5 years ago
Now Reading: How to choose the best pellets? A small guide to smart purchasing
5 years ago
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:
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…
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?
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.
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.
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 www.enplus-pellets.it).
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.
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 www.altroconsumo.it).
Have you checked these important values on the label? There is another one that is absolutely essential.
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:
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:
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.
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Have you checked the label and checked the certifications but still aren’t convinced? Continue reading…
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.
The last three tips, simple but effective:
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.
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:
White pellet stove in Majolica, Berna model Stubotto