Wood Pellet BTU’s

“Wood Pellet BTU’s”

When a manufacturer or dealer of wood pellets refers to BTU’s per pound, it’s critical you know if they are referring to “As Received” or “Dry Basis” BTU’s.

When referring to the heat output in a wood pellet, what defines: Pellet BTU’s “AS RECEIVED” compared to “DRY BASIS”?

Wood pellet BTU ratings come from specific testing labs that break down the wood species, perform various testing, and provide a detailed report and pellet synopsis.

The “As Received” BTU rating is what the pellet actually tested at for BTU’s when the lab received the pellet from the manufacturer or dealer. This is the same way you would receive the pellets for use in your stove. This is the only BTU rating that matters.

“Dry Basis” is a number that tells you what the BTU output would be IF it were completely dry with zero percent moisture. You would never, receive a pellet with zero moisture content from a wood pellet manufacturer or dealer; it simply cannot be dried out to that extent. It is only a number used by the testing lab to depict what that species of wood is capable of.

Several pellet fuel brands have their BTU’s listed with “Dry Basis” numbers. Most manufacturers and dealers of wood pellets would not purposely deceive someone regarding these terms, some just have not been fully educated on the matter. It is important you ask your dealer and/or visit the manufacturers website for accuracy on pellet fuel BTU’s.

That being said, it becomes obvious moisture plays a huge role in the quality and heat output of a wood pellet. The lower the moisture, the more potential BTU’s you have from that species of wood.

As an example, Bear Mountain Fir pellets are currently tested at only 2.5% moisture content “As Received”. Compare that to PFI “PREMIUM” pellet standards that allow as much as 8% moisture in wood pellets.

In 40lbs of pellets at 8% moisture, you literally have 51 oz of WATER in that bag! At 2.5% moisture you only have 16oz of water in a 40 lb bag. That’s a difference of 35oz (more than a quart) of extra water in every bag of pellets! Now what about the extra weight of water? What if that were pellets? In this example you would get an extra 100lbs of pellets on every ton by having fuel with 2.5% moisture content versus 8%. The lower the moisture content in the pellets, the more heat you will gain out of each pound burned, and the more pellets you will receive in every bag.

  • Jeff G Schultz says:

    I think the “they just don’t know any better.” comment may be somewhat kind…
    Understanding these parameters and what they represent can be crucial to making your buying decisions. In the strictest sense, water (moisture content) must be burned off in order to allow the wood fiber to get hot enough to gasify and burn (the gas burns, not the wood) – the energy used to burn off the water is energy that does not contribute heat to you.
    But great ratings only go so far…great pellets can still burn poorly if your appliance is not adjusted correctly and supplying the proper amount of combustion air (or not cleaned properly) – learn to read and interpret the characteristics of the flame in your burner.

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