Year Round Pellet Stove Maintenance Tips
Pellet stoves are a great way to save energy and money, but must be maintained properly. Unlike a wood stove, pellet stoves are operated electrically and have circuits and moving parts. Ron Bashista of Rolling Acres, a pellet stove sales and service business in western MA, says the most important thing a pellet stove owner can do is thoroughly read the owner’s manual. “Even if you’ve had your pellet stove for ten years, take it out from time to time and read it again. You’ll see something new each time.” Bashista also offers advice on routine and seasonal maintenance of pellet stoves.
Check after initial installation
“The first thing you want to do is check the hopper (where the pellets are held) for spare or foreign parts. Whether the pellet stove is new or used, you want to be sure you’re not running something through the auger (the part that moves the pellets to the feed pot for burning),” advises Bashista. He adds that unless you feel you are skilled enough to do the installation yourself, it’s better to hire a professional. Proper installation and really getting to know your stove will lay the groundwork for fewer problems down the line. “If you have trouble right out of the gate, it tends to leave a bad taste in your mouth,” warns Bashista.
Prepare your pellet stove for the new heating season
Bashista points out that you should check that all parts of the pellet stove, pipes, and chimney are clean and free of debris or rodents. Any pellets left in the stove should have been removed at the close of the last heating season. Pellets absorb water and break down, so you need to burn off or scoop out any remaining pellets at the end of the season.
Your chimney may require a cap or screen to keep rodents out. (I found this out the hard way myself.) Capping your chimney also keeps out rain and moisture. Bashista reminds us that it’s important to remember to uncap your chimney before trying to start up your pellet stove for the season.
Next, do a test run without the fire to make sure nothing froze up during the off season: “You want to be sure the basic mechanical parts are all functioning.”
Maintain a pellet stove during the heating season
“It’s important to pay attention to your stove every day. Just walking by, notice how it sounds and if there is any black smoke where it shouldn’t be for example,” suggests Bashista.
In Bashista's expert opinion, weekly cleaning is very important, as is using quality pellets. “In the end, it’s more economical to spend the extra five bucks. Don’t shop on price alone.”
There are 3 types of pellets: hardwood, softwood, and a blend of the two. Hardwood burns faster and hotter, and therefore more cleanly. Softwood burns slower and less hot, but leaves more ash behind. Various blends mix the two qualities.
Clean the stove weekly, after cooling it for a couple of hours. Bashista states that there are special cleaning agents for stoves, but they really aren’t necessary. Primarily, you are cleaning out the firebox and any glass. Bashista recommends an ash vacuum to get out as much ash as possible once the stove has cooled down. Alternatively, scoop out any ash, wipe down the inside, and use any glass cleaning product for stove windows. I find steel wool especially good for scrubbing away burned-on grime from the glass.
Prepare your pellet stove for the end of the season
Again, make sure your stove is well-cleaned. Bashista warns that 99 percent of all mechanical problems are traceable to the stove not being clean enough. You can also unscrew any panels or pipes and vacuum out the inside. Remove all pellets from the hopper.
If you do encounter problems with your pellet stove, Bashista advises not to be afraid to call in a professional. While pellet stoves are not mechanically complicated, it helps to have someone working on your stove who is able to troubleshoot more easily and has quick access to replacement parts.
Cris Carl writes for Networx.com.
Updated December 5, 2018.
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