Enjoyment and Satisfaction
What factors determine appliance location?
For maximum enjoyment and heating effectiveness, a major living
area where the family spends leisure hours and which provides heat flow to
other areas is usually a strongly preferred location for the stove. The
pellet heating professional considers the following factors when determining
whether installation requirements can be met in the homeowner's preferred
Venting. May be limited by factors like obstructions above for
vertical venting through the ceiling and roof, or by the distance to
an outside wall for horizontal venting.
Outside air for combustion, if needed. Must be drawn from an
Space requirements. Must meet minimum clearances between the stove
and combustibles. More space than the minimum required may be
desirable to provide room for convenient operation and service.
Electrical requirements. Proximity to a properly wired outlet.
What are my choices for floor protection?
The floor must be protected according to the pellet stove manufacturer's
instructions. The minimum size of the noncombustible floor protector is
clearly specified in installation instructions. The choice of suitable
material usually requires professional assistance, unless a suitable hearth
is not already available in the home. Built-in appliances may require
additional layer of protection, such as an air space between the appliance
and the floor protector.
What electrical requirements should be checked?
dealer or installer should check the intended appliance outlet for proper
voltage, ground, and polarity. The electrical circuit to be used should have
a properly rated circuit breaker. Are there special requirements for mobile
home installations? The model you choose must be approved for use in a
mobile home. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
makes additional requirements for solid fuel burning appliances installed in
mobile homes which are listed in stove manufacturers' installation
What are the purposes of venting systems?
Proper venting is essential for proper appliance performance, dwelling
safety, maintenance frequency and indoor environment. Pellet stoves produce
little or no visible smoke after startup, but exhaust gases, fine ash and
water vapor must be moved safely from the appliance to the outdoors without
leaking into the house. The purpose of all vents is to remove combustion
by-products produced during normal operation. For most designs, the exhaust
is mechanical: a fan blows the combustion by-products out and pulls air
needed for combustion into the fire. A few stoves operate without a
combustion air fan and instead use natural draft both for exhaust and
combustion air intake. Some heat also moves through the vent, making
protection of nearby combustibles essential. The minimum clearance between
the vent and combustibles, as specified in the vent installation
instructions, must be met or exceeded to assure safety.
What materials and products can be used to vent pellet stoves?
The product specifically tested and listed for use with pellet stoves is PL
vent pipe, labeled as tested to UL 641. PL vent pipe is double wall pipe;
the stainless steel inner pipe that carries the exhaust products is
separated from the outer wall by an air space. Pipe joints must be sealed
gas tight to prevent exhaust products moving through the vent under pressure
from leaking into the home. Stoves tested and listed with PL vent
requirements cannot safely be vented with substitute materials.
Venting materials and products that MUST NOT BE USED TO VENT PELLET
appliance (Type B) vent
Single wall stove pipe (unless clearly approved by the installation
manual and local codes)
fireplace inserts and freestanding stoves are often vented into existing
masonry and factory-built fireplace and woodstove chimneys (Figure 8). The
chimney should be inspected before installation to ensure that it is clean,
mechanically sound and meets local safety code requirements. The appliance
manufacturer's installation instructions may require relining the chimney
with an approved metal liner, pipe or PL vent. Vents or grilles on the face
of factory-built fireplaces which provide cooling air to the outside jacket
of the fireplace must not be blocked. Cleanout access for future maintenance
should be considered.
What are my options for venting layout?
Sidewall horizontal venting (Figure 9). Invariably the least
expensive venting system. Disadvantage of potential smoke spilling
into the house in the event of a power outage or component failure,
or house depressurization (see discussion of next question).
Horizontal vent with backup vertical venting (see Figure 10).
Preferred horizontal method that avoids venting problems associated
with unexpected appliance shutdown.
venting through the ceiling and roof (Figure 11). Has the advantages
of keeping vent gases warm and of providing natural draft to prevent
problems in an unexpected shutdown.
Venting into existing chimney (see Figure 8). Stove manufacturers
provide recommendations for venting into masonry and factory-built
chimneys, which may include partial or full chimney relining.
Natural Draft: All vents for appliances designed without mechanical
exhaust fans must meet stove manufacturer's requirements for minimum
draft and must terminate above the roof.
Besides appliance requirements, what other factors may be considered
in specifying pellet venting systems?
The following factors may play a role in the designation of the venting
Altitude: High altitude installations, generally higher than 2500
feet above sea level, may require special venting options to provide
adequate combustion air and/or draft.
Pressure: Extremely tight house construction or strong kitchen, bath
or other exhaust fans may create a negative pressure within the home
that decreases venting effectiveness. May necessitate an approved
outside air source.
Conditions: Unpredictable effects of high winds or prevailing wind
conditions may necessitate the addition of vertical venting that
extends above the roof and/or special termination caps.
and Maintenance: The venting system must be designed with normal
maintenance in mind.
should pellet venting components be assembled and joined together?
Appliance manufacturer's instructions should be followed closely
regarding sealing joints and seams, particularly of pressurized
mechanical exhaust vents. It is imperative that they be gas tight so
that they cannot leak. Proper application of an approved sealant or
sealing band is typically required. Appliance manufacturer's
instructions for pipe sealing which exceed vent manufacturer's
instructions must take precedence. You can get a sense of what heating
with pellets involves through an introduction to the principles of
operation and the reasons for maintenance that you will come to
understand as an experienced operator.
What's a good starting point for learning to operate a pellet
The rule here is "Before all else fails, read the instructions."
Operating a pellet stove is not difficult, but it is a new technology
that calls for basic knowledge. Training videos accompany some stoves,
and hands-on demonstrations are offered by many dealers and installers.
How do I start a fire?
Small dry fuel (pellets) and combustion air (provided by a fan on most
designs) make startup easy. Operating instructions accompanying the
stove give the specific steps to follow. Manual ignition stoves call for
the owner to apply an approved gel or solid starter material (no
liquids), light the pellets, and monitor the fire to see that the fire
catches and the flame gradually grows. On automatic ignition stoves,
pushing the start button feeds pellets to the burn pot and heats the
What if the stove doesn't start properly?
A safety device monitors startup and stops fuel feed if operating
temperatures are not reached within a specified time period. If startup
fails, the operator should first make sure that the hopper has fuel and
that fuel is feeding into the burn pot, and then attempt to restart the
stove. Repeated failed lighting cycles indicate the need for maintenance
or professional service.
What do I do after the stove starts?
After control panel or air inlet adjustments and a quick
performance check, the stove is set to provide hours of even,
comfortable heat. Stoves equipped with a remote wall thermostat respond
to a set room air temperature by cycling on and off or by cycling from a
low to high burn, depending on stove startup design.
What are signs of performance problems?
Properly operated and maintained pellet stoves experience few, if any,
problems. Most of pellet stove operation is automatic, but sometimes
combustion air adjustment is needed. A lazy, orange, sooty flame or dark
smoke coming out of the vent (after startup and before shutdown) may
indicate the need for more air. An overactive, "blow torch" flame calls
for less air. Performance problems are more likely to be caused by
neglected maintenance than by regular operation. Lazy flame, dark smoke,
unusual sooting of glass, unexplained smoke spillage and reduced heat
output all point to the need for maintenance of appliance components
and/or the venting system, or for remedies for house depressurization.
Problems related to mechanical failure usually results in safety
switches shutting the appliance down. Appliance shutdowns may, however,
indicate nothing more than owner forgetfulness (empty hopper) or hurry
(improper startup), or intermittent power failure. Unexplained, repeated
appliance shutdowns call for professional advice and service.
How do I shut the stove down?
Shutting the stove down is typically a matter of simply setting the
control to the Off position according to operating instructions. The
fuel feed stops delivering fuel right away, and after the stove cools
sufficiently, all motors and blowers cease operation. The stove should
NOT be shut down by unplugging the power cord.
What happens in an unexpected shutdown such as a power outage or
fuel feed stops in a power outage, the pellets in the burn pot may
continue to burn or smolder. The duration of this condition can vary
with appliance design from a few minutes to an hour or more. The
resulting smoke and hot gases rise, seeking the path of least
resistance. If the exhaust vent does not have vertical sections to
provide natural draft, smoke may spill into the home (Figure 14).
What are the routine things that I do to keep my stove working
Routine maintenance tasks are essential to peak stove performance:
pot (Figure 15): Checked daily and cleaned periodically to keep
air inlets open. Frequency of cleaning depends on fuel type,
grade, and content.
drawer (see Figure 15): Emptying recommended before starting new
fires and occasionally during stove operation. Frequency depends on
fuel and stove design. Typically once or twice a week, but monthly
in some new designs.
exchanger (Figure 16): On some stoves, simply a matter of moving
a rod that scrapes the tubes inside the stove. May require
professional service on others.
traps: Chambers located behind the fire chamber which prevent excess
fly ash in the exhaust from exiting the stove. Easily accessed for
ash removal by owners in some designs; on others, professional
service is required.
Cleaned with glass cleaner, when the glass is completely cool, on
stoves with effective air wash systems. May require more vigorous
methods on others. Should the alignment be this way (over to the
Checked for accumulated sawdust materials (fines). Fuel in the
hopper and auger tube should be emptied occasionally to prevent
auger blockage by fines.
are some of the more advanced maintenance tasks?
Cleaning the venting system is usually performed by professionals (see
below), but can be tackled by the handy stove owner with thorough
knowledge and the right equipment. Motors and fans need occasional
cleaning and may require lubrication. The wrong lubricant or wrong
amount of lubricant can damage components. Some components which call
for removal for service require the replacement of a gasket.
Additionally, gaskets for the fire chamber door, ash pan door and hopper
lid (on some designs) may need occasional replacement to assure a tight
What professional maintenance and repair services will I need?
Most pellet stove owners depend on professional service for cleaning and
preventive maintenance on at least an annual basis. Many dealers offer
service plans that offer reduced costs and convenient scheduling.
Cleaning and maintenance services usually performed include:
ash traps and cleaning exhaust passages behind the fire chamber.
and lubricating fans and motors.
the hopper and fuel feed system.
the heat exchanger system.
exhaust pipes and resealing the venting system if needed.
Verifying and adjusting the stove settings with proper gauges and
Mechanical and electric components may eventually wear out and need
repair or replacement.
manufacturers now offer low-cost, high-value extended warranties on
electrical components. You can also benefit from professional advice
that helps you improve stove performance and convenience with operating
tips or fuel information.
ENJOYMENT AND SATISFACTION
What will I like about heating with pellets?
Experienced pellet burners reap rewards for shopping and planning
carefully and learning to operate and maintain their pellet heating
system. They understand that pellet stoves contribute dramatic
improvement in convenience to the long tradition of the hearth. The fuel
itself is easily and cleanly stored and handled in bags. A single
loading of a pellet stove can provide long hours of warmth. Pellet
stoves also provide a special comfort associated with wood burning. The
combination of fans delivering warm air currents and the direct comfort
of radiant heat provides special satisfaction on a cold winter day. The
heat provided is even and constant, due to the automatically regulated
fuel feed responding to owner settings. Pellet stoves also offer strong
environmental benefits; pellets not only reduce dependence on finite
supplies of fossils fuels like oil and gas, but they also put to good
use materials that would otherwise unnecessarily and expensively add to
our waste disposal problems. In addition, pellet stoves burn very
cleanly and offer the lowest emissions of unwanted pollutants of all
solid fuel burning appliances. Burning biomass pellets offers convenient
heat delivered with environmental concern.