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How to handle some hot ash, with pics

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by smaxell1, Nov 9, 2008.

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  1. smaxell1

    smaxell1 New Member

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    I have a stove without a removable ash drawer, can't imagine why anyone would design such a thing - but I am stuck since I never looked for that when I bought it. Anyway, I had been looking into ash vacuums to clean the stove with. Huh, $200+ for one of those. From anything that I have heard, even taking a shop vac to cold ashes represents a risk because of the abrasive nature of the ash from a pellet stove - never mind doing it with hot ashes. I am certainly reluctant to destroy a $100+ heavy duty shop vac to clean my stove! In trying to keep the stove as a main source of heat, I am reluctant to shut it down for several hours at a time in the middle of the winter just to clean hot ash.

    Anyway, I devised this based on a unit that I saw on the internet. Handyman ability - beginner, tool availability - intermediate, cost - about $20 if you have some scrap wood and the proper sized hole saw/forstner bit/circle cutter.

    I got a plastic 5 gallon bucket with cover from Home Depot for about $3. I cut some plywood and pine to fit the cover of the pail and the fittings (schedule 40 pvc). Fortunately, the pvc fittings were the exact outside diameter of my shop vac hose, so I didn't have to make any adjustment for the vac hose and fittings. I also got some filter paper for a standard shop vac and put it over one of the pvc fittings so the ash gets filtered before it gets to the shop vac.

    Basically, this acts as a separator - no hot ash can get into the vacuum, larger particles get dropped in the separator, and I get filtered dust in the shop vac. I plan to add some cement to the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket to make it more stable on the floor and more resistant to melting. Obviously, you would need to empty it immediately anyway, being made of plastic. It seems to work quite well, so I am also looking for a good 5 gallon metal bucket that I can use instead of the plastic one and still get a good air seal.

    It also seems it would work well as a pellet screener, if you vacuumed up a bag of pellets. You would end up with a five gallon pail of nicely filtered pellets at the end.

    Here are some pics - if you want more details, let me know:

    http://s256.photobucket.com/albums/hh173/darkstar2051/

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  2. Skinn

    Skinn Member

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    Seems like it would work for hot ash and larger stuff but wouldn't you still get the fine dust that makes up the bulk of a pellet stoves ash. I use a shop vac with a HEPA filter to clean my stove but have heard that with a regular filter the ash is so fine it will go right through your filters. How is the suction compared to just the vac? Looks like your plan was very well executed as the fit and finish is probably better than anything you could buy comparable to that!
  3. tonyd

    tonyd Feeling the Heat

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    Have you tried to clean the pellets with the same setup? Sucking up the pellets, the Fines go into the shop-vac, pellets fall into the bucket. Give it a try. I was thinking about sucking them into a shop-vac with a hepa filter. The fines would stick to the filter and the pellets will fall in the tank. Just a thought
  4. tonyd

    tonyd Feeling the Heat

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    I didn't read the whole post. SORRY JUST GEEZIN
  5. mralias

    mralias Minister of Fire

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    This is what I use with the stock filter and I don't have any problem with ash getting through. I wait till the stove is cooled (all fans off) and then suck away inside and the ash pan. I wash or shake the filter every couple weeks to clean it up and empty the ash outside in the back yard. Nothing fancy about this set up. I did buy some extra filters but I have not had to use them yet. The Vac is only $30 at HD and is a dry/wet vac with little tools that get in all the right places. Well worth the investment.

    Linky Poo
  6. smaxell1

    smaxell1 New Member

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    Yeah, that is what I said at the end of my original post. It will work nicely to screen your pellets.
  7. smaxell1

    smaxell1 New Member

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    You still need to have a good filter on the shop vac, because you do get some fine dust in the shop vac side. I have used this three times so far, and checked the inside of the filter on the shop vac - nothing has made it through (yet). I guess the bigger concern is vacuuming up hot ash, because a partially burned and smoldering pellet can last for HOURS if it is buried under some ash.

    There is no way a hot coal will make it through.
  8. Garry P

    Garry P New Member

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    I really like this set up, but what stops the hot ash from going into the shop vac...is it simply that it won't fit through the filter you have on the bucket?
  9. smaxell1

    smaxell1 New Member

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    That is the last line of defense, but I think that there is little chance that a hot pellet will make it just because almost everything stays in the bucket. I actually got very little in the shop vac - just some minor dust. With the pipes facing opposite directions, you end up with a cyclonic effect in the bucket and this helps drop the heavier particles to the bottom. The filter that I have on the bucket is just cheap filter paper for shop vacs from Wal-Mart, so even if a hot ash gets that far and burns it, you are out very little. I bought a pack of three of these filters for around $4 and just cut smaller pieces out to go over the end of the PVC.
  10. knockbill

    knockbill New Member

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    hi,
    i've been thinking of a an intermediate "catch can" like that to keep teh ash out of teh shop vac,,,, i was thinking of putting a few inches of water it the bottom of the bucket to retain teh ashes, maybe extend the input (suction) pipe right above teh water level, to catch more ash,,, i wonder if even extending the input pipe below the water level would work....now that i see your simple, working design,, i'm going to have to try it,,,, if it works,, the water will also take care of teh hot ashes that are left in the stove,,,,,,,,,my original plan was to try putting a few inches of water right in a wet/dry vac,, but with the bucket, its even easier to empty...
    thank for proving the idea,, now i have incentive to try it!!!!!!
  11. smaxell1

    smaxell1 New Member

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    Hmm, never thought of the water idea... I may have to try that. I have noted that I was using a filter in the bucket also, and in experimenting more with it have found out that the reduction in suction was coming from that. I removed that filter and cleaned the stove with it tonight. I am still convinced that any burning embers that have any substance to them will remain in the bucket and not make it to the shop vac. I may replace that filter material with some metal screen to prevent any possibility of that happening. I think if you put the input pipe below water though, you are just going to make a big, bubbly mess. Let me know if you try that part of things and the result. The pleated filter on my shop vac seems to be doing a fine job of getting all of the fine ash. It is still clean on the inside.
  12. knockbill

    knockbill New Member

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    i,m pretty sure the water in the catch can will work,,plus the weight of teh water should hold teh can steady...then again, if you flip it over!!!!!!! trick is how far from the water to place teh pipe,, trial & error i guess,, i don't think it would work well under water either,, would not have much suction as well as bubbling up a mess.....
    i'll try it, when i get a chance,, i have to make the "lid" for teh catch can 1st,,,,,
  13. pegdot

    pegdot New Member

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    You might try asking someone at your local theatre about a metal bucket. The goop they cook popcorn in comes in really nice 5 gallon metal buckets.
  14. orangecrushcj7

    orangecrushcj7 Feeling the Heat

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    wow, this looks alot more appealing to use than my pellet vac set up I have based on the "kountryhart-youtube" principle. Simply vac the pellets out of the bag and then carry the pail to the stove! To use it as a pellet screener, I would suggest replacing the filter on the pail with a piece of 1/4" hardware cloth. That way the dust particles go into the vac and get caught in that filter, and dont stay in and remix with the cleaned pellets within the pail when the vac gets shut off. I am going to add a link to this thread on the original "make your own pellet vac" thread.
  15. BobinSeattle

    BobinSeattle New Member

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    I am considering a similar separater. One difference I would would make is to mount the outlet tube in the center of the lid. That way the particles would cyclone to the outside and drop to the bottom, and the exhaust would receive the minimum of them. I was also considering using some fiberglass cloth as a filter to avoid filter burns.
  16. crausch

    crausch New Member

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    Since this topic has resurfaced I guess I'll add my 2 cents of a thought. What if you had the incoming debree inlet pipe go into a small amount of water in the bottom of the pail. Would this not work in the same theory as a "bong"? Yeah, I know, I just can't forget the 70's. Anyway, if this was possible then the water would work like steam vacuum cleaner and collect the soot and would extinguish any burning ambers and pellets.

    Ok, I'll go back in my hole now :)
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