The pellet is now so widespread that it is also found in small supermarkets. But can you really buy any type of pellet? Do they all work the same way? Before purchasing a good supply, it is better to get some advice from an expert.
I asked Giuliano, the MCZ Group technician who is responsible for training the staff at our support centres. We were very lucky to find him free, he is usually shuttling between France, Germany and Italy.
If I asked you which pellets to buy for this winter, what would you say?
You should absolutely buy certified pellets. The most common and affordable certificated marks are EN Plus, Din Plus, O-Norm, Pellet Gold. Pellets that have one of those certifications guarantee the conformity to the European law for pellet quality (EN 14961-2 classe A1 or A2). In other words, it is the only pellet that guarantees me an excellent calorific value (read: heats well) and low ash residue (read: doesn't get the stove too dirty). In addition we are sure that it is only made of wood, no residue of any kind or chemical additives.
But what happens if I use uncertified pellets?
With the technical service centres, I have often worked on stoves in which low-quality pellets were used. The least that can happen is that they get the stove dirty very quickly, so you have to clean it more often than normal. Or with pellets with low calorific values (such as that of birch, for example) you don't get the results stated by the manufacturer. It is the typical case of the client who complains that his stove burns a lot but does not warm enough.
Or by burning pellets with a calorific value that is too high (for example dark ones such those from oak), you end up deforming the internal parts of the combustion chamber, which therefore needs to be replaced.
And in this case, is the replacement covered by the warranty?
Well, no. The warranty is void if you have not used quality pellets, as reported in all the manuals.
But what are the best woods?
The best mix would be European spruce and beech.
Is it easy to find?
Yes, it is not difficult to find, for example from agricultural associations or even from the same retailers as those of pellet products.
Is it better not to buy pellets from the supermarket?
Well, not necessarily. In general, the supermarket is certainly not specialised in it, but there are some big chains where quality pellets can still be found.
Why is there this perception that Austrian pellets are the best?
Because in Austria, to be sold on the market, pellets must meet very restrictive criteria, the most restrictive in Europe. So automatically pellets that come from Austria are of excellent quality. Although not necessarily always the best. There are also excellent Italian, French or German pellets. The important thing is the certification.
Can the labels on the pellet be misleading?
Sometimes they say, for example, "Conforms to Din Plus standard", perhaps written in small letters. It is misleading because it does not really mean anything. It must say "Din Plus Certified". In general, the advice is to be wary of no-name sacks with no certification and no information on the type of material used to make the pellet or even no producer's name.
Is the size of the pellet important?
Certainly. Usually we recommend a size between 0.5 and 3 cm. Smaller pieces can overheat the loading system for pellets. Larger pieces can get stuck creating an internal block.
One last question that may seem trivial but in a pellet stove, can something other than pellet be burned?
Absolutely not. In the old wood-burning stoves, everything used to be thrown in, from peel to paper. A pellet stove is a sophisticated product, burning any other material in it may compromise its function.