Hardwood pellets are often sold as premium pellets for a higher price than softwood. People naturally think that since hardwood firewood has a higher BTU and burns longer in a wood stove it must also be the same with pellets. But the differences between hardwood vs softwood pellets are not the same as they are with firewood.
Hardwood logs are usually more dense than softwood logs. This is because there is actually more solid wood in a cubic foot of hardwood than there is in softwood. When softwood and hardwood wood is made into a pellet the wood gets compressed to where there isn’t much difference in density between the two.
Also since pellets are sold by weight there isn’t much difference between the BTU of hardwood pellets vs softwood pellets. Softwood pellets actually rate at about 10-15% higher in BTU than hardwood pellets. This is because softwoods contain resins that have a higher heat value than wood fiber.
Hardwood pellets do cost more than softwood pellets but that’s not because they are better. They cost more because the raw material and the process of making hardwood into pellets costs more than it does for softwood.
So what is better hardwood or softwood pellets? When it comes to price per BTU you are probably better off with softwood pellets. But just like firewood you will find conflicting opinions from consumers. Some say they get better performance with one over the other. Some claim one burns cleaner and produces less ash than the other.
These differences in opinions may have more to do with the pellet stoves and burning conditions and maybe more importantly the quality of the pellets more than the species they were made from.