Picking the Perfect Pellet

Picking the Perfect Pellet

You’re thinking about ditching cutting, splitting and hauling wood and buying a Harman pellet stove or fireplace insert. But what in the world is a pellet? Can you get the right amount of heat and same satisfying outdoors-in feel? Is it truly easier (and maybe even better for the environment)? Simple answers are: Yes and yes and yes.  For more on how to pick the perfect pellet (and it’s not hard!), read on.

What’s a pellet, anyway?

The short answer: Compressed sawdust, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI). The PFI is “a North American trade association that promotes energy independence through the efficient use of clean, renewable, densified biomass fuel”—and in full disclosure, Harman is a proud member. Pellets are held together with a naturally occurring glue, called lignin, that is produced by the wood when it is compressed.

Pellets are also:

  • Clean-burning
  • Renewable
  • Cost-stable for home heating

“There’s nothing in the fuel that doesn’t occur in nature, and most of it is manufacturer waste—flooring, lumber and furniture,” says Matt Goense, owner of Kring’s Hearth & Home in Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania. This diverts waste from landfills into energy. “Environmentally, it’s very good,” he adds.

Typically, you buy these bags of pellets by the ton from your local hearth shop or big box store and have them delivered to your home.

Why Harman pellet stoves?

Goense says his customers like the heat output, which he describes as feeling like “a nice, dry, hot heat.” He says from his perspective, Harman is a key brand because for most of its life, it has been the only bottom-feed pellet stove on the market, which requires much less cleaning. It also features an accordion heat exchanger, which is a “big plus” because it is quieter and requires less maintenance than an exchange that blows heat through tubes.

If you don’t have a chimney, or if you don’t want to cut each piece of wood about four times before you can even burn it, you’re a great candidate for a pellet stove, he says. “For a busy lifestyle, that’s a lot to do,” he says. And adding a chimney can be prohibitively expensive.

The other reason? Harman can burn any pellet, unlike other stoves.

Why does pellet quality matter?

“A higher quality pellet means less work: Less ash to clean and an overall cleaner stove,” Goense says. “If you buy a Harman because you want to do less maintenance, buying a higher-quality pellet will help you get the most out of that,” he adds.

What determines pellet quality?

The wood source determines the quality of a pellet. Wood absorbs minerals from the ground it grows in. Hardwood is hard because of mineral content in the soil. Soft wood grows in less mineral-dense soil. Soft wood pellets have less ash than hardwood pellets.

Pellet quality is graded based on its ash content in a system not unlike gasoline:

  • Utility
  • Premium
  • Super Premium

Soft wood pellets are generally given the super premium designation. When you burn a super-premium soft wood pellet, you’re cleaning your stove about every two weeks. In contrast, if you burn utility pellets, you’d need to clean the stove every four days. They all burn at the same rate, it’s just a matter of which leaves more ash behind to clean up.

The cost spread across the three types of pellets is approximately $40 to $50 a ton. You may want to check with your local hearth dealership to see if they offer any off-season deals on pellets—many offer “stock up and save” sales in the off season, and some will even store the pellets in a dry environment until the cold weather comes!

As far as brand names, Goense says everyone has their favorite. “There are different brands, and which one you like is all a matter of your own opinion,” he says. “It’s like asking someone what coffee tastes better to them.” The peace of mind comes with knowing that you can burn any of them and clean them easily from your Harman stove.

Ready to learn more about pellet heating? Your local authorized Harman dealer is ready to answer any questions you have today!