Harman Accentra Insert filling with smoke

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Jan 22, 2021
11
Baltimore, MD
Hi all,

The short version: the inside of my stove is filled with smoke. It failed to light, and apparently failed to exhaust any smoke. I have five blinks on the control board, indicating that it tried to light, but timed out. Combustion blower? The light on the control panel indicates that it is sending power to the combustion blower, and I swear I hear the blower. But smoke is not evacuating from the stove (unless you consider the tendrils of smoke coming out where there should be heated air!). Stove was manufactured April 2006. Thoughts?

Longer version: I can't tell you how much I appreciate this community, and all that I've learned over the years. I bought this house four years ago. It came with the stove, which was clearly neglected by the previous owner. I read on this forum how to perform basic maintenance on the stove. Every time the stove fails (which is frequent), I go to the forum, and find some other part that I didn't know about that I have to clean. So far this winter, the stove was performing pretty well. I would run it for about 5 days (five bags of pellets). Shut it down, pull it out, and clean everything. This includes (from the front) the burn pot, under the burn pot where the igniter is, the two cavities on the left and right toward the bottom of the heat exchangers (right side is for exhaust, not sure what left side is, but that is typically dirtier), the heat exchanger and the whole interior, really. Around back, I open the little box under where the pellets are fed from the hopper to the auger (sorry I don't have all the terminology yet), the housing around the combustion blower, and then use my chimney brush with long extensions to get the whole flue. I feel like I do a thorough job, as it takes me about an hour, but I have thought that before only to discover I was missing something else.

I'll be honest...I hate this stove. For the amount of work that goes into it, and the heat I get out...it doesn't seem to be worth it. And it is just so unreliable. It fails at least four times a season, causing me to spend time researching what's wrong, and troubleshoot, or order parts. I also only go through 50 bags per year. For how much I use it, it seems more trouble than it is worth. I suspect much of this could be due to my inexperience / ignorance of pellet stoves. But I would consider myself of reasonable intelligence and mechanical aptitude. I read through the forum and hear stories of folks heating an entire house with their stove! I'm so jealous! I can heat one room with it...when it is running, and everything has to be just so. I'm tempted to rip it out and put in a wood stove. Less moving parts!

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading my rant. Clearly I'm desperate. I would love to know what you all think. Thanks for taking the time. Regards,
Michael
 

gfreek

Minister of Fire
Nov 5, 2010
1,421
Attica,,New York
Make and model..? Should be able to hear the combustion blower.. Combustion blower ever been cleaned, its impeller/fan..? Can you spin it to check if its free..?? Welcome
 
Last edited:
Jan 22, 2021
11
Baltimore, MD
Make and model..? Should be able to hear the combustion blower.. Combustion blower ever been cleaned, its impeller/fan..? Can you spin it to check if its free..?? Welcome
Thanks for the response. It is a Harman Accentra Insert. Sorry, I realized that I had that in my member name, but never included it in the post! Anyway, I just pulled it out and confirmed that the impeller spins freely. I had also just cleaned that area (using the round wire brush that came with the unit and a shop vac). When I turn the unit on, I definitely hear a fan. But maybe I'll just connect 120VAC directly to the blower to be sure it is working. If it is, then I suppose it could be the board? I should also say that it blew the 6A fuse the other day. First time that has ever happened. I replaced it with a 5A fuse (because that is what I had), and it hasn't blown that fuse.
 

gfreek

Minister of Fire
Nov 5, 2010
1,421
Attica,,New York
Be sure it's plugged into a surge suppressor.. Do you have the owners manual ? The board have a test mode where everything cycles through ? Troubleshoot the simple things first before going directly to the expense of a new board..
 

rickwai

Minister of Fire
Nov 1, 2011
1,187
ohio
Check the flapper on the air intake sometimes they can stick. It sounds like that is your issue if vac switch is making and sending pellets and firing igniter.
 

rickwai

Minister of Fire
Nov 1, 2011
1,187
ohio
Also do you have outside air hooked up? If so check that out to be sure it is not clogged or froze up.
 
Jan 22, 2021
11
Baltimore, MD
Thanks for all the responses. I do not have the manual, but can probably find it online. Will do that. As for test mode, yes, I've done that, and all of the parts run (auger, distribution fan, combustion fan), but the smoke stays in the stove...doesn't seem to evacuate. I like this idea of the flapper on the air intake that rickwai mentions...that will have to be my next step. I don't necessarily know where/what that is, but based on what it is called, I think I can figure it out. It makes sense, because the blower is spinning, but the smoke isn't escaping, so there must be something blocking / preventing it from escaping. Thanks so much! Will respond later today whether that does it.
 
Jan 22, 2021
11
Baltimore, MD
I've inspected the air intake flapper, which functions as it should. I do not have an outside air kit...just pulls air in from directly behind the unit. I hooked up the leaf blower to the flue and blew it out, so that is all fine. And as I said, the blower functions. However, as I write this, I decided to fire it up again, and the blower motor sounds a little tired...almost like bearings failing? So now wondering if it is on its way out, and perhaps that is why the fuse blew, and maybe that's why smoke stays in the stove? I should say, I generally light this with a propane torch, and therefore, the door is open. Naturally, smoke accumulates, and it used to just escape due to the blower. Now, when I light, smoke doesn't seem to move much, and escapes into the room. As I write this (and think out loud), signs seem to be pointing toward a blower?
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
When was the last time you oiled the bearings on the blower if you have ever oiled them. Bearings dry out and need to be oiled. Just because it runs on line power, it may have issues at reduced power from the control board if the bearings are dried out and dragging. While I have another model, not yours, my SOP is, every spring, all the drive motors come out and I take them apart and oil all the bearings. Almost 20 years on this unit and I've never replaced one driven component.
 
Jan 22, 2021
11
Baltimore, MD
That sounds like pretty prudent advice. I have not, in the four years I've been here, oiled any of the bearings, and given the condition of the unit when we moved in, I suspect the previous owner did nothing, either. Thanks for the suggestion. In the 15 minutes between this and my last reply, the fire has gone out. Pellets in the burn pot, somewhat smoldering, but no flame. Once it cools down, I'll pull the unit back out again, and oil the bearings...
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Why I'd never own an insert unit. Accessing it for even routine maintenance is always a pain. in the butt. Free standing units are much easier to work on and they all need at least annual maintenance, lubricating the drive motors and an insert compounds that maintenance chore.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Not really. Only the front 1/3rd gets hot. The rest might (I say might) get warm from residual heat bot not more than warm to the touch.
 

gfreek

Minister of Fire
Nov 5, 2010
1,421
Attica,,New York
If that is the original motor from 2006, depending on use I'd say it is due for bearings,lube, or replacement. There is some radiant heat, but not like a wood burning stove...
 
Jan 22, 2021
11
Baltimore, MD
One of the first things gfreek suggested was chimney blockage. So before pulling combustion blower, I got the ladder out and removed the flue cap. It was, admittedly, pretty crudded up. I normally clean the flue from inside the house, using my flue brush and the shop vac. I do that every five days (200 lbs of pellets), so figured it couldn't be that bad. So I just removed the flue cap, and cleaned up top, thinking maybe my flue brush doesn't get up that high. The stove has been running for a half hour now. Flame is really short right now, which is atypical, relative to how it normally looks. We'll see if it will run for a few hours. If not, I suppose I will look into servicing or replacing the combustion blower?
 

rickwai

Minister of Fire
Nov 1, 2011
1,187
ohio
You should not be pulling your unit and brushing the flue every 5 bags :eek: . Typically we do that once per year! Also at the age of your stove I would bite the bullet and get a new motor and fan blade. If the fan blade has not been off before there is a slim chance you will be able to loosen the set screw. And even if you can they can be siezed on the shaft. Then you end up damaging the shaft in the process and need a new motor anyway. I would start with a new motor and fan blade and service the bearings yearly instead of trying to resurect one that is already damaged. Doing it that way you just use a hacksaw and cut the shaft off to remove the motor from the plate. Also, when I have a fuse blow call on a Harman it is 95% the comb motor. Something electrically inside it shorts. So if you have had a fuse blow and bearings are bad and blade is stuck save some aggravation and replace it. They are not that much. And dont buy the chinese knock off motors.
 
Jan 22, 2021
11
Baltimore, MD
This is all really helpful information. Thank you. So presumably, the motor found here for $55 is the Chinese motor? https://pellethead.com/product/pellethead-replacement-harman-heatilator-combustion-blower-exhaust-draft-fan-motor/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAmL-ABhDFARIsAKywVaejhPPgQS-bxJK7N0sY-y1ofEOdblMcBuLP97S2nVbz42F6lE8jWkIaAhyPEALw_wcB

This one claims to be genuine OEM Harman for $90. Is that what you would recommend?

The stove stayed on overnight. So perhaps it really was just a clogged flue. When I moved in four years ago, we had all flues cleaned by "a professional". I would not expect that after just four years (3.5 tons of pellets) the flue would be that clogged? I suspect some folks out there run that many pellets each winter. Perhaps that, in combination with a weak combustion blower, is what did it in?

I'll order the blower and paddle when I hear back from you to confirm I have one manufactured domestically. Again, many thanks.
 

m159267

Burning Hunk
Mar 12, 2009
208
East-Central MO
Temperature inversion in chimney? This occurred several times with my P38. It would fill with smoke then suddenly 'pop' and the smoke quickly dissipated. Has not occurred since I began using a blow torch to light the pellets.
 

gfreek

Minister of Fire
Nov 5, 2010
1,421
Attica,,New York
This is all really helpful information. Thank you. So presumably, the motor found here for $55 is the Chinese motor? https://pellethead.com/product/pellethead-replacement-harman-heatilator-combustion-blower-exhaust-draft-fan-motor/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAmL-ABhDFARIsAKywVaejhPPgQS-bxJK7N0sY-y1ofEOdblMcBuLP97S2nVbz42F6lE8jWkIaAhyPEALw_wcB

This one claims to be genuine OEM Harman for $90. Is that what you would recommend?
https://pellethead.com/product/harman-heatilator-ecochoice-combustion-blower-exhaust-draft-fan-motor-oem/
The stove stayed on overnight. So perhaps it really was just a clogged flue. When I moved in four years ago, we had all flues cleaned by "a professional". I would not expect that after just four years (3.5 tons of pellets) the flue would be that clogged? I suspect some folks out there run that many pellets each winter. Perhaps that, in combination with a weak combustion blower, is what did it in?

I'll order the blower and paddle when I hear back from you to confirm I have one manufactured domestically. Again, many thanks.
I installed the cheaper pellethead one, it works OK, the amperage rating is .95amp vs.1.5amp on original, it does have a slight whine to it, cut and splice wires, but otherwise it works. Next time I'd get the OEM one.. Yes also order a paddle, OEM...IMO
 

Ssyko

Minister of Fire
Nov 6, 2017
4,203
Lorraine NY
The amperage is pretty important. In one aspect lower amperage is easyer on the board as current draw is less but in the same instance it doesn’t have as much power as the 1.5 which wont weaken as much when the stove gets a lil dirty.
 

gfreek

Minister of Fire
Nov 5, 2010
1,421
Attica,,New York
The amperage is pretty important. In one aspect lower amperage is easyer on the board as current draw is less but in the same instance it doesn’t have as much power as the 1.5 which wont weaken as much when the stove gets a lil dirty.
Yea I kind of figured it was a weaker motor. It takes a little longer to get up to speed.. So the original was 1.5, 2nd was 1.75 both Gleason Avery, now is unbranded Pellethead import .95 amp..