|Type||Low Price||Mid Price||High Price||n|
|1-5 Tons Bulk*||$275.34||$280.17||$284.99||4|
|5-10 Tons Bulk*||$226.00||$237.52||$269.99||4|
|Type||Low Price||Mid Price||High Price||n|
|Price per bag||$3.50||$5.19||$6.90||26|
|Price per bagged 1 ton||$220.00||$260.00||$369.00||26|
n = number of targeted survey respondents
* Bulk order prices include delivery; Bagged order prices do not include delivery.
OSI's Monthly Wood-Pellet Pricing Survey
OSI targets price data via a phone survey each month from four bulk distributers and 26-30 retail sales outlets. The prices in Table 1 are the highest, lowest, and median price reported by vendors for each category of pellets.
Bulk or Bagged
Wood pellets are sold in bulk or bagged. Bulk pellets are usually sold by the ton; they are not bagged but rather are delivered by truck to bulk storage bins. Wood pellets are also sold in 40-pound bags. Users can buy individual bags of pellets at a store or can have a large order of bags delivered by the ton.
Graph 1 displays the price ranges listed in the table for larger orders of 1 ton or more. Graph 2 displays the price range for 40lb bags of pellets, whether purchased individually or by the ton.
The bulk pellet prices quoted above include delivery charges in the final price. Typically bulk pellets are sold in large quantities and delivered by the distributor.
Bagged prices quoted here do not include delivery. Most dealers do deliver bagged pellets by the ton and offer a variety of delivery options.
Delivery costs will vary by vendor, buyer location, and order size. Consumers should always call for a quote when considering purchasing pellets for delivery.
A typical house in New Hampshire heating entirely with wood pellets would burn five or six tons of pellets in a season. Needless to say, this is not an exact answer to the question above.
The U.S. Energy Information Agency’s most recent Residential Energy Consumption Survey (2009) estimates the average household in New England used 91.2 Million British Thermal Units (MMBtus) per year for heat. That’s the equivalent of 658 gallons of fuel oil or 5.53 tons of wood pellets.
Quality wood pellets at 5-10% moisture content have a heating value of about 16,500,000 British Thermal Units (Btus)/ton. Number 2 heating oil has a heating value of about 138,500 Btu/gallon. Propane has a heating value of 91,333 Btu/gallon. Therefore one ton of wood pellets is equal to about 120 gallons of Number 2 heating oil or about 180 gallons of propane.
Regardless of the source of your heat, how well your home is insulated, the efficiency of your heating system, and how warm you keep your home will determine how much heat you use and how much you will pay for it. An energy auditor can help you size a system appropriately and should be able to provide estimates of costs.
Oregon State Cooperative Extension and Cornell have produced guides to comparing fuel costs that include information about how to estimate the number of tons of wood you will need. A reputable pellet or wood heating system dealer can also help you determine your heating needs.
Finally the Department of Energy Wood Heating Page reviews types of wood heating systems, consumer information, and other considerations for maximizing the benefits of a wood heating system.
There is a federal tax credit of up to $300 available for energy efficient biomass stoves available through the Energy Star Program. Fact sheets and other information is also available on the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association website.
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission's Sustainable Energy Division provides a rebate payment of 40% of the purchase and installation price of high efficiency bulk-fed wood-pellet boilers and furnaces. The residential program individual rebates are capped at $10,000 and commercial rebates are capped at $65,000.
Operators of large systems may benefit from working through the Public Utilities Commission to obtain Renewable Energy Credits(RECs) through the Class I Thermal Renewable Energy Certificate Program created as part of New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Because of costs involved in the application process and setting up meters to monitor energy use to receive credits, typically it only makes financial sense for high-volume users (commercial scale systems around 250kW or 840,000 Btu’s or higher) to take advantage of this option. Details are available at the PUC Thermal Renewable Credits webpage.
Consumers should understand that not all pellets are created equal. Low quality pellets can lead to higher amounts of ash, lower the life of the stove, and produce less heat per bag. Companies’ product messaging can be confusing and there is currently no pellet quality standard for the industry so pellets can vary greatly in ash content, moisture content, and heat output (BTU’s).
The Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) has developed a voluntary “PFI Standards Program” which certifies pellets that have been manufactured to certain quality standards. PFI-certified bags have a PFI label on the front of the bag. More information about the PFI certification can be found on the PFI website.
The conventional wisdom that hardwood is better than softwood is not necessarily true for wood pellets. Hardwood is traditionally viewed as better for home heating because it is a denser wood which means that it has more energy to burn per volume. However, when wood is chopped up, dried, and pressed into pellets, the density of pellets is roughly the same regardless of the original source of the wood. One bag of softwood pellets has roughly the same density/weight (and therefore heating power) as one bag of hardwood pellets. In some cases, softwood pellets may have more BTUs per bag because of resins that have higher heating values.
How cleanly a pellet burns and how much ash is created is probably a more important performance factor thought these qualities can be difficult to determine. The pellet-making process and the level of impurities in the wood (hard or soft) both impact the amount of ash that will develop. Certifications like the PFI stamp of approval can help consumers understand the quality of the pellets they are purchasing.
The Cost/Btu section of our fuel pricing tables displays the cost per Btu of the most common fuels and heating systems used in New Hampshire. As the cost of fuels and electricity changes, the relative cost-effectiveness of these fuels changes as well. In addition to the fuel costs, the capital costs of installing or upgrading systems is important to consider. Efficiency of your home is also important to consider. It is often the case that the most economical way to reduce a heating bill is to air seal and insulate a home.
The cost of heating your home will depend on a number of factors including the weather, your home’s size and insulation quality, and the efficiency of your heating system. There are a number of tools available to compare the costs of different fuels.
The Maine Governor’s Energy office offers a home heating calculator to assist consumers in calculating the heating costs of different fuels. It also provides an Excel spreadsheet for more detailed calculations.
Efficiency Maine offers a calculator for comparing the annual heating cost of different heating systems at a variety of fuel prices.
Other resources offer tools to complete a more detailed comparison of costs and estimates for your home specifically:
- The University of Maine Cooperative extension has published a guide for comparing the costs of heating between different fuels.
- Oregon State University (OSU) Cooperative Extension has published a guide for consumers considering fuel options .
- OSU Cooperative also offers a publication and Excel-based calculator to help consumers make energy-related decisions.
Many consumers are interested in wood pellets because they are a local, renewable resource with a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels. Details are available at the following sites:
- The New Hampshire Society for the Protection of Forests
- Forest Stewardship Council
- New Hampshire Business Review
- Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Sustainable Biomass Industry Page
- New Hampshire Public Utilites Comission TREC Program
- US Forest Service Biomass Survey
- US EPA Burnwise Information
- US EPA Residential Wood Heating Information