Burning wood pellets in a pellet stove is the preferred heating method for more than one million households across the United States. It is a cost effective, clean, and convenient method to heat your home with wood pellet fuel. However, while the choice to burn pellets is simple, choosing the type of pellets can be a little confusing, leaving you asking questions like: Do I choose softwood or hardwood? How many BTU’s are needed to heat my home? What makes wood pellets a “greener” heating option?

Whether you have recently purchased a pellet stove or have been burning wood pellets for many years, the Fallon’s team can help you choose the best wood pellets for your home. The primary factors to consider when selecting pellets are wood type, BTU’s (the heat output), ash content and price.

Type of Wood

Typically, there are two types of wood used in wood pellets: hardwood or softwood. Hardwood in its raw form burns longer, as it has a higher density. Softwood, on the other hand, typically has higher BTU’s due to the lignin concentration in the wood, so it burns hotter for a shorter period of time.

What does that mean for your pellet stove? Not a lot. During the pellet production process, sawdust and wood residuals are compressed into pellets, and the type of wood used can be either consistent or blended between the two types. Once compressed, both hardwood and softwood pellets end up with a similar density. In its raw form, hardwood is very different from softwood, but once it is compressed, the type of wood does not make much of a difference in heating output if you have a quality pellet stove with good air flow.

The real thing to look for in your pellets is the quality of the wood, ensuring that the pellets you choose are made entirely of real wood and not mixed with cardboard, bark or synthetics.


BTU is short for “British Thermal Unit,” which measures energy output. The BTU rating of your wood pellets is the measurement of heat output. More BTU’s means it burns hotter.

The measurement of pellet BTU’s often ranges between 8,000 – 8,900 BTU’s per pound. Most times, BTU measurements are indicated on the pellet packaging (and usually included in the product description on the Fallon’s website). So, how many BTU’s do you need to heat your home? It will depend on your insulation, the space you are trying to heat, and several other factors. Your Fallon’s team can help you determine what may be the right amount of BTU’s for your scenario. There also are many free BTU “calculators” available online that can help you determine the optimal amount for your home.

Ash Content

The ash content of wood pellets measures the output of ash during the burning process based on the percentage of weight. Ash content should measure less than 1% of the total weight of the pellets.

In simpler terms, it determines how often you must clean your pellet stove of the ash residue. A low ash content means you must clean your stove less often since it puts out less ash, which is a factor that many pellet stove owners consider important.

However, not all ash is bad. Many wood burning stove manufacturers recommend leaving a layer of ash at the bed of the stove to help improve total heat output, and to aid in the stove’s operation of any secondary burn and air wash systems. Too little ash can prevent the fire from reaching high temperatures and cause damage to the base of the stove, while too much ash can restrict sufficient airflow to the fire.

So how much ash should you leave in your wood burning stove? While the recommended depth varies between models and manufacturers, generally, around 1 inch deep of ash should remain in the bed of a wood stove before each fire.

What’s So Green About Wood Pellets Anyway?
When you burn a lot of wood pellets, you can actually save the same amount of fossil fuels as if you replaced a gas-powered car with a hybrid for an entire year.

Pellets are carbon neutral, because they are made with sustainably harvested wood. They also emit less carbon than a decomposing tree. And because pellet stoves are so efficient, you’re getting more heat for less money out of fewer resources – and that’s pretty green!

Choosing Which Wood Pellets to Buy

All in all, choosing pellets is entirely dependent on your preference and your budget. Some pellet stove owners swear by the quality of softwood pellets, while others prefer the longer burn provided by hardwood pellets. There are advantages to both types, which is why Fallon’s carries a large variety of pellet brands to suit every preference.

As always, if you have any questions on wood pellets or figuring out which pellets are best for your home, Fallon’s is here to help! With nearly 50 years of serving New Hampshire customers, we know a thing or two about pellets and can help you decide which type would be best for your home, your stove and your budget.