JEFFREY L. DECKER
CHIMNEY SWEEP AND HEARTH PROFESSIONAL OF CT MA AND RI
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Wood Pellets - reliable and cost-effective source of energy for home heating systems.
Low in Ash and High In BTU's
Focus: WOOD PELLETS
With the pursuit to find a reliable source of energy other than non-renewable energy such as fossil fuels, lots of studies and research have been done through the years. Biofuels made from biomass (organic materials) have been proven to be an effective substitute. These biofuels are derived from biodegradable materials such as manure, plants, etc.
Now, let us focus more on another effective organic material, the wood pellets.
In general, the very fine wood particles (sawdust) when compacted turn into wood pellets. These wood pellets are considered to be a form of wood fuel. Wood fuel, in its simplest explanation, is a fuel generated from wood. Wood pellets are normally the byproducts of sawing logs or woods by the method of sawmilling. However, this can also be produced by any activities that involve transforming and cutting of wood.
Wood pellets are basically solid and consistently hard. With the pellets’ very low moisture content (humidity of 6 – 10%), they contain a higher energy component that is likely comparable to high caliber coal. This would only mean that their low humidity content saves a lot of energy that is needed to burn the amount of moisture. These characteristics – a diameter of about 6 – 8mm, usually 2cm long, lower humidity, and high density – allows the wood pellets to be automatically used in clean-burning heating appliances. Moreover, these attributes make the wood pellets highly effective as a burnable material.
In addition, since wood pellets are considered to be biomass, then they should be environmentally friendly. They release fewer emissions and ashes that could be detrimental to the surroundings. As mentioned, these pellets are compacted, thus they do not need a lot of space unlike any other type of wood fuel. This would also make it easier to ship even in long distance.
Not frequently used to manufacture pellets are similar organic materials such as straw, corn, etc. As a renewable material, wood pellets give the benefit of continuous energy supply. Moreover, woods and logs are not basically cut down to produce wood pellet but they are merely the byproduct of any wood processing activities. Also, pellets are actually waste materials, therefore utilizing them as an energy source would mean lessening the problem on waste disposal.
With the current situation, where the cost of fossil fuels is expected to continually rise, installation for more capable pellet heating systems resulted. From the year 1999, there have been numerous pellet stove models, heating furnaces, and other forms of heating machines that are widely distributed in the markets.
These stoves specifically designed for wood pellets are advantageous over other types of home heating systems. The usual wood stoves need more constant maintenance compared to wood pellet stoves. They are easy to operate and even more convenient than using traditional stoves. Though physically, they may look like the usual traditional stoves, however, they have microprocessor controls that ensure a clean and efficient fire.
As of 2005, the demand for wood pellets as a wood fuel has significantly increased due to costly fuels in different parts of the world.
Wood Pellets and their Benefits
Wood pellets as a source of alternative energy over the usual non-renewable fossil fuels have been gaining a lot of interest all over the world. As a matter of fact, heating systems designed specifically for the use of wood pellets are now widely available in the markets of some countries across the globe.
It is believed that wood pellets as a wood fuel (a form of biofuel) are better than any other kind of fuel. In fact, it can be compared to high-quality coal and other similar goods. Below are some strong points of wood pellets as an alternative fuel.
• Environmental Friendly
Wood fuels which include fuel derived from wood pellets release a lesser amount of ashes and emissions that are harmful to the environment and to human beings. The carbon dioxide that is released during the combustion of wood pellets is being used by the growing plants. Thus, it does not add up to the problem of global warming. Moreover, there would be no worries on how to dispose of wood pellets which are basically waste products because they can still be utilized as an alternative fuel. This would greatly reduce problems with waste management.
Wood pellets are generally small-sized, highly dense, and compacted unlike other biomass fuels such as wood chips. These characteristics would make a stack of wood pellets easy to store and transport. Their small, regular, and uniform shapes enable them to flow like a fluid resulting in easy feeding on automated heating systems.
Availability has been always one of the concerns in the use of non-renewable fuels. There may be numerous resources now, but it might create a problem with scarcity in the future. This is where the production of biomass fuels enters. Wood pellets, biomass, are byproducts of sawmilling and other similar activity. With this in mind, instead of discarding these waste materials, these can be utilized as a useful alternative source of energy. As long as trees are continually growing and a balance between cutting and planting exists, availability would not cause a major problem.
Wood pellets are proven as effective as wood fuel. Their low moisture content (humidity is typically 7 – 8%) does not require a lot of energy to burn it off making them highly efficient burnable material. Moreover, this feature also explains why it is easier to ignite (7-8% against 30-35% humidity of wood chips). Wood pellets generate high heat output.• Natural
Aside from being biodegradable, chemicals or additives are not necessary for manufacturing wood pellets. A natural substance called lignin is found in the wood itself that serves as a binder. A small amount of maize starch is added though sometimes. Furthermore, wood pellets are manufactured from pure and not contaminated woods.
Wood pellets can be used in stoves (pellet stoves models and most traditional stoves), boilers, heating furnaces, and similar heating systems. Lots of these appliances are now available in the markets. These are the benefits that can be gained in utilizing wood pellets as biomass fuel. Such advantages make the wood pellets more popular among manufacturers and consumers.
Ensuring Quality Wood Pellets
With the gaining popularity of wood pellets as wood fuel, the manufacturers need to ensure that they are producing high-quality wood pellets. The consumers must also at least know the essential properties of good wood pellets.
Property # 1: Check the dimension. It should be a small-sized wood pellet. Most wood pellets that are utilized as fuel have a diameter of about 6 – 8mm and a length of about 2cm. Furthermore, it should be uniform, regular, and highly compacted. With this property, they can be easily stored and delivered. They will not take a lot of space. Also, they can be easily fed in an automated fuel handling system.
Property # 2: Know the moisture content. Remember that the lower the moisture content, the lower the need for energy to burning it off. The humidity of good quality wood pellets should be around 6-10%.
Property # 3: Ensure that they are mechanically durable. This means that high-quality wood pellets can endure numerous handlings. They should withstand any kind of operation otherwise they would easily break and wear-causing an increase in the number of fines in the pellets. Also, it is generally good when wood pellets can stand shipping even in long-distance and time.
Property # 4: Check the number of fines. The number of fines would greatly influence the smoothness and easy flow of wood pellets in the boiler’s fuel feeder. The greater the amounts of fines present in the wood pellets the greater the likelihood of obstacle in the feeding system of boilers.
Moreover, minute particles burn faster compared to wood pellets. Thus, if numerous fine particles are found in the wood pellets, there is a big probability that they would generate an unnecessary intense flame. The worst-case scenario is it might lead to precipitation of ash that will demand cleaning the burner after cooling it off.
Currently, the manufacturers make sure that the number of fines should be at most 1%. It is checked time after time in the entire manufacturing process. Furthermore, to ensure that fewer fines are present in wood pellets, the producers measure it even at the last processing phase and screen it before distributing.
Property # 5: Know if additives are added. Preferably, the whole wood pellets should be natural. The chemicals or substances added would significantly influence the wood pellets’ emissions during combustion. Wood pellets are commonly produced from sawdust. Thus, a substance that must serve as a “binding agent” is necessary to hold them together and be compacted. Lignin, a natural component found in woods, serves this purpose. In any case, those additives/chemicals are used, the quantity and type should be stated.
Property # 6: Check the density of wood pellets. Wood pellets should be highly dense. The degree of compactness would likely determine the possible amount of fines that can be found on the pellets. As mentioned, preferably zero to a very small percentage of fine particles must be present in wood pellets for these minute materials that would affect the quality of flame produced. The looser the wood pellets are, the higher the number of fines.
Wood vs. Wood Pellets: A Comparison
In the past years, burning wood has been widely used in heating systems in many homes in different parts of the world. However, the demand for burning wood as a source of energy is challenged by the entrance of wood pellets and their related products.
Wood pellets are highly dense, compressed, low moist materials that are primarily derived from compacted sawdust. They have been proven to be effective wood fuel that can be utilized in many heating system machinery. As a matter of fact, currently, they are gaining popularity among consumers from North America, Denmark, Austria, and Sweden. Moreover, several other countries are also interested to start manufacturing this kind of wood fuel.
On the other hand, the usage of wood in heating appliances is still widely utilized among domestic homes. The fact that they are abundant in several countries and without a doubt efficient, the demand for wood burning is still high. However, there have been many comparisons of these two forms of biomass fuel as to which one is the better alternative fuel.
During the winter season where the heating system is generally needed, it cannot be avoided that there would be the possibility of power failures in certain areas.
Wood: Most woodstoves can be operated without the use of electricity depending on the model.
Pellet: The augers of pellet boilers and fireplace inserts require the use of electricity to run and feed the pellets. Also, pellet stoves’ blowers that propel out the heat need electricity. However, a backup battery can be utilized.
Wood: It depends on the area. But, if the area is abundant in wooded land, then it would not create a major problem.
Pellet: Wood pellets are a byproduct of the wood processing activity. This means that instead of disposing of them, manufacturers make use of them. The trees are not primarily cut down to produce wood pellets. They are a product of innovation.
Wood: Again, it depends on the availability and demand for them. Furthermore, the chimney that is needed to vent the emission may be quite expensive with the use of wood stoves.
Pellet: If the pellet stove is positioned against a shrubbery outside walls, venting can be through a simple, short, special stainless steel chimney. However, most pellet stoves are more expensive than most wood stoves.
Wood: For most wood stoves, a distance of one foot or more against the wall is needed.
Pellet: The distance required to keep away from a wall for most pellet stoves is usually 3-6 inches only.
Wood: The flame produced by burning wood can be mesmerizing. It produces some kind of romantic and vibrant feeling.
Pellet: The property of being low moist material makes it easier to burn the most. A quite intense flame can be observed.
Despite the many comparisons between wood stoves and wood pellets stoves, both are advantageous over other forms of fuels. They come from trees and as long as there is a balance between the demand and supply of trees, then consumers can continually enjoy their use. More importantly, they both benefit the environment since the carbon dioxide they emit is utilized by the growing plants and trees.
All about Wood Pellets as Alternative Fuel
Wood pellets are a form of biomass that is currently used as a carbon-neutral alternative fuel. They are basically produced from compacted sawdust, a byproduct of any wood transformational activity such as sawmilling. They are believed to be advantageous over other forms of biomass fuels and non-renewable fossil fuels. They are environmentally friendly. The carbon dioxide that is emitted during the utilization of wood pellets is neutralized since the trees and plants themselves absorb it during the process of photosynthesis to grow and survive. They are also efficient and easy to ignite due to their low moisture content. They would not require a massive amount of energy just to initiate and complete combustion. In fact, some tests revealed that they have a high energy content that is comparable to high-quality coal.
Moreover, they are cost-effective in a way that wood pellets are mostly produced from waste materials of sawmilling and other forms of refining. Trees are not intentionally cut down to make it into logs which in turn when saw milled become dust then pellets. But, wood pellets are only byproducts and are considered as waste. Thus, instead of disposing of them, the producers make use of them.
In addition, the properties of wood pellets allow them to be utilized in an automated handling system. Also, this usage of wood pellets resulted in the modification and production of wood pellets – compatible – heating systems. Thus, it would not be a problem in searching for products that are suitable for wood pellets since they are now distributed in many markets across the globe. As a matter of fact, these appliances particularly the pellet stoves have controls so that the quantity of fuel and air being furnished to the combustion chamber are regulated. They are generally safe to use in homes. And they do not require constant monitoring unlike traditional wood stoves.
The cost and availability of wood pellets depend so much on the area. There are a variety of factors that can influence the production of wood pellets such as the climate, availability of woods, demand from domestic consumers, and many more. Countries like North America, Austria, Denmark, and Sweden are currently manufacturing and utilizing wood pellets as an alternative fuel. They keep on developing and improving the goods in order to commercialize the product.
Other countries are also starting to be interested in this form of biomass fuel. Wood pellets became a good competition for fossil fuels and other types of biomass wood fuels such as wood chips, wood, etc. They are readily available and quite plentiful in several countries making them more advantageous to other non-renewable heat-generating goods. Many states in North America have been starting to use wood pellets. Surprisingly, the demand for them is rising due to the fact that natural gas price is also constantly increasing these past winter seasons.
A very long time ago, wood or coal were just the available heat-generating goods for many homes but when wood pellets entered, they became a hit. Undeniably, the attraction for wood pellets as wood fuel is very strong.
Home-based Checking of Quality Pellets
Lately, we have been hearing a lot about an efficient alternative biomass fuel. Wood pellets are by-products of sawmilling that are compacted and manufactured to become wood fuel. These solidified, low moisture and uniform goods are proven to be a competitive burnable material. Recently, lots of homes have been using wood pellets for their heating systems. With the increased demand for wood pellets among consumers, it cannot be avoided that some wood pellets distributed are not good enough in terms of their quality. Consumers need to be aware of the essential properties of high-quality wood pellets. Some home-based tests can now be done without the need for complicated laboratory gadgets. They are simple and easy to do.
Test 1: Using the sense of smell
With just the use of the nose, you can check if the wood pellets are purely wood pellets and not mixed.
• Grab a handful of wood pellets.
• Place them in a plastic container.
• Position the container close to your face.
• Smell the odor of the wood pellets.
Note: Expect that it should smell like fresh-cut softwood. If not, then it might be mixed.
Test 2: Using the sense of sight
By simply using the eyes, you can determine what is good and what is not.
• Grab a small number of wood pellets.
• Look at these wood pellets closely and carefully.
Note: You must observe light brown colored wood pellets if they are made from clean compacted sawdust. However, if they are dark, then it might indicate that they were derived from bark which emits more ashes. Furthermore, some pellets are darker on the outside but once broken, they are still colored light brown this would not be a problem.
Test 3: Using both the sense of smell and a fire.
• Choose one longer pellet.
• Ignite the tip of the pellet.
• Smell the smoke produced.
Note: A good quality of wood pellets should smell like burning wood. Otherwise, the quality is questionable.
Test 4: Using a glass of water
• Get a small number of wood pellets.
• Place them into glassful water.
Note Just a few minutes, they should be dissolved into sawdust. Otherwise, a chemical might have been added to bind them together.
• Then, observe the settlement of particles inside the glass after swirling it.
Note: Heavy particles will lie down at the bottom. If there are numerous particles that settled, another feedstock might have been mixed. This would likely result in an increased amount of emissions and risk for precipitation.
These are some of the simple ways to check the quality of wood pellets being used. Most are just common sense, thus, these tests can be easily performed anytime at home. In this way, problems can be avoided. Likewise, good quality wood pellets provide lots of benefits.
Consumers should watch out for those wood pellets that are sold cheaply in the market. A more costly wood pellet may be a pain in the pocket, but you can ensure that what you are buying is cleaner, safer, and more efficient.
Wood Pellets: From Trash to Cash
Through the years, many countries commit themselves to discover new sources of energy other than those generated from non-renewable resources. They continue to seek a different form of biomass fuel to obtain sustainable energy that is at the same time effective.
It is a fact that wood is an alternative source of energy. When it undergoes into any transformational processing activity such as sawmilling, it could produce sawdust that is considered to be waste products that need to be discarded. However, because of constant innovation, this sawdust when compressed can become a highly dense, solidified material termed as wood pellets. Instead of disposing of these materials, these are now proven to be an effective alternative wood fuel.
Basically, wood pellets have a size that ranges between 4 and 20mm. Pellets also have at most 10% moisture content. Their shape has the properties of uniformity and regularity. They are highly compacted materials. No chemicals are added to bind them together. Pellets naturally have lignin, a substance that serves as a binding agent.
Wood pellets, nowadays, are starting to boom in several countries all over the world. They offer many benefits that make them more favorable to use than any other type of fuel. The most important advantage of using wood pellets is they generate lesser harmful gas. Unlike other fuels such as oil, they are cleaner and are not detrimental to the environment. They do not hasten global warming. The use of wood pellets would offset the carbon dioxide released by the growing trees and plants that would use it for the photosynthesis process. With this environmentally friendly feature, they are way better than using traditional oils that emit tremendous and toxic gases.
Moreover, with their consistent small size and uniform shape, they can easily flow like a fluid, thus making them possible to be fed in automated machinery. They also ignite quickly since it would only take a small amount of energy to burn the moist off. Consequently, with less energy being consumed, they can generate high energy output. Due to their high density, they do not occupy more volume/space, therefore, they are more convenient to handle, store, and transport. In addition, it can be at least assured that unlike traditional oils/fuels, they would not be used up as long the growing of plants and trees will never cease. All these and the fact that they are clean and efficient make them especially suitable for domestic use.
Without a doubt, the demand for wood pellets is expected to increase. Due to their nonstop gain of popularity among the consumers, probably time will come that most heating systems will be utilizing wood pellets. With their strong appeal especially for those pro-environment groups, this type of fuel undeniably attracts many nations.
It is such an amazing wonder that once; wood pellets were considered trash that has no use at all. But with the strong will of several countries to cut down their over-dependence on foreign fossil fuel, they make cash out of these wood pellets. It would only be a matter of time when wood pellets production and utilization will boom and hit the world.
Wood Pellets: What, How and Why
Wood pellets are biomass substance that is produced from sawdust. They are regular and small-sized (between 4 and 20mm). They also contain moisture below 10%. Moreover, they are solidified with high density. Most good quality wood pellets are generally pure and natural. They are free from any additives or chemicals.
Biomass material such as straw, corn but commonly wood is milled through a piece of machinery to become very fine sawdust. In addition, the sawdust can also be a byproduct of any wood processing procedures such as sawmilling. Then, this fine sawdust is compacted under extreme pressure by feeding them in palletizing machinery. They are then shaped by forcing them through a dye. At the same time, a natural component of this kind of biomass, lignin, dissolves and acts as a “binding agent” holding them together to form and shape as an extruded pellet. This substance keeps it solidified as they dry. This natural component also makes a “glaze” kind appearance on the outside of pellets. At a temperature of 90OC, these pellets are forced through a dye. Afterward, the lignin cools. The pellets are then solidified and set. Other chemicals or additives are not necessary. When they are cooled and ready, the pellets can be either packed for domestic use or loaded into transportation vehicles for distribution. A variety of biomass materials can be used for pellet production but mostly wastes from the wood industry are utilized.
Wood pellets are now considered as an efficient alternative for traditional oils/fuels. Pellets attract both manufacturers and consumers because of their advantages over the conventional fuels. These advantages are listed below.
• Less volume to store
Their high density and compact properties enable them to occupy lesser space.
• Easy to transport
As mentioned, wood pellets are highly dense and compressed, thus, they are easier to ship in long-distance since they don not easily break or loose.
• Lower moisture content
This property enables the wood pellets to use lesser energy to burn the moist off, therefore a lot of energy is saved.
Wood pellets as wood fuels can be utilized on most standard heating systems such as boilers and stoves. Moreover, for the past years, pellets stove, boilers, and similar products are now available in the market and are used in many homes.
• Lesser emission and ash
Wood pellets are carbon neutralized forms of fuel. Thus, the carbon dioxide released during combustion is compensated during the process of photosynthesis by growing plants and trees.
• Easy to handle
Again, the wood pellets consistency and solid features make them easier to handle especially throughout the manufacturing process and they can withstand numerous handlings without breaking.
• Easy to ignite
As already mentioned, the moisture content of wood pellets is at most 10%. This means that less energy is needed to burn them off.
• Contribute to the economy
With wood pellets, any nation can use its own resources. It does not have to rely much on foreign oils. Therefore, production and usage of wood pellets add up the income of the country.
Wood Pellets and Pellet Stoves
With continuing innovation, the world is now enjoying the use of a renewable, readily available, reliable, and effective alternative source of fuel. Wood pellets are compacted sawdust’s that are verified to be a good competition over other forms of fuels. With their rising popularity, many heat generating systems such as stoves are being manufactured and are now widely available in the markets. The increasing distribution of these products would make some consumers consider shifting from the usual traditional stoves to wood pellet stoves.
Surprisingly, wood pellets were presented in the markets back during the 1980s. Since then, this type of stove has come a long way and has always been improved and modified to satisfy the consumers. At the present time, manufacturers offer 100% combustion efficiency to new models of pellet stoves. This is a perfect heating system that can be particularly used in winter seasons without worrying about their effect on the environment. Furthermore, some models of pellet stoves can also utilize corn fuels. Their versatility is really useful when a user decides to shift to another energy source. Aside from that, they are cleaner than any other wood stoves. Therefore, they come out neatly in homes.
Unlike other fossil fuel heating systems, pellet stoves have controls that allow the user to regulate the temperature and time. In addition, these regulators ensure a clean and sufficient burning fire. Pellet stoves generate an equal distribution of heat around the room for they have blowers that fans warm air. Also, they are safer to use than the usual stoves because they have sensor fans that would prevent the stoves from getting too hot.
The traditional wood stoves do not have hoppers that allow loading sufficient fuel for about 3 day’s consumption. Thus, constant monitoring is a must. However, with pellet stoves, they have hoppers that will allow domestic users to load fuel for a few days of use.
One really good thing about pellet stoves is their automatic ignition. This means that whenever there is a need for heat, the fire will easily ignite at a turn of the knob.
On the other hand, wood pellet stoves are quite complicated compared to traditional wood stoves. They have complex components like additional controls. Therefore, an understanding of how the system works is a must. With proper knowledge, these stoves will be easier to operate.
Though pellet stoves do not require constant monitoring, they do need to be cleaned regularly. Also, electricity is necessary for the auger to function – the component that feeds the pellets into the combustible chamber. A battery backup is also available in case of power failure so it keeps on working.
Despite some minor drawbacks, pellet stoves are still considered one of the easiest heating systems to operate. They may have minor flaws but the benefits would likely cover them up. Several companies particularly from Europe lead the nonstop innovation of these products to ensure that they could provide high-quality wood pellets stoves and other similar heating systems. Just remember, there are lots to consider when using these pellet stoves. Therefore, think and decide wisely prior to buying one.
Issues Concerning the Use of Wood Pellets
Wood pellets as biomass fuel are constantly gaining interest from different nations such as North America and several countries in Europe. Their production and distribution continue to grow and expand. With their popularity, there are also various issues concerning their utilization.
Issue # 1: Environmental – Friendly?
Wood pellets are said to be a type of fuel that is a carbon neutralizer. The carbon dioxide that is released during the combustion is taken by the growing trees and plants during the essential process of photosynthesis. Therefore, they do not worsen global warming. They are said to emit lesser hazardous gases and ashes which could bring harm to the environment. Moreover, by the utilization of wood pellets, which are basically wastes, they would not create another problem with waste management.
However, an issue concerning deforestation which is not at all environmentally friendly arises. The fact is wood pellets come from logs/woods which are cut down trees. With the increasing demand for wood pellets, there might be an increasing need to cut down trees which could include those that are domicile to many animals and plants.
Issue # 2: Sustainable?
Wood pellets are derived from woods/logs that are basically renewable, therefore wood pellet fuels can be considered as a sustainable source of energy. As long as the balance between the supply and demand for trees exists and maintained, then it would not give rise to a major problem like scarcity. However, an issue about their sustainability is still being questioned. Is it really possible to maintain such balance? Deforestation has been reported in a few areas. When trees are cut down without replacing them, eventually scarcity would be the consequence.
Issue # 3: Cost – effective?
It is still a question whether using wood pellet fuels is cheaper than utilizing the conventional ones. Though any nation can lessen its reliance on foreign oils/fuels by using its own resources, it does not change the fact that pellet use is a new innovation that requires some complicated and different equipment/machinery that could be more expensive. In fact, some models of wood pellet heating systems are quite expensive too.
Issue # 4: Convenient?
Another important issue is: Is it really convenient and simple to use? Yes, they may be convenient to store, deliver, or transfer because of their solid distinct properties. However, the fact still remains that these are alternatives and non-conventional. They are operated quite differently from the usual traditional fuel heating systems. In reality, pellet stoves have unique controls that might be unfamiliar for most of the home users. Also, once you are used to traditional heating systems, it would be a great adjustment for you once you shift to pellet heating appliances as they contain some complex components that might bring confusion to the consumers.
Issue # 5: Versatile?
It has been claimed that some conventional models of heating systems can actually allow the use of wood pellets, it is still recommended to utilize wood pellets in heating systems specifically designed for pellets.
Issue # 6: Natural?
Though wood pellets use their own natural component, lignin, to bind them together, there are still cases that a substance other than this natural component is added.
I hope we answered all your pellet questions, however in the event that we didn't please feel free to contact us.
FOR ALL OF YOUR WOOD PELLET QUESTIONS CALL:
ask for Jeff