This guide will assist you in troubleshooting pellet stove problems. The physical components of a typical wood stove are manufactured of iron and steel, and are designed to tolerate very high temperatures for many years. The raw materials are not the cause of most pellet stove problems.
Instead, a lack of proper air flow, poor fuel quality or the wrong type for your stove and heating needs, and general cleanliness are more common sources of pellet stove problems.
Regular maintenance and professional inspections will help you avoid bad air flow, bad igniters, blown fuses, dirty units, and other common wood pellet stove problems. That’s the summary. Let’s get into troubleshooting pellet stove problems and looking for solution.
How to Troubleshoot a Wood Pellet Stove
Troubleshoot your pellet stove in a logical sequence to figure out what’s wrong.
Pro Tip: Don’t troubleshoot a hot or burning wood pellet stove. As eager as you might be to determine your pellet stove problems, or how cold it is outside, let it cool.
Here are common pellet stove problems and their fix.
Poor quality fuel burns with less efficiency, creates more waste buildup and ash, and is more likely to cause clogs in automatic feeder systems.
Experiment with different types of wood pellets. Hardwood, softwood, and blended wood pellets offer different burn temperatures and burn times. “Premium” pellets may burn better in your stove; local products may be less expensive; some brands will produce too much ash.
Your particular stove and heating needs will dictate the best fuel for you to use. Ask your stove dealer for its preferred fuel for your stove model.
Pro Tip: Before purchase pellets or when they are in storage, check your wood pellet fuel for moisture. Replace damp fuel with dry fuel.
Bad Pellet Stove Fuel Solution
Get the right fuel, and make sure it is in excellent condition for burning.
Venting and Airflow
Your pellet stove is designed to use air that moves through its own closed system.
Air leaks in door seals reduce efficiency and heat production and cause confusing sensor signals. Check to make sure the doors are undamaged and close tightly, and that the seals are in good condition.
Solutions to Pellet Stove Venting and Airflow Problems
1). Replace seals if necessary. Is smoke getting out? Do you feel a lot of heat around doors? Do you hear air whistling in or out? It’s probably time to replace the seals.
2). Poor or improper venting causes inefficient combustion and can lead to poor pellet burn. Clean the vent with a brush or rag to remove ash, waste, residue, and debris.
Clean your Wood Pellet Stove
Clean your pellet stove as often as recommended by the manufacturer, usually once a week or once a month. If you notice more ash and buildup in your pellet stove, consider more frequent cleanings, or changing to a better-quality pellet.
Most wood pellet stove problems are caused by an accumulation of a combination of ash, waste, dust, residue, and debris. Tray ash remains in your wood pellet stove as a waste product of burning wood pellets and must be regularly removed to prevent clogging and buildup.
Always allow your wood pellet stove to cool completely before cleaning. Dispose of waste and ash safely and according to local guidelines for environmental sensitivity.
Your Wood Pellet Stove Won’t Start
Your wood pellet stove is operated automatically by a system that lights the fire, monitors heat and exhaust output, controls vents, and advances wood pellet fuel from the hopper into the burn pot as required.
Once your wood pellet stove is properly loaded and plugged in, the automatic system should start burning wood pellets when you turn it on (follow manufacturer instructions.)
Pellet Stove Start and Burn Problems and Solutions
If your wood pellet stove fails to start, try these possible solutions.
1). Check the Power Outlet and Electrical Components
Are you getting power? If the electrical outlet you’re using has a circuit reset button (common in bathrooms and kitchens), check to see if the circuit has been tripped; reset the circuit by pushing the reset button.
If your wood pellet stove has been plugged in since last season, there may have been a power surge. Check your stove for a manual reset.
A quick look at the household circuit breaker will confirm that all circuits are on. If the circuit switch to the outlet the stove uses isn’t fully in the ON position, turn it to OFF and back to ON. If you have an older, fuse-based system, replace any damaged or blown fuses. If fuses are frequently damaged or blown, it is probably time to upgrade to a 200-amp electrical panel.
Check the control board of your wood pellet stove for damage or warnings; follow manufacturer instructions and warranty information.
2). Fix Poor Pellet Feed
The electrical components operate properly, but your wood pellet stove still doesn’t work? Check the pellet feed.
Is the hopper empty (oops!)? Fill it with quality wood pellet fuel.
Check the hopper lid switch for proper operation. Consumers sometimes overfill the hopper, leading to hopper lid switch damage. The hopper lid switch is usually located under the hopper cover. Replace if necessary.
Most automatic wood pellet feed systems will shut down stove operation if pellets feed improperly. Unplug and cool your wood pellet stove and make sure the auger operates without obstruction; clear any pellet jams, sawdust, or foreign objects. Check the auger for damage and replace it if necessary.
Check the feeder door for proper operation; lubricate as required.
Dirty or poorly-maintained auger motors may not produce enough power to move the wood pellets through the pellet feed system. Check the operation of your auger motor; use a brush or rag to clean the motor regularly; apply lubricant per manufacturer instructions.
3). Poor Pellet Burn
Your wood pellet stove creates combustion in a chamber called the ‘burn pot’; excessive smoke or soot production may indicate a problem with the burn pot. Clean your burn pot to make more efficient use of wood pellet fuel and reduce smoke and soot production. Thoroughly clean the burn pot by removing ash, waste, residue, and debris; wipe it out with a rag.
Your wood pellet stove has an air inlet cap which may become blocked or damaged, leading to poor pellet burn. Remove ash, waste, residue, and debris to clear the air inlet cap; inspect it for damage and replace if necessary.
Pro Tip: Stir the residue in the burn pot every day between regular cleanings to avoid formation of ‘clinkers’ (accumulated chunks of solid residue.)
4). Wood Pellet Stove Won’t Ignite
Check the igniter for proper operation; replace if necessary, following manufacturer instructions.
5). Clean and Check your Wood Pellet Stove Fan Motor
Overheat control sensors kill power to the wood pellet stove when stove temperatures are too high, which is usually caused by a dirty or inoperative fan motor.
Remove the fan motor from the back of the wood pellet stove with a screwdriver. Clean the fan blades and make sure they spin freely. Replace the motor if necessary.
6). Stove Turns Off Within 30 Seconds
This usually happens because a clogged hose, blocked vent, or dirty stove prevent a vacuum pressure switch from closing. This is a safety feature designed to prohibit exhaust gases, which contain carbon monoxide, from leaking from the stove or exhaust.
Check and clean hoses and vents, and clean the wood pellet stove as above.
7). Stove Starts Normally, Then Shuts Down
The most likely scenario is that not enough wood pellet fuel is getting to the burn pot to sustain the fire.
If the burn pot is empty:
- Check operation of the auger motor and auger as described above. Replace if necessary.
- Too much dust will cause the fuel feed to slow, and fires will die out at low heat settings. Clean your stove.
If the burn pot has unburned pellets:
- Foreign objects may be preventing fuel from feeding properly. Clear the hopper and feed chutes of everything but wood pellets.
- Make sure your wood pellets are no longer than 1 ¼”, or they can block the feed system.
- Adjusting the draft restriction/damper rod to slightly reduce air flow allows pellets to burn more slowly between fuel cycles.
- High limit switches turn off the fuel feed when high temperatures are indicated. They automatically reset as the stove cools, but not enough embers remain to re-ignite the new fuel. You may be burning too much fuel or a fuel that contains unapproved material (e.g. “wolmanized” or pressure-treated lumber).
- Improper or inadequate venting can allow wind into your stove, which can blow out your fire. Check your venting; modify or replace it as necessary.
If the burn pot has partially burned pellets:
- Power failed during operation, usually a faulty proof of fire or high limit switch. Check switch operations, and replace the switch as necessary.
Pellet Stove Uses Too Much Fuel and/or Burns Incompletely
Almost every time these pellet stove burn issues arise, the stove and/or vent are so dirty, air can’t flow quickly enough to burn the wood pellet fuel. If your stove and vents are clean, you may have another problem.
Your damper may be too closed. Open and adjust it for proper airflow. It should only be closed when your stove is operating at high heat.
All stove openings must be airtight or the fire won’t receive enough air to completely burn the wood pellet fuel. Check the ashpan, doors, and other openings. Repair or replace leaky components.
Your house may be too airtight for your wood pellet stove to get proper air intake. Open a window to equalize air pressure in the house and allow for proper stove ventilation.
Pellet Stove Won’t Shut Off
The “low limit” (also called “proof of fire”) switch may be stuck in ‘closed’ position. Remove one wire from the switch; if your wood pellet stove powers off, replace the low limit switch.
Many wood pellet stoves use thermostats for automatic operation, and a malfunction can cause a pellet stove to continue to operate, even without fuel. A thermostat malfunction is indicated if the stove powers off after the thermostat wires are removed. Replace the thermostat as necessary.