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Pellet supply and pricing

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by mtalea, May 16, 2006.

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  1. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Just depends on the region and market Mike. Here propane is pushing $3/gal., oil north of $2.5 and cordwood starts at about $180. Even though we have local coal, it is bituminous and no one I know burns it. Pellets at $150-180 make a lot of sense in this market and the price is quite stabile here. No matter how well I burn wood in a brand new Jotul, the pellet stove is always cleaner, by a significant amount. Oh, and my Jotul can't start itself and have the house warmed up when we wake up. My sister-in-law from Mass. thinks we're crazy for getting rid of the pellet stove (maybe she's right!).

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  2. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, "Is our children learning"?

    Hard facts? Well, on one hand you state a fact that pellets are more efficient than wood and then you ask someone for hard facts to prove you wrong. Can we have hard facts to prove you correct? (Not anything printed by manufacturers, epa tags, etc.).

    The first time Pellet stoves came around they claimed very high efficiencies. A real world test was finally done over a couple of years - actually in use in houses - and the Pellet stoves came out from as low as 42% (an earth stove model at the time with a bottom feed!) to as high as just over 70%.

    Although we can guess that may have improved, consider that the early Pellet stoves did not have high exhaust temperatures and had good heat exchangers, etc....so the question would be why there would be much improvement? Do stove manufacturers sit around and worry about getting every last BTU out of Pellets? (I haven't seen this)

    Are there any independent tests carried out in actual homes which determine Pellet Stove efficiency of recent models? Things like flyash buildup can lower the efficiency 10% or more from the manufacturers lab.

    Sorry to be skeptical, but having been in the biz for 25 years, I've heard a lot of unproven facts, from how Buck stoves can heat (and aircondition, no kidding) a house with 2 logs a day, to how 2,000 lbs of Pellets = 7,000 lbs of wood.

    BTW, the main loss of efficiency in Pellet Stoves was due to "excess air" which means those blowers that continually blow many tens of thousands of CFM through the stoves combustion systems each hour. As I remember, the Quad that turned on and off - only on full, did pretty well because it solved some of this problem.

    So, no flames, but waiting for the actual proof of any kind.
  3. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    the same wood that makes pellets can make wood bricks and once you factor in wood bricks all the hassels you mention about wood dissappear. Idiot proof ??? many more mechanical parts to break down computer boards to faulter thermo couplers regimented cleanning routine, Idiot proof?? I bet you have more service calls for pellet stoves than wood stoves?
    Its to idiots that require the service work

    again what if some one bought bio bricks? so goes the space factor. About the space factor. wood can be stored outside. Get pellets wet they are useless. They take up valuable storage/ living / garage space. It one thing to run out of wood by poor planning but when there are no pellets at any price available then what


    Both the newer Cat Defiant, para-phrasing your own words approach the effeciencies of pellet stoves at .8 grams
    Again burning bio bricks or pellet like material the claim to to be much cleaner burning

    Let me see rodents at one point you advocate the virtues of pellets and no rodents then use corn as an example of multi fuel, which we all know attracts rodents. At which point are you trying to make your arguement. Can' t have it both ways.

    Mold Mildew in the wood pile are all examples of bad stacking placement plus who is complaining when it is stored outside

    If the ants are stupid enought to reside in my wood they become toast.

    You have not factored in In 30 years I have never paid for my wood source. Even today 2 cords have been given to me.

    Chain Saws, never paid for one. The one I used today, Craftsman was give to me, My repair, only replacing the fuel line

    If you factor it out 6 cords a year times 30 years 180 cords never paid for, in fact I was paid to cut most of it.

    You are preaching to the wrong audience here, Just look at the scrounge post or Cordmen. What you are saying about the labor of love, is true elswhere but not here.

    I have had the post Pellet stoves have taken a yuppy appeal. Explaining as I pull into my office one morning in Oct., One Hummer a huge suburan and couple explorers are sitting in the parking lot. All drivers owners are there to obtain pellet stove permits.

    No flames from me just debate
  4. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    The only material I can find on Pellet Stove efficiency is mostly from our trade group or stuff presented to the government to try to "sell" them on the technology because of air quality, etc.

    The only in-home tests appear to the the older Omni series, which shows from 52-68%, the certified heaters being higher and non-certifieds being lower. BUT, these were older generation pellet stoves.

    The enclosed chart is what is presented as the average efficiencies in literature from our industry "experts" to the government. Harry will be glad to see that Pellets are showing up a bit higher, but the same report says tests at the lab vary by as much as 20%.

    So, give the Pellets their due for less moisture and for 10% greater efficiency.

    Unlike oil and gas, Pellet stoves are not tested for AFUE, meaning their actual efficiency over the on/off cyles - low, high and even then not being used (do they radiate cold when rear vented and hooked up to outside air?)

    Within the next couple years, we'll probably see another in-home study. That is really the only thing that tells the story.

    Attached Files:

  5. HarryBack

    HarryBack New Member

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    debate....*snicker*....passive-aggressive

    idiot-proof.........You can actually create creosote with a pellet stove...absolutely positively....and Im sure there have even possibly been fires, or a stove fault do to this buildup- right? How many chimney fires have you seen due to poor burning of wood? How many homes immolated to due non-cleaning of the flues? Yep, more calls due to a broken part with a pellet stove...buuuut fewer calls to the fire dept as well.....likely that same person who cant maintain his stove cant maintain his chimney either, but the chimney issue Id say has more dire consequences, wouldnt you? And all service work isnt necessarily for those "idiot" customers....some of its actually called for.


    Pellets can be stored outside, but they have to be covered...get them wet, totally useless, other than as mulch. As for running out due to poor planning, well, same as wood, you dont buy your pellets when the season is upon you, otherwise you are playing roulette....poor argument on your side, Elk...sorry, same argument for wood, except, maybe worse, what if you havent gotten SEASONED cordwood? Pellets are more consistent, quality-wise as well.


    *sigh*.....corn, buckwheat, pea pellets, switchgrass...a few other items will burn as well.....
  6. HarryBack

    HarryBack New Member

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    Yes, very few actual real-life tests, and certainly not enough data to compare one stove with another....all thats prevalent is really lab tests and we all know those are optimum conditions, almost never met in the "real world". And when hooked up to outside air for combustion, they DO NOT radiate cold, at least not now. The distribution air stream is separate from the combustion air stream altogether, and although the manufacturers seem to say you can gain efficiency by using outside air, Ive really never seen it.
  7. PutnamJct

    PutnamJct Member

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    I own a pellet stove and will argue for them against most other fuels except wood. Can't compare pellet prices to the guys who have free trees in their yard and will use their sweat equity to turn it into heat. Apples and oranges.
    It's the convenience factor. Pour in a bag, set the thermostat and walk away. The wife can do it if I'm not here without ruining her manicure if need be :) Although she could/would split and stack wood, we are being lazy at this point in our lives.
    Now oil on the other hand........
  8. HarryBack

    HarryBack New Member

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    at least the price of oil went down today!
  9. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    I admit I'm probably the exception 30 years no chimnney fires. This is not an accident. Burning well seasoned wood, maintaining the stoves, and knowing how to regulate them, is the key. Both a pellet stove and wood stoves need maintance to run correctly.
    The debate here is pellet cost. Last year demand out stripped supply. All those newly purchased stoves, are still in the loop, needing pellets this year. The pricing indicates that supply is still an issue. If there is another run on pellet stove purchases,
    shortages and price increases will happen again. The thread is all about price and availability.

    Most know the advantages pellet vs wood. The biggest difference is wood can be processed by indivuals Manufacturing process
    need not apply. Shipping cost is local.

    My question to your Harry do you feel lucky? Where do you put your money? How much do you alot to pellet stoves and wood stoves inventory? I noticed permiting, once pellet stoves supply ran out. the next run was wood burning inserts. and twice the number of free standing wood stoves than the prior year. If I get my satistics together, I think more inserts were installed than free standing. I do think pricing and availability has to be factored in, when purchasing a pellet stove. Some will purchase them, thinking they are doing their part using a renewable fuel supply.

    Debate is over, if you have access to a cheap wood supply its a no brainer

    If paying the going rate the gap is reduced. If buying from Mo's wood man you get screwed either way.
  10. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    So, you are saying when a pellet stove is not being used and it is very cold outside, you can put your hand on just about all areas of the pipe and stove and they are not colder....in other words, no exterior air or cold wick in?

    The real debate is not Pellets vs. Wood, because it's pretty obvious that the "real" cost of cordwood to most people is relatively high. Nothing can compete with free.....if it's a matter of money, I have a simple appliance that will save me more than any of those fuels - a sleeping bag , blankets and a coat! Wood burning is a lifestyle. Anyone that does it seriously knows this.....some will save money, but most won't.

    I would buy a pellet or corn stove in an instant and use it for an area like my shop or a studio/office where I want fast heat. But I would not buy it with borrowed money, my last dollar or to save money. I would buy it for some of the same reasons as those yuppies in the SUV....for the gadget factor and the renewable fuel, although I have some doubts about the renewable part really paying off (in actual savings to the planet), when weighed against pellet transportation, packaging, life span and manufacturing costs of the stove, etc. etc.

    As Harry says, it also might smell less, which will keep me out of the dog house. Some women may like "Eau D'woodsmoke" but my wife likes fresh air.

    Pellets are more likely to compete with Natural Gas and LP. Either way, the hearth dealer will get some kind of a sale if a customer wants a stove or fireplace/insert.

    Anyway, my concern is that if there are big problems with pellet price and supply in the east and other areas with relatively low production, this could stop the pellet stove industry from growing. Sure, we can talk about swtichgrass and peanut hull pellets, but I heard about a lot of alternative pellets over 10 years ago and still don't see any!

    The ideal situation, which I have mentioned before, is for Pellets to become mass market and available everywhere for relatively low prices (under $200). This would free up the sellers of stoves to focus on sales and service and not have to deal with what would be an almost impossible task - that of storing and supplying vast quantities of pellets. Just as woodstove shops usually don't sell firewood or coal, neither should they have to sell pellets.
  11. Mike Wilson

    Mike Wilson New Member

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    I don't think pellets are unsafe, problematic, or even bad... I just don't think they are particularly economical, at least not at anything over 150-160/ton... and that's if you already have the $3,000 stove.
    Wood comes out on top price-wise, even if you purchase it, but yes, there's labor involved, and safety considerations (and the first time I was away on a business trip and the wife told me on the phone that she started a fire 2 days ago and she'd had it going ever since I nearly $h1t myself...).

    Sorry kids, if you're purchasing your fuel, coal is king (yes yes yes, provided you can get anthracite).

    -- Mike
  12. smirnov3

    smirnov3 Feeling the Heat

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    I am thinking about buying a pellet stove because I have an oil furnace, and I don't like where my Oil money is going - the USA buys a lot Saudi oil, and the Saudis use that money to teach their (Salafist / Wahabi) form of islam, which encourages jihad & terrorism. (nearly all muslim terrorists are the products of Saudi islam)

    so, for me, switching to pellets is about patriotism & self protection.
  13. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    That's what I'm talking about the "pissed off" factor combined with the convenience factor. You can stick it to the man while still maintaining the convenience of a thermostat. Though you must consider that to some degree a portion of your money is still going to big oil. Transportation costs and many of the pellet mills dry the saw dust using ng. I agree with Craig. And as much as I hate to say it pellets should be sold by big boxes. It would lower the cost, increase availability and help the industry grow as a whole. There is a little more than a dollar difference between the big box that sells them here and the stove shops. And lower price is what is needed. One also has to consider the increased need for maintenance and replacement parts with the pellet stove. Some people can end up with 500.00 dollars in repairs sometimes and that can really eat away at the savings.
  14. PutnamJct

    PutnamJct Member

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    In hindsight, I would have learned more about coal stoves. You get more heat for your buck and they don't seem to be that much more of a headache to run then a pellet stove. Amen to screwing the oil ticks in KSA :)
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Just curious - nobody's mentioned safety. How many chimney fires have been reported with pellet stoves?

    Shane, Craig. I like the idea of mass manufacturing of pellet stoves, but only if the quality and design continues to improve. I know it can be done, our Quad has been very reliable and easy to use and maintain. Recently I visited some Swedish and Norwegian pellet stove sites. They are getting it down incredibly well. Their stoves now compete on which can be the quietest. Some have great feeder systems so that the pellets can be fed into a storage hopper that is outside or on a porch. And as I've previously posted, the market is large enough that they have a great distribution system similar to the way we deliver oil or propane.
  16. HarryBack

    HarryBack New Member

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    yea, Ill agree....someone said it eloquently above...."cant argue with free fuel"....'zactly!
    If I had a gas well in my backyard I'd be golden, but sadly, all I have in my back yard is rocks.
    Here in New England there is a real supply issue with pellets......only one local manufacturer, and they are acutelyaware of it! Then we've got to ship it in and pay those costs. We are trying an experiment here actually. Selling our hardwood pellets and softwood pellets for the same price....the softwood comes from pretty far- we are selling the Quality Brand, versus the Hardwood......most New Englanders are sold on the fact that hardwood is the only way to burn, but if you talk to some of the western guys who burn pellets, they burn pretty much exclusively softwoods, and seem to love them...(chime in here, guys)......buuuuut so far, the hardwoods are outselling the softwoods. Around here, we already have the mass-mechandisers selling pellets, by the way. The quality of the stoves has increased, but I cant help but feel the stoves themselves would take a hit if sold by the mass mechandisers (they already do sell some stoves too). Its been shown they cant seem to support or service what they sell, so theyd have to get in cahoots with service outfits to deal with the warrantee issues and service issues. The thing that scares me is the new salesperson selling stoves with little or no direction from someone who knows what she or he is talking about......bad advice can be literally a killer in this business.
    Also, an interesting sidenote: Had a cordwood seller call me today, asking for the recent pellet prices....it seems he indexes his cordwood costs partially on what pellets sell for.....and hes a fairly large outfit....Ill ask how much he sells sometime if He'll tell me. Actually sells a fair amount of product on Cape Cod, where he gets over $300/cord (well, that was last year).
  17. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    I'll dig in my NFI pellet manual but if I remember correctly softwood pellets tend to have more btu/lb. than hardwood.
    NFI pellet manual pg. 4 paragraph 3 & 4

    "Heating, or caloric, value of finished pellets ranges from 7000 to over 9,000 Btu (British thermal units) per pound (at 5% moisture), with resinous species (such as pines and fir) having slightly higher gross caloric values than non-resinous species (hardwoods) and bark. Average Btu content of pellets as recieved by the consumer is 8,300 Btu per pound.

    Softwoods, hardwoods, and blends of different species are used as raw materials and known as feed stock. Where hardwoods are generally the preferred species for cordwood appliances because of their higher Btu content and lower emissions, pellets from softwoods generally have slightly higher caloric value and lower ash content than pellets produced from hardwoods, particularly hardwoods containing bark. Resins in softwoods that are more difficult to burn in a cordwood appliance are not a problem in pellet appliances, which regulate the air for combustion and provide precise, gradual fuel feed in small amounts."

    I burn Heartland pellets they're made from Ponderosa pine. I found a listing of btu/lb. for them and they're around 9,100btu/lb. and .41% IAC. I prefer them over any other brand I've tried. They're 182.00 per ton.
  18. warminwisco

    warminwisco New Member

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    It would seem that most fuels, i.e. chord, pellets, and corn are weighed against NG, oil and to a lesser extent propane. How much did you folks pay for NG last winter? I payed from 1.11 to 1.40 a therm for my house, its below a buck now, and the corn pellet stove saved me about 1/2 of my 750 heating bill (120 a ton for canadina fir pellets and 70 a ton for corn). The bill was similar to last year as we had a mild winter and the rates never did reach the "Katrina" proportions they scared us with. What are the views of the NG increases in the future from competition from China and other developing manufavutring countries and the greedy energy companies? Cold winters and NG increases add to viability of alternative fuels. Thanks
  19. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Go w/ a good sized soapstone stove and it'll still be hot from the night before :)

    -Colin
  20. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy Minister of Fire

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    Good call colin. My house is seldom cold, i do little stove maintenance, and im never blown out.

    This thread is all over the map. great thread though.
  21. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    heh heh... yes, I remember Mo's wood man from the other thread - he would have us all installing electric heat to save money over wood burning!!!

    Well said, Elk :)

    -Colin
  22. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    ... and another great quote out of this thread above :) A top notch 0 degree sleeping bag can be had for about the cost of one section of class A chimney :)

    Wow, it's amazing how much time we all have to post now that we're not burning so much...

    -Colin
  23. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy Minister of Fire

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    forget the sleeping bag, down feather bed and comforter do it for us, best money spent. Plus the down body pillows i bought my wife when she was pregnant, those things are the sh*t.
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