[Questions] I'm new to pellet burners, I have a few questions regarding pellets

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Sep 19, 2017
Hey everyone, I have a few questions regarding pellets as I'm quite new to pellet stoves.

I've moved into my new home at the beginning of the year, it's in a new country and I don't speak the language yet so attempting to ask the locals hasn't helped.
I used the pellets the stove dealer recommended for the final few months of winter but it cost a flippin' fortune! I was incredibly surprised at just how many pellets we used and the ones that were recommended, some popular brand in this country, is pretty much the most expensive pellets for sale in this country.
I started thinking maybe I could try some other pellets this winter that are not as expensive but while looking around the shops I completely confused myself as there are so many different types with huge price differences.

So, firstly I wanted to ask what are the trade-offs between expensive and cheaper pellets, I read that the difference between soft and hardwood pellets is heat output and ash, but some pellets look exactly the same, use the same woods, same ash, same heat output (according to the manufacturers' specs) but one is €8 per bag and the other is €6.50 for the same size bag, which of course when multiplied over 300-400 bags is a big saving.
Regarding soft vs hardwood is there a massive difference in heat output? If my burner is let's say 10kW would hardwood pellets only output 9.5 or 9kW or are we talking a larger difference like 6-7kW?
Other than the wood type, what should I be looking for when choosing pellets? What should I be avoiding?

And finally, I keep seeing people buying these ultra-cheap black pellets; they are really short stubby pellets about 1.5cm long, jet black like coal, and they come in plain white bags, no brand, no pellet spec, no details, just unmarked woven plastic fiber bags. But here's the thing... they are around 70% cheaper than the premium pellets, I can buy roughly 300 bags for the same price as 100 bags of the expensive pellets I used last year. But what are they?
The fact they're in unmarked cheap bags and the price is so low I would assume they're completely crap and useless, but if the differences are not gigantic would it pay me to get the cheaper ones as I get so many more bags?

Any thoughts and opinions would be greatly appreciated.

Right, it says "the blackening affects the quality and increases the thermal value". Does that mean negatively affects the quality or positively, also "it increases thermal value" - isn't that a good thing?
I'm just confused because if this blackening treatment improves the pellets, why are so much cheaper?
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The best thing you can do is buy couple of bags of each pellet and test them out and see what works best for your stove. This is what i did last year after my supplier changed to a crap pellet. I got about a weeks worth of pellets of each brand and tested them out. Found one of the best pellets at my local box store that burnt nice and hot and clean... Some of the pellets after the first bag i found they were totally garbage and stopped using them until i found a good pellet and then just added a few scoops in every time i added a bag of pellets to mix them in and get rid of them. Finding a good brand of pellet i ended up using about 20-30% less than the previous years due to how much hotter they were..
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There can be quite a bit of variability, so you have to test each brand. And even pellets from the same brand can give different yields from year to year. The brand we used two years ago gave a great fire, lots of heat with little ash buildup. Last year, pellets from the same brand gave less heat and lots of ash. I was continually cleaning clinkers out of the burn pot. The guy at the place I ordered from this year, says that brand name has changed hands several times in the past year and a half, so there's no guarantees that the pellets are coming from the same factory and from the same stand of trees.
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OK, thank you everyone. I will follow this advice and just buy a dozen bags of a few different types and test them all until I find the best ones.