It’s late into the winter – yet the Northeast is still being relentlessly hit with heavy snow and freezing temperatures. You might be starting to wonder if your pellet supply will last you through the rest of the heating season.
You’re not alone in this quandary.
This is a tricky time of year – where a wood pellet user must decide to gamble with a low supply and risk potential supply shortages, or choose to just play it safe and top off his or her supply now.
Of course no one knows for sure what will happen with the weather for the remainder of the winter. There is historical data, professional forecasters, and even a groundhog that can give a prediction – but there is no real way to know with absolute certainty. Earlier this year, we wrote about the Farmer’s Almanac weather prediction, which hasn’t been fully accurate. The Northeast prediction was a much colder than normal winter, which has been true, and “below normal snowfall”, which has not been true. Unfortunately, last winter much colder than many had anticipated…leading to a late winter shortage in many areas. With the harsh winter we have already experienced, there is certainly a possibility for more regional shortages again this year.
So, are you at risk of running out of pellets? Well, there are many factors that will determine your risk. Your pellet stove model, the prominence of secondary heating sources, the type of wood pellets burned, and the area of your home you heat with pellets are just some of the many variables that affect your fuel consumption.
Wood pellets are made of super condensed fine wood particles, held together only by natural sap within the original wood fiber. If you’re curious about the wood pellet creation process, check out our post about how wood pellets are made. Premium wood pellets burn so hot and so easily because of their very low moisture content. Unfortunately, these little heat powerhouses are unable to withstand direct contact with water. The time lapse video below will show exactly what happens when pellets become wet.
As you can see, the water expands the pellets and breaks them down into their original state of sawdust. If pellets have expanded after moisture contact, they are not usable in your pellet stove. (On the bright side – expanded wood pellets make for great natural horse bedding and kitty litter!)
Raw materials brought to pellet mills can arrive in many different forms. Some of the raw material may be sawdust, wood chips, lumber mill scrap, and even full trees unsuitable for lumber. The raw materials may be green, or freshly cut, may be partial dry or even kiln dried. By processing these raw material all in the same way, the end product has consistent moisture content, heat value, ash content, and burn characteristics.
Typically, the process starts by running the raw material through a hammer mill. These machines take sawdust and wood chips and break them down into a more consistent smaller size. Large dryer drums are then used to take out any extra moisture. After the drying is complete, the material is processed further in a mill to make an even finer material.
Bitter cold temperatures in the Northeast have been relentless of late, and pellet burners are understandably cranking up stoves to keep warm. The colder the weather, the more pellets you’ll be burning. As your supply dwindles, make sure that you are ordering your pellets from somewhere that can get you your pellets quickly. (We’re very happy to report that in most Woodpellets.com service regions, delivery is now within one week!) Stay ahead of your supply level and order before you’re out, or close to being out.
Wood pellet mills across America are running at full capacity, yet some retailers are still struggling with supply levels. Many consumers have felt the strain this year – by being turned away or having to wait for pellets. So if mills are producing the supply as quickly as possible – where are the pellets going?
Not long ago, about 80 percent of pellets made in the United States were used domestically, largely for residential heating. Today, wood pellet heating has grown from a residential home heating alternative into an international energy and environmental super-power. Wood pellet exports from the United States have doubled since last year – with more than half the exports going to the United Kingdom.
I Keep Getting Clinkers in My Burn Pot. What is Causing This?
Clinkers, which look like clumps of ash, can cause airflow issues from blockage. Clinkers are formed by burned or partially burned pellets that melt together into a clump.
There are two likely reasons for clinkers – a poor air mixture which due to a neglected or dity unit, or incorrect air adjustments.
My Pellet Stove Won’t Ignite.
There are a variety of reasons for your pellet stove failing to light. The most common reasons – bad air flow, a dirty unit, bad igniter, blown fuse, bad gasket around igniter – could be easily avoided with regular maintenance and professional inspections.
There is only one word to describe the current market in wood pellets – unprecedented. Many of the changes that have happened in the pellet industry have been brewing for years, but the effects have really been felt by consumers since last spring. The appeal of wood pellet fuel has never been stronger, but that has driven some changes that every buyer of pellets will see.
New Stove Sales
Pellet stove sales continue to grow by leaps and bounds. The comfort and warmth generated by a pellet stove, combined with the run-up in heating oil prices and propane last winter, has convinced many households in New England to install a pellet stove. Many of the stove shops we work with in have let us know that their installations of new stoves are up as much as 50% so far this year and sales continue to be strong this fall. Anyone buying a new stove can see a wait time of several weeks for installation as the stores work to keep up with sales. These new stoves mean more people looking for pellets this fall.
It’s the time of year where the phones are steadily ringing, and we are talking with many new and returning customers. Due to other retailers running out of wood pellets and the time of year, our phone call volumes have significantly increased. The Woodpellets.com team is always happy to get you the answers you are looking for, so we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions we are hearing during this seasonal rush.
1. Do you have wood pellets to sell me?
If you type in your zip code on our website, or tell us on the phone, you will receive a list of available inventory in your area. You might see “Backordered” or “Sold Out” at times. However, if we tell you on the phone or you see online that pellets are available – that means we have them. We would never knowingly sell wood pellets or wood bricks that aren’t available.
If you have a wood pellet stove, by this time you have either bought your pellets, or at least thought about it (we hope). Our phones have been ringing steadily and our hours have extended, which means the heating season is quickly approaching. We have been happy to hear from many new people this year, and of course we’re thrilled to be catching up with our past/repeat customers as well. During our high call volume, we have been hearing and experiencing a lot of the same things, which we’d like to address:
1. A Need for Information: We are getting calls from many new pellet stove owners with many questions about the best kind of wood pellets, the difference between hardwood and softwood, ash content importance, etc. Every person that answers the phone at Woodpellets.com is a wood pellet fuel expert. You won’t be transferred to another department in order to talk to someone who knows about pellets, and you will certainly not be rushed off the line. We completely understand that you might have a lot of questions, and we are all happy and ready to provide you with honest, helpful answers. Most members of our team are either pellet stove owners, or have owned a pellet stove in the past – so we’ve probably had similar questions at one point.