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Fuel Guide

How to determine a good quality pellet

When purchasing wood pellets for a pellet stove, it is essential to understand how to distinguish a high-quality wood pellet from a low-quality one. While professional tools such as a moisture meter can aid in determining key factors affecting wood pellet quality, there are also several easy ways to assess wood pellet quality without the use of specialized equipment.

First, a good wood pellet should have a uniform length, which reflects consistent and stable pellet mill performance. The ideal length for wood pellets is between 3/4" - 1 1/4". Variations in length may be caused by improper setting of the cutting knife in the pellet mill. Additionally, the diameter of wood pellets is typically 6mm or 8mm and is not a significant indicator of quality as pellet mill dies are designed for these specific sizes.

Another important factor to consider is the amount of fines present in the wood pellets. Fines, which are small pieces of woody material, are present in all wood pellets to some degree, but the amount should be less than 1% as per standards. High levels of fines can indicate a weak compression ratio in the pellet mill dies.

The surface of a good wood pellet should be smooth and shiny with no cracks. If the pellet is not smooth and has a high fines content, the compression ratio for the pellet mill die should be examined. Cracks on the surface of the pellet may indicate that the raw material had low moisture content or was not properly conditioned.

Another indicator of wood pellet quality is the aroma. Good quality wood pellets should have a fresh wood scent, which is indicative of pure sawdust or other wood material as the raw material. However, if the pellets have a strange smell, it may be an indication that the raw material is not pure or a binder was used in production.  These pellets should be avoided if possible.

A simple method to assess wood pellet quality is to place one pellet in a cup of water. A high-quality wood pellet should sink and dissolve quickly. Pellets that float or take a longer time to dissolve may be of poor quality.

Finally, the combustion properties of a wood pellet can also indicate its quality. A good quality wood pellet should light easily and produce a flame in light yellow or brown color. A dark or strange flame color may indicate the presence of binders or impure raw materials, which is bad for your pellet stove.

In summary, assessing wood pellet quality can be done through examination of uniform length, fines content, surface appearance, aroma, water solubility, and combustion properties. These methods can be used to easily identify high-quality wood pellets without the need for specialized equipment or extensive knowledge of wood pellet standards.

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