Pellet stoves provide an easy-to-use, eco-friendly solution to heating your home. But to maximize their effectiveness, they need to be regularly tended to. Regular pellet stove maintenance will keep your pellet stove operating efficiently, creating a safer and longer burn.
In fact, much of your pellet stove's life expectancy will depend on how often you use it and how regularly you perform key pellet stove maintenance. Pellet stoves generally can last ten years, but with good maintenance, they could even last up to 15 or even 20 years. In this post, we'll share some pellet stove tips for performing maintenance that'll keep your stove operating at its best.
What is a Pellet Stove?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, pellet stoves are the cleanest residential heating appliances using solid fuel. Pellet stoves can vary from a freestanding stove to a fireplace insert, providing a clean, safe, and eco-friendly method for heating your home.
A pellet stove burns compressed natural particles made of wood or other organic materials like nutshells, corn kernels, or small wood chips. An auger, powered by electricity, feeds the pellets from a fuel hopper into the combustion chamber, where the pellets are burned. How quickly the pellets are burned depends on your set temperature and the stove's efficiency. The electrical components powering the stove, like the blower, auger, and control unit, allow pellet stoves to deliver a very clean burn and efficient heating solution, as long as they're cleaned and maintained properly.
What Maintenance Does a Pellet Stove Require?
Pellet stoves are very efficient heaters, but they do require some maintenance. To keep your pellet stove working efficiently and avoid safety issues down the road, you'll want to perform some maintenance regularly throughout the cold season. Tasks like regularly scraping the burn pot and cleaning out the ash from the burn chamber and ash pan will keep your pellet stove burning efficiently while it's getting a lot of use.
Generally, once you've burned about a ton of pellets, the stove and its venting system should be cleaned. The frequency of cleaning can also depend largely on the quality of the pellets. The owner's manual for your stove will have cleaning and disassembly instructions specific to your stove, or you can have these cleaning services performed by a professional, like your local Harman dealer.
Why is Maintenance Essential to Keeping Your Pellet Stove Operating at its Best?
A critical reason to practice regular pellet stove maintenance is to preserve the efficiency of the pellet stove. Deferred maintenance can result in lower burning efficiency and the inability to achieve the desired heat output. A pellet stove that is not maintained can also be a safety hazard. Too much soot buildup can cause a chimney fire or result in staining on exterior walls and chimneys.
Key signs that your pellet stove needs to be cleaned can include failure to maintain a set temperature or the presence of a weak or yellow flame.
Periodic Pellet Stove Maintenance Tips
Because of the low maintenance of a Harman stove, you avoid some daily tasks as compared to other brands. This includes shutting down a stove DAILY to clean the burn pot.
Your in-season burning routine should consist of:
1. Clean Burn Pot Weekly
All pellet stove burn pots require maintenance. Some require a daily shutdown for the burn pot to be cleaned. That means you have to be cold for a while every day to clean it properly. However, with Harman pellet stoves, you can scrape the burn pot WHILE it is burning, and it is quick and simple so you get true 24/7 heat.
2. Emptying Ashes Monthly
Emptying ashes is essential to maintain the optimal performance of your pellet stove.
When emptying the ashes of your stove, ensure that the temperature of the ash burn is reduced so it is easier and safer to handle. Dispose of ashes into a metal container away from combustible materials until the ashes are completely cooled. Make sure to wear heat-resistant gloves when scraping ashes from the burn pot. Keep in mind that this depends on the size of the ash pan and fuel qualify.
3. Cleaning Glass
Maintain a clear view of your beautiful fire by routinely cleaning the glass as desired. To do so, ensure the stove is cooled. With a soft, non-synthetic cloth, clean the outside and inside of the glass with a vinegar and water mixture, or a non-abrasive cleaning solution. However, most times a dry cloth will work. For heavier buildup, you can dip the cloth into cool ash to remove the buildup from the inside of the glass.
Yearly Pellet Stove Maintenance Tips
There are different types of maintenance that should be performed on a pellet stove at different intervals of use. Pellet stoves should be cleaned on a weekly basis, which should include removing ash and scraping the burn pot. You'll also want to perform a more extensive pellet stove deep clean once per year, when the burning season is done, which includes a thorough cleaning of the firebox, fans, and venting.
Follow these yearly maintenance tips to restore your pellet stove and keep it functioning efficiently.
1. Ensure the Stove is Completely Cooled and Powered Down Before Cleaning
Once your pellet stove is completely cooled, turn off the appliance, and make sure it is unplugged from the wall (or surge protector) before performing maintenance.
2. Follow the Instructions in the Owner's Manual
Your owner's manual will have instructions specific to your stove. Inspect and clean your stove carefully by following the owner's manual instructions.
For detailed video instruction, check out Harman’s YouTube channel:
3. Clear the Hopper of Unused Pellets
At the end of the heating season, removing unused pellets from the stove hopper and feed system can reduce the chance of rusting. It also minimizes potential difficulties lighting the stove at the start of the next heating season.
4. Use a Soft, Non-synthetic Cloth to Clean the Glass
A vinegar and water combination or a non-abrasive glass cleaner can clear any clouding from the glass. Avoid damage to the glass by making sure not to use a hard or sharp object to wipe this area. If the viewing area becomes clouded frequently, this is something that can be done more regularly.
5. Clean the Burn Pot
Cleaning the burn pot to make sure it is free of pellets, debris or carbon is important, but it can be challenging to clear all of the holes. In addition to the scraper, provided by Harman, a large, flat screwdriver can be helpful when scraping off debris (make sure you get the lower corners next to the auger opening — carbon deposits often form there). To get inside the holes, you can use a small piece of bent wire or an allen wrench.
When you're done, use a wet/dry vac with a fine dust filter or a dust vacuum to make sure everything you've scraped off gets cleared from the burn pot.
6. Tune up the Ventilation System
Follow instructions in your user's manual for exposing the combustion blower wheel and flue. A paint brush is a great tool to use to clean the blower wheel, just be careful not to bend the fan blades. Use a flue brush to clear out the flue, but be careful not to go in too far — this could damage your exhaust sensing probe, if your stove has one. When you're done, vacuum out the area before reassembling.
7. Consider Changing Your Pellets
Higher-grade pellets often produce less ash and have a higher burning efficiency. So if your pellet stove is producing a lot of ash, you may want to consider trying new pellets. Before stocking up, buy only a small amount (two to three bags) and see how they perform before investing in a larger quantity.
8. When in Doubt, Consult a Pro
If you run into any issues disassembling and cleaning your pellet stove, find a pro at your local Harman dealer . In addition to cleaning the stove, the dealer service person can inspect vital components like the auger, motor, hopper, switches, blowers, wiring, seals, sensors and exhaust pipes.
Take the Next Step with a Pellet Stove
Taking the extra step to perform regular maintenance on your pellet stove can not only help it run more efficiently, it can help it last longer. Regularly maintaining your pellet stove between burns throughout the cold season and scheduling an annual deep clean will keep your pellet stove burning efficiently and safely.
Follow these suggestions for safely using and caring for your pellet stove, and your pellet stove will operate at its very best for many years to come.