How to Troubleshoot Your Wood Pellet Stove

There are many different brands and styles of wood pellet stoves – so the best way to start learning about your particular stove is to read the entire manual. If you’re a new pellet stove owner, or have switched to a different model – it could take some trial and error to learn the right process for your home.

You might be surprised to learn that many common issues pellet burners face with their stoves can be solved with making some adjustments. Again – start to troubleshoot and learn by reading your manual! It has the best stove-specific advice on operation, maintenance, recommendations and best practices.

Take a look at our quick cheat sheet below to review the pellet stove problems we hear about the most.

The Problem Possible Cause Possible Solution
Poor burn quality Dirty stove Clean your stove according to your manufacturer’s recommendations, or schedule a professional stove cleaning and inspection.
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.

If you ordered your wood pellets from Woodpellets.com and you find damage to the actual wood pellets – call 1-800-PELLETS within 30 days of delivery to speak with a Quality Assurance Representative.  All Woodpellets.com Quality Certified fuels are backed by a Physical Quality Guarantee, which is valid for 30 days after the delivery date.

Questions? Call 1-800-735-5387 to Speak to the Experts at Woodpellets.com!

 

 

Woodpellets.com Now Accepting Northwest Wood Pellet Orders via Ziggy’s Home Improvement

It was 1965 when Vern Ziegler established the Ziegler Lumber Company after building hundreds of homes in the Inland Northwest as a general contractor.

Using his vast experience in residential construction, Mr. Ziegler pioneered the do-it-yourself concept with his first store in Spokane Washington. Having been called “Ziggy” much of his life, Vern’s company soon became well known as “Ziggy’s.”

His goal at that time was the same as it is today – to offer the customer the highest quality merchandise at contractor prices, along with excellent service and good advice for the homeowner to do his own projects.

In order to offer expert wood pellet customer service along with the convenience of ordering premium wood pellets online, Ziggy’s recently partnered with Woodpellets.com. Now any wood pellet stove owner within Ziggy’s pellet delivery service area can now place an order through Woodpellets.com online or by calling 1-800-PELLETS.

We’re proud to be working with Ziggy’s and are thrilled to expand our services to the Northwest!

The 5 Essential Tools for a Proper Wood Pellet Cleaning

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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Benefits of Wood Pellet Heating

In addition to the long term cost advantage over heating oil and propane, wood pellets have some additional benefits that you may be unaware of.

CO2 Cycle with Fossil Fuel Burning1. The carbon footprint of wood pellets can be neutral, or close to it. 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. 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.

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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.

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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.

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Prepare Your Pellet Stove for Power Outages

Source: Eversource NH Twitter

The tail-end of winter this year has been a stressful and unpredictable one at times – especially for those in the northeast. Due to the increased risk of power outages during fluctuating weather patterns, it’s a good time to remind you about preparing your pellet stove for storms.

First – is your stove plugged directly into the outlet, or do you have 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. Be sure to check your manual for information on electrical recommendations.

Here are three ways to keep your pellet stove operating during a power outage:

  1. Power Inverter
    • This device converts low voltage from batteries into voltage your pellet stove can operate on. Make sure the inverter is a Pure Sine Wave inverter and is at least 1000w. The batteries must be Deep Cycle ones.
  2. Uninterruptible Power Supply
    • A UPS is an all-in-one option that contains batteries, a charger and what’s required to convert low voltage to mains voltage. These devices are typically only good for an hour or so of time – which can be used to safely shut down your pellet stove, or while getting your generator running.
  3. Generator Backup
    • Of course, a generator is a common solution for reinstating a home’s power during an outage. The type and size that’s right for you should be determined after some solid research.

If the power goes out while your pellet stove is operating, and you don’t have any backup system in place – the pellets won’t immediately stop burning…but the components controlling the heat distribution and circulation will cease. With no operating exhaust fan, your stove can fill with smoke which could leak into your home. You’ll need to carefully unplug everything and (unfortunately) open some windows until you can air out the room.

 

 

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!

A Portable Outdoor Heater, Powered by Wood Pellets!

This kickstarter campaign recently launched in order to fund the creation of a portable wood pellet fueled outdoor heater, which is easy to take apart and re-assemble. The inventors claim it provides double the heat of a propane heater, at 1/10th of the cost.

According to their website:

“The Q-Flame heater offers an efficient alternative to standard propane units making Q-Flame the sensible choice for those seeking the latest in outdoor heat. As a manufacturer of wood pellet stoves and patio heaters, QSTOVES INC. is dedicated to designing and developing new heaters and stoves that perform better than industry competitors and better for the environment.”

The Q-Flame may be used for outdoor activities, backyard party heat, or even as a helpful tool when the electricity goes out. It’s inexpensive to operate, uses no electricity, and is environmentally friendly. Could you see yourself using a product like this?

To learn more, or make a purchase, see their kickstarter page here: http://kck.st/2ERM8R5

 

The Effect of Snow on Wood Pellet Stoves

Pellet Stove Vent BlockageHeavy snow buildup can definitely affect your pellet stove’s venting and your burn experience. Wood pellet stoves operate through a system of air intake and exhaust. If this system is hindered by a blockage (or a gasket leak) proper combustion of the pellets can’t happen. Unlike wood stoves, pellet stove venting can be either horizontal, vertical or both.

One of the ways a pellet stove burn exhaust can be set up is horizontally, straight through the exterior wall. (See Fig. A) The exterior vent allows proper air flow within the stove, and the exhaust to escape. If it’s blocked by dense snow – your stove’s ability to ignite and/or stay burning efficiently could be hindered. If your wood pellets aren’t burning through fully – this blockage could be the reason. (See Fig. B) 

A similar kind of venting is through the wall with a vertical rise (Fig. C). Vertical piping raises the exhaust further up the exterior wall. This kind of setup holds less risk of snow blockage. However, strong snow drifts (or very high snow accumulation) can still create blockage.

Pellet stoves can also have exhaust vents exiting through the roof – with some variations (Fig. D). If your roof has heavy snow piled up that hasn’t slid off or been pushed off, the vent could be blocked. Make sure to check for blockage – no matter how your stove is vented.

A whole other way your burn experience can be affected by snow is through delivery obstacles. 

Our Woodpellets.com delivery trucks park on the street, and bring your pallets up your driveway with a forklift. Of course, there is nothing you can do about large snowbanks taking up space on the road, but you can make sure your driveway is plowed enough for our 8 foot wide forklift. This will help the driver make a successful delivery – and help you avoid delivery delays. 

Please let us know if you have any questions. Call 1-800-PELLETS to speak to an expert!

 

 

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