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Tips on if Your pellet stove is burning lazy and or getting smoke in the house

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by hearthtools, Jan 5, 2008.

  1. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    If you are getting smoke in the house or you stove just don’t seem to be burning like should.


    Check the door seal and latch for a tight fit.

    Check the ash pan for shut tight and latched


    If all doors seals are good and latched.

    MOST pellet stove are Negative air. (Inside of the Firebox is vacuumzed)
    If you don’t have the ash pan or door sealed less air will flow through the burn pot and you will have a tall lazy flame. You will see no visual change in the fire when you change the air control.

    Without a Magnahilic this is the best way to dial In air adjustment.

    With the stove on High and running for 15 minutes after start up.
    Push the air rod in. you will see a tall ugly lazy flame
    then [b}slowly[/b] pull the rod out
    as the flame comes down, more intense and be more yellow
    when the flame looks like it is not changing anymore stop pulling out.
    If you have sparks popping this is normal
    but you don’t want to see PELLETS popping out.
    If you get Brown or Grey soot on the glass and firebrick this is normal
    if you have BLACK soot on the firebrick and glass pull the air out a little more.

    Cant get much adjustment out of the air?

    The first thing to do is a good cleaning.

    Follow the cleaning steps in your manual.

    Clean out all the ashes in the burn pot and ash chambers.
    Some stoves this will require you to remove the refractory brick and the REMOVE baffle behind it.
    Photos here http://www.hearthtools.com/parts/adavantageII_clean.htm
    http://www.hearthtools.com/new_pa1.gif

    Scrap the heat exchange tubes or fins or clean with a Bottle or potato brush
    http://www.hearthtools.com/parts/whitcl1.jpg
    http://www.hearthtools.com/parts/buildupheatexchange.jpg
    http://www.hearthtools.com/parts/IMG00393-20091119-1328.jpg
    Check the placement of your burn pot and or burn pot liner. Make sure it sitting in the correct notches; Latches and push back were it belongs.

    Clean out the ALL Venting (flue pipe) and just because you think your pellet vent is clean? Have you looked where the vent connects to the stove?
    http://www.hearthtools.com/install/dirty_insert/images/IMG_1110.jpg
    Check the cap some times if you are adapting to wood stove pipe there will be a screen in the cap.
    http://www.hearthtools.com/parts/chimneycapplugged.jpg

    Check the door seal and latch for a tight fit.

    Check the ash pan for shut tight and latched



    Try the steps above if your stove still is not burning correctly then go on to some trouble shooting in your owners manual and or here http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/viewthread/13413/
    jaydub likes this.

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  2. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    Feel free to add you tip here on your brand of stove or a solution to a problem you had.

    Please only add tips and help not questions.
    My idea for this type of page is for quick answers so searchers dont have to weed through a bunch of crap to find help.
  3. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    You may also want to check if your venting (flue pipe) is properly installed according to your manufactures specs and recommended installation.

    Most pellet stove manufactures show you can Direct Vent (DV) a Pellet Stove right out the wall and put a 45 deg elbow or an approved horizontal cap.
    But if you read the manual almost all of them highly recommend 3 feet of vertical rise.

    this is a very good way to vent if you can go all this way up.
    the only thing I would have done is add 6 to 12 " between the 90 and the cap.
    http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/viewthread/13695/

    I personally will NEVER DIRECT VENT install a pellet stove even it if cost me the sale.
    Reasons I will not:

    1) When the power goes out smoke will back into the house for there is not blower to push the gases out of the stove with no power.

    2) The side of you home and or decking or sidewalk may build up with soot and or ash.

    3) The stove will draft much better with vertical run of pipe especially on lower setting.


    But if you are direct venting a pellet stove:
    1) Be sure you have ¼ inch per foot of rise in the horizontal pipe.

    2) Be sure you are at your allowable clearances to Windows, Eves (vented and Non vented soffits), Porches, Walls, Public walkways and any Mechanical vents or Gas regulators.

    3) YOU MUST HAVE OUT SIDE AIR. And the outside air must be below or far enough way the outlet of the venting.
    http://www.hearthtools.com/install/pelletdirectventfix.jpg
    http://www.hearthtools.com/install/outwallandup.jpg


    Size of venting.
    Your manual will state the required size of pellet vent for your installation. Every manual I have ever seen has a chart with Horizontal and Vertical runs with the size of pipe to use.
    Rule of thumb is any pellet vent over 15 feet use 4” venting. Especially if you are above 4000 feet elevation I would use 4” on any height of run.

    Any horizontal pipe keep it as short as possible and less than 3 feet.
    Be sure to have ¼ inch per foot of rise in the horizontal run.

    A T clean out is best to use as often as possible in place of a 90 deg elbow.
    A T clean out will give you a ash trap for fly ash 90 deg elbows build up with ash quickly for there is no Reservoir for ash.


    For offsetting stove pipe to always use 45 deg elbows. NEVER USE 90 deg elbows.
    http://www.hearthtools.com/install/offsetpipe.jpg


    Venting an pellet insert
    ALWAYS vent a pellet insert with Stainless steel pipe from the stove all the way to the top and use a metal chase cap to seal off the top of the chimney so no air and more importantly to keep WATER from following your pipe down and Shorting out your stove.

    Also block of and insulate the Damper section.
    This will keep cold air out but even more important keep any Ash that you cant get out of the smoke shelf from being pulled into your house with the Room air blower of the stove. This convection blower is located behind your surround panels in side the fireplace and it will suck up an dust and or ash that is in the fireplace.
    See this page for photos of a stove that was not installed with pipe all the way up.
    http://www.hearthtools.com/install/dirty_insert/index.htm
  4. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    Some subjects above have been updated
    DexterDay likes this.
  5. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    I have been working on pellet stove for 19 seasons now.

    I learn something new every day. The best lessons are the completely stupid ones.

    I have been trying to figure out a problem on a 7-year-old Breckwell p24 free standing.

    My service guy did the yearly service on the stove.
    A few weeks later the owner called and said the burn pot is over flowing and not burring very well door is black.

    My service guy goes over and sees the DUMB ass flip type ash pan latch is not shut.
    He cleans the inside of the stove and relights it. Re adjust the air
    Sticks around and the stove is burning great.

    4 hours latter the owner calls. Still not burning right. I tell her to shut off the stove and but don’t change any settings I will be over after it cools.

    I get there every thing looks good as far as air control and doors shut.

    So I turn it on and the combustion blower sounds bad.. I pull the blower
    (1999 P24 FS pain in the butt) Clean out the pipe from the Bottom up past the (2) 45 elbows and to 4 - 6 adapt at the support box. With a flexible rod and brush. (My service guy was just did a full service 3 weeks earlier) I did not go up on the roof or even look at the cap because it just had a full service.
    This is a 4” pellet pipe adapt to 6” wood stovepipe at the support box.

    Put a new combustion blower in fire it up stove worked great. They said it has not had a fire in it like that all year.

    Ok
    10 days latter she calls it is doing it again.
    I go out and look at the cap.
    I don’t know whom but someone put what looked like DIRECT VENT HIGH wind cap on top of the wood stovepipe?????? NO BODY KNOWS WHO?
    The last time I was at that house MY SELF for a full service about 3 years ago it had a wood stove cap on it.

    We took it off and put on a wood stove cap and ran the stove. Worked good.
    4 hours latter she calls doing it again.

    I tell her to leave the stove on.
    I go out there put a Magnahilic gage on it.
    Poor pressure and little change with air adjustment.
    Pull open the side panel test voltage to the combustion blower 123 volts

    I screw around with the stove still burning Scrapped out the burn pot
    Used pliers. Opened up the ash clean out sliders on the sides and back of firebox. Good and clean
    I pulled the heat exchange scrapper and woof air started flowing.
    The magnahilic gage pegs out to .20

    I thinking between the tubes got plugged up from the Bad blower and wrong cap.
    It was light fluffy BLACK soot that came down. Just enough blockages to restrict the exhaust flow past the heat exchange.

    So lesson learned
    GO THROUGH ALL THE STEPS
    DON’T TAKE SHORT CUTS
    CHECK EVERYTHING EVEN IT IF HAS JUST BEEN DONE BEFORE.
    Dave E Cee and LindaM05 like this.
  6. Ladeb1rd

    Ladeb1rd New Member

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    I found this site yesterday,,helped me out "immensely" to say the least! So, came back to register, & express my thanks and appreciation to all!! My problem had to do with fire-box/pellet-pot overflowing "EXACTLY" like the other person mentioned on this site. It sounded like I had written the description myself, in fact! Same symptoms! Sooo',, I went back to the drawing-board, with tools, vacuum, etc,etc, in hand & tore-into said pellet stove ("antique Trailblazer 1600?-I believe?). Same story, thought I had 'cleaned everything'--NOT!! The base of the stove has a grill-work wrap/around about 1 in. high. Silly me, I figured it was a "closed heat/dissapating chamber", that did nothing but 'collect dust'!! Was I ever wrong. After removing said grillwork, using a "long" aquarium-bottle-type-brush, and a vacuum to suck out a multitude of "dust/bunnies",,(packed thick--the stove is a 93' vintage, that part had never been touched since it was 'originally assembled', & me with no instruct. book, etc, etc, to go by!), the stove "draws air" also from that underneath duct now, along with the rear single fan, to pressurize pellet-pot, air/tubes, etc.!! After reading the input yesterday from this 'forum', I believe we're on the "road-to-recovery" finally. I want to thank all involved, and will surely become a "regular" of this site! I hope I posted this update in the 'proper' area, so as not to upset, or deter anyone else from curing their problem/'s, like you've all helped me! Thanks again, Otter
    LindaM05 likes this.
  7. gordongreg

    gordongreg New Member

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    washington
    When I talked to the City of Quincy building department, they said a product brochure with clearance and venting information would be helpful. You can get all this information by visiting the stove manufacture's website, downloading the owner's manual and printing it out.
    ===========================
    gordongreg
    Connecticut Alcohol Addiction Treatment
  8. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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  9. courtsandan

    courtsandan New Member

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    Your advice is:
    Any horizontal pipe keep it as short as possible and less than 3 feet.
    Be sure to have ¼ inch per foot of rise in the horizontal run.

    How long do think you could have a run at 1 1/4" rise per foot?
  10. allenfrme

    allenfrme New Member

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    It took me three years to stop the last little bit of occassional smoke smell on my Harman P68. The door always closed harder than I liked.
    Last cleaning I took off the little ball bearing under the door latch, put a very small dab of silicon grease on it, and great! it closes very easy now.
    What surprised me is now I just do not get any odor at all, none. I think when it closed before, the hard close was working the small hinges a bit, and it wasn't setting well.
    I've tried this on two other stoves, and had the same result.
    Dave E Cee likes this.
  11. SJ Burner

    SJ Burner New Member

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    Bay Area CA
    Thank you for this very informative thread! I have a Quad CB1200-I and was getting a very tall, lazy flame and a very black, sooty window. After reading your comments and digging in and troubleshooting a little I found a chimney rain cap completely clogged! My Quad now fires like a Quad should. I also learned a lot about how to take care of my stove in the future. Thank you to all of you who contribute! You are an enormous help to a lot of us "Newbies".
  12. JacknJuls

    JacknJuls New Member

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    Bless you for this. I've been through my owners manual at least 100 times since we bought this stove last fall. Was NEVER able to get it to burn right, nor were the techs who came out (8 different times!). I had never thought to take a good look at how the ash pan sealed, and lo and behold, there was an edge all the way down the right side of the pan that was missing the sheet metal (trimmed about 1/4" inch too much at the factory). Called up the place where I bought the stove and they didn't believe me, but I was able to convince them to bring a new ash pan with them to compare- long story short, they just left with the old pan after swapping me and the stove finally works! This is the first time the thing has ever stayed lit for more than 3 hours straight (it's been going for 6 hours as I type), and it looks like I'll finally be able to see if the remote thermostat works. The best part is I'll finally stop getting "the look" from the wife after plunking down $3k for the pellet stove instead of buying a new heat pump.
  13. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    What brand and model is your stove?
  14. gdeangel

    gdeangel Member

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    Just a quick note on Quad Santa Fe.... since there is no way to dial in an air setting (only reduce feul feed by closing down the hopper plate), I had found that you can actually use the ash pan door to give a little boost to your combustion air flow. I was experimenting a bit because I was not getting good intake through my external fresh air intake kit. Turned out that problem was because the installer did not hook it up to the stove correctly, but in the process of troubleshooting that problem, I discovered that leaving pulling out the ash pan 1-2 inches can increase your air flow to the burn pot to correct a lazy flame if you've already closed down the hopper plate as much as possible.

    I don't know about other stove designs, but this is because the combustion air is drawn up by negative pressure through holes in the bottom of the burn pot. A correctly attached fresh air kit simply dumps in air into the ash pan chamber. If you open up the ash pan a bit, you will be burning house air, but it's also a good way to tell if your air intake kit is plugged up if your flame starts to get lazy.
  15. bd911

    bd911 New Member

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    Are you suggesting that if you open up your combustion chamber to house air (via the ash pan), which would slow the velocity of air, and your flame gets lazy then your OAK is plugged up?
  16. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    The Quads aren't what you are used to.

    The ash pan is below an otherwise blocked burn pot receptacle, opening the the ash pan is the same as opening a damper on most air intakes.

    This is the opposite of a lot of stoves where opening the ash pan area results in a burn pot air bypass.
  17. nygiants

    nygiants New Member

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    Central New York
    Problem with lazy flame and heaping pellets. Had a conversation with a local stove vendor. He told me that the quality of the pellets have lessened. Due to the popularity of pellet stoves, the pellet mfrs are using different sources of wood, that cause a significant amount of clumping ashe, that clog the holes of the burn pot. Hence, the air circulation and heat is decreased causing a call for more pellets. They lay on top and create a hill. Comments anyone?
  18. Defiant

    Defiant Vermont Castings Geek

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    Being a Giants fan myself, I consider your stove shops advice as :p
    LynnS likes this.
  19. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    Sorry about broken link guys. I hope to have my webiste back up in a week or so
    SmokeyTheBear likes this.
  20. Miss Scribbles

    Miss Scribbles New Member

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    Hi all, thanks in advance for looking at this. I am a newbie here and a newbie with pellet stoves--but the good news is that I am mechanically inclined so all is not lost. Here's the scenario.

    I bought a house with a Whitfield pellet stove and I am trying to use it for the first time. It is an Whitfield Advantage fireplace insert.

    When I try to light the stove, the stove fills up with smoke. According to everything I have read, this means that it is not getting air. So I took it apart and cleaned it according to the online Whitfield manual I found online. I cleaned everywhere I could find to clean, including behind the firebrick, ash trap, air baffles, burn grate, ash pan,etc. I've cleaned all of them but I cannot find the exhaust vent, because it is not labelled in the manual. Where is the darn thing?

    Also, even after cleaning all of these areas except the exhaust vent (because I cannot find it!) there is still lots of smoke. I know the flue was cleaned before I bought the house, so now I am wondering if there is blockage at the bottom of the pipe that connects to the pellet stove, perhaps at that T-joint.

    However, the back of the stove is so far into the fire place that I cannot reach around to check it, which I guess means I must pull the stove out a bit. And I will try to do so once I hear from you guys that this probably what I need to do next.

    I have called for a repairman in my area, but I haven't heard back from him. According to the Lennox folks here in western Washington, they have only one guy who repairs Whitfield stoves.

    I've rebuilt engines and rewired cars so should be able to fix this thing, but so far I cannot do it. I also have currently have bronchitis with a bad cough, so the smoke aggravated that as well, so I need to get this fixed ASAP.

    Any advice you might have would be welcome, and if you know of a Whitfield repairman in the surrounding Seattle area (I live in Snohomish) I would be so grateful for a recommendation. Thanks in advance for your help!
  21. Rastallama

    Rastallama New Member

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    @Miss Scribbles do you hear fans and augers running? Do you get a flame or just smoldering embers and for how long? Was your chimney inspected top (roof) to bottom?
  22. Miss Scribbles

    Miss Scribbles New Member

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    Thank you, Rastallama! The blower and the augers are running, and the flu thoroughly cleaned before I bought the house. I spent today working on this stove, pulling it out of the fireplace, unwrapping and cleaning that T-joint. Then retaping. Cleaned the exhaust vent too ( found it!!), retaped that joint too. Pulled the sides off, checked damper on left side. All looked ok.

    However, I never heard or felt the exhaust fan start up.

    I went ahead and put the stove back in the fireplace and tried to start it again--no luck. Still not burning very long or very bright, and then it starts to smoke and that fills the chamber.

    Although I usually am very persistent, I am going to just replace this darned thing with a wood fireplace insert. I want something that can heat my house in case of a power outage, and this is just not fitting that need. That combined with the frustration with trying to fix this thing have me yearning for something that burns wood. However, many thanks for your help--I really appreciate it.
    Rastallama likes this.
  23. Thundergeek

    Thundergeek New Member

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    Loc:
    Canada
    Hello Everyone,

    First - thanks to everyone and especially the experts here for your time and insight. I know you could be doing other things; the time you spend here is generous and appreciated.

    This is my first post here so bear with me if I'm breaking any rules etc by posting images. This site has been very helpful to me on the cold, sooty days I've spent trying to figure out why, despite cleaning my old Jamestown J1000, it refused to burn cleanly or sometimes at all. I am but a user of a pellet stove and by no means an expert. I am, however, persistent and a good researcher that relies on communities like this so it's high time I pay it forward.


    The Situation
    Stove would cover the glass with black soot, had a lazy orange flame and would fill the pot with ash, pile up pellets and sometimes clinkers (am I using that word correctly?) would clog the burn pot.

    Stove Setup
    We have an old J1000 with a 1.5" copper pipe running out of the back that draws in outside air. The stove pipe comes off the back of the stove then goes 90 degrees up for about 4 feet, then 90 degrees out of our existing chimney through a stainless steel liner to the top. The chimney is capped with a rain cap with open sides.

    Things I tried
    1) Vacuuming stuff. I was sure I got it all.
    2) Typing the very same words in Google a million times hoping I'd find the 'silver bullet' for 'pellet stove lazy flame'
    3) Wondering if maybe it would just fix itself if I just kept feeding the stove pellets and pretending this was normal.
    4) Crying on the inside
    5) Cleaning out all of the piping starting from clean out cup on pipe behind stove, then the clean out cup on the liner in chimney through access panel outside.
    6) Bought a chimney cleaning brush (4" job from hardware store and some extensions), got up on the roof and cleaned out the chimney all the way down (wear a dust mask). After I did this I had to clean out the cup at the bottom of the chimney again! If I were to do it again I'd start at the top and clean my way down to the stove - makes more sense :)


    What worked
    *Note* I was comfortable that the stove had air coming in because it had a straight pipe to the outside and it seemed to be clear.

    1) I sat down and told myself that the stove breathes much like we do - it needs air coming in and (just as importantly) somewhere to blow out the air (and smoke) it's used. If you have air in and nowhere to breath out it's like sticking your head under the blankets - you can sort of breath but not very well and eventually you'll be in trouble.

    2) I cleaned out as best I could behind every baffle I knew of and tapped on the side of the burn area using a hammer (lightly) as suggested in my owners manual.

    3) Tried lighting the stove again - still weak flames. Turned off, let it cool down.

    4) I read my manual (found a pdf on the manufacturers website) to see if I could find the path the stove uses to get smoke from the burn pot to the chimney. I found this image in my manual:
    Screenshot from 2013-12-03 09:49:29.png

    It looks like (same on both sides but I'll focus on left side for now):
    i) Smoke flows up past the heat tubes
    ii) Takes a left then goes down through the opening into the big chamber
    iii) Goes back up through the small opening (now it is travelling down along the farthest outside edge)
    iv) Goes down the outside edge to the bottom of the stove
    v) Follows the bottom of the stove to the back where the exhaust fan blows it out the back and up the chimney.


    Knowing this path was *critical* to me figuring out why smoke wasn't getting out and 'dutch ovening' my stove (a little humour for the troopers who have read this far)


    5) I bought one of these (It is for finding drafts in your house). It was around $6 at the hardware store and makes a nice stream of white smoke that you can use to find drafts.
    Screenshot from 2013-12-03 09:56:57.png

    6) I held the draft detector in the burn chamber with the exhaust fan on (just turn stove on but no pellet feed, door open) and watched the smoke. The smoke was coming back out the front of the stove - not good.

    7) I held the draft detector near the heat pipes a the top - the smoke was not being drawn up (not good). I held the DD near the side ports and the one on the left drew the smoke in, the one on the right did not.

    8) This told me that I probably had a blockage on the right at the top and the right inside the baffles on the side as well as a blockage on the top left but not a complete blockage on the left side.

    9) I took the 4 access panels off the sides of the stove (left and right) and used a piece of electrical wire (could use a coat hanger or a bottle brush if you have those) and poked around up near the heat tubes first. They were clean on the bottom but above them was a lot of ash - poking through the tubes with my wire contraption sent a lot of ash down into main area. Now we're on to something.

    10) I then (this is the critical part) poked the wire up and down to the very top and bottom on both sides in the side compartments and found that the very narrow openings on the right at the top were blocked completely with ash and the wire was able to make it loosen and fall down. Also the very top left had ash in the openings too but only one of the two. Finally, both bottom left and right corners were plugged with ash so I used the wire to loosen all of that too.

    11) I vacuumed all the ash I had loosened out of the sides and ran the smoke test again. This time smoke was drawn up through the heat pipes when I held it there, out through the left port when I held the DD there and out through the right side when I held the DD there. Awesome.


    Finally I started the stove back up and it's been roaring with a sweet, vertical flame for over a day now. Also, amazingly, there isn't a scrap of black on the glass and that has never happened since I bought the stove (second hand).


    Anyway, sorry for this post being so long but I know how it feels when you can't get the stove to work and you depend on it. Best of luck to everyone experiencing this issue and please try my draft detector idea - it really saved my butt!


    Summary:
    A) Learn how your stove gets smoke out of the burn pot
    B) Use draft detector to find where smoke isn't going but should


    Here's a picture of the flame now (stove needs a wipe down and a paint job but gets the job done) - you can actually see the wire I used to clean the stove out with on the left side at the back :)

    stove.jpg


    -Tom
    LindaM05 and Madcodger like this.
  24. Rastallama

    Rastallama New Member

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    Boston...ish...
    Nice job! You must be stoked to have a nice flame now... And heat too!!!==c
  25. Thundergeek

    Thundergeek New Member

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    Loc:
    Canada
    For sure. It's a weight off my shoulders knowing the family will be warm again! I was actually to the point of looking for new pellet stoves and this was my last, concerted effort. I'd say barring any mechanical failures we'll keep this one till it quits!
    Rastallama likes this.

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