Pros: Superior quality. Longest burn-time. Minimal ash residue.
Cons: What to do with the 50 empty plastic bags per each ton purchased?
The term Sticker Shock was once the exclusive property of the auto industry. Be it increased costs regarding labor, materials or advertising and marketing, nearly every consumer-related goods-and-service commodity has recently experienced price increases in the double-digits. A significant rise in fuel costs affects everything that is shipped by train or delivered by truck. We in the colder climates get a double-hit from the need to heat our homes by way of our purchase of # 2 heating oil or natural gas.
Youre getting warmer!
Judging from the population loss experienced in certain northeastern states, the trend and popularity toward warmer and friendlier climes will find the Sun Belt the logical Snow Bird destination. Those of us determined to tough-it-out in the Snow-Belt will need to pursue alternative heating means such as solar gain and Pellet Power - one of the hottest and most environmentally-friendly sources of heat now available.
An odd name, for sure; but one that makes sense nonetheless. Websters defines ligneous as of, or having the nature of wood. The bonding quality of lignin, the structural cellulose found in all plant material is a key to the success of this type of fuel. In years past, countless tons of sawdust from lumber mills was carted-off and buried in landfills. Thanks to Dr. Jerry Whitfields invention and introduction of the wood pellet-burning stove in 1983, this former waste product was processed into pellets as fuel for this new and unique type of heating appliance.
The manufacturing process for wood pellets is simple. Incoming sawdust is ground and moistened before being compressed into strands equal to the approximate diameter of a pencil. Since the wood cellulose serves as a natural binder, no glue is required for the pellets to retain their shape; though the extruded strands are fragile enough to break into smaller pieces required for the auger/feeding process. The finished pellets are then dried and packed in sturdy 40 lb. recyclable plastic bags for shipment.
What is a Pellet Stove?
Although their size and outward appearance may differ by make, all pellet stoves employ the same essential principle. Pellets stored in a hopper at the top of the stove are fed to a small grated firebox by way of a rotating auger (picture a giant drill bit) powered by an intermittent electric motor. Depending on the selected setting, pellets are fed at varying rates to conform to desired heat output. Two blower motors assist in the heating process. One provides an adjustable artificial combustion draft for the firebox, which is located directly below the incoming pellet feed. A larger squirrel-cage blower pumps a substantial volume of air through the heat-exchanger tubes located above the burn-chamber that project heat into the room.
I purchased my 1993 Whitfield Quest pellet stove in 1995 when a ton of pellets could be purchased for under $200 (US). In the years since, I have used every available brand sold in my area. As with any product, quality varies by brand and grade. Premium pellets are usually made from hardwood sawdust, which results in a longer and cleaner burn while producing less ash.
Both Lignetics and Pinnacle brands are the quality leaders, in my extensive regional pellet experience. While a ton is now closer to $300 in price (due mostly to increased fuel/transportation costs) this quantity is equal to 3 - 4 months worth of supplemental heat, allowing for significantly decreased usage of my oil-fired hot water radiant heating system. With # 2 fuel oil selling for over $3.00 per gallon (as of this posting) the $600 I just spent to top-off my tank would provide more than enough wood pellets for my entire New England heating season.
Lignetics wood pellets have one of the longest burn-times of all brands Ive purchased. This allows me to get the maximum heat from the lowest possible setting (slowest feed rate) on my auger-speed adjustment. Lesser brands such as Stove Chow with shorter burn-times require higher settings, resulting in significantly fewer available BTUs per bag. With Lignetics in the hopper, I can comfortably heat my 14 x 18 ft living room and the identically-sized master bedroom above for 38-40 hours (with outdoor temps at 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above) for less than $6 (less than $5 if purchased by the ton).
Have you hugged a tree today?
Add to this the environmentally-responsible recycling of wood by-products and virtually no polluting emissions or visible smoke produced during combustion. Despite these benefits, pellet stoves require shut-down for ash removal (every 48 hours with my model) and light periodic maintenance is required for maximum efficiency, such as lubrication of motors and a thorough seasonal cleaning.
Specifications listed per 40 lbs. (18 kg)
Material: Hardwood Sawdust
Ash: Less than 1 %
Fines: (dust produced during shipping and handling) less than 0.2 %.
Density: Not less than 40 lb. per cubic foot.
40 lb. bags of Lignetics wood pellet fuel are available from between $4.50 and $6.00 at the height of the heating season at select hardware stores and home centers. The lower prices account for annual February and March price reductions as vendors attempt to move the product rather than find space to store this seasonal item (especially true following mild winters). Most dealers offer significant discounts for quantity (1 ton purchase = 50 forty lb. bags stacked on an oak pallet). Quantity purchases are best made through your local dealer. Be sure to get a delivery price quote before finalizing the sale. Beware that on-line purchasing can result in astronomical shipping charges that account for the many horror stories and tales of woe Ive read in the course of my research.
Find additional product information at: www.lignetics.com
The Pellet Fuels Institute website is a valuable resource listing all quality pellet fuel manufacturers by region. Contact information is also available. www.pelletheat.org
Lignetics of Idaho, Inc.
Sandpoint, ID 83864
Lignetics of West Virginia, Inc.
Glenville, WV 26351