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Pellet mill.....anyone here have experience with them?

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by Spartan, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. Spartan

    Spartan Member

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    Hello everybody. First post so go easy on the new guy!

    I have a decent supply of sawdust that I am now paying to haul away. Better still, I have two customers/friends who generate several 40 yard containers a week and THEY are paying to haul them away. Yes, I know that some farmer will kill for it but we are in the city (Toronto) and it cost to truck it ($350 to the nearest farm).

    I want to start converting my own sawdust into pellets and burning them in a boiler at home and work. Step one is to see if I can make pellets. I'm having a hard time finding someone who sells pellet mills in Ontario. If I can't, at the very least, I like to find someone who has a pellet mill in Ontario and will let me test my sawdust. If not, then at least find someone in northern New York (near Buffalo?) and if need be, go further.

    It's a shame that I have to pay to haul the sawdust away and pay for heat.

    Second part of the question for those who have their own pellet mills, how well do they work? How much do you get out? I see crazy production numbers but they seem to vary wildly. If I do go ahead, it's no use for me to sit there and feed a handful of sawdust to make pellets.

    I would appreciate any and all help.

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  2. pete324rocket

    pete324rocket Feeling the Heat

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    Or someone who has built one from scratch. I have some gears with flat teeth in the junkpile I might have to have a look at in the spring. Notice how the extrusion holes are always round. 'spose it would be tough to make but any sense in square holes(pellets) or spirals....just wondering.... By the way,there are plenty of youtube videos on the subject these days,and making them from leaves is interesting, but the work involved...is it worth the time?
  3. smoke show

    smoke show Guest

    from what I understand about the homeowner sized mills is that it takes forever to produce any amount of pellets.
  4. burrman

    burrman Member

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    but if the homeowner fills his hopper and goes to work..comes home and wammo!!!! bucket of pellets lol
  5. dragracer300

    dragracer300 Member

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    I have a friend that has 2 a 5hp and a 40hp. He uses the small one around the farm to make pellets out of waste material like leaves and junk mail ect. He tried to use the big one to make pellets to sell. He makes skids and has a farm as well. He has a good supply of hard and soft wood dust but he said he couldn't produce enough to pay the electric bill. I take my empty pellet bags to him and he makes pellets out of them but he mixes other stuff with them. If you want to get rid of waste it may be a good deal but if your trying to make them and sell it may not be cost effective?
  6. Snowy Rivers

    Snowy Rivers Minister of Fire

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    I did a demo on one of the units like the ones sold on Ebay (Made in China) It had a cool little diesel engine.

    Local guy had some and one that we could try out. We ran leaves, ground up paper, sawdust and other crap through it.

    It would work fine for a home owner, IF you have the time to gather the leaves and other materials and then process them.

    Its not a freeby for sure.

    The leaves must be dried and then ground up, just the right amount of moisture added and then pelletized.

    The Pellets must be placed on racks with screens to cool out and finish drying before placing in containers.

    You can make pellets from grass too.

    If you have some acreage or even a large yard, you can pelletize all the grass cut off the yard.


    Its not a quicky process though.

    These Pellet mills are not a cheap item to buy. I looked at getting a mill but then factored in the cost plus the time to run the thing.

    Was still far cheaper for me to buy the nut shells and use them.


    Just my 2 cents worth.

    Snowy
  7. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    Hello

    I hear that the real hardwood pellets take 3 phase electric power to compress them properly into pellets. So that is something a home owner cannot do. The small home owner mills I saw cost $20k that is too steep for me!!!
    Also I do not see leaf and grass pellets for sale in stores so I assume they do not burn as well and maybe have a high ash content?

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  8. vgrund

    vgrund Feeling the Heat

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    People expecting to produce their own pellet heating fuel at home are IMO deluding themselves. From the perspective of pure economics and the ability to create a fuel of sufficient quality, quantity and consistency, this is a process that only works on an industrial scale.
  9. tjnamtiw

    tjnamtiw Minister of Fire

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    But the OP said he had pure sawdust which rules out needing a hammermill to reduce the mass to small size. He only needs the pelletizer and some binder to help hold them together. I priced the Chinese pelletizer with 20 hp diesel plus 3 sets of rollers and dies plus the hammermill and 2 extra screens. The price including shipping to Charleston and then brokerage fees and a drop gate truck to my door was $4000 total!!!! Quite a bit below what some of these people want!
    Now US made equipment is available from Buskirk. It looks really nice and isn't too badly priced AND it is US made!
  10. krooser

    krooser Minister of Fire

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    looked at this stuff last year... priced a mill from China and it was $1800.00 delivered to the east coast. I'd have to truck it to Wisconsin.

    The problem I have is a lack of time... I'm gone all week and my weekends are usually busy doing truck maintenance, etc. It would be fun to fool with.... and I have a free supply of sawdust if i need it.
  11. vgrund

    vgrund Feeling the Heat

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    A few rare exceptions may exist to the Home Pellet Mill economic and time equation (OP perhaps - sorry if I hijacked the thread with a generalization). They are however likely to be very rare indeed once everything is considered. I could be wrong, but isn't there also an energy intensive drying step necessary to normalize moisture levels of the feedstock?
  12. turbotech

    turbotech Feeling the Heat

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    The only way I see it being cost effective is to power the mill using an engine that is fed from a gasifier that also burns the sawdust. But then you are always trying to clean the engine to remove the tar build up.
  13. tjnamtiw

    tjnamtiw Minister of Fire

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    Yea, unless you had a ready supply of GOOD raw material, it's more of a 'hobby' kind of thing. I could get all the mulch from tree maintenance I wanted but you would have to hammer mill it and you'd still have higher ash because of the bark. With the steady supply of kiln dried sawdust, you could easily work out a formula to get a consistent moisture content that is the key to success with the small mills PLUS the use of binding agent (starch).
  14. tjnamtiw

    tjnamtiw Minister of Fire

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    Yes, to do it commercially, you have to cool the pellets and allow them to lose moisture. At the home, you do it on wire mesh racks which is one more step in the process. Perhaps, if you're lucky and have enough energy you can run the mill for 4 or 5 hours getting 100 lbs and hour and then you need an hour to hammermill the next batch. You can use a cement mixer to blend feed stock, water, and binder while a volunteer (read that as WIFE) feeds the mill. Then you need time to spread the day's take onto the racks and put them in a holding contraption for the night. So for a day's work, you get maybe 500# of pellets. Do it 4 times a week and you have a ton. Read this whole thing as you need to be retired and still have some energy left. I got tired today just unloading and stacking a ton of pellets in my garage!
  15. Spartan

    Spartan Member

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    I think I saw them all! LOL!

    As far as I can tell from watching a ton of videos, the holes are straight through with a slight bevel on the leading end to compress them into position. Basically 1/16 of an inch of clearance, about a 100 rpm and lots of power. Point pressure amount is about 6,000 to 8,000 psi.

    Without going into too much detail, I have a complete machine shop (welder/lathe/mill) and several tons of steel (we did our own plant/machinery maintenance). I could if I want too design/build the mill but I doubt it will be worth my time. Just making the plate involves drilling a few hundred holes, probably a days worth of work, whereas you can buy them for a hundred bucks. Subcontracting it out to a CNC will still cost me 60 bucks an hour. Trust me, I have been beating my head to overcome the dirt cheap overseas labour but in the end, might as well buy their junk.

    And we still have the two main questions....will it work? Is it worth it production wise?
  16. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    Someday maybe, But more like when I retire and have loads of playtime(ha-ha)? Unless I find a used one on the reasonable side. Even if I couldn't make the whole season supply, Some is better than nada. Have to mow the lawn and rake the leaves anyway. Might as well use them for something besides land fill.

    I have been lucky enough to see some larger mills. Someday hope to visit a production mill like NEWP or Tree Cycle. Differently interested!
  17. Spartan

    Spartan Member

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    Just a general reply to most posts......

    I don't need to make the wood dust, I have it and I'm paying to haul it away and I know people who generate truckloads a week. The dust is already far below kiln drying and in the neighborhood of 3% moisture content. If anything, it's too dry and may need moisture. Apparently, the moisture acts as a bit of a lubricant to push through the holes.

    From what I read/youtubed, they come out at about 200 Fahrenheit. The only thing they need is some kind of half assed rotating dryer with a strong fan or a moving rack and fan or leaving them in a large steel drum to cool down for a day or two before bagging.

    Earlier on today, I was talking to one of my friends who generates a lot of dust. Apparently, a pellet mill was for auction. It ran on 50 hp 3 phase motor. Great for now but a year or two from now, it's useless (retiring).

    One can not run these things on home power and get any kind of production. At best, dipping directly into the main box one can get a 10 or 15 hp motor but that's pushing it. Better off with a gas motor. Plus that way one can take the "production" to the source of the dust.

    The issue is one of testing to determine...can I compress what I have and how cost effective is it (volume versus time).
  18. Spartan

    Spartan Member

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    BTW......

    IF the pellet mill works out, then I'm going to ask for help in selecting a boiler/furnace. Right now, the Harman HYDROFLEX60 looks very interesting. ST105 looks a bit large.

    Just for the record, I have natural gas heating with a high efficiency furnace. It's costing me over a couple of thousand a year and that is keeping it at 62 at night, 64 in the day and 66 in the evening. I don't want to know what it would cost me if if I upped those by 4-5 degrees. On the other hand, IF the pellet thing works, I will have all the heat I can possibly use...and then some.
  19. Spartan

    Spartan Member

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    Thanks for the name. I'm going to call them tomorrow.

    To be time effective, I think I need to make about 400 pounds an hour. If I burn 12 to 15,000 pounds then it will take me around 50 hours to pellet and bag/store.
  20. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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    Most decent commercial full mills will run over $500,000 to a million to build up. There is one I have seen advertised for sale in Southern Utah, I think on Craigs List, or one of the equipment sale sites. It's smaller and looked a little "Rube Goldberg" but could do the job, as I remember it's about $25,000. For those above the issue of electric phase is the HP requirements to run the equipment. Several 30-60HP motors are required to operate the equipment.

    That said, if you have enough heat demand, I would look for a sawdust burner. There are several sawdust/chip burners out there that are very efficient and include things like dryer ramps and staged feed systems. While you can't burn yours and your neighbors production, you may get to the finish line without adding another 5-7 person operations.

    Alternatively, contact ALL, that is all, pellet producers within 75 miles and see if they are interested in buying your dust. See if they will even pick it up. Someone on the forum hauls from a mill to the pellet operation in the mid-west. He may chime in and give you the logistics.
  21. tjnamtiw

    tjnamtiw Minister of Fire

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    With a few people, you could maybe meet that rate. I would have been happy with a couple hundred pounds an hour. I was going to use the plastic sand bags, which are almost the same size as the pellet bags and then get the metal twist ties that you cinch up with a special tool that you hook and pull with.

    http://www.buskirkeng.com/
  22. XXV-AK

    XXV-AK Member

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  23. tjnamtiw

    tjnamtiw Minister of Fire

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  24. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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    Two simple questions to ask.... What is the point of origin of the manufacturing (didn't see it on the website) and second what is the warrantee on the "die" and how long does it take to change out?
  25. jeffd3889

    jeffd3889 Member

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    I like the ATFP250DE-Bare It looks like you could power it with just about anything!

    then just find a way to control the moisture and consistency of the sawdust or what ever raw material you use.

    a few days of work and you have a season worth of pellets, invest time with a partner and both of you could have a season of pellets in a week.

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