Understanding the properties of wood pellets helps consumers to choose wisely when stocking up fuel, making the most of their heating investment. You may have seen wood pellet products labelled as softwood pellets or hardwood pellets, and wondered which to choose. Many people would assume that, like campfire or wood stove fuel, hardwood is best, but in the case of wood pellets that assumption would be wrong.
What Are Hardwood and Softwood Pellets?
Wood heating pellets are manufactured using wood fibers, made from sawdust and lumber byproducts, among other things. Whether those ingredients come from a hardwood (or deciduous) tree or a softwood (also known as coniferous) tree makes no difference in the overall quality of the finished wood pellet. Many manufacturers actually sell a blended pellet in today’s market, consisting of both types. This blended product burns just as well as the unblended types.
Hardwood burns longer or slower on an open fire (wood stove, campfire, etc.) due to the greater density or weight of the wood. Softwood is less dense or lighter, meaning flames can reduce the wood to ash quicker. But in that case you are comparing logs or firewood. Comparing wood pellets does not stack up the same way.
Heating wood pellets are made by compressing wood fibers into a certain size and shape, resulting in uniform density and weight no matter what type of wood is used to produce the fibers. So a pellet made from softwood has exactly the same density and weighs the same as a pellet made from hardwood. And a blended pellet comes in with equal stats. All three burn at the same rate and produce the about the same BTUs. However, in my experience I have found that if you are looking for a "hotter" burn, then a softwood pellet from Douglas Fir tends to consistantly burn hotter than hardwood or blended pellets
Quality and efficiency can vary based on your wood pellet stove design and manufacturer, but rest assured that purchasing hardwood, softwood or blended pellets will not make a huge difference to your final result and production. The most important thing when burning pellets is keeping your stove clean!! regular maintenance is vital. Your cleaning schedule will vary depending on the quality of pellet you purchased.