Author – Dave Hannah
Attracted by the easy storage of pellets and the instant on/off features, many homeowners have switched from woodstoves to high tech pellet stoves. Our busy schedules, an aging population and having other high tech products in our lives, make pellet stove usage seem like a natural move.
There is a price to pay for all that convenience. Pellet stoves are high maintenance.
There are basic differences between pellet stoves and other solid fuel appliances. Woodstoves are negative draft appliances using the natural draft of a chimney to extract the products of combustion.
Pellet stoves are positive draft appliances using a fan to blow the exhaust up and out the vent. Because the exhaust is under positive pressure, it is essential to have total containment of the exhaust gases. This requires having a vent that goes directly to the outside atmosphere like a chimney lining system would do in your masonry chimney or a pellet vent that directly goes outside. Any joints in the installation must be sealed with high temperature silicone to insure containment.
The majority of pellet stoves come with a 3” flue collar; however, it is recommended that a 4” vent system be used to allow the build-up of ash without creating flow resistance back to the appliance.
It is recommended that the homeowner choose their chimney professional carefully to install their pellet stove and provide proper maintenance advice for daily and future maintenance.
The NFI Certified Pellet Tech program instructs installers and service techs in these details.
The position of the pellet vent must conform to local building codes regarding clearance to windows and doors that can open and any other outlet that may allow air back into the home. The vent must be a least 2ft above grade outside to prevent snow from covering the termination.
Since a pellet stove requires electricity to run the auger and fan systems, many brands offer a battery back-up system. The advantage of this type of back up is that in the event of a power loss, the battery back-up immediately takes over keeping the exhaust system blowing and preventing the products of combustion from venting back into the home.
The homeowner needs to service the pellet stove daily keeping the burn pot free of ash and cleaning the front portions of the stove of any unburned pellets.
Be sure to use a vacuum that has high filtration to prevent spreading ash throughout the home.
The ash content of pellet fuel varies in the type and manufacture of pellet fuels. Generally, hardwood pellets produce lower ash and higher BTUs. The pellet manufacture prints the ash content and BTU range on their bags of pellets.
Care in loading a bag of pellets is important to prevent clogging up the auger system. It is recommended to only load ¾ of a bag of pellets in the hopper.
The bottom of the bag may contain a lot of sawdust that may clog the auger. Screen the remaining bag of pellets to separate the sawdust and any other contaminants.
Homeowners should also consider having a mid-winter pellet service from a qualified chimney professional to remove any build-up in the interior of the stove and from the pellet vent. At the end of the heating season, it is important to have the stove and venting system completely serviced.
Any remaining pellets should be removed because they will absorb moisture and swell up, clogging the auger. This moisture against the steel hopper will promote rusting as well.
Pellet stoves are wonderful heating appliances. They offer many advantages over other forms of alternative heating devises. The days of stacking wood and the mess of the remaining debris of a wood supply are replaced with easily stored bags of fuel.
Our older generation can better manage the daily chore of keeping up with the stove.
However, pellet stoves do require special maintenance to keep performance up and prevent any break down.
Having a working relationship with your service tech is a valuable asset to keeping your pellet stove in great working condition.
Check the listing of chimney professionals on this site for an experienced pellet service technician for your stove.
~ Dave Hannah