnian says...MWP blend burned horribly in my boiler. Very little heat, and tons of ash. Everything else as burned fine (Cleanfire hardwood, LG's, Maine's Choice, Okanagon, MWP softwood, Vermont, Energex Softwood)
    Personally I think he drank the " the kool aid" that seems to be served up around this forum. Someone will get a bad batch or maybe just a bad bag and bash the crap outta a certain brand. This combined with the FACT that people have a tendency to blame the pellet for probable "short comings" in their stove maintenance.
    Now I have personally taken the tour of the Vermont pellet factory and met the very knowledgeable and careing owner and have seen first hand his concerns with pellet quality. Its kinda common knowledge his pellet is top of the line...YET earlier this year I see a post something like..."Vermont's...what a difference a year makes" Well I wanted to chime in (but thought better) and say " hey why don't you call them and give them a chance to make it right"... BUT no you would rather bash a good product... Now I sit here in my house warmed by green Supremes (a not so well thought of pellet) and I am remembering some of the nasty things said of them.. Well I'm here to say aside from them being some what dirty, they burn HOT. This was the first pellet to actually boil water in my boiler (no call for heat...stove coming of full heat and going into Idle mode) Also the flame wraps around my heat exchanger and down to the last one on the right( looking in) I also have the urge to try "infernos" in my stove because I KNOW they will burn based on what I have seen guys post... Its so comforting knowing I have the only stove here that will burn rocks if I choose. Its so exhausting seeing this over and over and over again:mad:

    So my fellow members ...Keep drinking the Kool aid and if you see someone bashing a pellet...Why just "jump on the band wagon" and bash the crap outta them. If the shoe fits... just saying
  19. Dana B

    Dana B Feeling the Heat

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    I tend to agree with a lot of what you say. Buying wood pellets reminds me of buying stereo/video equipment. In the AV world there are people that swear by expensive high end cables. They'll pay thousands of dollars for them because of the marketing they've been sold and then swear they can hear or see the difference. I think there is a lot of marketing that goes into the wood pellets as well. I'm not an insider but I'm sure the dealers have a higher profit margin on the more expensive pellets. I've heard people rant and rave about the Vermont pellets too but they range from 280 - 310 per ton when I priced them out. I can get MWP or Fireside Ultra at Home Depot for 219 and somtimes 209 a ton. The Vermont pellet may indeed be a better pellet than both the MWP and FU but one has to consider the law of diminishing marginal returns. Is the Vermont pellet that much better that it justifies the $60-90 per ton difference? That's quite a difference for a single ton and given that most people will use on average 4 -7 tons it adds up. I'll use the average prices to illustrate my point:

    5 tons of Vermont @ 290 (average Vermont price) = $1450

    $1450/ $219 (average home depot price for FU or MWP) = 6.62 tons

    So basically in order to justify the extra price for the Vermont pellets I'd have to see with my own eyes that my boiler would burn only 5 tons of Vermont pellets in a given period but in that same time frame I'd have to burn more than 6.62 tons of the MWP or FU before I see the first dollar saved. Now I haven't tested this but if I had to take an educated guess I'd say it's more than likely that while the Vermont pellet may be of slightly better quality, there's no way that I'm going to go through 6.62 tons of the MWP or FU in the same amount of time that I would go through only 5 tons of the Vermont pellets. 5.5 or 5.75 tons? I'd belive that. 6 tons? possible. But 1.6 tons more in the same time frame? It just doesn't sound reasonable with the particualr boiler I have.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2013
    iceguy4 likes this.
  20. PassionForFire&Water

    PassionForFire&Water Minister of Fire

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    Hi Dana,
    Use the less pricy pellets with the Windhager BioWIN.
    I'm sure we had this conversation before.
    Long term testing was done with 20' containers from several pellet mills in the New England area.
    Not much difference.
    It's the burn pot concept of the particular pellet boiler that will give extremely different results with different pellets.
  21. iceguy4

    iceguy4 Minister of Fire

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    I would pay 20 to 30 dollars more for Vermonts for several reasons in order of importance to me
    1)It was clean burning {1/2 ton last year} 2) loyalty to owner {super nice guy} 3) they smell fantastic!!{ coming out of the bag} 4) more BTU's {effects of Kool aid haven't fully worn off}
    Danab I agree with your math .
    I know we all will look at a purchase and not like to think we "made a mistake". I purchased 9 tons (see signature) by applying similar math to my purchase. After burning close to 3 +- tons, I'm happy with my choice...what makes me feed dumb is HD now sells them for $10.00 less!
  22. Dana B

    Dana B Feeling the Heat

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    I remember speaking with you about the different pellets Marc. I've been sticking to the cheaper pellets so far and think I may continue to do so.

    If you're trying to minimize heating costs I think your money is better spent adding insulation and air sealing rather than buying the most expensive pellets.

    The one thing that I can say definitivelty about buying pellets is that it most definitely matters as to how they've been packaged and stored. I had tried one brand, Boundary Bay that had moisture damage in nearly every bag. Obviously a pellet is not going to burn well if it gets wet/damp regardless of the brand. I just wish Home Depot in NH would price match the pellets from the Home Depot stores in Maine.:) Then I'd really have it made.
  23. sinnian

    sinnian Minister of Fire

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    WOW You are a first rate jack @$$ aren't you?

    1. Throwing accusations
    2. Insulting my maintenance

    If I was drinking "the kool aid" I would be singing the praise of the MWP blend.

    Been at this a lot longer than you, and I know what I am talking about. I'll admit maybe I got a bad batch, but it isn't worth it to me to find out if that was the case or not. It is pretty well documented here that I bashed them the whole time I had to burn through them, and at the same time praised the MWP softies.

    As far as maintenance, I admittedly am too anal about keeping ti clean. You can ask my Pinnacle guy if you like.

    I don't know what is worse, being insulted by a NY'er or a PB105 owner ::-)

    Boy you got my blood boiling ~ internet tough guy.....
  24. sinnian

    sinnian Minister of Fire

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    Even this way wouldn't work due to the differences length of the pellets ~ at least for an auger system. My Enerex softwood are much smaller than my Vermonts, or anything else for that matter. I go through a bag of those quicker, because the smaller size makes it so that more can fit in the auger cup, than the longer ones.
  25. iceguy4

    iceguy4 Minister of Fire

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    LOL and I'm the internet "tough guy" you a funny guy see next quote...

    Nice...:confused:

    I never did either but I did say "if the shoe fits"... guess it must.


    ....


    wow...:rolleyes:

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