About to give up! Ash(?) Problems

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ktenn

New Member
Oct 3, 2015
14
Maryland
Hey guys, we need some help problem solving.... Or maybe we just need to be told that this is normal, but either way, we need help!

We have a Harman Accentra freestanding pellet stove. We LOVE it, except for one huge problem. We find an extremely fine layer of ash or some sort of white/gray dust in various rooms in our house throughout the winter. We use the stove as our main source of heat so we burn about a bag a day or to bags depending on how cold it is. The stove is downstairs right under the stairs and we find most of the dust/ash in the upstairs rooms. It seems to get worse and worse as the winter goes on and we burn more. We've had the installer and another chimney guy look at it and they don't see any issues with the stove. We don't have an OAK, and have been told that that shouldn't affect the problem. I don't know.

We have also thought that it could be the ash vac... but we have tried venting it outside or covering the vent when we vacuum and we still get the dust. We do clean the stove more often as we burn more, so maybe that is related.

I also recently read about humidifiers causing dust... this might be possible, but I don't think the humidifiers are causing this amount of dust. It is everywhere... under beds that have bedskirts all around them, on top of shelves and printers. It clings to anything... plastic bags, sunglasses, external hard drives, and leaves dust streaks.

We have a baby so I am nervous about her breathing in all of the dust. We haven't turned it on yet this year, because I am worried about it, but it is cold and I would really love to use the stove. We could pay $350 for a Harman specialist to come, but I am worried that they will just tell us it's not the stove and we will just be out the money.

It is an old house that is fairly drafty. We don't smell smoke, we just find this dust everywhere. Could the house be pulling the ash back in somehow? We don't usually have the house fan running, but we sometimes turn it on.

We have also thought about dust fines, but the color and texture just seem more like ash to me.

Thoughts? Someone? Anyone? Obviously new to this and I know very little about these things. I just want to be able to use it!! We've had it through 3 winters now.
 

ktenn

New Member
Oct 3, 2015
14
Maryland
We also get some dark soot on the inside of the glass and a pretty thick smoke as the pellets ignite. Not sure if that is important.
 

Golfeur

Member
Nov 15, 2014
176
Val-d'Or Québec
seal all pipe joints and tee cap
 

doghouse

Feeling the Heat
Dec 9, 2008
454
maine
I also recently read about humidifiers causing dust... this might be possible, but I don't think the humidifiers are causing this amount of dust. It is everywhere... under beds that have bedskirts all around them, on top of shelves and printers. It clings to anything... plastic bags, sunglasses, external hard drives, and leaves dust streaks.
Yes, they do. If you use an ultrasonic humidifier and no de-ionized water, the amount of fine mineral salts is amazing. Even with a wick humidifier, the amount of salts (dust) is still quite a lot. The fine dust you mention does not sound like ash. The mineral salts have a charge, I forget if its positive or negative, that cling to everything they can. This is why I think your problem is the humidifiers.

A drafty home without an OAK, could, possibly (not much, if any) draw in some of the ash. I'd start with the humidifiers.
 

CleanFire

Burning Hunk
Jan 16, 2015
149
sw NH
Are the pellets dusty? To clean pellets / rule that out as possible cause:

https://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/i-made-my-own-pellet-vac-for-less-than-20-00-video.21107/

Are the humdifiers Ultrasonic? If Yes, and not using filtered / distilled water, those humidifiers will leave a fine coating of dust, due to any minerals in the water..

May want to consider using Warm Mist humidifiers instead, especially with the baby there.

( Edit: see doghouse answered the humidifier question, +1. )

Is the stove installed in the same room as your other mechanicals (Furnace, Propane hot water heater, etc.)?
 

silverfox103

Feeling the Heat
Oct 4, 2011
489
Littleton, NH
Is the vacuum that you use, made for pellet stove use? I had a similar problem a few years ago. It was the "WalMart" vac.

Tom
 

ktenn

New Member
Oct 3, 2015
14
Maryland
Yes, they do. If you use an ultrasonic humidifier and no de-ionized water, the amount of fine mineral salts is amazing. Even with a wick humidifier, the amount of salts (dust) is still quite a lot. The fine dust you mention does not sound like ash. The mineral salts have a charge, I forget if its positive or negative, that cling to everything they can. This is why I think your problem is the humidifiers.

A drafty home without an OAK, could, possibly (not much, if any) draw in some of the ash. I'd start with the humidifiers.
Ok - we will start with this and look into it. Any suggestions for how to test it? Turn them on without the stove and see what happens? We are definitely not using distilled water and I know we have some hard water, but I'm not sure what kind they are. Will check.
 

ktenn

New Member
Oct 3, 2015
14
Maryland
Is the stove installed in the same room as your other mechanicals (Furnace, Propane hot water heater, etc.)?[/QUOTE]

No, it is in a separate room. At the top of the stairs is the intake, but that's all it is really close to as far as mechanics go.

We sometimes get a sort of greasy/slick coating on our floors as well, and I thought that might be more like pellet fines residue. That isn't as big of an issue though.
 

Golfeur

Member
Nov 15, 2014
176
Val-d'Or Québec
ash exits through pipe joints and is sucked by the fan distribution and spreads in the house
 

doghouse

Feeling the Heat
Dec 9, 2008
454
maine
We are definitely not using distilled water and I know we have some hard water, but I'm not sure what kind they are. Will check.
Problem solved. 95% sure you have ultrasonic humidifiers. These type of humidifiers take water and, for simplicity, vibrate the heck out of it. The water turns into a fine vapor and the minerals kinda, kinda cling to the vapor; moving around with the home's air currents.. Depending on the home's airflow, these mineral deposits go everywhere and they have a charge to them; hence sticking to everything. If you want to test, pick a room, clean it good, put the humidifier in it , add the tap water you regularly use, turn it on, close the door and let it run. Add water when needed. Keep the door closed. After one day, you'll see the dust. After 3, you'll know.
 
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CleanFire

Burning Hunk
Jan 16, 2015
149
sw NH
I would do what doghouse says, to rule each possible cause out by process of elimination. But if they are Ultrasonic humidifiers, that's most likely the cause or a major source of the dust - we tried one here many years ago, it lasted 3 days in the house due to dust.. Everywhere. Same water here, hard water, lots of mineral content. Have been using Warm Mist humidifiers for years now here - no issues, except they don't last long (1-2 seasons tops) due to mineral buildup on the heating element.

The Power Smith vac is an excellent ash vac, provided the filter is sound. How old is the filter, and has it been cleaned & inspected for any tears or burn marks?

Golfeur does bring up a good point - when was the last time the stove & venting (exhaust piping) deep cleaned & pipe joints inspected ?
 
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Cory S

Feeling the Heat
Oct 12, 2014
326
NH, USA
Using distilled water in humidifiers is so much better/cleaner, but the cost can add up big time over a season! Between the electricity (less than $1.50/month) and $.75-1.00/gallon for the distilled water, it can add up to about $200-300.00 a heating season.....
 

bcarton

Feeling the Heat
Oct 15, 2014
313
Pelham, NH
We used to get white dust everywhere with ultrasonic humidifiers. We now have one large evaporative humidifier, and I do add the antibacterial conditioner to it. No problems at all, very affordable.
 
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jackman

Minister of Fire
Jan 15, 2013
533
Oregon
I'll add another thought to this discussion. I had cellulose (treated recycled paper) insulation blown in to the attic of the house I previously owned. After that the house always had a layer of fine dust everywhere. I think the forced air HVAC system would draw the dust from the attic and spread it throughout the house.

I had a good laugh the first time I did a deep clean on the current pellet stove. I used a crappy old shop vac that, I thought, had a good filter. NOT! After about a half hour I looked up and there was a cloud of dust about a foot deep at the ceiling. I bought a good vac after that lesson learned, LOL!
 

CapeMayDan

Member
Mar 21, 2015
31
Cape May County
This is the ash vac we use.
We had the same problem with the same Vac. The filter had bad stitching. The stitching is not good .
We replaced the filter and hang the exhaust hose out a window. It cleared up immediately.

Dan
 
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alternativeheat

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2013
3,797
Cape Cod, Ma.
Be careful how you dump the pellets into the stove and also if you pour in from the bag, then how you close the bags up. I thought ash, it was dust and I caught myself creating it. It's especially bad to roll up an empty pellet back, the pellet dust woofs right out and then the convection fan spreads it all over the house. I just do it all more cautiously now. It's tan dust right ? Ash is generally gray.
 

Snowy Rivers

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
1,810
NW Oregon
A lot of the dust is regular house dust that after going through the heat tubes (Very hot) tends to pulverize it, and may actually burn it.

We have 3 stoves and just deal with it.

You can periodically run your air handler (Furnace fan) to clean the air.

Or set up one of those electrostatic air filter units.

Appliances that burn stuff create dust.
 
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David M

Member
Oct 13, 2015
31
Sand Lake NY
The glass does get sooty between cleanings, and the pellets do get smokey when first igniting.
 

Randy Acton

Member
Oct 21, 2014
59
MI
What was your main source of heat prior to the pellet stove? My wife and I have noticed that our house seems to collect dust more when burning wood. I blame it on the fact that the forced air system keeps air moving and the natural dust in the house just doesn't style the same.

Just a thought
 

ktenn

New Member
Oct 3, 2015
14
Maryland
Problem solved. 95% sure you have ultrasonic humidifiers. These type of humidifiers take water and, for simplicity, vibrate the heck out of it. The water turns into a fine vapor and the minerals kinda, kinda cling to the vapor; moving around with the home's air currents.. Depending on the home's airflow, these mineral deposits go everywhere and they have a charge to them; hence sticking to everything. If you want to test, pick a room, clean it good, put the humidifier in it , add the tap water you regularly use, turn it on, close the door and let it run. Add water when needed. Keep the door closed. After one day, you'll see the dust. After 3, you'll know.
We have been running the humidifier in the one room to test, but we had to turn it off because it was getting too wet in there. It's a small room! There was a big dust/humid cloud but then after it all settled, there was no dust anywhere in the room that I could see. What's the deal? I so want that to be the issue!! We turned it back on to check if it starts up. One thing - with the door closed, and just the heating unit on, the dust/fog is getting out and we are seeing it in our bedroom and in the baby's room! That must be at least part of the issue, right? But why no dust around the room?
 

ktenn

New Member
Oct 3, 2015
14
Maryland
I would do what doghouse says, to rule each possible cause out by process of elimination. But if they are Ultrasonic humidifiers, that's most likely the cause or a major source of the dust - we tried one here many years ago, it lasted 3 days in the house due to dust.. Everywhere. Same water here, hard water, lots of mineral content. Have been using Warm Mist humidifiers for years now here - no issues, except they don't last long (1-2 seasons tops) due to mineral buildup on the heating element.

The Power Smith vac is an excellent ash vac, provided the filter is sound. How old is the filter, and has it been cleaned & inspected for any tears or burn marks?

Golfeur does bring up a good point - when was the last time the stove & venting (exhaust piping) deep cleaned & pipe joints inspected ?
Ok. thanks for the feedback!!

We had the stove and venting cleaned well once in the middle of last season and once at the end. That didn't really change the dust. Like someone else said, we might look at replacing the filter on the Ash Vac because I feel like I can smell ash when we run that thing. But we did get a hose to vent it out the window.

How do you seal the venting? They take it all apart when they clean it.
 

ktenn

New Member
Oct 3, 2015
14
Maryland
Be careful how you dump the pellets into the stove and also if you pour in from the bag, then how you close the bags up. I thought ash, it was dust and I caught myself creating it. It's especially bad to roll up an empty pellet back, the pellet dust woofs right out and then the convection fan spreads it all over the house. I just do it all more cautiously now. It's tan dust right ? Ash is generally gray.
The dust is gray/white. We've thought about the fines, but we are pretty careful with that. We definitely have some issue with that, but I don't think it's the main problem.
 
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