the 6-bag test...

batchman

Burning Hunk
Oct 29, 2013
203
Backwoods MA
I figured it's high time I shared my data. I think too much, so I take too much information. Accordingly it's time to publish so to speak.

I noticed my stove builds up ash and then just stays that way pretty much for the season. So I ran a few bags to get things "primed" and did some experimenting and measuring with a few different pellets. I clear the ash bucket then run 6 bags, then pour the ash into a gallon jug. Then I mark the amount, dump the ash, and measure the volume of ash by carefully filling the jug with water. The idea is BTU & % ash is all well and good as an indicator, but I want to know how often I'll have to empty my ash bucket and whether I can go 24hrs on 2 bags running steadily with worthwhile heat. I'll shut up now and let the data speak for itself. Stove info is in my sig, I just run it steady at a feed and draft setting. And I'll apologize for not being able to make a table in this forum, I don't know the UBB code very well but the real crimp is that "tab" doesn't seem to work....

6-bag tests (edit feature working again, see below for comments):

2018/19
LaCrete(soft_____Range 3__Feed -2__375degF__11.25hrs__52oz
Lignetics(blend)__Range 3__Feed -2__340degF__12.75hrs__52oz____slightly clumpy
MaineWds(sft)___Range 3__Feed -2__410degF__~10.5hrs__40oz____many unburnt pellets
___________________Range 2__Feed -1__300degF__~14hrs___________fines, dirty burn pot
Turmans(hdwd)__Range 3__Feed -2__370degF__11hrs_____14oz___many unburnt pellets
___________________Range 2__Feed 0__315degF__~14hrs
___________________Range 2__Feed +1__340degF__11.75hrs________2 bags = 24hrs

2017/18 (did not burn in 16/17):
  • NorWarmth Spruce Range 3 Feed -2 350degF 11hrs 68oz modest buildup

2015/16:
  • Okanagan Gold__Range 3 Feed -2 350degF 12.5hrs 44oz sticky clumpy ash
  • Okanagan Plat___Range 3 Feed -2 360degF 11.75hrs 40oz very little buildup
  • Barefoot_______Range 3 Feed -2 390degF <11hrs 63oz dusty buildup
  • Spruce Point____Range 3 Feed -2 390degF 12.5hrs 60oz fine dusty ash
  • Lignetics HW____Range 3 Feed -2 385degF 10.5hrs 68oz hot but quick!
  • Geneva HW_____Range 3 Feed -2 345degF 12.5hrs 64oz clinkers in ash bin
  • Okanagan DF___Range 3 Feed -2 445degF 9.5hrs 32oz hot but really quick, pellets very short

2014/15:
  • Green Supreme__Range 3 Feed -1 385degF 12.5hrs 160oz temp snap opens
  • Okanagan Plat__Range 3 Feed -2 375degF 12hrs 68oz very little buildup
  • Cubex________Range 3 Feed -2 390degF 11hrs 58oz temp snap opens

2013/14:
  • Okanagan Plat__Range 3 Feed 0 380degF ~11hrs 52oz very little buildup

I tried a couple others before going all technical; the FSUs seemed pretty similar to the Plats with maybe a little more ash and Ambiance wasn't as ashy as NEWP/GS's but was too dirty for me to repeat the test. The two conclusions I drew from all this are:

- I get pretty annoyed if I can't re-fill the stove at a given time of day
- There is a difference between low- and high-ash pellets!
- I should have trimmed down the feed more when running the GS's, they're what gave me the idea.
- If my stove had a "Feed -3" I would have more choices for that 2bags/day problem

I picked 6 bags since it takes a bag or so to get the draft set, and a couple bags just didn't seem like enough data to reach a conclusion.

I've kept with the Platinums as my baseline because that was about the only low-ash pellet I could land here where I needed them reasonably, thanks to one store's lax delivery policy. For 2016 that got tightened up some so I may be more ready to shop around, but those pellets are pretty tough to beat at least in my stove. I feel I need to stay low-ash because "I know what I'm like" and therefore low maintenance is a big thing. With the low-ash stuff I can clean the exhaust path once per 3-ton season and I like it that way. A lot.

on edit - I should add I cleaned the exhaust after a couple of the above and 2 tons of Plats, too little in the pipes to worry about.

Thanks for listening,
- Jeff
 
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Lake Girl

Moderator
Nov 12, 2011
6,940
NW Ontario
Interesting there is a drop in temps for the Okanagan Platinum year to year ... consistent outside temps when testing? Feed rate changes would account for temp changes?
 

bogieb

Minister of Fire
Oct 31, 2014
2,810
South Central NH
Nice info. I'm surprised at some of the results, but that may be because of your particular stove, the particular brand, or because you have to set the draft and I don't.

Unlike your test, I found the Oakie Golds to be low ash what there was, was not sticky or clumpy in either of my stoves.

I had some people raise their eyebrows when I picked up some Cubex recently at $5/bag (an individual who was moving and getting rid of extras). But I found, like your test shows, that these burn hotter than what I normally burn, so am happy with the deal (usually they go for ~$7/bag around here).
 
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batchman

Burning Hunk
Oct 29, 2013
203
Backwoods MA
Interesting there is a drop in temps for the Okanagan Platinum year to year ... consistent outside temps when testing? Feed rate changes would account for temp changes?
Really I was tweaking feed rate with the priority of reaching 2 bags/day and seeing what heat and ash I got, but I was surprised at the variable temps for the same pellet yr/yr. I did find that pellets that sat outside 1 year (under a pallet tarp) seemed to lose 5-10 degrees, but having noticed that I made sure to record data from "fresh" stuff.

Nice info. I'm surprised at some of the results, but that may be because of your particular stove, the particular brand, or because you have to set the draft and I don't.

Unlike your test, I found the Oakie Golds to be low ash what there was, was not sticky or clumpy in either of my stoves.
Thanks, figured it was about time I posted it ;). I think it points out the general wisdom here that each stove and probably even each install is different, YMMV! For the draft it really only takes an hour or so to dial in (a couple tweaks) and doesn't really change much except maybe from hardwood to softwood to blend, or maybe it's the size of the pellets, anyway not much.

Since I've got a sealed ton of Plats left and it's going to be cold another week, I nabbed 6 bags of Lignetics at the local hardware store. Also have my eye on some Genevas at a spot near a trip I need to make Monday. I'll keep editing in what I find as long as the site will let me.

I should add that since I'm using a cut-down milk gallon, the Green Supreme #s are estimated - it was way more than filling the jug. Perhaps I should have measured that pellet at 3 bags, but in the bin it's a little hard to tell beyond "not much" or "a lot"...

Cheers,
- Jeff
 
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scajjr2

Burning Hunk
Dec 9, 2010
194
Kingston, NH
Unlike your test, I found the Oakie Golds to be low ash what there was, was not sticky or clumpy in either of my stoves.
Same here burning the Okie Golds, not much ash, the ash itself is very light, fine particles.

Sam
 

batchman

Burning Hunk
Oct 29, 2013
203
Backwoods MA
TTT with a couple more entries. Just landed a six-pack for one last test this season I think. Unless it goes cold again!

Cheers,
- Jeff
 
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batchman

Burning Hunk
Oct 29, 2013
203
Backwoods MA
2015/16:
  • Okanagan Gold__Range 3 Feed -2 350degF 12.5hrs 44oz sticky clumpy ash
  • Okanagan Plat___Range 3 Feed -2 360degF 11.75hrs 40oz very little buildup
  • Barefoot_______Range 3 Feed -2 390degF <11hrs 63oz dusty buildup
  • Spruce Point____Range 3 Feed -2 390degF 12.5hrs 60oz fine dusty ash
  • Lignetics HW____Range 3 Feed -2 385degF 10.5hrs 68oz hot but quick!
  • Geneva HW_____Range 3 Feed -2 345degF 12.5hrs 64oz clinkers in ash bin
  • Okanagan DF____Range 3 Feed -2 445degF 9.5hrs 32oz hot but really quick, pellets very short
Edit function appears to time out, so it's TTT with new info. Appears you'll have to click "expand" to see it though.

Couldn't resist trying a 6-pack of the "benchmark" pellet. FWIW I tried going down to Range 2 Feed 0 just to see, got past 12 hrs and had ~375degF. Most pellets won't reliably keep POF at that setting, and even though this one works ok the volume out of the convection blower isn't really enough for my current setup - I'm heating a basement room then trying to move the heat upstairs. I might feel differently about this one once I get the ducting worked out.

From this exercise I also figured out it must not have been the temp snap opening on the 14/15 tests, guessing it was the vacuum switch but that doesn't really make sense on the Cubex...

I was going to shut down after this but looking at cold nights still in the forecast maybe I won't clean up just yet. Found a store that had Blackstones a week or two back...

Cheers,
- Jeff
 
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batchman

Burning Hunk
Oct 29, 2013
203
Backwoods MA
Well I did wind up finding and eventually burning a 6-pack of Blackstones. Unfortunately I had issues with (guessing) the vac switch interrupting feed here/there so my temp and time info "isn't worthy", but I did get my 12hr/bag runs and subjectively it was a nice warm pellet. Of course I was not able to baby-sit an entire 12hr run to see if the stove "checked up" at all, but I think it would do my 12hr goal.

I am stumped on why some pellets trip this and others do not, and it doesn't seem to correlate with HW/SW/BTU but maybe with ash level. I think I'll have a pro come do my annual so I can see how they clean the vac port - can't seem to figure it out myself. Dollars to donuts they just apply compressed air to the tube...

Blackstone wound up with approx 70oz of ash from 6 bags. A little tough to directly correlate because I replaced my "funnel" and I think the ash tamped down more than I have been while dumping. But that's not a bad number at all, I'd say "the local guys done good".

Biggest conclusion I get from all this is I wish I had analog controls. I need the high convection setting just to move heated air, but would like to trim feed (and maybe combustion along with) down a little more relative to the presets.

Have a great off season!
- Jeff
 
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Peterfield

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2013
1,392
New Hampshire
On a lark, I tried some Blackstones not expecting a whole lot but to my surprise, one of the cleanest pellets I have burned in terms of both clean glass, very little ash and no clinkers. I ordered a ton.
 
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batchman

Burning Hunk
Oct 29, 2013
203
Backwoods MA
Looks like I missed updating this last year, so here's two! two! two years in one LOL...

This year I got frustrated trying to get 24hrs/2bags (makes refueling easier on my crazy schedule, and while I had trouble in the past keeping the stove from losing POF on heat range 2 it seems the candidates this year did OK if I was careful with the draft adjustment.

2018/19
LaCrete(soft_____Range 3__Feed -2__375degF__11.25hrs__52oz
Lignetics(blend)__Range 3__Feed -2__340degF__12.75hrs__52oz____slightly clumpy
MaineWds(sft)___Range 3__Feed -2__410degF__~10.5hrs__40oz____many unburnt pellets
___________________Range 2__Feed -1__300degF__~14hrs___________fines, dirty burn pot
Turmans(hdwd)__Range 3__Feed -2__370degF__11hrs_____14oz___many unburnt pellets
___________________Range 2__Feed 0__315degF__~14hrs
___________________Range 2__Feed +1__340degF__11.75hrs________2 bags = 24hrs

2017./18
NorWmthSpruce__Range 3__Feed -2__350degF__11hrs__ 68oz______modest buildup
FiresideUltra______Range 3__Feed -2__375degF__11hrs____________ needs >=0.12 draft

Looking over the several years' info I find with interest there is significant seasonal variation in the OkiePlat/NorWarmSpruce, with 40-68oz of ash. Of course this year I didn't find 6bags around to test, and went with similar result Turmans with the crazy low ash and because I got a lower delivered cost. Downside to that was I couldn't put them where I wanted, this fellow uses a pallet jack where I normally get the full Moffet treatment HA.

I would have run the Lignetics but I couldn't get delivery at all reasonably. They looked like the only ones that could make my 12hr benchmark, although I still can't be sure about stray vacuum cuts on any of these. Just had one on the Turmans, I've bumped up the air.

I have found that adjusting the draft to show a larger (but not quite lazy) flame does make measurable difference in heat output, up to maybe +15 degrees. So my overall data is not to be taken to scientific peer review, Your Mileage May Vary!

The unburnt pellet results were due to my not pushing the whole burn pot back as firmly as I had in the past. Maybe a 1/16" difference, mind you! Still getting some though, may have to re-visit my "path mod" (see my MaxxM "build" thread).

That reminds me, I need to update that thread ;).

Cheers,
- Jeff
 
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batchman

Burning Hunk
Oct 29, 2013
203
Backwoods MA
Looks like editing my top post has timed out, so here's my latest including an update for last year showing the difference year-old pellets stored outside can make. I wonder if sometimes people unhappy with a certain pellet simply got last years' inventory. On the other hand my temp #s are just from eyeball averaging several random readings, they all fluctuate 10-20degF. I should probably chart readings and get a real average, but...

2019/2020
Vermont_________Range 2__Feed 0___360degF___11.75hrs__24oz____needs really low draft
___________________Range 2__Feed -1__340degF___12.5hrs
2018/19
LaCrete (soft)___Range 3__Feed -2__375degF__11.25hrs __52oz
Lignetics (blend)__Range 3__Feed -2__340degF__12.75hrs__52oz ____slightly clumpy
Maine Wds (sft)__Range 3__Feed -2__410degF__~10.5hrs __40oz____many unburnt pellets
____________________Range 2__Feed -1__300degF_~14hrs________________fines, dirty burn pot
Turmans (hdwd)_Range 3__ Feed -2__370degF__11hrs? _____14oz____many unburnt pellets
____________________Range 2__Feed 0 ___315degF_~14hrs
_____(year old)____Range 2__Feed 0___285degF_________________________3 bags near 48hrs
____________________Range 2__Feed +1__340degF__11.75hrs?___________2 bags ~= 24hrs
_____(year old)____Range 2__Feed +1__315degF


I am liking this years' Vermonts, and very glad since I did not get a chance to test burn before buying 4 tons. I may try some others if I run my three new tons down and still need the heat, but I got a late start this year.

Keep it warm!
- Jeff
 
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