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How to choose the best pellets? A small guide to smart purchasing

How to choose the best pellets? A small guide to smart purchasing

Choosing the best pellets allows you to limit heating and maintenance costs for your home heating system and helps reduce pollution. In summary: you save money and help the environment.

You will certainly have noticed that there are a wide range of pellets available on the market and its easy to get confused. By focussing solely of the price and therefore choosing the cheapest product available, you feel like you are saving money, in the short term. Daily use, however, will quickly show you how poor quality pellets can harm your pellet stove.

When using low quality pellets, you’re likely to encounter the following problems:

  1. poor combustion and blockage of the brazier: a blocked brazier on a pellet stove will almost certainly create problems for the automatic relighting system (one of the main advantages of pellet-burning appliances)
  2. very cheap pellets have a low calorific power and this means a reduced ability to generate heat by the appliance (pellet stove, boiler stove, insert, fireplace, boiler fireplace etc.). This low output leads you to use the stove at higher power settings, increasing pellet consumption and thereby cancelling out the initial savings
  3. low quality pellets are usually more damp and rich in resins, and when they burn they lead to the formation of creosote. This is a viscous residue similar to tar, which attaches to the internal walls of the stove and chimney flue. Creosote is a substance that is difficult to remove, it reduces the efficiency of the appliance and over time can accelerate the wear of internal components. It is also flammable and increases the risk of fire
  4. the glass on the pellet stove turns black. Using poor quality pellets quickly turns the inside of the glass black: this is ugly and obscures your view of the flame

How should you choose then? Pellets are an exceptional fuel (discover all the advantages of pellet stoves in this article): for an informed choice it’s a good idea to know the properties that a good product should have. What can help you understand if the sack of pellets you want to buy contains the best type of pellet for your stove? Firstly, look at the label…

What makes a good pellet? Learn to read the label

In choosing the best pellets, the first recommendation is to carefully read the label on the sack. What values does it show and why are these important?

Types of wood: are beech or spruce pellets best?

The label should show the type of wood used. The most commonly used woods for pellets are beech and fir. Which is better?

Beech and fir have different characteristics, but they are both efficient and their calorific power is quite similar. However, there is one rule to be observed: the pellets should have been made from virgin wood that has only undergone mechanical processing: they should not contain sand or chemical compounds such as paint residues, glue or wood stains, which could be harmful when burnt.

come scegliere il pellet migliore per la stufa: faggio o abete? e quali sono le differenze?

Different types of pellet: the colour of pellets is determined by the wood they are made from. Lighter ones are better, but colour alone is not enough to determine quality.


Geographical provenance is also not a guarantee of quality: whether the pellets are made in Austria, Canada, Switzerland or Italy, the most important thing is that the supply chain is quality controlled, from manufacturer to consumer.


The label should indicate the diameter of the pellet cylinders, generally speaking they should be between 6 and 8 mm.

How to choose the best pellets? Lets look at the calorific power of pellets

The calorific power is the energy generated by the combustion of a given combustible mass. This means, in broad terms, the higher the value given on the label, the better the quality of the pellets, the better the combustion will be and the greater amount of heat generated.

Pellets with a good calorific power should have values between 4.5 and 4.8 kWh/kg (16.5– 17.2 MJ/kg). Sometimes, higher values are given in error, such as 5.2 kWh/kg (19 MJ/kg), which refers to pellets without water (source

Ash residues

The value given for ash residues determines the level of dirt the pellets will release inside the stove (or fireplace, boiler stove or boiler the fuel is used in). The lower the fixed residue percentage, the better the combustion.

Humidity percentage

Another important value on the label is the humidity percentage. The more humid the pellets, the lower the calorific power (part of the combustion energy will be used to evaporate the humidity) and the higher the amount of dirt inside the combustion chamber. Good pellets should have a humidity content of no more than 8% (source

Have you checked these important values on the label? There is another one that is absolutely essential.

Pellet certification: En plus, Din plus, and ÖNORM

If you are asking yourself how to find the best pellets, the first thing to check is that the sack bears the details of quality certifications. These differ based on the requirements needed to achieve them.

EN PLUS: is the most common certification because it considers not only the quality of the product, but also the traceability and the life cycle of the pellets.

EN PLUS certification divides products into three categories:

  • A1 for the best pellets with an ash content no greater than 0.7%
  • A2 for second grade pellets (average quality) with an ash content no greater than 1.2%
  • B for low quality pellets with an ash content of up to 2% (source

Warning! The EN PLUS brand must be accompanied by a number identifying the company and by two letters indicating the country of origin. If there is only the brand with no other indications, you cannot be sure that the product is really certified.

In addition to EN PLUS certification, there are other seals that ensure pellet quality standards:

  • Din Plus: a German certification body
  • ÖNORM M7135: an Austrian certification body
  • Pellet Gold: a quality guarantee developed by AIEL

Even though there is no national obligation to certify the quality of pellets (pellet certification is voluntary), it is however forbidden to sell pellets in anonymous packs, i.e. without the name of the manufacturer and with no information on their composition.

In the absence of certifications, check that the sack at least has details of the manufacturer or the company selling the pellets.

Find the style that best suits your home with designer stoves

Have you checked the label and checked the certifications but still aren’t convinced? Continue reading…

How to recognise a good pellet: practical tests

The criteria that lie at the base of the certifications allow you to identify the best pellets quite easily. Nevertheless, you can also test the quality of pellets at home, perhaps by purchasing a few sacks to run on tests before stocking up for the whole winter.

Lets start with the sawdust. If you can see a large quantity of sawdust, inside the pack, this means that the pellets tend to fall apart and are therefore low quality. Pellet dust is very fine and tends to infiltrate mechanical and electronic components, with a risk of malfunction.

When they are not properly compressed, pellets burn too quickly, and this leads to increased consumption and more frequent cleaning.

There isn’t much sawdust, good. You can move on to the water test, quick and easy. Immerse a handful of pellets in a glass of water. If the pellets sink without making the water cloudy, it means you’ve got a good product: the pellets are compact, don’t crumble and don’t have sawdust residues.

Come riconoscere pellet migliore

The last three tips, simple but effective:

  • before purchasing your supply for the entire winter, experiment and test the quality of the material and combustion efficiency
  • consider the opinions of others that have tested pellets, ask your friends or search the web
  • ask a trusted dealer, with their experience they will be able to point you towards the best manufacturers

How are pellets made?

How are pellets made industrially? Let’s start with the raw material. Generally speaking this is waste material from wood processing such as sawdust and woodchips. The raw material is selected, dried and cleaned of impurities: this stage is essential for achieving quality pellets!

The subsequent step is mechanical compression, which takes place in special presses: a system of cylinders compresses the material and passes it through holes of a specific diameter (usually between 6 and 8 mm). During this stage, the ground wood reaches very high temperatures, and thanks to these temperatures lignin is released. Why is lignin important? Because it ‘binds the pellets together’ acting as a natural glue.

After pressing, the pellets are cooled and are then ready to be packed and sold.

Come si fa il pellet di legno? PIccola guida utile per l

In summary: how to choose the best pellets and save on system running costs

How do you choose the best pellets without falling for the attraction of a very low price? And how do you make your way through the jungle of different offers? Choosing good pellets can be an excellent strategy for saving money and protecting the environment, therefore:

  1. read the information given on the label carefully: it shows fundamental quality indicators such as humidity and calorific power
  2. check the certifications: these ensure that proper tests and checks have been carried out as well as the traceability, sustainability and transparency of the supply chain and transport
  3. carry out some tests at home to check the quality, and ask for advice from your reseller, who will be happy to recommend the best pellets

Stufa a pellet bianca in Maiolica, Stubotto modello Berna P973

White pellet stove in Majolica, Berna model Stubotto

Are you still unsure how to choose the best pellets?

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