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Had a hopper fire last night, need advice

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by goathead, Jan 17, 2009.

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  1. TboneMan

    TboneMan Member

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    I was thinking the same thing. Seems like there's enough damage to "total" the unit.

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  2. goathead

    goathead Member

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    I hear you. I brought the stove to the dealer on Monday and they are taking a look at it. The auger motor he said it looked like just the bushing is toast which can be replaced. The exhause motor will need to be replaced as well. Don't know about anything else yet. I'm going to call them today and see if they've had a chance to go through it yet. I figure that if it's $600 or less then I'll fix the stove, but if it goes much more than that I can't really justify spending that kind of money to fix it. I'd likely look at a new stove. Until then, i'll keep using my electric heat...ugh.
  3. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    Keep us posted goat. Did you ever contact H&H;? Combustion fan should be around $170, easy to install. Bushing shouldn't be much.
  4. Dougsey

    Dougsey Feeling the Heat

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    If you fix the stove and place it back into service, would you ever be able to sleep through the night?
  5. goathead

    goathead Member

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    What's H&H;? The stove is pretty easy to work on so I'm not that concerned about replacing the parts.
  6. goathead

    goathead Member

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    Excellent question. Depends what is found out about the stove. Hypothetically it could happen to any stove if there are multiple failures in any of the features, right? You could really apply that logic to anything that has inherent risk in life. The best thing you can do is take every precaution possible to ensure the safety of your family. I've certainly learned a lot and will be changing some things in my house. I've added 2 CO detectors and additional smoke detectors both upstairs and downstairs.

    Bottom line, this is why I turned the analysis of what happened to the stove over to professionals that work on these every day. As long as I know exactly what happened and what I need to do to fix it, I would be comfortable. Now if I guessed and just replaced a bunch of parts that I "thought" were the problem...I'd have a problem sleeping.
  7. alexdrozd

    alexdrozd Member

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    Please let us know what the "experts" think could have caused this problem. A hopper fire is always a concern for me but I thought it could never happen with the "safeguards" in place and a clean stove!
  8. goathead

    goathead Member

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    I'm anxious to know. They haven't had a chance to go through it yet so my guess is that I won't hear anything until next week. As soon as I do, I'll post what they say to see if any BS alarms go off.
  9. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    Hearth and Home, parent company of Quad. The stove is pretty simple, if you get it back together and fully working, I would trust it as much as I would before the problem. How was the exhaust by the way? Plugged with ash at all? I have a story regarding my free standing Castile from last night (exhaust 4' up, 3' out), my theory regarding air up the chute stands. I did a 'hot' pot dump, meaning I shut the stove down and dumped the clinker in the pot, and fired it up again. What I did not do is toss some pellets in the pot for ignition, I'm burning 100% corn and these stove will not ignite that. Well, the stove did not ignite, but the thermistor was satisfied (drippy d*ck on the pot) due to the remaining heat in the stove, and the auger kept feeding. Rather than stop the process, I let it go while watching. After the pot was 3/4 full, it did finally ignite, but was so far behind that the pot overflowed. So now we have an overflowed pot and a backed up chute full of fuel, and a slowly burning pot. It eventually shut the stove down and never burned up the chute, the blockage of the chute prevented any further feeding of fuel and the fuel in the chute did not have positive air flow to keep it going. It did not trip any snap disks, just plugged the chute. That's how the stove should operate imho. Please keep us posted goat.
  10. goathead

    goathead Member

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    Actually I was surprised how much ash was in the exhaust. It was about 1/4 blocked which is usually where it is at the end of the season after burning 4 tons of pellets. I haven't even burned 2 tons this year and it's already there.

    That does sound like how the stove is supposed to operate. How did you make out with your mother's stove and the new baffle?
  11. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    I didn't get to it yet, today I hope. Another little trick I use on her stove, do you have a decent shop vac (I use my big rigid)? I cut a piece of plexi, although wood or anything would work I guess. Cut a rectangle that fits over the access to the exhaust blower after you remove the left brick. Cut a hole that your vac will fit in the center of the plexi, I use the tapered vac attachment. Put the plexi over the access and the vac into the hole, reverse the vac so it blows, hold everything nice and tight and hit the go button on the vac. Stove blow job, works pretty good between vent cleaning and is easy to do when you do a full clean of the stove.
  12. goathead

    goathead Member

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    Heard back from the dealer and they know the what, but not the why or sequence of events yet. The exhaust blower, convection blower, and auger are all toast and need to be replaced. The auger was burned up so that was likely from the heat. The exhaust blower did fail. The question is the convection blower and either snap disc two (overfire) and/or the vacuum switch. More to come in the next few days once I can get up there and test it out.
  13. pkitfox

    pkitfox New Member

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    Reading this topic has been really interesting. As a new owner of a pellet stove, I have learned one thing for sure. There are a lot of knowledgeable people here.

    My 2 cents, for what it is worth. Having worked in aircraft maintenance for 25 years (Avionics), prior to my current line of work, you learn that extreme effort is put into eliminating single points of failure in the design, and operation of aircraft. We still periodically discover single points of failure, and have multiple failures, with sometimes bad outcomes. Sounds like pellet stove manufacturers, from the comments on this topic, attempt to design multiple safety "nets" into there stoves.

    From everything I have ever heard, Quadrafire builds good pellet stoves. This topic leads me to strongly suspect that we are all subject to a malfunction, that under the right circumstances, could be really bad. For that matter, other heating appliances can malfunction with horrible outcomes (gas pool heater in a hotel/motel, killed, I believe, 3 people in their room from CO poisoning in Yerrington NV.

    I have several smoke and one CO detectors. Tomorrow I will buy two more CO detectors to so we have one on each level of our home. I am going to pick up a couple more smoke detectors too. This thing reminded me how important it is to avoid a single point of failure. I think I had become complacent. Thank you.
  14. richg

    richg Minister of Fire

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    This situation is really making me uncomfortable. Multiple failures precipitate a hopper fire, and the dealer is going about rebuilding the stove. Do you think the dealer, or Quad, may give youa credit towards a new stove if you surrender the old one? We're not talking about a DVD plaer that crapped out.....this is a wood burning appliance that could take down the house and everyone in it.
  15. baydog

    baydog New Member

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    Hi, newbie here! Been burning a Castille insert for exactly one year when it failed to relight after reaching thermostat temp.

    Totally cleaned the stove finding a fairly large amount of ash in the exhast and figured that was the problem. All snapdiscs were un snapped and all system startups were normal, except there were no pellets feeding. So I removed the auger and checked for a jam. No jam, and the motor would not turn when stove called for heat.Thankfully, I had been lurking on this site and did a few searches trying to identify the problem. Came up with the vacuum switch.

    A quick trip to H and H on Monday morning and a new vacuum switch solved my problem. These switches are made in Ohio, and IMO are totally junk! Not well made at all! I will be keeping a close eye on mine in the future, as I think it could cause problems again.

    Thanks for all the info you guys provide.
  16. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    Just a quick update regarding the upgrade kit. I went to install it on my Mom's castile insert, apparently the stove is already upgraded (2006). If the left and right bricks are angled out a bit toward the front of the stove, the stove is upgrade. If the bricks sit flat against the back wall, the upgrade kit will work. I did give the stove exhaust a blow with the vac as discribed above, alot of ash came out the top of the vent and I had cleaned it a month or so ago. Again, with the extended flex vents, I think the ash accumulates quicker because it has a harder time exiting the top of the vent, I plan to step up my maint on her stove vent for this reason.
  17. alexdrozd

    alexdrozd Member

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    It seems to me that for there to be a hopper fire, there would have to be a trail of fuel (pellets) all the way up the chute to the hopper. That is the only way that fire can get into the hopper. Am I wrong in thinking this?

    Then the next question would be how did that trail of pellets get there?
  18. goathead

    goathead Member

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    There always is a trail of pellets. The auger looks like a giant cork screw and the tube is loaded with pellets all the way back to the hopper. When the feed motor turns on, it turns the auger and drops the pellets into the fire pot. I imagine that the way the fire would get to the hopper would be a combination of heat and an overfire condition. Just my theory on the second part there.

    This is for the top feed type of stove (which the Quad is), not sure how the bottom feed stoves work or if a hopper fire would even be possible.
  19. alexdrozd

    alexdrozd Member

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    I guess I am asking what is the length of the chute that the pellets free fall from into the pot? 4", 6", 8", 12" 24"???? The auger doesn't go all the way to the burn pot. So the amount of "free fall" is the length that the pellets had to get backed up. Correct?
  20. goathead

    goathead Member

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    Ahh, gotcha. The amount of freefall is around 4 or 5" inches to the top lip of the firepot and then however deep the firepot is, another 5" or so?
  21. alexdrozd

    alexdrozd Member

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    So I guess the only way the fire can reach the hopper is the flames must shoot up the chute 5" and catch the pellets in the auger on fire, or, a trail of pellets up the chute to reach the auger. Which way sounds more plausible to you?
  22. goathead

    goathead Member

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    Wow, you're right! Pellets stacking up in a running stove to a depth of roughly 10"+ (5" for the pot + another 5" for the chute) without overfiring or smothering the flame does sound a lot more plausible. Hmm?

    I never said that was the only way it could happen and I don't understand the attitude you've got here. To me, the flames going up the chute sound a lot more plausible to be honest. The flames would get there a lot quicker than the fuel.
  23. alexdrozd

    alexdrozd Member

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    I am sorry if I sound like I have an attitude, I don't. I am just concerned about what happened to you because the same thing can happen to any of us. I am just asking you because you saw the stove and was wondering if you saw a trail of pellets up the chute or not? I'm just trying to figure this out with your help.
  24. goathead

    goathead Member

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    Thanks and I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. I'm sure I read too much into it trying to respond quickly rather than reading it thoroughly first. I do appreciate the input and it's tough to tell the tone when someone is writing.

    To answer the question, there wasn't a trail up the chute of burnt pellets. There were some pellets at the base of the chute by the firepot, but nothing that burned up into the chute. When I pulled the auger out, it was loaded with charred pellets...melted almost so it doesn't look like they burned...but definitely smoldered. That's why I think it was more a "heat" event rather than a true "fire."
  25. mgambuzza

    mgambuzza Member

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    This morning as I was having coffee I noticed that at the chute of my Castile - fire was trailing up the chute. What was igniting was the significant amount of pellet dust from my most recent purchase of Penningtons. Whenever a deposit of pellets came down the chute, a volume of sawdust would follow down to the burn pot causing a flare up. The flare up would ignite the dust in the chute, following it up, but then extinguishing when the next deposit came down with the sawdust, causing the cycle to begin again. As long as pellets were coming down the chute with a fresh volume of sawdust, it seemed enough to extinguish the chute flame - at least until the next flare up. I shut down my stove, cleaned out the remainder of the pellets, vacuumed out the firebox, and cleaned out the stove. I then filled it with NE Pellets which were no where as dusty, and re-ignited the stove. As of yet I no longer see the volume of sawdust, nor the trail of flame following up the chute.
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