Regular pellet stove cleaning will maintain your stove's efficiency. Although pellet stoves are the cleanest burning of all solid fuel heating appliances, they do produce some burn residue.Fly ash, which is a very fine dust, can accumulate in the ash traps and the flue resulting in partial blockage if not maintained regularly.
The burn pot's air intake holes can become clogged with clinkers which are formed as a result of ash being heated to its melting point and re-solidifying.
Most of the creosote, a by product of any wood burner, will be consumed by the high combustion temperatures, but some may escape to form a sticky brown residue. Regular pellet stove cleaning is important to check and minimise this.
The air inlet may become partially blocked by fluff, hair and other debris pulled in from the atmosphere.
These are general guidelines. Consult your operating manual for instructions about your specific stove.
If you are using a vacuum cleaner for pellet stove cleaning,make absolutely sure that the stove is cold and that the burn pot is cold. The forced draught from a vacuum will quickly ignite the slightest spark. There have been many cases of vacuum cleaners catching fire.
The vacuum cleaner used for pellet stove cleaning should either be designed for the job, or should be a workshop vacuum fitted with a drywall filter. Fly ash is very fine and can penetrate normal filters resulting in a fine coating of ash around your home.
See the link at the bottom of the page for more detail about warm ash vacuums. Here are the steps to take to ensure that your pellet stove continues to work at full efficiency.
Regular Pellet Stove Cleaning
When the stove is being used regularly, check the burn pot every day for signs that the air holes are being blocked. If that's the case, they will need cleaning out. The frequency of cleaning will depend on the quality of fuel being burnt.
You will need to get accustomed to the rate at which the ash pan fills up. Always empty it before starting a fire and as needed if the fire is in continuous use. Mostly it will need to be emptied every few days although some stoves have large ash pans that can be left for a week or so. Again, the quantity of ash produced depends on the grade of fuel you're using. More ash will be produced if the stove temperature is set high.
While the stove is down, it's a good idea to clean the heat exchanger. For many stoves, this is just a case of moving a sliding rod in and out. The heat exchanger is an important part of the stove's efficiency in transferring heat to the home. If there is a build up of creosote movement of the cleaning rod may feel sticky and the flame may need adjustment.
The stove glass can be cleaned with a dry cloth when warm. If it needs more thorough cleaning the glass must be cold before a glass cleaner can be used.
A damp cloth, with a little ash from the grate is also good for cleaning the stove glass.
Less Frequent Tasks
Ash traps to catch fly ash will be found in the first part of the exhaust system right behind the burn pot. These are there to prevent fly ash from clogging the exhaust system. As you get to know your stove, you will find out how often these need to be emptied. Usually every month or so.
When checking the ash traps, it's worth seeing if there is a build up of fly ash or creosote in the flue.
The fuel hopper can accumulate sawdust which can get into the system and clog up the pellet feed auger. Every so often it's a good idea to vacuum the dust out. To help prevent getting dust in the hopper, put the pellets for the next fill in a mesh bag and give it a shake outside.
Clean dust out of the feed auger about every two months or more often if needed. Fuel quality is again a factor here.
Air filters that clean the air coming into the stove should be checked and cleaned if necessary once a month
Occasional Pellet Stove Cleaning Tasks
While the stove is in constant use, the pellet stove vent should be checked for fly ash and creosote about every two months. A build up of creosote in the flue can ignite and cause a chimney fire.
Pellets that contain impurities or which are damp can produce excess creosote.
It is possible to clean the flue yourself if you obtain the correct brushes and extensions for your flue. Usually this will mean getting up on the roof and brushing downward unless your flue installation is designed for maintenance from ground level.
If there is no outside cleanout 'T', wrap the (cold) stove in a dust sheet, clean the flue, and allow an hour for the dust to settle before removing the cloth.
Gaskets on your stove's access doors should be kept in good condition to stop fumes from the stove coming into the house.
Pellet Stove Maintenance
After The Winter
Take out all the fuel in the hopper and feed system. Pellets left in can become damp and cause problems later.
Give the stove a complete spring clean.
The fans for the air inlet and exhaust should be brushed of accumulated debris.
The air inlet should be checked for obstructions now, and again before re-lighting the stove.
Pellet Stove Troubleshooting
Pellet stove cleaning on a regular basis will prevent problems arising through lack of maintenance.
A slow, orange or sooty flame can mean:
Burn pot air intakes blocked
Ash pan full
Need for air intake adjustment
A very fierce flame indicates that less air is needed.
Smoke leakage probably indicates that a door or inspection gasket is leaking or that a vent joint is not sealed.
Reduced heating output can mean that the heat exchanger needs to be cleaned.
Glass sooting up can mean that the air wash system is blocked.
If the stove shuts down unexpectedly, make sure proper start up procedures were followed, and that there is fuel in the hopper. Check that the electricity supply is on.
Most stoves will shut down automatically in case of a mechanical failure. Check the obvious things above, then call in an expert.
Warm Ash Vacuums
Pellet Stove Problems
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