For most people when they start to purchase wood pellets for the first time for their pellet stove or boiler they will purchase them in 20lb or 10kg plastic bags. However, if your going to be using a significant volume of wood pellets every year purchasing in bulk will get you a much better deal.
So with this post, I thought I would write about how to get set up to receive loose bulk wood pellet deliveries. Whether you wish to build your own wood pellet silo as I did or purchase a pre-made wood pellet storage solution.
Bulk Wood Pellet Delivery and Storage Advice
If you have the time I would strongly recommend you watch the video below from the UK Pellet Council on best practice for accepting bulk wood pellet deliveries and silo storage designs. While obviously this video is based on UK examples, the same principles apply to best practise in the US as well. I followed this advice when I designed my own pellet silo which has served me well over the last 8 years.
The Benefits of Bulk Wood Pellet Deliveries
So the first benefit that most people are drawn to is the lower price per ton of bulk wood pellets. However, there are other benefits to bulk wood pellet deliveries.
Moving from a gas or oil heating system to a wood pellet stove or boiler can be a shock to some people. Especially if they are told that every day they have to pick up one of more plastic bags of wood pellets and empty them into a hopper. Just a few decades ago this would not have seemed a strange concept, especially for those who used coal as their heating fuel. However, in the 21st century, there is a minimum level of convenience that most people expect.
With bulk wood pellet deliveries and suitable storage solutions, a wood pellet heating system can require no more effort than a gas/propane or oil heating system. If a larger enough silo is installed a once annual bulk wood pellet delivery may be sufficient.
Reducing Plastic Waste
The average home will require 4-5 tons of wood pellets annually. Therefore as you can appreciate that’s a lot of plastic bags. Furthermore, when a wooden pallet arrives its also wrapped in a thick layer of plastic film to protect those bag from tears.
With bulk wood pellet deliveries all of this plastic packaging is not required. I’ve sometimes heard of bulk wood pellet deliveries as being bagless deliveries. Plastic waste is a significant issue which needs to be addressed. Especially as in most cases, plastic bags such as these are not easily recycled. So its good to think that with bulk wood pellet deliveries you are not contributing to the plastic waste problem. Many people choose wood pellet heating as a more environmentally responsible heating solution compared to using fossil fuels. Therefore, choosing to go with bulk wood pellet deliveries is the ‘greenest’ way to accept wood pellet deliveries.
Reduced Cost per Ton of Wood Pellets
I’m not going state prices of bagged and bulk wood pellets as they would be pretty inaccurate even a few weeks after writing this post. So, what I’m going to emphasize is the cost relationship between the price of bagged wood pellets and bulk blown deliveries.
Typically with bulk deliveries, you are able to get a reduced price per ton compared to bagged wood pellets of between 25-50%. Now, the price you can get often depends on what size of delivery you are willing to accept. For instance, there is usually (depending on the supplier) a drop in price over a certain number of tons. For instance, our last delivery of bulk wood pellets dropped by a further £20 per ton as we were able to accept over 8 tonnes. Therefore this leads to an important point. To get the lowest price per ton for bulk wood pellets you really want to install the largest silo you reasonably can.
More Resilience to Supply and Demand Issues
Like any other commodity, the price of wood pellets goes up and down following market supply and demand. There are certain times when supply outstrips demand before demand catches up again. When supply outstrips demand the price of wood pellet falls. Hence if you have a large wood pellet storage silo you can take advantage of when prices are at their lowest. That’s why I built myself a 15-tonne storage silo even though I only use a maximum of 7 tonnes in a year. That way I can have two years of fuel to help avoid price spikes.
Surplus Bulk Deliveries
Another benefit of having the largest wood pellet storage silo you can accommodate is surplus bulk wood pellet deliveries. The best way to describe what I mean by surplus deliveries is to provide you with an example.
I’d already had my annual bulk wood pellet delivery when several months later I got a phone call from the supplier. They had been doing a round of deliveries in the area and had several tonnes of leftover in the truck. Obviously, they don’t want to be using fuel to transport those wood pellets back to the depot. Therefore they offered me a very good price to accept the delivery of these surplus tonnes of wood pellets. Therefore, by having a large storage silo I could take advantage of this deal. I use between 5-7 tonne per year, but my storage room can take up to 15 tonnes at full capacity.
Blown Wood Pellet Best Practice
Whether you intend to bring in a company to install your wood pellet storage silo or you want to go the DIY route is a good idea to make notes on the points below. While the construction of wood pellet storage silo is a relatively simple job, it’s easy for a bad design to lead to bad quality wood pellets. So even if you want to bring in a company to complete the works, with the information below you can check they are doing it right!
Minimise Pipe Length and Bends
When it comes to bulk wood pellet deliveries you want to keep the length of pipework to an absolute minim. Quite simply the longer the wood pellets spend within the pipework the more opportunity there is for them to get damaged. Furthermore, the longer the pipework the higher fan speed required, again leading to a higher likelihood of damage.
The UK Pellet Council states a recommend maximum of 30m of pipework. However, interestingly one UK bulk supplier (liverpoolwoodpellets.co.uk) states that:
“Make sure the access from the truck to the store is less than 18 m. Pellets won’t blow over 20m, it just doesn’t happen.” – Liverpool Wood Pellets
Dust and Bulk Pellet Deliveries
Wood fuel pellets in the US and in Europe are produced to set of standards. These wood pellet grades dictate the density the wood pellets should be produced to, their ash content and moisture content. However, wood pellet grades also dictate that the fuel should have a minimal level of fines (dust). Fines within the pellets reduce combustion efficiency and can even cause some augers in pellet stoves and boilers to become blocked.
When it comes to bulk wood pellet deliveries its very important that the wood pellets are handled with care to avoid the pellets breaking apart and causing dust. The UK Pellet Council provides the following advice:
- Maximum pipe distance of 30m
- Avoid pipe bends where possible
- When bends are required use sweeping bends with a minimum radius of 50cm
- 4″ Spiral Steel Pipework is ideal
- Male Camlock fittings with dust caps
- Visual inspection chamber
Wood Pellet Impact Matts
If you have watched the best practice video above you will have noted what an important role the impact mat plays during a bulk delivery. Without the impact mat, the wood pellets would fly into the wall and break apart leading to lots of fines and dust. The solution is to install a wood pellet impact mat roughly 0.5-0.7m away from the wall of the silo inline with the blown delivery pipe.
Now, there are quite a few websites selling impact mats (also called damping mats) and I do feel it’s very important to install one. However, for a piece of rubber and mounting bracket, some companies overcharge. For my own installation, I actually used an old air bed which I mounted to the ceiling as an impact mat. Its worked perfectly well during the 8 bulk wood pellet deliveries I’ve had over the years.
The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
Wood pellet store ventilation is very important. Many people are not aware that wood pellets off-gas carbon monoxide, and you wouldn’t know in most cases. However, when large quantities of wood pellets are stored in airtight containers/rooms carbon monoxide can build up. There have been instances of fatalities from people opening inspection hatches on a large silo which have not been opened in many months. Therefore it’s very important to ventilate any silo or storage room which accepts bulk wood pellet deliveries.
My storage room is well ventilated, however, as an extra precaution, I’ve also fitted a carbon monoxide monitor which will beep if there is a build-up of carbon monoxide.
How Long can you Store Bulk Wood Pellets for?
In the past, I’ve been asked how long wood pellets will last in my storeroom. For instance, some people have asked me if wood pellet have a shelf life? The answer is that wood pellets will last pretty much indefinitely as long as you protect them from moisture. So that means your bulk wood pellet storage solution must not only protect the fuel from the rain but they must also be stored in a low humidity environment. If you don’t your bulk wood pellets will absorb the moisture and expand, making them useless.
Are Bulk Wood Pellet Deliveries Available in your Area?
There is obviously no point in spending the time and money to purchase or build a bulk wood pellet storage solution if you cannot actually get bulk deliveries to your location. Whether bulk wood pellet deliveries are available will not only depend on how far away you are from the applicable supplier but also how remote your property is. For instance, if you are based down a narrow track which isn’t a proper road I have heard about cases in the past where some suppliers have refused to offer bulk wood pellet deliveries because of access issues. So if you do live down a small narrow road, check with the bulk wood pellet supplier that access will not be an issue.
Bulk Wood Pellet Deliveries in the US
In the US one of the most popular websites to order wood pellets from is woodpellets.com, however, they don’t actually offer bulk wood pellet deliveries. Information on their website makes it appear that they used to offer a bulk delivery service, however, this has stopped for some reason. The likely reason being a bulk wood pellet delivery wagon is quite an expensive piece of kit. It requires hydraulics to lift the storage bin and a large pneumatic system to transport the wood pellets from the truck to the customer’s silo.
Below are some potential options for bulk wood pellet deliveries in the US if you live within the applicable areas:
Maine Energy Systems (MESys)
As you have probably guessed from their company name MESys are based in Maine on the US-North East coast. MESys offer bulk wood pellet deliveries covering most of the state of Maine.
Vermont Renewable Fuels
Again, the area covered by this company for bulk wood pellet fuel deliveries is in the name. They state that they own the only bulk delivery truck in Vermont with certified scales. After deliveries customers are provided with a receipt which states the number of tons delivered.
Energex – Pennsylvania
Energex provides bulk wood pellet deliveries to most parts of Pennsylvania with their PelletsExpress truck. I’ve reviewed their website, however, they don’t state how many tons the PelletsExpress truck can hold. From the looks of it, I would estimate 4-5 tons. Therefore if you have a particularly large silo it would take a couple of trips to fill it. However, as most homes will only use 4-5 tons over a heating season typically one delivery would be fine.
Sandri Energy actually covers a couple of states with their bulk wood pellet deliveries including Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. They also have a range of different sized delivery trucks which include 9 tons, 23 tons and 30 tons. Their trucks use both pneumatic (blown) and auger discharge systems.
Bulk Wood Pellet Deliveries in the UK
In the UK we have a more established network of competing companies offering bulk wood pellet deliveries. Below are details on a couple of options to consider. Prices will obviously vary depending on how close you are to each supplier.
Liverpool Wood Pellets
Despite the name, Liverpool Wood Pellets actually, offer bulk deliveries UK wide. They offer Balcas Brite’s premium wood pellets. Their wagons carry between 15-28 tonnes of wood pellets. They have specific requirements about providing sufficient space for truck manoeuvring and they will only blow pellets up to a maximum distance of 18m.
Forever Fuels are my current supplier for bulk wood pellets, I’ve been able to get a fair price over the years and deliveries turn up on time. Just like Liverpool Wood Pellets, Forever Fuels also distribute Balcas premium wood pellets to the ENPlus A1 grade. They have depots and offices around the country to provide a UK wide service.
A relatively new player to the bulk wood pellet game and they also only provide deliveries to specific areas of South East England. LC Energy is based in Surrey and provides EN Plus A1 pellets made from FSC certified virgin softwood. They have a fairly detailed FAQ section on what customers should expect to happen during a bulk wood pellet delivery and how to prepare.
Verdo has two UK production facilities located in the North and South of the country with a couple of distribution depots in between. They offer UK wide bulk wood pellet deliveries with lorries which carry up to a maximum of either 14, 18 or 27 tonnes. Again, as with the other suppliers their pellets are made to ENPlus A1 standards.
Conclusions on Bulk Wood Pellet Deliveries
If you have sufficient space either within your existing buildings or space outside for a wood pellet silo I would encourage to consider it. While there is obviously an upfront cost the savings on bulk wood pellets over time can be considerable.
Personally, I also like the peace of mind that I have a sufficent supply of wood pellets no matter what the weather holds. When a particularly harsh winter hits you don’t want to be having to buy wood pellets during that winter. Not only may there be issues with supply but the price will likely be considerably more than you would pay when accepting a large delivery during the summer months.