Wood Pellet stoves are all the rage when it comes to modern advances in fuel economy and ecology. But some environmentally concerned consumers might wonder just what Wood Pellets are made from and how they are made. Are they really something you want to be burning in your home and handling every day?
The good news is that Wood Pellets are mainly made of sawdust, and that sawdust is the byproduct of wood working factories, lumberyards, and sawmills. This means they are a recycled, reclaimed product, and that is good for the environment.
Wood Pellets are processed by first pulverizing the sawdust into a sort of dough, which is then forced through tubes at high pressure. The pressure makes the wood mass heat up, which causes the natural lignin in the wood to form a plastic-like material. This lignin plastic is the reason for the sheen on the outside of the individual pellets. It is also the reason that the sawdust sticks together, and that means that the Wood Pellets do not contain any glues. The finished pellets look a little bit like the alfalfa pellet feed used to feed rabbits and other small livestock.
If you’ve ever burned wood, you know that the best fire comes from a dried out log. Natural wood contains a lot of moisture when it is freshly cut. Letting the wood sit for a year or so allows it to dry out some. Wood Pellets on the other hand, are less than ten percent moisture as soon as you purchase them, so you can be assured of a good quality, hot fire.
Wood Pellets are not allowed to contain recycled wood, only the clean sawdust generated at wood working plants. If they contained recycled waste wood, they would probably also contain varnishes, insecticides, or other chemicals that would form pollution when burned. Not only do they not produce much pollution, they do not produce much smoke, either. Instead of a long insulated stovepipe, a Wood Pellet stove only requires a little pipe to vent the smoke outside and catch the small amount of ash accumulated.
Some pellet stoves are designed to burn other natural renewable substances, which are called “biomass” fuels. Some of these fuels are corn, cherry pits, shells from nuts, and dried soybeans. The most economical of these environmentally sound choices will be the one produced in the area in which you live.
Because Wood Pellets burn just like wood, only better, you can have the same warmth and ambiance around a Wood Pellet stove that you have around a wood stove or fireplace. The only downside is that the technology is still somewhat new, so stoves are expensive and Wood Pellets are sometimes in short supply. For now however, all indications are that Wood Pellet stoves are the heating method of the future.