Wood Pellet Stove Troubleshooting Guide

Since every pellet stove is different, some of the best advice can be found in your stove manual. Whether you’re burning pellets for the first time in a new stove, firing up your system at the start of a new season, or switching to a new brand of pellets, this quick reference guide for troubleshooting some common burn quality issues should come in handy.

The Problem The Likely Culprit The Solution
Poor burn quality Dirty stove Clean your stove according to your manufacturer’s recommendations, or schedule a professional cleaning.
Blackened glass Burning on ‘low’ Adjust heat setting to medium or medium/high.
Excessive clinkers Airflow leak Clean all vents, check and repair/replace all gaskets, adjust damper or airflow setting.
Trouble igniting Air-to-pellet ratio Adjust air-to-pellet ratio by increasing air flow.
Lazy or small flame Air-to-pellet ratio Adjust air-to-pellet ratio by increasing air flow and/or decreasing feed rate.
Low heat output Air-to-pellet ratio Adjust air-to-pellet ratio by increasing air flow and/or increasing feed rate.
Sparks flying / embers in the ash pot Air-to-pellet ratio Adjust air-to-pellet ratio by decreasing air flow and/or decreasing feed rate.
Whole, charred pellets left in the burn pot Air-to-pellet ratio Adjust air-to-pellet ratio by decreasing air flow and/or decreasing feed rate.
Auger jamming / stove shutting down Long pellets Drop bags on the floor – this can break long pellets into a manageable length.
Excessive ash build up / whole, charred pellets in burn pot Short pellets Reduce feed rate.

As you can see, many burn issues are directly related to your stove’s airflow. If you have reviewed your owner’s manual to make the proper settings adjustments, but you’re still experiencing problems…you might have a leak. Wood pellet stoves operate through a system of air intake and exhaust, and the exhaust fan sucks air out through the burn pot to cause combustion of the pellets. It’s important to inspect your venting setup to see if it’s properly sealed, but it’s more likely the leak is through your door gasket.

It’s simple to test the door seal efficiency 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.

 

Please call 1-800-PELLETS if you have any concerns with the quality of your Woodpellets.com fuel. Learn about our Quality Guarantee, here.

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!

 

Wood Pellet FAQS

Over one million homes in the United States use wood pellets as a heating source. Although pellet popularity is continually rising, there are still many frequent questions and misconceptions about heating with wood pellets. Below, we have compiled a list of the most common inquiries we hear from both new and existing pellet users.

Can I Store Wood Pellets Outside?

Wood Pellets Stored OutsideYes – as long as you take the necessary steps to protect them. You must inspect your pellets’ packaging carefully before preparing them for outside storage. To protect your pellets from water and from any birds or squirrels that may try to puncture the plastic, you’ll definitely need to fasten a tarp over your fuel. If your pellets are outside for a while – you’ll need to keep checking on it to make sure there hasn’t been any damage or extensive wear.

If you are a customer, and you find damage that has reached the actual wood pellets, call 1-800-PELLETS right away to speak with a Quality Assurance representative.  All Woodpellets.com Quality Certified fuels are backed by a Quality Guarantee, valid for 30 days after the delivery date.

See >> How to Keep Wood Pellets Safely Stored Outside 

Can I Use a Wood Pellet Stove as My Home’s Only Source of Heat?

Depending on the location of the stove and the size/efficiency of your home – yes. Some stoves can easily heat up to 2,500 square feet of space. A common practice is to put pellet stoves in parts of the house to create zone heat, but lightly use a central furnace as a back up. It’s especially common to use oil heating as a backup to pellets, for example, when the price of oil rises significantly.

How Much Does a Pellet Stove Cost?

A typical price for buying and professionally installing a pellet stove is around $2,500 to $3,000. Of course, this number will vary depending on where you live and the kind of stove you choose.

Do Pellet Stoves Require Professional Maintenance?

Most owner’s manuals suggest a comprehensive cleaning by a trained technician at least once a year. Some manuals even suggest a checkup after each ton of pellets is burned. Also, the mechanical and electric components that make up your pellet stove can eventually wear out and need repair or replacement – so a cleaning/check-up by a professional could help prevent a surprise part-malfunction.

Read >> Wood Pellet Stove Best Practices 

 How Many Bags of Pellets Should I Buy?

Woodpellets.com Driveway DeliveryThe amount of pellets you can expect to burn through in a heating season depends on the quality of the wood pellets and the efficiency of the stove – among other things. However, one bag of quality pellets will commonly provide a full day of good, steady heat.

The average residential wood pellet customer in the Northeast uses 150-200 bags of wood pellets throughout the entire heating season. There are 50 bags in one ton of pellets, so that’s 3-4 tons.

 Is Heating with Pellets Environmentally Friendly?

The carbon footprint of burning wood pellets can be completely neutral, or close to it. If the forests where the wood pellet raw material has been taken from are sustainably managed, the overall carbon footprint is drastically reduced in comparison with fossil fuel heat. A study by The Alliance for Green Heat and VU University Amsterdam revealed that heating with wood pellets can emit about one tenth the carbon as heating with oil.

Are There Additives in Wood Pellets?

No! Wood pellets are 100% natural. There are absolutely no binders or chemicals added to the wood fiber used to create pellets. Wood naturally contains a substance, lignin, that binds wood pellets in their tightly compacted, mostly uniform shape.

>> See: How Wood Pellets Are Made

Are Softwood Pellets Better than Hardwood Pellets?

Most firewood users prefer to burn 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. Softwood pellets are actually most sought after, due to a higher percentage of resin content in softwood, more heat is produced per pound.

For any questions we haven’t answered here – please give us a call at 1-800-PELLETS!

 

Wood Pellet Stove Best Practices and Troubleshooting

Wood Pellet Stove Best Practices and TroubleshootingFall is in full swing, and the upcoming winter has been predicted to be a cold and snowy one for the northeast. If you haven’t already fired up your pellet stove for the heating season, it’s likely that you will be soon.

Read: Farmers’ Almanac Releases Winter Weather 2017-18 Forecast

This time of year, we like to remind the wood pellet community about best practices and troubleshooting tips. Being an informed pellet stove owner makes it easier to have an safe and efficient heating season.

For starters, find your owner’s manual and read it. Every stove is different, so this is where you’ll find some of the best advice for your pellet stove. From proper maintenance, to best practices and warranty information – your manual is packed with model-specific information.

If your stove hasn’t had an extensive cleaning in some time – you should consider scheduling a professional appointment. Even if you prefer to manage cleaning yourself, a bonus of having a technician check-up is that he or she is able to check on all the stove parts that might need replacement or adjustment. Furthermore, an improperly kept stove can impact your burn quality, which can lead to some headaches later.

Read: What a Professional Wood Pellet Stove Cleaning Should Look Like

While we recommend a professional cleaning once or twice a year, thorough cleanings should also be done once or twice a month. If you have the right tools, it shouldn’t take more than 20-30 minutes to complete. A scraper, stiff brush and ash vacuum with special dust bags will make this task easier for you.

Read: How to Clean Your Pellet Stove Quickly and Correctly

High quality wood pellets will significantly improve your burn experience. Check out the specifications on the pellets you’re considering. Look at the ash percentage, and know that the higher the percentage, the more frequent your cleanings will need to be. Higher quality pellets will have lower ash percentages, and therefore less maintenance.

Even when burning the most premium wood pellets, your stove needs the right balance of feed rate, air flow, and heat settings to operate efficiently. If your settings aren’t properly synced, you could have issues.

Below is a quick reference guide on the most commonly experienced problems matched with their likely culprits.

The Problem The Likely Culprit The Solution
Poor burn quality Dirty stove Clean your stove according to your manufacturer’s recommendations.
Blackened glass Burning on ‘low’ Adjust heat setting to medium or medium/high.
Excessive clinkers Airflow leak Clean all vents, check and repair/replace all gaskets, adjust damper or airflow setting.
Trouble igniting Air-to-pellet ratio Adjust air-to-pellet ratio by increasing air flow.
Lazy or small flame Air-to-pellet ratio Adjust air-to-pellet ratio by increasing air flow and/or decreasing feed rate.
Low heat output Air-to-pellet ratio Adjust air-to-pellet ratio by increasing air flow and/or increasing feed rate.
Sparks flying / embers in the ash pot Air-to-pellet ratio Adjust air-to-pellet ratio by decreasing air flow and/or decreasing feed rate.
Whole, charred pellets left in the burn pot Air-to-pellet ratio Adjust air-to-pellet ratio by decreasing air flow and/or decreasing feed rate.
Auger jamming / stove shutting down Long pellets Drop bags on the floor – this can break long pellets into a manageable length.
Excessive ash build up / whole, charred pellets in burn pot Short pellets Reduce feed rate.

If you’re a Woodpellets.com customer experiencing burn issues…don’t worry. Our Quality Certified fuels are backed by a Quality Guarantee valid for a full 30 days after your delivery date. Learn more here: Woodpellets.com Quality Guarantee

Questions? Call 1-800-PELLETS to Speak to an Expert!

How to Prepare Your Pellet Stove for Fall

When it was time to shut down your stove for the summer, did you take the time to do so properly? Probably the most important part of shutting down for the summer is removing all leftover residue and pellets. If you have moisture inside your stove, the leftover pellets will absorb it. This can cause rust to form, which could lead to costly damage.

If you didn’t shut down properly, or if your stove hasn’t had a thorough cleaning in some time – you should consider scheduling one before the heating season begins. A bonus of having a technician work on your stove clean-up is that he or she is able to check on all the stove parts that might need replacement or adjustment.

Aside from the standard ash removal and general maintenance, your wood pellet stove needs additional care not only for safety and preparedness, but also for efficiency. Pellet stoves work off of pressurized air, which is drawn from the exhaust – so 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 properly circulate.

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

It’s definitely helpful to check your owner’s manual for more insight on this, and to learn more about your pellet stove overall. It’s packed with model-specific information regarding proper stove maintenance, best practices and warranty information – but it’s often overlooked.

Whether you’re taking care of your pellet stove cleaning yourself, or hiring a professional – here’s what the checklist should include for a thorough cleaning:

  • Check Unit for Visible Defects, Ash, Discoloring
  • Vacuum Inside of Unit
  • Remove Baffles – Clean and Reinstall
  • Clean and Inspect Heat Exchanger
  • Remove Access Doors/Panels – Vacuum and Reinstall
  • Clean and Inspect
    • Heat Exchanger
    • Burn Pot
    • Ignitor
    • Ash Pan
    • Convection Fan
    • Glass
    • Combustion Fan
    • Pressure Switch/Hose
    • Tee and Venting
  • Inspect
    • Gaskets
    • Electrical Wiring
    • Auger Motor(s)*
    • Venting Seals
  • Inspect Hopper for Pellet Quality and Excess Fines
  • Vacuum Back of Stove
  • Check and Lubricate Shaker Grate Cam*

 *May not be applicable on some stove models.

We understand that many pellet stove owners take care of cleaning themselves. However, sometimes things are best left to professionals trained specifically for a service. To see if Cleancare Professional Pellet and Wood Stove Cleanings are available in your area, please call 1-800-PELLETS, or type your zip code in at www.Woodpellets.com.

 

An Informed Wood Pellet Burner is a Successful Wood Pellet Burner

Wood Pellet Colors
If you purchased the pellet stove in your home, you probably did a lot of research by reading reviews, comparing prices, learning about available features, and so on. How much do you look into pellets before you make a purchase? It’s a good idea to check out the brand’s heat and ash specifications before you buy. The higher the ash percentage, the more leftover ash you’ll experience – which correlates to how frequent your cleanings will be. Higher quality pellets have lower ash percentages, which means less maintenance for you. As for the heat output, the higher the BTU/lb number, the hotter the burn of course.

Read more

Get Your Stove Ready for Fall

Woodpellets.comAside from the usual ash removal and general maintenance, your wood pellet stove needs additional care in order to operate at optimal safety and efficiency. So when it was time to shut down your stove for the summer, did you take the time to do so properly? Instead of just pulling the plug and walking away, responsible pellet stove owners should have used a quick shut-down checklist:

  • Turn off your stove and unplug it from the wall entirely
  • Use an ammonia-free, heat-safe cleaning solvent to clean the glass
  • Clean out the inside of the stove and hopper as best you can
  • Remove all leftover pellets (burned and unburned)

Probably the most important part of shutting down for the summer is removing all leftover residue and pellets. If you have moisture inside your stove, the leftover pellets will absorb it. This can cause rust to form, which could lead to costly damage.

Read more

How to Properly Shut Down a Pellet Stove for Summer

Moisture in Pellet StoveIt’s about that time to shut down your pellet stove for the summer! Considering pellet stove costs range at an average of around 2-3 thousand dollars, with some at double that price, this heating system is a real investment that will benefit from a few extra steps taken for season shut-down. Instead of just pulling the plug and walking away, responsible pellet burners should have a quick shut-down checklist to follow.

Many owner’s manuals that come with pellet stoves are an excellent resource filled with tips and guidelines for maintaining a healthy stove. We have compiled our own Pellet Stove Season Shut-Down Best Practices, co-written by a Cleancare professional pellet stove technician.

Read more

How To Clean Your Pellet Stove in 20 Minutes

Stop Wasting Time with Poor Stove Cleaning!

Do you hate cleaning your pellet stove? I do. It’s one of those necessary chores of pellet stove ownership that you come to dread. But over the last four years that I have been cleaning my stove, I have managed to reduce the time spent to just 20-30 minutes per month. I have found that the most critical step in cleaning your stove is having the right tools for the job.

1. Although it may seem obvious – a flashlight that you can wear on your head, or clamp to the side of the stove, is a must. Without the proper light, it is impossible to see all nooks and crannies where the ash is hiding. While the headlight allows you to use your hands for other tasks, it throws decent light wherever you turn your head to look.

2. Another must-have tool is a good stiff brush. I use an old nylon 2′ paint brush to sweep the ash from my heat exchanger, and off the walls of the stove itself. Don’t try to use a cheap flimsy brush. You need a sturdy one that can withstand the stress of regular cleaning.

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