How to Prepare Your Pellet Stove for Burn Season

Whether it’s the end of winter or the start of summer, it’s always a good time for stove owners to get ahead and prepare their pellet stove for the next cold season.

In this blog post, we’ll go over how to clean and maintain your pellet stove, pick the perfect pellet fuel, the safest solutions to any possible problems and important pellet stove FAQs to prepare you and your stove for the burn season ahead. Keeping your pellet stove clean and well-maintained will ensure safety as well as improve its efficiency, air quality and longevity.

When Should I Start Preparing for Burn Season?

Mid-to-late summer is the best time to prepare your stove for the upcoming cold weather season. It’s also a great time to purchase a pellet stove if you’ve been considering a supplemental heat source.

Early preparation ensures your stove operates safely and efficiently as well as allows you to benefit from summer markdowns on any necessary purchases such as fuel, parts, tools and cleaning supplies. Be sure to also get your pellet stove and venting professionally serviced so it’s in great condition and ready to burn if temperatures drop early.

How to Clean and Maintain Your Pellet Stove

An image of a gloved hand scraping a burn pot with a scraper

Responsible pellet stove maintenance will keep the house comfortable and help avoid unforeseen issues. For instance, by staying on top of specifics like ash, rust and creosote buildup (a byproduct that’s created from burning wood pellets), not only does your stove stay cleaner, but you also ensure that it runs more safely, properly and longer. It's not too difficult and saves time and money.

Below we’ve included the primary areas to consider for cleanliness, comfort and safety.

Pellet Stove Cleaning

  • Chimney: Clean your chimney at least once a year to remove buildup. We recommend this be done by a professional chimney sweep or by using a chimney cleaning kit. Should you need to find a pellet stove professional to assist you, consult your local Harman dealer. If you’re in the market for a chimney cleaning kit, you can expect it to include several essential tools and accessories for cleaning and maintaining your chimney. They vary depending on the manufacturer and the specific kit. Some common items that are often included in kits are:
    • Chimney brush
    • Chimney rods
    • Drop cloth or tarp
    • Chimney cleaning solution
    • Chimney inspection mirror and flashlight
    • Chimney vacuum
    • Safety goggles
    • Safety gloves
    • Dustpan and brush
    • User manual with detailed chimney cleaning instructions.
  • Unit: Cleaning your pellet stove regularly is a daily, weekly and monthly responsibility. Consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions and timing. Regular cleanings commonly include areas such as the front glass, hopper and ash pan. Use a soft cloth to clean the glass and empty the ash pan after every use.
  • Useful Tools: If you’re not comfortable cleaning the pellet stove yourself, contact a local professional to do it for you. However, it’s still helpful to have certain items on hand. This section includes the necessary tools and a brief explanation of their use.

    1. Scraping Tool: A scraping tool is used for cleaning ash off the heat exchangers and scraping the burn pot. Certain stoves such as the Harman P43, P61 and P68 feature accordion-style doors and require a special tool such as the Harman Arrow Scraper Cleaning Tool. This special scraper is arrow shaped on one end and flat on the other.
    2. Ash Vacuum or Shop-Vac®: An ash vacuum or Shop-Vac® is the most efficient way to clean the ashes in your pellet stove. Unless you're using a wet/dry vacuum, make sure the vacuum you purchase is specifically for cleaning ash. Also, wear a mask and gloves to ensure safety.
    3. Miscellaneous Necessities:
      • Drop cloth (or old sheets and blankets)
      • Five-gallon bucket
      • Garbage bags
      • Flashlight
      • Screwdriver
      • Rope
      • Safety goggles
      • Fire-resistant gloves
      • Ladder (depending on vent pipe location)
      • Pellet stove cleaner or vinegar and water mixture, creosote remover cleaner and high-temperature sealant.
    4. Pellet Stove Cleaning Brushes and Paint Brushes: Pellet stove cleaning brushes are necessary for a thorough cleaning process. Flexible vent pipe brushes are especially useful. Additionally, you will need paint brushes for your more regular maintenance of parts such as the blower wheel.

Pellet Stove Maintenance

  • How often does my pellet stove require maintenance? Pellet stoves should be serviced by a professional at least once a year to ensure they are in good working condition.
  • How can I find a pellet stove professional I trust? If you don’t already know a certified and experienced pellet stove professional, contact your local dealer. They’ll be happy to help.
  • What pellet stove issues are preventable? Regular maintenance prevents common issues including poor performance, inefficient operation and safety hazards. The more often you care for your pellet stove, the more familiar you are with the appliance and the easier you’ll spot out-of-the-ordinary details before they become full-blown problems.
  • Potential Problems: As you clean and maintain your pellet stove, be sure to keep your eyes open for potential problems including, but not limited to:
    •  Error messages
    • Unburned pellets accumulating along the inside walls of the stove
    • Improper blower function (your stove is blowing cold air instead of hot)
    • Jammed pellets
    • Inability to adjust the feed rate
    • Faulty automatic ignition
    • Soot on the glass doors
    • Signs of cracks in the glass
    • Rust on the unit
    • Blockages in the venting system or hopper

For step-by-step videos on how to care for your pellet stove or insert, please visit Harman’s YouTube Channel.

Preparing Your Fuel for the Burn Season

Filling a hopper with wood pellets

The best time of year to purchase pellets for your stove is in the spring or summer. This is when they are most available and the least expensive. Since pellet stove owners commonly buy pellets in bulk, it’s important that you’re able to find enough to take you through your next burn season, the right pellet for your specific stove and the best price. For more information on heating wood pellets, check out our blog post, How to Choose the Perfect Wood Pellets.

Stay Safe While Preparing for the Burn Season

Safety is the most important thing to remember when considering how to prepare your stove for burn season. Below, we’ve included safety measures that will ensure you get to the next burn season with peace of mind.

Keep the surrounding area clean.

Be sure that the hearth area surrounding your pellet stove is free from flammable objects.

Read your owner’s manual.

You will find manufacturer clearance guidelines, which are essential to follow. You can find Harman’s catalog of owner’s manuals here.

Make sure the pellet stove has cooled down.

Before carrying out cleaning or maintenance, check that the stove is completely cool. Wear fire-resistant gloves even if it doesn’t feel hot to the touch. The ashes inside might still be hot and burn your hands. Additionally, don’t immediately place the ashes in a plastic garbage bag as there’s a chance it will melt. The safest way to dispose of ashes is by placing them in a metal container with a lid.  

Keep an available backup battery.

It’s important to have a backup power source should the power go out while you’re using your stove. Your backup battery ensures that the stove keeps running long enough for all the pellets inside to burn at which time you can shut it off.

Check your smoke detectors.

Smoke detectors are essential to home safety. Especially when you run a secondary heating source that involves fire. Your owner’s manual contains instructions regarding recommended smoke and carbon monoxide detector locations along with the specific distance they must be from your stove.

Lighting Your Pellet Stove

Pellet stoves differ depending on the brand or model. All updated, modern stoves have automatic ignition, which makes the process easier than manual ignition. It’s important, before lighting your pellet stove, to make yourself familiar with the owner’s manual. For more tips check out our blog post, Lighting Your Pellet Stove. It’s full of useful information you’ll need for safe and successful pellet stove operation.

Next Steps

While you have plenty of time before burn season approaches, it’s never too early to start cleaning or implementing maintenance and safety protocols. A wood pellet stove provides a wonderful source of warmth for your home. A little work is required to continue reaping the benefits, but it’s all worth it.

Remember, you can always browse our website if you have any questions, want to increase your knowledge or need design inspiration. Whether you’re a Harman stove owner or have a different brand, we are proud to be an excellent pellet stove resource.

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How often should I have my stove inspected?

In order to ensure that your appliance will continue working properly year after year, it is essential to have annual inspections conducted by a factory-trained professional. If you own a Harman pellet stove and need to schedule an inspection or general pellet stove maintenance, contact your local Harman dealer.

Is soot buildup on the stove glass normal?

When using any fuel-burning appliance such as a pellet stove, soot buildup is perfectly normal. However, to maintain a clear view of your beautiful fire and keep your stove running smoothly for years to come, we recommend routinely cleaning the glass.

How can I clean my stove glass?

First, ensure that your glass has cooled to room temperature. For a light coating or small spots of soot, you should be able to effectively clean your glass by wiping down both sides of it with a soft cloth soaked in mild soap and water. If you’re dealing with heavier soot deposits, use a ceramic glass-cleaning product such as Rutland White Off Glass Cleaning Cream, Stove Bright Class Cleaner, or a product recommended by your local dealer. No matter what product you choose, do not use an abrasive cloth or cleaner; these products may cause your glass to scratch.