Pellet Stove Fuel

Pellet stove fuel for your pellet stove

Pellet stove fuel for a pellet stove is normally sold in 40 pound (18 kg) bags at about $3–$4 each, or about $120–$200 a ton. You can estimate how much pellet stove fuel you will need for a heating season by noting that one ton of pellets is equivalent to approximately 1.5 cords of firewood.

If you compare pellet stoves to other appliances

Most homeowners who use a pellet appliance as a main source of heat use two to three tons of pellet stove fuel per year. Pellet fuel appliances are often less expensive to operate than electric resistance heating and propane-fueled appliances.

The quality of your pellet stove fuel

Most pellet stove fuel has a 5%–10% moisture content. Well-seasoned firewood is usually around 20%. Some pellets contain either petroleum or non-petroleum lignin used as a lubricant in the pellet production process, though most contain no additives. Pellets made from agricultural waste contain more ash, but they may produce more heat than pellets made from wood.

The Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) maintains National Residential Pellet Fuel Standards, although fuel quality certification is the responsibility of the pellet manufacturer.

Compare pellet stove fuel grades

Under the standards, there are two pellet stove fuel grades: premium and standard. The only difference between grades is in the inorganic ash content: premium should be less than 1%, and standard less than 3%. Premium is usually made of core wood (not bark).

There are five fuel characteristics prescribed for both grades:

  • Bulk density per cubic foot (0.028 cubic meters) shall not be less than 40 pounds (18 kg)
  • The diameter shall be 1/4 to 5/16 inch (635-794 mm)
  • Maximum length shall be 1 and 1/2 inches (254-127 mm)
  • Fines (dust) of not more than 0.5% by weight shall pass through a 1/8 inch (317.5 mm) screen
  • Sodium content shall be less than 300 parts per million (ppm).

Checking your pellet stove fuel quality

You can check pellet fuel quality by inspecting the bag for excessive dirt and dust. (Dirt can form clinkers in the stove.) There should be less than one half of a cup of dust at the bottom of a 40 pound (18 kg) bag. Pellet stoves designed for low-ash (typically top-fed stoves) tend to operate poorly when used with pellets of a higher ash content. Many pellet appliance manufacturers are redesigning their products to burn pellets with varying ash contents.

Availability of pellet stove pellets

Although the availability of pellet stove pellets is increasing, you should be sure there is a reliable pellet stove fuel supplier in your area before purchasing a pellet stove. It is also important to know the type of pellet fuel available before you shop for an appliance. Most pellet fuel appliance dealers either maintain a supply of pellets or recommend a supplier. You may also check the local telephone listings under "Fuel" or "Pellet Fuel," or inquire at a local tree nursery, or at home and garden supply stores.

A big thank you to the US Department of Energy for their help with data for this pellet stove information.