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Are Super Premium Wood Pellets Worth The Price?
Recently, the average price per
ton of premium wood pellets
has fallen 8% to $240 per ton
from $260 per ton.

You could probably attribute this
in part to the stalled housing
industry (less competition for
sawdust) and the soft demand
for pellet stoves due to
unfavorable economic conditions.

Whatever the reason, this is
welcome news if you currently
own a pellet stove, or plan to
buy one.
At $240 per ton, wood pellets now equal the cost to heat of natural gas - or around
$15.00 per 1 million Btu. This of course is the cost before the efficiency of your furnace
is factored in.

For instance, the cost to heat with an 80% efficient furnace or pellet stove would
actually be $18.75 per 1 million BTU since 20% of the fuel is not consumed. And, just
as stove efficiency affects the cost to heat, so also does the ash content of the pellets
you burn.

Due to advances in manufacturing almost all pellets sold for fuel are premium grade.
The maximum ash content for a pellet to be considered Premium is .99%, or “less than
1%.” When the ash concentration is less than .5% it is deemed “Super Premium”
according to a new standards category defined by the Pellet Fuels Institute.

Less ash means more combustible fuel per pound, a higher BTU rating and, as you
would expect, a higher price - but are “Super Premium Wood Pellets” worth the extra
cost?

The easiest way to judge the cost effectiveness among various grades of wood pellets
is to compare BTU yield per dollar spent using this simple formula:
2,000 x BTU per pound ÷ cost per ton = BTU yield per $1 spent

Premium pellet example
First we’ll look at a “Premium” pellet labeled Maine’s Choice which contain “less than
1% ash” and cost $210 per ton for a 3 ton order. At 7,700 Btu per pound, the Maine’s
Choice pellets yield
73,333 Btu per $1 spent. (2,000 lbs x 7700 Btu ÷ $210).

Super premium pellet example
Next we’ll look at the Comfy Cozy “Super Premium” brand containing .26% ash costing
$240 per ton for a standard 3 ton order. At 8,271 BTU per pound, Comfy Cozy pellets
yield
68,925 Btu for every $1 spent – or 4408 fewer BTUs per $1 expended than
Maine’s Choice “Premium” brand.

On a 3 ton order of Super Premium pellets this would translate to 3,174,000 fewer
BTUs than the Premium brand. Depending on your climate, three million BTUs
represents 2-6% of the annual home heating BTU consumption.

So in this example it would cost 14% more for 6% less heat if you opted for Super
Premium pellets instead of standard Premium quality.

Of course this isn’t the whole story. Super Premium pellets contain about 1% less
moisture than Premium pellets which helps to control creosote build up somewhat. And
the reduced ash content of Super Premium brands means a bit less maintenance and
clean up.

Other factors to be aware of are seasonal fluctuation in prices, purchase incentives,
the Btu content per pound for each brand, and delivery costs.