Pellet stoves are highly automated forms of home heating appliance that can be the most efficient solid fuel burning system.
However, pellet stoves use a range of electrical and mechanical components to help them be clean burning and efficient and a downside to this can be more things to go wrong compared to other forms of stove that don’t have any moving components.
We’ve had a couple of problems with our own pellet stove and so we’ve explained in this article each main problem that can be experienced with pellet stoves and their solutions.
Problems with pellet stoves we’ve discussed and provided solutions for include:
- Shutting off
- Going out
- Backing up
- Burning black
- Smelling like smoke
- Not igniting
- Taking long to light
- Auger jamming
- Blowing cold air
- Not feeding pellets
- Overfeeding pellets
- Not burning pellets all the way
- Using many pellets
- Burn pot overflowing
- Producing a lot of ash
- Getting too hot
- Making a grinding noise
- Making loud noises
- Won’t turn on
Pellet Stove Problems: An Overview
Many modern pellet stoves are able to display any problems currently being experienced with the stove on the control screen.
If a pellet stove is able to show an error log then this can be used to more accurately determine what problems are occurring with the stove.
For example, if there’s an issue with our own pellet stove then a red warning triangle appears on the control screen.
We can then use the touch screen to press this triangle and the error log will display all of the recent problems that the stove has experienced.
Cleaning & Maintenance
A pellet stove should always be cleaned and maintained in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure that the stove operates effectively and efficiently with reduced chances for problems to occur.
For example, the manual for our own particular model of pellet stove requires us to:
- Clean the burn pot and the ash tray located within the combustion chamber before each daily fire.
- Clean the ignition and hopper with a vacuum weekly to help prevent the build of pellet dust or ash and in turn help prevent blockages.
- Have a professional undertake a full seasonal maintenance of the stove to check and clean any parts that we’re unable to get to.
To help prevent problems it’s therefore always important to undertake maintenance of your pellet stove as and when required by the manufacturer.
For more information and to see what maintenance is required for our own stove see our article on pellet stove maintenance.
Using high quality pellets in line with what the manufacturer of a particular model of pellet stove recommends will help to keep a pellet stove burning efficiently and help to minimize the chance for blockages or other problems to occur.
For example, the manufacturer of our own pellet stove recommends a certain class of pellets to be used, which in our case is Class A1 pellets.
These pellets meet more stringent standards for ash and moisture content.
Using lower quality pellets with higher levels of moisture and ash can increase wastage, emissions and smoke production and potentially lead to more problems with a pellet stove such as blockages, smoke or blackening of the glass.
It’s therefore important to always use the right standard of pellets required by the manufacturer of your particular model of pellet stove to help prevent problems from occurring.
Why Does My Pellet Stove Keep Shutting Off?
A pellet stove that keeps shutting off is a sign that the stove requires cleaning, as either the fuel or the air is being blocked from getting the fire. The combustion chamber and hopper should be cleaned thoroughly. A pellet stove shutting off may also signal that a part is worn and needs replacing.
A pellet stove shutting off is a sign that something important that helps keep the fire going isn’t working as so the stove is shutting itself down to prevent any damage to the stove.
The main reasons why a pellet stove is shutting off can include:
- A blocked air supply. If the burn pot inside the combustion chamber is full of ash and leftover unburnt pellets then this may be blocking the airflow to the fire through the holes in the burn pot.
- A blocked fuel supply. If the stove is unable to deliver pellets properly to the fire then it can be a sign that either the hopper, the auger or the pellet chute (or all three) are blocked.
Cleaning a pellet stove will usually help stop a pellet stove from shutting off, in particular the burn pot located in the combustion chamber and the hopper.
A pellet stove that keeps shutting off may also be a sign that there’s problem with one of the components that can’t be sorted through cleaning. Get a certified technician to take a look or to undertake seasonal maintenance of the stove if it hasn’t been looked at recently.
If your pellet stove has an error log, check it for errors that may help to locate the problem.
Also be sure to use the correct size of pellets. For example, the maximum length of pellets we can use for our pellet stove is 25mm as using any longer pellets can cause a blockage within the auger and the stove will shut off as a result.
Finally, check that the power supply to the stove isn’t turning off or tripping as a pellet stove won’t be able to work without electricity.
Why Does My Pellet Stove Keep Going Out?
A pellet stove that keeps going out can be a sign that the quality of the pellets being used is too low, the burn pot is clogged up with pellets and/or ash, the auger is blocked or isn’t feeding pellets quick enough to the fire, or the air supply inlet is blocked.
A pellet stove that keeps going out can be a sign that:
- The fire isn’t receiving enough air.
- The fire isn’t receiving enough fuel.
Reasons why a pellet stove isn’t receiving enough air can include:
- The air inlet below the burn pot is blocked.
- The holes in the burn pot are blocked up with unburnt pellets or ash.
Cleaning the burn pot and the area where the air comes into the combustion chamber can help prevent a fire in a pellet stove from going out due to lack of oxygen.
Reasons why a pellet stove isn’t receiving enough fuel in the form of pellets can include:
- The auger and/or chute is blocked.
- There aren’t enough pellets in the hopper.
- The fuel isn’t being delivered at a fast enough rate.
If your pellet stove keeps going out then ensure to take a look inside the hopper for any signs of dust build up at the bottom or within the auger. Take a look up the auger chute if possible to see if there are any blockages and clean if necessary.
Ensure that there’s always enough pellets within the hopper before each fire.
If cleaning and adding pellets doesn’t solve the problem then it may require a qualified technician to take a look at the stove, including the rate at which pellets are being fed in case it’s too slow.
Why Does My Pellet Stove Keep Backing Up?
Pellets backing up in a pellet stove can be a sign that the pellets aren’t being combusted properly, which can be due to poor quality pellets or insufficient airflow, or pellets that are being fed too quickly or getting stuck on the way from the hopper to the combustion chamber.
The main causes for a pellet stove that keeps backing up can be:
- Poorly burning pellets that aren’t being burnt through.
- Pellets leaving behind large amounts of ash.
- A lack of oxygen preventing the fire from burning the pellets properly.
- Pellets getting stuck in the chute.
- Build-up of pellet dust within the hopper and/or auger.
Ways in which to help prevent a pellet stove backing up include:
- Burning high quality pellets in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines for better combustion with reduced ash build-up.
- Cleaning the burn pot and ash tray before each fire.
- Checking that the pellets aren’t too big.
- Preventing dust from bags of pellets from getting into the hopper and potentially causing blockages.
- Cleaning pellet dust from the hopper when required.
Why Is My Pellet Stove Burning Black?
A pellet stove that’s burning black can be a sign of burning low quality pellets or a lack of air supply to the fire. Ensure that the burn pot and the air inlet to the combustion chamber are cleaned thoroughly before each fire to aid in airflow.
A pellet stove burning black can be due to either a problem with the pellets or in most cases a problem with the air supply. A fire will struggle to burn the pellets and produce more soot if not receiving enough oxygen.
A burning black pellet stove can be a result of:
- The air inlet to the whole stove blocked.
- The air inlet into the combustion chamber is blocked.
- The burn pot is clogged up and can’t receive air.
- The combustion blower isn’t working properly.
- The door gasket isn’t proving a good enough seal.
To help a pellet stove burn cleanly with minimal blackening:
- Clean the stove at intervals required by the instruction manual, particularly daily cleaning of the burn pot and surrounding areas.
- Have a professional undertake seasonal maintenance on the stove to identify the issue.
- Ensure that any gaskets are keeping a tight seal and change if necessary.
Why Is My Pellet Stove Smoking?
A pellet stove that’s smoking is a sign of a poorly combusting fire with a problem with either the airflow or the fuel. Ensure that the pellets are of good quality and not too high in moisture content and ensure that airflow isn’t being blocked by cleaning the stove regularly.
Much like a pellet stove burning black, a smoking pellet stove can be caused by:
- Poor quality fuel with higher moisture continent leading to poor combustion and smoke being produced.
- Blocked airflow to the fire either at the inlet to the whole stove or the air inlet to the combustion chamber.
- A problem with the airflow leaving the stove, such as an issue with the combustion blower or a leak such as through the door gasket.
In order to help prevent a pellet stove from smoking:
- Use high quality fuel that meets certain standards for moisture and ash content.
- Clean the air inlet to the combustion chamber and the burn pot regularly from any build-up or ash and unburnt pellets.
- Have a professional check the external air inlet and the door gasket for blockages or leaks as part of a seasonal maintenance, and ensure that the airflow management through the stove is properly calibrated.
Why Does My Pellet Stove Smell Like Smoke?
A smoke smell from a pellet stove is a sign that there’s a leak somewhere within the stove or the chimney flue. Check any gasket seals for signs of damage and check the flue outlet that connects to the chimney flue system for leaks.
The most common place for a pellet stove to leak and a smoke smell to be experienced is from the flue system out the back of the stove, in particular the connection between the flue socket on the stove and the rest of the flue.
Another potential location for a leak would be the gasket seal on the door to the combustion chamber.
Over time this seal can become worn and won’t provide an airtight seal and air can be leaking out during fires.
Why Is My Pellet Stove Not Igniting?
A pellet stove that isn’t igniting can be a sign that the outlet to the ignition system is blocked or that there’s a fault with the ignition system itself. Thoroughly clean the stove including the ignition area to help resolve the issue but help from a technician may be required to diagnose any other causes.
If a pellet stove isn’t igniting then it can be a problem with the:
- The ignition system
- The airflow
- The fuel
If the ignition is blocked with ash or unburnt pellets then ensure to clean this area thoroughly and also before each fire. The ignition in our pellet stove is located below the burn pot and we clean this area before every fire.
The initial ignition of the pellets is commonly carried out by hot air that is sucked through the fume extractor and around the ignition in the combustion chamber.
A fault with the fume extractor (combustion blower) can prevent a pellet stove from igniting and so may require inspection from a technician.
Burning low quality pellets that are higher in moisture content can also prevent a pellet stove from igniting properly and so using good quality pellets is always recommended.
Why Does My Pellet Stove Take So Long To Light?
A pellet stove that’s taking long to light can be a sign of a worn ignition system that may need replacing, an issue with the airflow through the stove that can be a problem with either the fume extractor or blockages, or an issue with the pellets such as being low quality.
Why Does My Pellet Stove Auger Keep Jamming?
A pellet stove auger that keeps jamming can be caused by using the wrong size of pellets, too much pellet dust within the hopper and auger or a problem with the motor auger. Cleaning out the hopper regularly can help prevent a pellet stove auger from jamming.
The auger in a pellet stove delivers the pellets from the hopper to the fire in the combustion chamber of a pellet stove.
An auger is a screw-like components that’s driven by a motor at one end. Reasons why a pellet stove auger can keep jamming (and therefore no fuel can be delivered) can include:
- Using pellets that are too large for the particular model of pellet stove.
- Build-up of dust within the bottom of the hopper and in the auger.
- The pellet chute is blocked up.
- The auger motor is worn and needs replacing.
To help prevent a pellet stove auger from jamming:
- Clean out the hopper and auger at regular intervals in line with what’s stated by the manufacturer’s guidelines. We’re required to vacuum our hopper at least every week to keep the dust to a minimum.
- Use high quality pellets that won’t break up easily.
- Keep the dust out of the hopper when pouring in a new bag of pellets.
- Have a technician take a look at the hopper motor.
Why Is My Pellet Stove Blowing Cold Air?
A pellet stove blowing cold air is a sign that the convection blower is working but no heat is being generated. Ensure that the air and fuel supply components are clean and working correctly and that the stove isn’t set to a low heat output setting.
Pellet stoves need to be cleaned regularly, such as cleaning the burn pot and ash tray daily and cleaning the combustion chamber and hopper weekly (as we need to do for our pellet stove). A pellet stove should also be inspected by a technician seasonally for ongoing maintenance of the main components.
A pellet stove may also blow cold air if the output temperature is set too low.
Ensure that the desired room temperature is set higher than the current room temperature.
Why Is My Pellet Stove Not Feeding Pellets?
A pellet stove that’s not feeding pellets can be a sign that the hopper needs filling up with pellets, the auger is jammed, the auger motor has failed, or the air inlet is blocked. Clean the stove thoroughly and if the stove still isn’t feeding pellets then professional help be required.
Common reasons what a pellet stove would not be feeding pellets can include:
- An empty hopper. If the hopper in a pellet stove doesn’t have enough pellets then they can’t be fed to the fire. Ensure to keep the pellets topped up regularly.
- The auger is jammed. Clean out the hopper and auger periodically to keep dust accumulation to a minimum, which could cause the auger to jam if dust builds up.
- The auger motor has failed. If the auger can’t rotate then pellets can’t be fed. A failed auger motor will need replacing.
- The air inlet is blocked. Check that the inlet for clean air is free from any dust or pellets before each fire. If a fire isn’t receiving enough oxygen then a pellet stove may compensate by not dropping pellets.
Why Is My Pellet Stove Feeding Too Many Pellets?
A pellet stove that’s feeding too many pellets can be caused by an incorrect set up of the feed rate or a dirty or blocked stove that’s not allowing sufficient air into the combustion chamber, causing poor combustion of the pellets.
Blocked airflow through the stove can prevent the pellets from combusting properly leading to a build-up of unburnt pellets that may look like the pellets are being fed too quickly.
Ensuring that the combustion chamber, in particular the burn pot, air inlet and ash tray, are cleaned regularly will help maximize air to the fire. Seasonal maintenance by a technician should be undertaken to ensure that the airflow out of a combustion chamber also isn’t blocked.
The chimney flue for a pellet stove should also be cleaned out annually to prevent airflow blockages.
Why Is My Pellet Stove Not Burning Pellets All The Way?
A pellet stove that’s not burning the pellets all of the way is a sign that there’s a problem with the airflow or the pellets themselves. For the most efficient and clean burn ensure to use high quality pellets that are low in moisture content and that the air inlet is cleaned before each fire.
Reasons why a pellet stove isn’t burning pellets all the way can include:
- Using poor quality pellets higher in ash and moisture content that are struggling to burn as efficiently.
- A blocked air inlet into the combustion chamber.
- A faulty combustion blower.
- A blockage in the exhausted air passageway from the combustion chamber to the outside of a home.
In order to help a pellet stove burn pellets thoroughly:
- Clean out the combustion chamber before each fire, in particular the burn pot and the air inlet, to maximize airflow.
- Use good quality pellets in line with what the manufacturer recommends.
- Have a technician go over the stove each season to check everything is working correctly, in particular the combustion blower in the fume extractor, and to clean out the exhaust path.
Why Is My Pellet Stove Using So Many Pellets?
A pellet stove will burn through more pellets when the desired temperature is set much higher than the current room temperature, the outside temperature is very cold or when the stove is attempting to heat an area larger than what it was designed for.
Depending on how hard our pellet stove is working, it’s designed to go through a minimum of 0.7kg of pellets per hour and a maximum of 1.5kg of pellets per hour.
If we set the desired temperature of the room high then the stove will go through more than double the amount of pellets compared to if the stove was keeping the room at a constant lower temperature.
If a room is large or if the starting room temperature is very low then a pellet stove can be burning through a lot of pellets trying to reach the desired room temperature.
Ensuring that a pellet stove is cleaned regularly and well-maintained will help with airflow and the stove will provide the right number of pellets to the fire according for the most efficient fuel to air ratio.
Why Does My Pellet Stove Burn Pot Overflow?
Lack of sufficient airflow to the fire in a pellet stove can cause the burn pot to overflow with pellets, as insufficient oxygen will prevent the pellets from burning properly. Ensure that a pellet stove is cleaned daily, weekly, seasonally and yearly in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Other reasons why a pellet stove burn pot is overflowing can include:
- Using poor quality pellets.
- Build-up of ash or unburnt pellets preventing new pellets from burning properly.
- Incorrect setup for the stove in terms of fuel to air ratio or feed rate of the pellets.
Why Does My Pellet Stove Produce So Much Ash?
A pellet stove will typically produce more ash when the pellets are of lower quality and higher moisture content or when the fuel to air ratio needs adjusting.
To help overcome the problem of pellet stoves producing more ash:
- Use higher quality pellets. We use Class A1 pellets that have a maximum ash content of 0.5%.
- Clean the stove regularly in line with that the manufacturer recommends.
Why Is My Pellet Stove Getting Too Hot?
A pellet stove will automatically burn hotter as it attempts to bring the room up to the set room temperature from the current room temperature. Higher quality pellets will also typically provide a cleaner and hotter burn thanks to lower moisture content.
A pellet stove that’s getting too hot can also be a sign that there’s an air leak (such as within the door gasket) and the stove is trying to compensate.
The wrong fuel to air ratio set on a pellet stove can also cause a hotter burning stove. Have a technician take a look at the settings, including the pellet feed rate and the combustion blower speed.
Why Is My Pellet Stove Making A Grinding Noise?
A grinding noise from a pellet stove can be a sign that there’s dust within the auger that’s making a grinding noise when it rotates or can be a sign that the auger motor is wearing and needs replacing. The hopper and auger should be cleaned of pellet dust regularly.
Why Does My Pellet Stove Make A Loud Noise?
Pellet stoves will make a small amount of noise during operation but excessive loud noises from a pellet stove can be caused by a build-up of ash within the combustion blower or the heat exchanger, a worn distribution blower or blocked hopper auger.
Pellet Stove Won’t Turn On
A pellet stove may not turn on if there’s no electricity, the stove isn’t turned on at the back, the fuse is blown, or the hopper doesn’t have enough pellets to start a fire.
Before starting a pellet stove ensure that:
- It’s plugged straight into an electrical outlet (not an extension cord).
- The electrical outlet is switched on.
- It’s plugged into the back of the stove (if detachable).
- Switched on at the stove (if there’s a power swich where the power cord connects).
- The fuse isn’t blown.
- The power button has been pressed on the control panel.
- The desired temperature is set above the current room temperature.
- The stove doesn’t have any warnings or error logs.
- There’re enough pellets within the hopper.
- The air supply isn’t being blocked.
- The auger or the pellet chute isn’t blocked.