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New Member New Harman p38 Big problems

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by stormy873, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. stormy873

    stormy873 New Member

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    Hello all,
    I am hoping that some forum members will have an easy answer for my very frustrating problem. I am a new owner of a Harman p-38 and oh boy do I seem to have problems. I am located in Oregon and researched stoves for YEARS before settling on the Harman p38 based on the simplicity of design and the overwhelming positive reviews of the stove.

    Stove was installed one week ago and the dealer is rather new to the Harman line so I am having trouble articulating the issues with the stove. Basically, short of the application of jet fuel (just kidding) -it won't light. I am a handy and skilled farm woman and I can get just about anything lit but this stove has something severely amiss and since my dealer seems to be only slightly more knowledgeable than me, I could use some help in articulating my problem and what issues I believe that the stove is trying to "tell me" in its performance.

    Simply put when I turn the stove on it does NOT reliably go into test mode. The combustion fan will run but the auger does not feed and the blower does not blow. 1 to 2 times out of 10 the stove will run the test mode. The dealer has been out and told us be "aggressive" when starting the stove. If I attempt to light it when it hasn't run the full test mode the stove will either go out, or feebly burn the pellets in the pot and then go out because the auger does not supply pellets to fuel a fire. With absolute dedication and the AMPLE application of starter gel I have got a fire or two going over the past week but it was, I assure you through my absolute "won't quit until it is lit" determination. When the service guy came up he commented that the stove was filthy for having only one bag of pellets through it so as I said, I believe I willed it to burn rather than getting a correct burn out of it.

    If I turn the stove to turbo mode it will run the test mode-most of the time but does not run the test mode when I operate according to the instructions. "IF" I do get a normal test mode 7 out of 8 times I get a fire lit it will burn feebly, then peter out and die. I believe I have either a board issue or an issue with the draft pressure switch which is not allowing the stove to go through a normal test mode and operate. Any suggestions about how to articulate these issues in terms my service guy can understand?

    Thanks,

    Stormy AKA cold in Oregon

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  2. Lousyweather

    Lousyweather Guest

    Stormy-

    Welcome-

    Your issue can be ALOT of things......

    First off, the unit will not feed pellets until there is an appreciable fire in the pot, so, fill the burn pot half full or so, and use a LIBERAL amount of gel....light the unit, close the door, as well as the hopper lid, switch the unit in test mode for a minute or so, then take it out of test mode, and put it back in immediately.....the fire, after two cycles should be large enough for the unit to run on its own.

    Unfortunately, there are alot of other issues that couldbe causing a problem....is there outside air installed? If so, did the installer forget to take the cutout out of the insulation blanked in the passthru? Is the intake damper stuck? Is the hopper seal intact, or leaking? Is the hopper seal at the bottom leaking? Has the dealer taken a draft reading upon installation, and now taking one now that there is an issue? The draft reading might be helpful here......hopefully they took one....

    Sorry, but there are a myraid of reasons the unit wont feed....just trying to rule stuff out!
  3. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

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    i dunno if this will help at all, but my technique for lighting the P38 is as follows:

    I put 2 heaping handfulls of pellets into the pot.
    I put 3 tablespoons of ignition fluid onto pellets and mix gently into top layer of pellets
    I light said pellets and fluid and let them burn (door open, stove in off position)
    Once several (7-10) of the pellets have about 50% red embers established (usually about 3 minutes to get to this point) I turn the stove to any "on" position (usually 2-3, but it doesn't matter much, door still open)
    I close the door most of the way (open 1-2 inches) and wait to make sure the rush of air is not going to blow the embers out.
    Once the fire takes hold I close the door all the way and within a few minutes the stove is going.

    I find the "test" mode of the P38 elusive sometimes as well. If you dont turn from "off" to "turbo" in one smooth motion it gets confused and doesn't know you want test mode.
    Make sure the lil door for the burnpot cleanout (face of burnpot with the wing nut) is closed securely as this can give you very poor combustion (air leaking out the face rather than through the pellets).

    I also agree with everything Lousyweather says, could be a lot of things, but more often than not its something small.
  4. Jim H.

    Jim H. Feeling the Heat

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    is that normal? seems like a lot of work just to light......
  5. summit

    summit Minister of Fire

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    be very aggressive starting the fire: I had one of these, and it takes getting used to:

    fill pot at least 2/3rds full... douse with gel, mix it into a stew with the pellets. light match, throw match in, close door. turn from "off" to turbo in a fluid motion, no stops! after auger has made several revolutions, turn it to #4.
    This thing takes a good 10 mins to get to temp to make the auger start turning on it's own, and about another 10 mins till the distribution fan starts up. I would reccommend putting the thermostat on this thing for the cold season so keeping it lit and the area at temp is not such a crapshoot. Get a thermo w/ an "off" switch (robertshaw makes one, and any hearthstone dealer will have one as well) so you can bypass the tstat operation if you desire. GOOD LUCK!

    one last thing: check the air intake/ flapper, make sure it is not sticking! this will cause some of the issues you have described. Usually does not happen on a new stove, but it is not outside the realm of possibility.
  6. summit

    summit Minister of Fire

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    check electrical outlet polarity, door gaskets, seals, and draft adjustment (small white screw on back of control board... unplug stove 1st!), these cause issue in the p38 more than any other Harman Stove.
  7. slvrblkk

    slvrblkk Minister of Fire

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    WOW...this is a new Harman and that's what it takes to light that thing???? That is insane.....for what those things cost it should load the pellets and light them automatically for you!!!!

    Stormy...welcome to the forum and good luck with your problem!
  8. krooser

    krooser Minister of Fire

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    That's pretty much exactly how I've been starting my St. Croix since my ignitor failed... I will replace it but right now I'm simply using hand sanitzer to start the stove... works very well.
  9. stormy873

    stormy873 New Member

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    Thanks for the replies so far. I have tried just about every possible scenario to light this thing and I am really getting pissed. I tried (Delta-P's- I think) suggested method of lighting the stove by running it with the door open and then turning it on and it worked and worked very well, I do have an issue with lighting in in that manner tho. If I wanted a smoke filled house with an open flame I wouldn't have dropped over $2 grand on a pellet stove.

    Shouldn't the stove light and operate as outlined by the manufacturer's explicit instructions? To me, anything less represents a defective product or incorrect installation. My instruction manual specifically states NOT to leave the door open, to run a test mode which will start when I turn the stove on 1. The test modes it should run auger, blower and combustion for about one minute. Then, and only then am I directed to light the stove. (making a pellet/jell mix and filling the hopper as outlined by illustration in the manual.)

    Am I being unreasonable, is there a different "real world" of pellet stove operation? You know what the manual says versus what you have to do? I want to be fair to the dealer but I purchased the stove based on serious study of the manual, all the technical supportive documentation and training manuals (Harman dealer inadvertently gave me access to the dealer site, some time back) and I am struggling to figure out if should insist on returning the stove or if this is the reality of pellet stove ownership-they don't work as promised.

    I can't emphasize enough that I am good with fire- I understand how to make it go. If someone needs a bunch a wet fir branches burned in February- I can torch them. I am not a feline when it comes to lighting a fire and I can't get this stove lit using the "directions" or anything close to the directions outlined in the operation manual.
  10. imacman

    imacman Guest

    I am with you on this....for what a Harman costs compared to most other stoves, what you're going through is ridiculous. But this all goes back to what most forum members agree on....having a dealer who KNOWS his/her product is key. Unfortunately, you bought from one that hasn't got a clue.

    If this was me, I'd ask the dealer to come "fix" the stove, or take it back for a full refund. There are many other stoves on the market (Enviro, Travis Ind., Englander, etc) that are MUCH easier to use......and they have auto ignition for much less $$.
  11. summit

    summit Minister of Fire

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    p 43 is only 300 more....
  12. krooser

    krooser Minister of Fire

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    What kind of venting system do you have installed?
  13. stormy873

    stormy873 New Member

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    You all are going to think I am really stupid but I bought the p-38 on purpose because I wanted something simple...Never figured lighting a fire would be this hard.

    The major reason I went with the Harman over other brands was because I had less than four feet to an operable window in the only location it will fit in my home. I needed a stove that would allow installation within 18 inches of an operable window and that limited my choices severely. The only other brand that met my needs in terms of stove size and venting was the Envio and from my reading it seemed to be rather trouble prone. I was unable to locate other brands that had a small stove which would fit within my space limitations...I really want this Harman to work.

    I specifically choose a manual light system because I hoped that with a less complex circuit board I would have as less danger of burning it out when running on a generator. Something we have to deal with on a regular basis during winter storms. And yes, I am planning on running it with a Honda 2000i inverter generator because of the clean power it produces. I also have a three year old Robin Subaru 8000 watt generator but worry that the power wouldn't be clean enough to insure it didn't damage my stove. So, as you can see for "poor" working folk we have made what is a HUGE investment in winter heat. We have been saving for years and years for this stove so I am broken hearted that it has been such a pain in the butt.

    About this time you are probably wondering why the heck I didn't go with propane or natural gas. Well, #1 I am scared to death of it and since I live in mountains in Oregon with the closest natural gas line 30 miles and a hundred years away from being installed in my area. Propane here is ungodly expensive at almost $3.00 a gallon with delivery surcharges that bring it near $3.25 a gallon.

    The stove is installed with outside air and with the Harman minimum wall vent configuration. The draft testing by the first service guy indicated we had ample draw even in the minimum configuration. We would certainly go up the outside wall if necessary but venting through the roof is not an option and we have virtually NO eaves (manufactured home) so this is an ideal configuration-if it works. We also deal with copious winter snow (you'd think I lived in upper state New York and not within 30 miles of the floor of the Willamette valley) add to that a standing seam roof that slides snow like nobodies business and you can see why the simple lateral piping is preferable-again, if it works. Due to the danger of snow shear from it sliding off the roof we are in the process of building a free standing "cricket" of sorts to try and protect the pipe from shearing off the side of the house...And yes, the snow is that much of an issue.

    I really appreciate all of the advice and the knowledge base of the forum and welcome any and all suggestions. Thank you for your assistance.

    Stormy
  14. Cincinnati Kid

    Cincinnati Kid Feeling the Heat

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    Stormy, I had the same issues as you are experiencing when iIfirst purchased my P-38. I always struggled lighting the stove with gel.

    I have switched to 92% alcohol which I buy at Walmart for under $3.00 a bottle which lasts all season. Take a few hand fulls of pellets and put them in a bowl or other type of container. Pour in the alcohol to cover the pellets. Soak for 10 minutes minimum. Drain the pellets, (you can pour the used alcohol back in the original bottle and reuse again.)

    dump the pellets in the firebox and light the stove. Then turn on the pellet feed to one or two.

    Works every time for me with no problems!
  15. Jim H.

    Jim H. Feeling the Heat

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    this is really nuts....the only thing you guys don't do is chop wood! Why not a self lighting stove? Just curious. I hope you get it worked out.....wow.
  16. m159267

    m159267 Member

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    Thought I would chime in with my 'no issue' method of lighting my P38.
    First thing I do is make sure all doors are closed and turn the setting to turbo.
    I do this to verify that the auger will turn confirming there are no other issues.
    After a couple of seconds the auger should turn, I then shut everything off and....

    I place a handful of pellets into a plastic (1 pound) coffee container.
    Squirt a generous amount of gel, cover and shake about 15-20 times.
    Repeat with a second handful of pellets.
    I let the container sit while I clean the stove from its previous burn (1-3 minutes).
    Dump the pellets into the pot, light and close the door.
    I turn the fan to 5 and set to Turbo.
    After several minutes you should have a roaring fire (if not there are other issues).
    Once the distribution fan turns on (usually 5-10 minutes) I adjust my settings to desired levels.

    The only deviation to this occurred when I had apparently had a 'bad' batch of pellets
    (don't remember the brand) that were difficult to light. I had to open the door slightly to get them going.
  17. Lousyweather

    Lousyweather Guest

    dont forget, dudes and dueettes, that there has been a circuitboard revision for the P38 fairly recently, and we might be dealing with an improper dip switch setting as well (these new settings are different than previous ones).

    Since you do in fact have an outside air kit, is it at all possible your inexperienced installer didnt remove the insulation disc in the intake of the passthru?

    Also, I dont agree that the door should be left open after lighting....light it, close the door. if you have to puit it in test mode once or twice, do so....I outlined this procedure earlier. Other than the alcohol thing, his procedure is quite good and sound. I dont like using straight alcohol due to the flammability aspect....the available gels usually are somewhat retarded so they dont flare up as much.......alcohol is very flammable, and could result in fire issues if used not carefully......

    As i said earlier, there could actually be a bad part in the unit, and it would be REALLY NICE to see a draft reading on this thing.......again, your dealer should have done this upon install......not that it helps, and I feel your pain, but the dealer is at least half of the stove-buying equation. They should be willing to check this thing out....even thought the P38 is non-autoigniting, it should be light-able. Usually the lighting issues with these things are the customer doing something wrong (tho im sure likely not in your case)....we had a customer using very little gel in one......they'd go to light it and the gel would burn out before the unit could get up to temperature, so, it wouldnt feed or stay lit.

    Also, dont forget to close the front door, the ash door, and the hopper lid....the p38 WILL NOT feed with any one of the above open.

    In answer to your question about how to articulate these issues to te "repairman", I would insist on a draft test, see what the readings are, and go from there. The circuitboard might be at fault, so, he ought to bring another with him (any dealer worth their salt keeps extra anyhow). The vac switch RARELY fails.....VERY rarely..........ever so rarely (Im saying here its probs not your issue).....

    let us know! We'll get this figured out.
  18. slls

    slls Minister of Fire

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    Return it for a auto light, hand starting is like a hand crank car.
  19. Lousyweather

    Lousyweather Guest

    nothing wrong with starting with gel....less to go wrong...once you know how to do it, youre good....P61 here, starting it with gel for 9 years now
  20. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    I have done both and much prefer the auto ignite(I am much lazier in my old age now). But once you get used to the manual ignite stove its not so bad. Just need to think ahead some.

    I've seen both sides as family members have a P38 and a P43. The P43 has seen 2 new igniters over the last couple of years and the P38 has had no repairs at all. I don't think paying for a years supply of gel would be more than the cost of 1 igniter. So there are pros and cons for both sides of this fence! Its all in the eyes of the owner(and the cash in the wallet).

    Can we say debate??? hehe! :)
  21. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    Jay aren't you going to plug the propane torch method of manual lighting?
  22. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    Well I was going to but you do get a nasty wood smell when you do it with a torch on a P38. I tried it on the P38 and my sis wasn't happy with me. Hard to keep the door closed with your arm in the stove! Works great on my Omega because the combustion blower is running and sucks the smoke and smell out the vent. I prefer map gas too!
  23. vvvv

    vvvv New Member

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    alcohol, a flammable liquid @ $3/qt has been mentioned so i'll add k2 @ 3$/gal..........what i do, because of my wizdome, is dangerous? but easy! pm me if u wanna talk= long story & i hate to type
  24. summit

    summit Minister of Fire

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    therer are no dip switches on the p38 circuit board.
  25. jtakeman

    jtakeman Minister of Fire

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    Pook,

    Its a brandy new stove and still has a warranty! Instant "void" written right in the manual.

    Recommending a big "BOOM" is a no-no too! We know your a trained pro, But! :red:

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