Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Statistics

I have listed the statistics of some the pellets I have reviewed so far, however I am finding it more difficult to get straight answers out of the manufacturers. The most common response is that they meet the criteria for a "Premium" pellet by the PFI. I can tell you with those standards there are a great variety of pellet quality. As I linked to the PFI I found that they have indeed initiated a "Super Premium", and that will help distinguish the better pellets. I am not sure the news of the super premium rating has officially gotten awarded to many manufactures yet. I have not spotted it on any bags yet. I want to offer some basic guide line for looking at pellet stats.

The truth is do not rely on statistics alone. Even some of the best pellet mills occasionally put out bad batches, particularly in these days of limited saw dust supplies. Also some of the statistics are not really helpful. For instance fines, that statistic measure the fines at the factory, it does not account for how the pellet stays together after being moved around. In fact I would argue that the bulk density may tell you more about the amount of fines you may end up experiencing than the fines statistic. Even that is not going to always predict what you will end up with by the time you pellets land in your hopper. There are so many variables that can effect a pellets performance that the stated stats do not even address it is difficult to even advise how to use the stats at all.

If there is one stat that maybe is more revealing than the rest, I would suggest it is ash content. Ash content will often reveal the quality of the raw materials used to make the pellets. It can also reveal how the saw dust is cared for. If you are use poor saw dusts, or letting sit out in the weather is is going to be very difficult to have a pellet will a low ash content. One could conclude if a pellet manufacturer takes the effort to find good materials and handle them carefully, than they should continue that trend in the rest of the process. Again, this is not a certainty, but it is a fair conclusion.

So if you want to look at a stat to help you find the best pellet, ash content is probably a good place to start. I think conventional wisdom might point to the BTU rating, but remember ash reduces the efficiency of the stove so even if you get a few more BTUs you may lose them with a quickly ashed up stove.

In the end the only sure method for evaluated pellets is to run it through your own stove (then buy from that batch), but hopefully sites like this one, along with careful interpretation of stats can give you a head start.

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