How to store wood pellets (and other useful info)
The modern wood pellet stove is designed in such a way that you need a minimum amount of effort and time to keep them supplied with fuel. The stoves are almost fully automated and very easy to use. However, remember that these stoves rely on wood pellets in order to produce the greenest energy possible for your investment.
Very often wood pellets are delivered in large quantities in a single delivery – and you might also be able to get a good offer if you buy your first wood pellets at the same time as you buy your stove.
How do you store your wood pellets in the best possible way?
To store your wood pellets properly, there are two things to be aware of. First, make sure that the wood pellets can retain their calorific value and so give you the maximum amount of energy possible. Secondly, store your wood pellets in such a way so as not to expose you and your family to an unnecessary heath risk.
Store your wood pellets in a dry place
Your wood pellets will often be delivered in sacks, and even though these sacks are made especially for that purpose, you still need to ensure that the wood pellets do not get wet. Wood pellets are, as the name suggests, made from wood (and wood mass) and wood attracts moisture - which will eventually destroy the pellets. Therefore, if possible, store the pellets in a dry basement, shed or garage, where rain cannot penetrate, nor condensation gather.
If you receive a large delivery of wood pellets from a truck that delivers them loose, you may want to store them in a dry silo or warehouse. You must also keep in mind that you should never store wood pellets in bulk in the compartment in the stove itself.
Take care of your own health and safety
Two conditions apply when you think about your own safety associated with wood pellets. You must be aware that the dust of the wood pellets can be troublesome – which is why we advise you to store them securely. The dust can also be a fire hazard.
The pellets themselves are obviously flammable, which means that you have to handle them with respect and care. Remember never to leave wood pellets lying loosely in bulk next to the stove. Always keep your wood pellets in the packaging they were delivered in so that you don’t take unnecessary risks.
What are wood pellets and “biomass”?
Wood pellets are categorised as biomass. But what is biomass? Let’s first look at this, so you become more aware of why this kind of energy is so advantageous.
In short, biomass is organic matter. And it has been used for many thousands of years. The first fires that man lit were made from burning organic matter – typically twigs, wood and branches. So, biomass is not a new invention. But the idea of using biomass as a modern source of human energy consumption and converting biomass into electricity and heat is a relatively new way of thinking. And biomass is the most significant energy form in the EU, especially when you consider that the EU’s objective of reducing CO2 emissions is highly reliant on private citizens adopting the use of biomass fuels.
Wood pellets are an amazing energy source. Biomass wood pellets are CO2 neutral, and this goes hand in hand with a brilliant simultaneous ability to deliver heat and energy. CO2 neutrality means that the tree does not release more CO2 upon being burned than it absorbed during its lifetime when it was living. As we know, plants use photosynthesis, which means they absorb CO2 and give out (among other things) oxygen. Therefore, wood pellets do not give a net CO2 increase and thus are not helping to increase the greenhouse effect.
In fact, many wood pellets are made of wood chips and sawdust, which is typically left over from production of something else, for example furniture making. But they can also be made from whole trees that have fallen. You can also check whether the wood pellets come from FSC-certified forests, whereby you can be sure that the forestry has been carried out responsibly, both in relation to the environment, and the workforce and local population.
However, before the raw wood is transformed into wood pellets, it must go through a process of being heated, which releases a substance called lignin. The release of this substance allows the wood to be glued together in subsequent processes, where it is pressed to form the pellets. In this way, it is possible to obtain wood pellets without adding glue or other harmful substances, and this gives a very clean and responsibly produced end product.
What characterises high-quality wood pellets?
Unfortunately, there is little control over the quality of wood pellets in the wider market, and there is also a large black market for trade in wood pellets, where you definitely cannot be sure of the quality you are buying.
So, how do you decide whether or not you have purchased good quality wood pellets?
Anyone can claim that they are selling top quality wood pellets. And this leads to a difficult situation because it is not often that you are able to immediately determine whether or not the claim is true. Therefore, it can be tempting to buy wood pellets at a cheaper price in order to save money. This is problematic, as cheap wood pellets are often of a lower quality, so you will need to purchase more of them, because burning them reduces the efficiency of your wood pellet stove.
However, there are a few tips you can follow to minimize the risk of buying poor quality wood pellets, and being sure of buying ones that treat the environment well and give you a good return for your money in the long term.
Here’s what to look out for when buying wood pellets
There are four parameters to bear in mind to determine the quality of the wood pellets before purchasing them:
●The origin of the trees they’re made from
●The size of the wood pellets
●The water content of the wood pellets
●The amount of ash the wood pellets produce when burnt
Wood is not just wood. It pays to look out for the origin of the trees they are made from, for example from FSC-certified forests. With wood pellets produced in this way, you can be sure that there is a high content of wood from the trunk in them. You will also avoid buying a wood pellet with a high content of branches, bark and leaves – such wood pellets produce a far greater amount of ash containing huge lumps, which is undesirable.
Since we are dealing with wood, a once-living thing, we cannot avoid a certain level of water. Wood absorbs and uses water throughout its life, and even though the felled tree then goes through a process to produce wood pellets, there will still be a residual water content. When you are buying them, check that the water content does not exceed 10%.
Finally, remember to use the correct size of pellet. The supplier or installer of your wood pellet stove will advise which is the best size of pellet for as this can vary from stove to stove – and ultimately depends on the size and robustness of your particular stove.
Use your nose to smell the wood pellets
You probably do not have access to a high-quality lab where you can scientifically test the wood pellets. But you can still make simple checks of your own by using your eyes and nose to help assess their quality. You can also use common sense and buy your wood pellets from reputable outlets with a good knowledge of wood pellets and stoves.
Smell the smoke produced from the wood pellets. It should smell like burnt wood and not contain hints of chemicals or anything else. The pellets themselves should be wood coloured and not contain a variety of highly different colours. When burning, they should not produce large amounts of slag or ash. Slag is formed when there are many waste and foreign materials present in the wood pellets, and it will greatly reduce the efficiency of your stove.
Wood pellets are an investment in our environment
Biomass is the energy form of the future, and at the same time, a very good investment in our environment. As we move away from the use of fossil fuels, we have had to look around for other ways to meet our energy needs. Wind and solar energy are undoubtedly part of the picture, but as yet are not the complete solution and so the use of biomass fuels has become popular.
Biomass and wood pellets are CO2 neutral. This means that the burning of wood pellets does not exacerbate the greenhouse effect, as the amount of CO2 emitted is equal to the amount originally absorbed by the tree during its life. This environmental balance can help to keep our nature, environment and ozone levels under control.
And wood pellets are a wise personal financial decision
This concentration on the ozone layer and carbon neutrality may sound a bit strange and you may wonder if your decision will make any difference, but undoubtedly it does. Especially taken together with everyone else who has chosen to use wood pellet stoves, collectively we are getting a great deal of green energy and warmth for our money.
For not only is the heat and energy green; it is also inexpensive. When compared to an oil-burning stove or electric heating, you can save a lot of money on your heating bill. Money that you can then spend on other more interesting things! And if you maintain and take good care of your stove and invest in good quality wood pellets, you are sure to be able to reap the benefits for many years.