Pellet Stove tips that you won't find in your manual

5 Pellet Stove Care Tips You Won't Find in Your Manual

 

Most stove manuals come with basic instructions on how to care for and troubleshoot your pellet stove. There are, however, a few insider secrets that will help you prolong the life of your pellet stove and reduce your need for costly repairs. Here are five tips to keep your pellet stove running in top shape.

1. Burn Softwood Pellets

Many owners’ manuals will tell you that your stove is rated for “hardwood” pellets, and some manuals may tell you to use only PFI (Pellet Fuels Institute) rated pellets, but few (if any) will tell you that it is better for your stove to burn softwood pellets exclusively. 

The terms "hardwood" and "softwood" refer to the species of trees that the wood fibers to make pellets are taken from. The main reason for choosing softwood pellets is their exceptionally low ash volume. While it is possible to find hardwood pellets with low ash content, it is more common to find this in softwood pellets. In fact, single-source pellets, such as those made from 100% douglas fir, boast some of the lowest ash values and highest heat values that can be obtained from pelletized wood. This means less cleanup, less wear and tear on your stove, and ultimately a lower heating bill as a result of the increased efficiency. 

Softwood pellets will not remove the need for regular cleanings and maintenance, however, they will allow you to enjoy the convenience of pellet heat with less upkeep and higher efficiency. 

 

 

2. Clean out your hopper every 30 days

When you refill your pellet stove, you may notice dust in the bottom of the pellet bag. That dust is called “fines” and should be avoided in your stove. Fines collect at the base of the hopper and will eventually occupy the entire feeder opening. While these dust particles may not produce a noticeable effect after one or two bags, after a full heating season and hundreds of bags worth of these fines, you may begin to notice decreasing performance from your pellet stove. 

The immediate result may be false starts, problems sustaining a fire at low temperatures, and overall lower heat output at all heat levels. Serious mechanical problems, such as failed auger bushings and burnt-out auger motors can result from excessive fines that are left unchecked in some models. Other serious safety hazards, such as hopper fires. can also result from these conditions.

To avoid these issues, simply allow your pellet hopper to run dry once a month, vacuum out the fines and refill the hopper. Periodically open the mechanical cabinet of the stove to check for fines under the auger motor. If you find that fines have collected here, there is a good chance that your auger bushing has worn and will need to be replaced. 

3. Use 4” diameter venting for every installation

Many pellet stoves or inserts are approved for use with 3” diameter venting, however, many manuals will also mention EVL (Equivalent Vent Length). EVL is essentially a mathematical formula that shows that many stoves should be using 4" diameter venting, even though the manual lists them as compatible with 3". 

When 3” venting is used to vent the stove and the installation has too many off-sets or “turns” in the venting, each turn of vent the exhaust is met with frictional resistance. When the exhaust cannot escape to the outside air quickly enough, it creates back pressure which lowers the amount of air that can enter the pellet stove, this will decrease the efficiency of your stove. Frictional resistance becomes a non-issue when 4" venting is used.

The extra cost involved in using 4" diameter venting is well worth it to ensure that your stove is operating at peak efficiency. This will save you a lot of money in the long run on fuels and replacement parts. 

4. Run your stove on a thermostat

Nearly every stove made since 2004 has some kind of room-temperature operation, whether by an internal room sensing probe or external thermostat jumpers on the control board. However,  it is  a good idea to first run the stove on “HIGH” to get your space up to temperature as quickly as possible, and then allow the stove go into a standby operation where is oscillates to a lower heat range for some specified amount of time, usually 35 minutes or so, before either shutting down or ramping back up based upon the demand for heat. Using your stove this way could potentially save you up to a 1/2 ton of pellets per heating season.

 

5. Shut down your stove for the season immediately after you’re done using it

Don’t wait until mid-summer or next fall to get your pellet stove cleaned out for the season, especially if it is all full of ash. Humidity can easily enter your stove when it is not in use during the off-season. This can cause the inside of the stove to become wet and sticky, making it difficult to clean. Additionally, when water and ash mix, carbonic acid is created which will corrode the steel in the body of your stove. If you live in a wet climate or near the water, place a container of “Damp-Rid” inside your stove to collect humidity.

Secondly, unplug your stove to from the power source to protect from power surges. Power outages and electrical storms can happen frequently in the Summer, and control boards can be easily damaged by these events.  

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