Pellet Fireplace Insert Advice: Choose High Quality Pellets Pellet Fireplace Insert Advice: Choose High Quality Pellets

Pellet fireplace inserts are an increasingly popular choice for those who want to install a fireplace insert. However, the efficiency, ease of use, and cost savings can be compromised with low quality wood pellets. Follow these guidelines when purchasing pellets for your fireplace insert.

Hardwood vs. Softwood Pellets

All pellets are made of compressed sawdust, but depending on the mill where the sawdust is gathered, the sawdust may come from hardwoods like hickory and maple or softwoods like pine. Although it seems intuitively that hardwoods would provide the superior product, that has not held true for pellet stove owners. Instead, the softwood pellets have outperformed the hardwood.

In addition, several companies that manufacture the softwood pellets for pellet fireplace inserts use lodge pole pine from the Rocky Mountain area. From these trees, they are able to create very highly efficient pellets that burn at a very high efficiency (between 8000 and 8300 BTU) and produce a very small amount of ash (less than ½ of 1 percent in several cases).

Dryness of the Fuel

When buying fuel for pellet fireplace inserts, be sure to check for any open bags or dampness in the storage container. Wet pellets are of absolutely no use to you and will harm your stove.

High Wood Content

Another consideration to make is how high the wood content is in the fuel you buy for your pellet fireplace insert. If you are trying a new brand, the following tests can help you to determine the wood content:

  • First, simply smell the contents of the bag. The scent should be that of fresh cut softwood. If it has a chemical or other strange odor, don’t buy that brand again, since it is a low quality pellet.
  • Second, examine the pellets for your pellet fireplace inserts visually. The ideal pellet should have a uniform, light brown color. Avoid pellets that are dark brown. They will probably produce a higher ash content when burned.
  • Third, light a single pellet on fire and smell the smoke. If it smells like anything other than clean burning wood, try a different brand.
  • The final test you can try is to place a number of the pellets into a glass and stir. After a few minutes, the water will break the pellets up. At that point, stir the mixture. The sawdust content will float to the surface, and additives and fillers will sink. If there is a large amount of solid matter on the bottom of the glass, it could indicate lower quality pellets.  Look for higher quality pellets for your pellet fireplace inserts.

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