Wood Pellet Stove Safety Overview

Two house fires in New Hampshire within a month have been linked to wood pellet stoves. One of the fires was found to have started by a faulty pellet stove chimney, which devastated most of the home and injured four firefighters. The damage done by the other recent fire was less significant but was also pellet stove related – starting due to an improper installation.

Read >> Pellet Stove Blamed for Small Fire at Manchester Home

Read >> Investigator: Seventh Street Fire Caused by Pellet Stove Chimney

Unfortunate accidents like this should serve as a general reminder about wood pellet stove safety. Make sure to read your manual to better understand your stove through the model-specific information.

Proper precautions start with the installation – which should be completed by a trained stove technician. Even with a perfectly executed setup, however, your stove’s performance and safety can be hindered by blockage.

Wood pellet stoves operate through a system of air intake and exhaust. If this system is hindered by snow and/or leaf buildup outside, or burn residue inside, proper combustion of the pellets can’t happen. Unlike wood stoves, pellet stove venting can be either horizontal, vertical or both – so make sure you know where potential blockages could occur.

See Figure >> Pellet Stove Vent Blockage

While wood pellets burn far cleaner and with less residue than firewood in a wood stove, creosote accumulates with any wood-burning. Therefore, we strongly recommend a thorough professional cleaning at the beginning or end of each heating season.

In addition to an annual visit from a professional, you should also be cleaning your stove throughout the winter. The frequency of your cleanings will depend on the type of wood pellets you’re burning and how much ash builds up.

In order to get the most out of your time, it’s critical to have the right tools for the job. For a productive DIY cleaning, we recommend using a metal scraper, a sturdy brush, a flashlight, ash vacuum with the right filter and dust protection.

Finally, be sure to use a surge protector. Most modern pellet stoves have a circuit board that can be damaged without protection from even small electrical surges caused by power outages. Refer to your manual for information on electrical recommendations.

Read >> Prepare Your Pellet Stove for Power Outages

 

The 5 Questions Pellet Stove Technicians Answer Most

1. Should I do anything special when I turn off my stove for the summer?

Yes! Follow these steps to get your stove ready for its vacation:

Turn off your stove and unplug it. (You should have a surge protector.) Let it cool completely before you begin the process. Start by cleaning the glass with your heat-safe cleaning solvent and a soft cloth, like you have been doing through the heating season. Do NOT use any cleaning solvent with ammonia in it, because it can damage the glass.

Clean out the entire inside and within the hopper, to the best of your ability. If you have a stove vacuum, this will help make sure everything is removed. (Do NOT use a household vacuum because the fine ash can damage it). Or you can always rely on a trained stove technician to use his or her professional tools.

Read >> The 5 Tools You Need to Clean Your Stove Properly

Do NOT leave any wood pellets inside your stove – burned or unburned. Wood pellets are made of kiln-dried, fine wood fibers which will absorb any moisture. If you have moisture inside your stove, the leftover pellets will absorb it and can cause rust to form through the summer, which can create costly damage later. For this same reason, cleaning out all the ports and passages inside your stove is important for your stove’s health.

If you are unable to safely get inside the inner parts of your stove, and have never done so before, we do not recommend this without professional help. Not only are clean passages a best practice for when your stove is shut down, but also during the burning season as well. Make sure to check your owner’s manual for any suggestions that might be specific to your brand of pellet stove. For an extra precaution, schedule a summer cleaning/inspection by a trained pellet stove professional technician. 

Note: Cleancare Professional Cleanings are available through our trusted, certified pellet stove technicians in some regions. Give us a call at 1-800-PELLETS, or enter your zip code on our website to see if Cleancare is available in your area.

2. Do I really need to worry about creosote with my pellet stove?

Your wood burning appliance’s venting system carries out the substances produced when wood burns. As the hot substances flow up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs, which results in creosote residue sticking to the inner walls of the chimney.

Letting creosote accumulate can cause a house fire – which is (hopefully) common knowledge among wood-burners. Although pellet stoves generate significantly less burn residue due to the clean kiln-dried wood fibers in pellets, it’s still critically important to clean and inspect your stove thoroughly, as you would a firewood-burning system.

Here’s a very helpful guide on how to clean your pellet stove throughout the heating season, and the tools you should have: How to Clean Your Wood Pellet Stove in 20 Minutes

3. Why is my flame so weak?

Woodpellets.comIf your flame is weak, or “lazy”, you’re not experiencing the level of heat you should be getting. If it stays weak for an extended amount of time, your stove will likely just shut down. Causes for a smaller than usual flame are usually a part in need of replacement, incorrect air adjustments, or most common – an uncleaned/neglected pellet stove. 

Pellet stoves work off of pressurized air, which is drawn from the exhaust. Pet hair, dander, dust and lint are constantly sucked in. If all the passages within your stove haven’t been cleaned out, or your exhaust hasn’t been cleared of debris – air cannot circulate efficiently. Therefore, your flame will not be strong. Aside from occasional tired parts that need replacing, this is more commonly the answer to why you have a weak flame.

4. Should I be burning hardwood or softwood pellets?

Firewood burners prefer to use hardwood in their wood stove or fireplace, because it provides a longer burn compared to softwood due to wood density differences. However, regardless of the type of wood used to produce wood pellets, the pelletizing process produces pellets with the same density. Due to a higher percentage of resin content in softwood, more heat is produced per pound. Therefore, softwood pellets are typically the most popular among pellet stove owners.

5. Why am I getting so much ash?

Woodpellets.comCheck out the specifications on the wood pellets you’re purchasing, and look for the ash content listed. The higher the percentage, the more ash you’ll get, and the more frequent your cleanings will be. Higher quality pellets will have lower ash percentages, and therefore less maintenance.

On top of research, another great way to choose a fuel is by talking to your fellow pellet-burners to see what they’re using and why. Of course, you won’t know what you like for your home and your budget until you run your own tests. But if you’re buying the cheapest pellets with lower heat and higher ash specifications – you shouldn’t expect the same results as the higher quality options available.

 

Questions? Need to Place an Order for Premium Wood Pellets? Shop Online or Call 1-800-PELLETS to Speak to a Woodpellets.com Representative!

Black on Your Pellet Stove Glass?

If you’re experiencing blackened glass, it can most likely be fixed with one tweak. Your problem could be caused by a lack of air flow. Burning on too low of a setting can make your air-to-pellet ratio out of balance, which results in the build-up of creosote.

To make the proper changes, first take a look at your owner’s manual. This often overlooked resource is packed with helpful model-specific info, including how to properly adjust your settings and troubleshoot.

If your settings are correct, but you’re still experiencing problems – you might have a leak.  Wood pellet stoves operate through a system of air intake and exhaust.  The exhaust fan works to suck air out through the burn pot to cause combustion of the pellets, which is hindered by a leaky gasket. The most common air flow leak is through the door gasket.

It’s simple to test your door seal with a dollar bill. While holding on to one end of the bill, insert the other side into the door, and shut it.  Pull out the dollar while the door is still shut, and note the resistance. You shouldn’t be able to remove the bill without a good amount of resistance. Repeat this method all around your door to check the full effectiveness of your gasket.

While you’re checking for air leaks, also think about your venting. Are the seals tight and properly cleaned? Is it the wrong size? If you’re still experiencing burn issues, you may want to consider a stove cleaning done by a professional.

If you purchased your wood pellets from Woodpellets.com, give us a call to speak to a Quality Control Manager at 1-800-PELLETS!

 

8 Fire Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Fire Safety Tips for Holiday Cooking According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires, and holidays are the most common days for them.

Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are the top three days of the year for kitchen fires – which isn’t exactly surprising. It’s the time of year for baking, roasting, cooking and entertaining guests.

In order to avoid common fire safety mistakes, Lorraine Carli of the National Fire Protection Association has made a list of
helpful tips to stay safe:

Read more

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