Pellet stoves are probably one of the easiest wood burning appliances to operate. Typically they only need to be loaded with wood pellets once a day and loading the pellets is as easy as pouring them from the bag into the hopper. No splitting, stacking and hauling firewood. Although pellet stoves are easy to operate and are a saving grace in an economy where fuel costs continue to rise, they are mechanical appliances with sophisticated parts and they are still new enough to the market to where homeowners may not know a lot about them. This article provides insight on the operation, maintenance, troubleshooting, and basic information about pellet stoves through some of the most frequently asked pellet stove questions and answers.
Basic Pellet Stove FAQs
Pellet Stove Troubleshooting FAQs
Wood Pellet FAQs
Pellet Stove Venting & Maintenance FAQs
Basic Pellet Stove FAQ Answers
Question: What are pellet stoves?
Answer: Pellet stoves are efficient, clean burning home heating appliances that use sophisticated parts and components to burn compressed wood or biomass pellets. Pellet stoves require the use of a standard household 110 volt electrical outlet to operate and rely heavily on blower fans to achieve clean, economical performance and circulate warm air throughout the area to be heated.
Question: How do pellet stoves work?
Answer: Pellet stoves work by automatically dispensing wood pellets from a hopper into a firepot or burn box. Wood pellets are carried from the hopper into the firepot on an auger system that is driven by an electric motor. The auger system slowly turns around carrying the pellets from the hopper and depositing them at a steady rate onto the hot fire. A jet of hot air blown across the fire by a fan allows the pellet stove to maintain high temperatures and enables the pellets to burn evenly and efficiently. A second fan on the pellet stove blows hot air, warmed by passage through heat exchanger pipes that run through the interior of the stove, long lasting, low-maintenance heat.
Answer: No. Pellet stoves naturally burn so clean and efficiently and pollute so little that they do not require EPA certification to operate. However, some manufacturers still voluntarily seek EPA certification to ease customer's minds and eliminate any doubt that they may have.
Answer: Yes. Pellet stoves require a non-combustible floor surface for safe, proper installation and operation. Your manufacturer should be able to give you a list of materials safe to use under your wood pellet stove. Each pellet stove model is unique and could have varied results so consult your owner's manual or pellet stove manufacturer before purchasing your floor protection.
Question: Where should I place my pellet stove?
Answer: You'll want to make sure that you place your pellet stove in an area where it will provide the most coverage and can evenly disperse heat throughout your home. Your pellet stove should be placed in an area where it has plenty of ventilation around it and nothing should be blocking the vents or fans. You will also need to make sure that your pellet stove is installed next to a good working electrical outlet.
Answer: When choosing between a bottom feed or a top feed pellet stove, consider the following benefits and drawbacks of each style.
Top feed benefit - Top feed pellet stoves present a lesser chance of fire burning back into the hopper because of its pellet delivery system
Top feed drawback - The combustion chamber on a pellet stove that utilizes a top feed is more likely to become impeded with ash and the deposits caused by reheating ash. For this reason, many manufacturers of top feed pellet stoves recommend using premium high burn grade, low-ash pellets.
Bottom feed benefit - Bottom feed pellet stoves don't require premium fuel because the ash and clinkers are pushed into the ash pan.
Bottom feed drawback - With steady use, you will have to remove the ashes from the pellet stove about once a week.
Question: Are all pelet stoves noisy?
Answer: Pellet stoves are mechanical devices and use three motors for operation so you will be able to hear the combustion fan, convection fan and the auger as well as some airflow and occasional pellet dropping. New pellet stoves noise levels are tolerable and most people can tune them out. As your pellet stoves ages, new noises could possibly emerge. Try to find out what's vibrating by pressing on the panels of the pellet stove to see if the noise lessens in one particular place, and when you've found the culprit, tighten it up if you can.
Pellet Stove Troubleshooting FAQ Answers
Question: Why won't my pellet stove start?
Answer: First and foremost, check the fundamentals. Make sure there is power to the pellet stove and there are pellets in the hopper. The power to the pellet stove can be checked by plugging in another appliance to the outlet such as a lamp to make sure that it works.
Another problem that would prevent your pellet stove from starting is if the wood pellets bridge over the hopper and prevent themselves from dropping into the auger. This can be caused by over-sized wood pellets or friction with the hopper sides. To check your pellet stove for this problem, disconnect the power supply and empty the hopper gently until you get to the bottom. If you can't get the pellets to slide, lightly spray a silicone lubricant over the inside of the hopper. With the hopper empty, you should be able to see the auger. Plug your pellet stove back in and see whether or not the auger is turning. If only a slight movement can be seen, it might be jammed with pellet dust. Listen to your auger motor and make sure that it is working.
Your pellet stove igniter could also be faulty if you are having trouble getting the stove to start. During normal operation, igniters will usually glow red on start up. If the igniter is faulty, you can start your pellet stove by throwing a handful of wood pellets into the burn pot and starting them with starter gel however, the thermostat on/off operation will not be possible until you get a new igniter.
Look in your pellet stove owner's manual and find out where the pellet stove's internal fuses are. Take the fuses out and check them using a continuity checker to see if bad fuses are a the reason behind your pellet stove not starting.
Answer: First, check the hopper and the auger. If the pellet stove has run out of fuel, it will take a few minutes for the pellets to be transferred from the hopper to the auger to fill and start delivering pellets to the burn pot. Make sure the auger is not jammed with ash. You may have to dismantle your auger to clear it in which case you should consult your owner's manual. If your pellet stove has a snap switch which turns the auger off if the stoves overheats, check and see if it needs resetting or is faulty.
Answer: If your pellet stove is producing a dark sooty flame, this means that for one reason or another, not enough air is getting to the fire. The most common cause of dark sooty pellet stove fire is a clinkered up burn pot which can be the result of inadequate maintenance or poor pellet quality. Take the following steps to fix this problem.
Take the bur pot out of the pellet stove and clean it thoroughly. Scrape off the clinkers and make sure that all air holes are clear of any debris.
Look at both the inlet and outlet venting as well as the exhaust vents within the stove itself and make sure they are clear.
If your pellet stove has an outdoor air intake, check it to make sure that it is clear of any debris.
Consult your owner's manual and follow the instructions to clean out any fly ash that may exist in the exhaust channels within the pellet stove. The flue system can also have fly ash build-up, particularly at elbows. Sometimes the rain cap can become clogged too so check the flue system and rain cap to make sure it is clear of fly ash as well.
Pellet stove combustion is powered by air blown from a combustion blower. If the pellet stove has a leak from the stove door or the ash pan seal, it will result in a shortage of air to the flame and a dark sooty fire.
If the air intake on your pellet stove is adjustable, check and make sure that it is in the correct position and has not been accidentally moved.
Finally, check the combustion blower itself on your pellet stove. If the combustion chamber fan needs to be cleaned or if it is faulty, this will also result in dark sooty fires.
Answer: If there has been a power failure, this will cause your pellet stove to shut down.
The vacuum switch on the pellet stove which detects whether or not the flue is blocked might not be working, or the plastic hose that it is connected to has cracked.
The device that detects the presence of a flame within the pellet stove may not be working. This device tells the pellet stove to run automatically after a start-up temperature has been reached.
The fire in the pellet stove will also go out if too much air is being allowed to enter the burn pot, consuming the pellets there and extinguishing the fire before the stove can feed more pellets. This problem can be identified by looking for partially burned pellets popping out of the burn pot.
Answer: If your pellet stove it not producing enough heat it may mean that the blower needs to be cleaned or the intake might be blocked. This could also mean that the heat exchangers are being insulated from the airflow by a covering of ash and need to be cleaned. Low heat does not mean that the blower is faulty because a faulty blower would allow the stove to get too hot, and shut down.
Wood Pellet FAQ Answers
Answer: Check your local lumber company and local building and home improvement stores for wood pellets for your pellet stove. If you don't have any local resources, you may have to look online and purchase your wood pellets from an online retailer.
Answer: As wood burners we are programmed to think that soft wood types are bad and should never be used in your wood burning appliance. This is true with a wood burning stove however, all wood pellets both soft and hardwoods types are dried to a 20 percent moisture content for maximum performance and efficiency. There are two grades of wood pellets including standard and premium. The only difference is that premium wood pellets have less inorganic ash than the standard pellets do. Check your owner's manual because certain pellet stove models require premium grade wood pellets.
Question:What are wood pellets made of?
Answer: Wood pellets are a type of wood fuel, generally made from compacted sawdust and other biomass by products of sawmilling and other wood transformation activities at other resources like furniture stores, recycling centers, roadside scrap, logging residue, and paper packing plants. Pellet manufacturers will dry the wood scraps to a 20 percent or less moisture level, compress them, and form them into small cylinder shaped pieces of wood that are similar to the look and size of rabbit food pellets.
Question: How should I store my wood pellets?
Answer: Most pellet stove users store their wood pellets in their garage, basement, or shed. If you store them outside, be sure to protect them from the weather and keep them off of the ground where they are not subjected to snow and ice build-up. Make sure that your wood pellets are covered with a tarp or another shroud in order to protect them from precipitation.
Question:Why are my wood pellets shiny?
Answer: Lignin, which is a naturally-occurring substance in wood, rises to the surface during wood pellet production and leaves the pellets smooth and shiny. Lignin also acts as a natural glue and is what holds the pellet together.
Question:Can wood pellets go bad?
Answer: No. As long as your wood pellets are stored properly, you should have no problem storing them for several years.
Pellet Stove Venting & Maintenance FAQ Answers
Answer: Your pellet stove will have either a 3 inch or a 4 inch flue diameter. To determine your pellet stove flue size, measure the inside dimension across the chimney or appliance opening. Follow manufacturer recommendations whenever applicable and remember never use a chimney that is smaller in diameter than the flue size of the appliance it is being connected to.
Answer: We recommend either Dura-Vent Pellet Vent or Dura-Vent PelletVent Pro. Both PelletVent and PelletVent Pro are available in galvalume and PelletVent Pro is also available in black. PelletVent Pro also has a wider selection of components for your pellet stove and has a 1" clearance to combustibles while PelletVent has a 3" clearance to combustibles.
Answer: This will depend on your pellet stove. If your pellet stove has a manual ignition, you will have to use a special gel or solid starter material, light the pellets and monitor the process. If your pellet stove does not have a manual igniter, you will simply have to add the wood pellets and push the start button to heat the self-ignite device.
Question:How should I clean my pellet stove?
Answer: Remove all ash from the pellet stove burn pot and from the front portion of the wood pellet stove which houses the burn pot.
If your pellet stove came with a cleaning tool, use the cleaning tool to scrape the burn pot and remove any built up hard carbon deposits. If your pellet stove didn't come with a cleaning tool, you can use a putty knife or a wire brush to scrape the burn pot.
Clean carbon deposits off of the exchanger tube by pulling out and pushing the lever in front of the wood pellet stove several times.
Vacuum out the front of the pellet stove that holds the burn pot and remove any remaining ash.
If your pellet stove has a glass window, wash the window using a fireplace glass cleaner.
Clean the pellet stove blower motor and fan using a small paint brush to remove dirt build-up.
Inspect the gaskets around the door of the pellet stove and clean any residue from gaskets. Replace them if they are worn out.
Answer: Clean your pellet stove chimney vent pipe with a pellet stove brush. Pellet stove brushes are made with high-quality nylon bristles and have a heavy ball on the top of them that guides the brush through the narrow flue. Be sure to match the size of your pellet stove brush with the diameter of your chimney liner. The pellet stove brush should be at least as big as your chimney liner so that it can reach the side walls of the chimney. If you get a pellet stove brush that is larger than the chimney pipe diameter it will be harder to get down the chimney.
NorthlineExpress.com specializes in offering quality home leisure products that improve the quality of life including a selection of high performance wood pellet stoves and complete pellet vent chimney pipe for all of your installation needs. When you buy a pellet stove from NorthlineExpress.com you not only get a quality product that is guaranteed to reduce your home heating costs and provide years of comfort and warmth, but unmatched, knowledgeable customer service. We hope this pellet stove FAQ article has answered all of your questions about pellet stoves. If you still have questions about your wood pellet stove, please feel free to contact our customer service sales team at NorthlineExpress.com.