What Are Wood Pellets & what are their benefits?

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 31, 2022

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Wood pellets are basically a compressed form of wood and sawdust and they’re created through a process of exposing certain binding agents to heat. The most common use of wood pellets is to fuel cooking grills and they’re known for bringing a unique smoked wood flavor to meat that you cannot get any other way.

What are wood pellets

In this post we'll cover:

What Are Wood Pellets?

The most common kind of pellets that most people are familiar with are the ones that are used as stove fuel. However, the types of wood pellets that are used to fuel a grill are derived from food grade hardwood pellets that are a by-product of sawdust and wood. As such, they don’t have any chemicals that might be harmful to your health and they produce enough smoke to help flavor your meat (these are the must-smoke meats).

Food grade pellets are different from industrial grade pellets in that they’re 100% natural and energy-efficient.  They’re good for the environment as well because they burn clean and don’t leave behind a lot of ash when they’re done. A pellet smoker grill is designed to work with wood pellets as its primary source of fuel, which is why it’s considered to be one of the most energy-efficient ways of smoking and grilling meat.

There are generally two types of wood pellets available to choose from:

  • Barbecue Pellets: As the name implies, these wood pellets are specifically created as fuel for BBQ grills and smokers. Using them gives you a real wood-fired meat flavor, similar to the flavor that charcoal imparts on meat.
  • Heating Pellets: On the other hand, heating pellets are designed to fuel up home heaters. As such, they have certain ingredients like paint residue and other chemicals that may be harmful to health. That’s why you should never use them to fuel a cooking grill or smoker.

Wood Pellet Benefits

Most people are familiar with using charcoal as a source of fuel for their BBQ grills and they know what they’re going to get from it. However, using wood pellets comes with its own benefits that most people haven’t explored yet.

The following are just a few of the benefits that you can derive from using wood pellets as a source of fuel for your charcoal grill:

  • Wood pellets are eco-friendly because they’re made from renewable materials. Their production encourages the repurposing of materials that would otherwise be thrown away.
  • Wood pellets are far more efficient when compared to other fuels like fossil oil and gas. That’s because wood pellets are able to use 90% of their contained energy and turn it into heat.
  • Wood pellets are available in different types and each offers a different wood-fired flavor. This includes alder, cherry, apple, oak, maple, hickory and mesquite wood pellets.
  • Wood pellets impart an undeniable smoky flavor to meat that you’ll enjoy. It’s similar to charcoal but the difference is that wood pellets won’t get your hands dirty.
  • Wood pellets produce a nice, even burn and they don’t leave a lot of ash residue. That’s why they make it easier to clean your grill after you’re done cooking.

Why Wood Pellets are a Great Alternative Energy Source

Wood pellets are a natural product made from compressed wood particles. They are an excellent alternative to coal and other fossil fuels, as they are a renewable energy source that can be utilized in a variety of ways.

What are the benefits of using wood pellets for heating?

Using wood pellets for heating has many benefits, including:

  • High-quality heat: Wood pellets produce a hot, consistent heat that is great for heating homes and buildings.
  • Clean burning: Wood pellets burn cleanly, which means they produce less ash and require less cleaning than other fuel sources.
  • Easy to store: Wood pellets can be stored in a small space, making them a great option for people with limited storage space.
  • Heart-healthy: Wood pellets contain no additives or chemicals, making them a heart-healthy option for people with respiratory issues.
  • Great for building: Wood pellets can be used as a building material, as they are easy to cut and shape.

What is the process for making wood pellets?

The process for making wood pellets involves:

  • Collecting dry wood materials, such as pine or rice hulls
  • Grinding the materials into small pieces
  • Pressing the pieces into the final pellet size
  • Cooling the pellets
  • Packaging and selling the pellets

What companies serve the wood pellet industry?

There are many companies that serve the wood pellet industry, including professional pellet manufacturers and retailers. Some popular companies include:

  • WoodPellets.com
  • PelletBeds
  • Wood Fuel Co-op
  • Woodlets

What are the special uses of wood pellets?

Wood pellets have many special uses, including:

  • Electric power generation
  • Cooking and grilling
  • Animal bedding
  • Soil amendment
  • Building materials

From Wood to Pellets: The Manufacturing Process

Wood pellets are commonly produced from sawdust and other wood waste materials, but other forms of biomass can also be used, such as grasses like switchgrass or agricultural byproducts like wheat husk. The material required for production should be finely powdered and dried to a specific moisture content.

The Production Process: Drying, Grinding, and Pressing

The production process starts with drying the raw material to a moisture content of 10-20%. The dried material is then ground into a fine powder and mixed with additional water to form a uniform mixture. The mixture is then compressed through a pellet dye at high temperature and pressure, causing the lignin within the biomass to melt and glue the particles together. The resulting pellets are then cooled and cut to a specific length and form.

The Benefits of Pellet Production

The production of wood pellets has several benefits, including:

  • Increased energy density compared to raw biomass
  • Cheaper and easier to transport and store compared to raw biomass
  • Clean burning with low ash content
  • Renewable and sustainable source of energy
  • Recognized as a carbon-neutral fuel source

The Differences between Wood Pellets and Coal

While wood pellets and coal share some similarities, such as being solid fuels produced through a similar manufacturing process, there are also several differences between the two:

  • Wood pellets are a natural and renewable source of energy, while coal is a finite resource
  • Wood pellets contain short carbon chains, while coal contains longer chains of hydrocarbons
  • Wood pellets produce less ash and emissions compared to coal
  • Wood pellets are generally more expensive compared to coal

The Advanced Manufacturing Process

Advanced pellet manufacturing processes may include additional steps to increase the quality and efficiency of the pellets, such as:

  • Equipping the production line with filters to control the fine matter and compounds produced during the grinding process
  • Using grasses instead of wood to produce pellets with different characteristics
  • Using different forms of biomass to produce pellets with varying energy content and density

The Role of Wood Pellets in Heating Systems

Wood pellets are commonly used as a fuel source in industrial and residential heating systems, such as pellet stoves and boilers. The density of wood pellets is typically measured in tons per cubic meter, and the heating value is measured in BTUs per pound. Wood pellets are recognized as a clean and efficient source of energy, directly contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Story of Wood Pellet Production in Europe and the World

The use of wood pellets as a renewable energy source has been growing in popularity around the world. In Europe, wood pellet production has been increasing steadily since the early 2000s, with countries like Sweden, Germany, and Austria leading the way. In the United States, wood pellet production has also been on the rise, with the Department of Agriculture suggesting that grasses could be a viable alternative to wood for pellet production.

Don’t Get Burned: Hazards of Wood Pellet Storage

Wood pellets are a popular form of energy due to their potential to produce a lot of heat. However, they can also be dangerous if not stored properly. One of the main hazards associated with wood pellet storage is the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO is a poisonous gas that can cause death and other harmful health effects if the pellets are not safely stored. It is invisible, tasteless, odorless, and non‐irritating. CO can be produced through a chemical reaction that occurs when wood pellets are stored.

Proper Storage

To avoid the risk of CO poisoning, it is important to store wood pellets properly. Here are some tips to help you maintain safety when storing wood pellets:

  • Store wood pellets in a dry area that is away from any potential sources of ignition.
  • Keep the pellets covered with a special cover that is designed to maintain the right level of humidity.
  • Check the pellets regularly to ensure that they are not wet or damaged.
  • Make sure that the area where the pellets are stored is well-ventilated.
  • Do not store wood pellets near any chemicals or other hazardous materials.
  • Keep wood pellets away from children and pets.

Manufacture and Supply

The manufacture and supply of wood pellets can also pose hazards. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The production of wood pellets involves heavy machinery and high temperatures, which can be dangerous if not properly controlled.
  • Wood pellets can come in different forms, including natural and synthetic. It is important to check the type of pellet you are using to ensure that it is safe for your intended use.
  • Wood pellets are commonly supplied in large bags or containers. When these bags or containers are loaded or removed, they can be heavy and difficult to handle.
  • Wood pellets are commonly used for barbecue setups. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and to use the right type of pellet for your barbecue.
  • Wood pellets are commonly used for energy production. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and to use the right type of pellet for your energy needs.

Technical Information

Here are some technical details to keep in mind when dealing with wood pellets:

  • Wood pellets are commonly made from sawdust and other wood waste products.
  • The production of wood pellets has increased in recent years, with approximately 30 million tons produced worldwide in 2020.
  • Wood pellets are commonly used in countries such as China, the United States, and Canada.
  • Wood pellets are commonly used as a substitute for coal in steel production.
  • Wood pellets are commonly used to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.
  • Wood pellets are commonly used to supply fresh water to areas that do not have access to a natural supply.
  • Wood pellets are commonly used to improve the control of recording and service information.

Standards and Regulations

To ensure the safety of wood pellet storage and use, there are a number of standards and regulations that have been put in place. Here are some examples:

  • The European Pellet Council has set up a standard for wood pellet production and supply.
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency has set up regulations for the air pollution emissions associated with wood pellet production and use.
  • The Chinese government has set up regulations for the manufacture and supply of wood pellets.

Get the Most Out of Your Wood Pellets: Understanding Energy Output and Efficiency

The energy content of wood pellets is measured in terms of their calorific value, which refers to the amount of heat produced when the fuel is burned. The calorific value of wood pellets depends on several factors, including the type of wood used, its moisture content, and the presence of any additives or impurities.

The Role of Efficiency in Achieving Higher Energy Output

Efficiency is a measure of how much of the energy contained in the wood pellets is actually converted into heat. Pellet stoves and boilers are designed to achieve high efficiencies by controlling the combustion process and minimizing the presence of unburned fuel and ash.

Comparing the Efficiency of Different Types of Wood Pellets

The efficiency of wood pellets can vary significantly depending on the type of pellet and the system used to burn it. Some factors that influence efficiency include the moisture content of the pellets, the size and shape of the pellets, and the combustion rates achieved by the system.

The Importance of Quality in Achieving High Efficiency

The quality of wood pellets is a vital factor in achieving high efficiency and energy output. High-quality pellets are typically made from pure wood without any additives or impurities, and they have a low moisture content and a high calorific value.

The Cost of Wood Pellets in Comparison to Other Fuels

Wood pellets are a relatively cheap source of energy compared to other fuels such as oil and gas. In terms of cost per unit of heat produced (measured in gigajoules or GJ), wood pellets are usually cheaper than traditional fossil fuels.

The Environmental Reputation of Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are considered a neutral or even carbon-neutral biofuel because they are produced from renewable biomass sources. However, the environmental impact of wood pellet production and combustion can differ significantly depending on the type of wood used, the production process, and the efficiency of the system used to burn the pellets.

Suitable Applications for Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are suitable for a range of applications, including heating homes, apartments, and condominiums, as well as generating electrical power in small and large-scale systems. They are commonly used in pellet stoves, boilers, and hydronic heating systems.

The Dark Side of Wood Pellets: Air Pollution Emissions

Pellet production facilities release dangerous air pollutants, including particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, putting surrounding communities at higher risk for health complications. The rise of concerns about air pollution emissions from pellet facilities is growing, especially in the Southeast and Midwest regions of the United States.

The Effects of Air Pollution on Health and Nature

The effects of air pollution on health and nature are well-documented. Air pollution can damage wildlife, forests, and protected territories, and harm indigenous communities’ rights. It can also cause respiratory problems, heart disease, and other health complications.

The Carbon Footprint of Wood Pellets

Burning wood pellets releases 65% more CO2 than coal per megawatt hour. This means that wood pellets are not as clean as they are marketed to be. The combustion of wood pellets contributes to the global deforestation crisis, which is a significant driver of climate change.

Sustainable Agriculture and Logging Practices

To protect the environment and public health, sustainable agriculture and logging practices must be implemented. This includes protecting forests and wildlife, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting equity and sustainable development.

The Need for a Transition to Clean Energy

The network that compiles and delivers weekly reports on the effects of air pollution emissions from pellet facilities is a sign that there is a growing need for a transition to clean energy. This transition must be done in a way that protects public health, nature, and the climate.

What’s the Damage? The Cost of Wood Pellets

When it comes to heating your home with wood pellets, cost is a major factor to consider. As mentioned earlier, pellets are usually sold by the ton, and the price can vary depending on the seller and location. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The average cost of wood pellets is around $250 per ton, according to SFGATE.
  • Because pellets are measured by weight rather than volume, it’s easier to understand how much you’re getting. A ton of pellets always contains the same amount of wood, so you can compare prices between various sellers more readily.
  • However, keep in mind that the cost of pellets can fluctuate depending on factors such as supply and demand, transportation costs, and the time of year. For example, prices may be higher during the winter months when demand is higher.
  • It’s also important to consider the cost of the pellet stove or boiler itself, as well as any installation or maintenance costs.

Comparing Prices and Sellers

When shopping for wood pellets, it’s important to compare prices and sellers to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Here are some tips:

  • Check with multiple sellers to compare prices and availability. You may be able to find a better deal by shopping around.
  • Look for sales or discounts. Some sellers may offer discounts for bulk purchases or for purchasing early in the season.
  • Consider the reputation of the seller. Look for reviews or ask for recommendations from other pellet users to ensure you’re buying from a reputable seller.
  • Keep in mind that buying the cheapest pellets may not always be the best option. Lower quality pellets may produce more ash or have a lower heat output, which could end up costing you more in the long run.


So, wood pellets are a great alternative energy source and can be used for heating, cooking, and even building materials. They’re a renewable resource and a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Plus, they’re heart healthy, so don’t be afraid to give them a try! So, go ahead and give them a try and you won’t be disappointed!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.