Lessons Learned by a Newbie

delwalk Posted By delwalk, Dec 4, 2007 at 5:55 PM

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  1. delwalk

    New Member

    Sep 27, 2007
    Western Massachusetts
    I finally got my pellet stove installed and operational and learned a few things along the way.

    1) DIY vs Contractors

    Luckily the building inspector in my town is a pretty nice guy and was helpful when I pulled the permit to tell me the things he's looking for. He defers to manufacturer's installation instructions but to be safe I exceeded those recommendations. He also said he inspects DIY jobs all the time but they're no worse than the contractors. He told me just the other day that some contractor (didn't say who) installed a wood stove with NO hearth on a hardwood floor. He of course failed the inspection and advised the contractor that if they'd like to continue working in the town they'll do the installs right the first time.

    2) Draft draft draft

    I ordered my chimney pipe online (Simpson-DuraVent PVP) but the order came in two shipments. Just to test things out (and because my wife was so anxious to have heat in the room) I fired the thing up with only 3 feet vertical pipe (out the wall 2 feet into tee, up three feet with cap) while I waited on the remainder of the order. Everything went fine until I shut the stove off. Moments later the smoke came pouring into the room. Cough cough. Although it looks a bit silly, if the manufacturer requires 12 feet vertical venting you install 12 feet vertical venting. My lungs and those of my two young boys are thankful for following manufacturer's specifications.

    3) Warning: keep ash can away from combustibles

    I have a galvanized steel can in which I collect ashes. Sometimes pellets miss the burn pot and fall into the ash pan, which is then dumped into the can. I empty the ash pan every morning to stay on top of things. Just this morning my 3yo says, "come look, there's steam." I came into the room and sure enough smoke was slowly but increasingly starting to escape out of the ash can. I took the can outside and opened the lid - the rush of oxygen brought the smoldering ashes and unburned pellets (not to mention the pellet dust that often skips the burn pot and falls directly into the pan) to light.

    I'm sure I'll learn more lessons as the season progresses. Hopefully they will be just as benign as the lessons I've already learned. The lesson I didn't need to learn was to have an ABC extinguisher near each entrance/exit to the room and a smoke/CO detector on the wall. That much seemed common sense: you're lighting things on fire inside of your house and should be able to put out that fire in an emergency.

    Oh, one more lesson: While filling the hopper take care not to let the plastic bag touch the stove.

    When the plastic bag touches the hot stove, it will melt and will no longer be a bag, with the concomitant result being that the pellets will no longer be contained. My advice is to store the pellets in a second metal container and just scoop them in.
  2. petejung

    New Member

    Sep 28, 2007
    Those are all excellent observations and ideas.

    One thing that I would recommend to everyone, is to come up with some sort of alternate mechanism to dumping the pellets straight from the plastic bag into the hopper. Like the author stated, plastic melts. Secondly, you need to sift the last bit of the bag to get the sawdust out, as you don't want to pour that into your hopper anyway.

    I bought a small coal hod. It was cheap, and holds about 1/3 of a bag of pellets, and it looks nice sitting next to the stove. Also lighter for the wife to carry up the stairs from the basement than a full bag of pellets.

    Just me two cents, which is probably only worth a quarter of that, at best :)
  3. tinkabranc

    Minister of Fire

    Oct 23, 2007
    South Coast MA
    I agree.
    I also use a coal hod for my pellets. As petejung mentioned, it was cheap, holds
    about 1/3 of a bag of pellets at a time, and it looks nice.

    The bags are too heavy and awkward for me to try to load the hopper
    without risk of melting the bag.
  4. Xena

    Minister of Fire

    Nov 30, 2005
    South Shore MA
    Good post. Just curious what make/model stove you have?

    An easy way to load up if you are down low enough
    to utilize an entire bag is, don't open the bag yet.
    Put the bag right into the hopper. Take a knife and
    reach in and slice open the end as if you were gutting
    a deer. (Make sure the knife is sharp so no jagged
    plastic from the bag winds up in the hopper).
    Lift up on the bag and all the pellets will fall into the
    hopper, not on the floor, and nothing will stick to the
    stove because nothing will be touching the hot part.

    Also, I have an old copper wash bin that my Mom scored at
    a yard sale about 30 years ago. When we were kids
    my Dad would store a few logs for the fireplace in it.
    Now I'm storing pellets in it. It holds 80lbs. I have a
    scoop that holds 4lbs of pellets so it's easy to load up
  5. delwalk

    New Member

    Sep 27, 2007
    Western Massachusetts
    I picked up a used Waterford Erin (aka Whitfield Renaissance) pellet stove for a few hundred dollars. The hearth pad is made of plywood, wonderboard, and blue stone (the manufacturer doesn't specify an R-value, only a pad thickness). Even with the stove on full tilt the pad is never hot to the touch. I was looking for a stove with a traditional look and on the small side as it is only needed to heat a 240 sf room. On the lowest setting it does this quite ably and if I turn it up one notch it will keep the remainder of the first floor quite comfortable. I keep the stove fed with Cubex pellets which are supposedly among the best.

    The rest of the house (the stove is in an addition) has oil fired forced hot air which only comes on for about 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night (to prime the upstairs before bedtime). With oil prices here around $3.05/gal and rising I'm pretty excited that I will probably only fill my tank once this season. Last year I used 700 gallons, this year probably only 200.

    What I discovered is that space heating is the best way to save energy. No sense in heating the entire house when we only use downstairs during the day and upstairs at night. I'm going to install the thermostat for the oil upstairs where it will be of more use and block off most of the downstairs vents. I'll then install a thermostat for the pellet stove so I can let it run all night and use it to bring up the heat in the morning instead of the oil.

    I'll likely replace this stove with something a little newer in a year or two, one that has auto-ignition and is compatible with backup power (not that I've ever lost power but hey, you never know). This was principally a test run to see how the stove would work in the room and the entire install was under $1000.
  6. pegdot

    New Member

    Nov 16, 2007
    Upstate, SC
    Zeta, I'll wrestle ya for that wash bin! lol Seriously, I'm jealous. I've been looking for something neat looking to store pellets in and that thing is just perfect. Oh well, the search goes on....

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