Owning, or even sometimes renting, a home in North Idaho requires general seasonal maintenance to keep your stove or fireplace in working order. It’s really all about being prepared. Per Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Maintaining your home’s heating system(s) wards off emergency situations and costly repairs while extending the life of the product. Take the time and money to perform general maintenance on a regular basis. Many of the maintenance services require the knowledge, skills, and tools of a professional. During a maintenance or service call, our technicians will make any necessary repairs and/or alert you of a possible situation. Call the Stove Corral and let us assist you in maintaining any of the following hearth products or to answer any questions you may have:
WOOD STOVE MAINTENANCE
For wood burning stoves, an annual service tune-up and cleaning is recommended, usually performed in the fall. The purpose is to keep your system running at top efficiency throughout the season, i.e., to keep you having heat when you need it the most. Things to inspect include…
Loading Door Gasket
Inspect the door gasket for physical deterioration, missing sections or obvious leakage. The stove door should make a groove in the gasket material – one side of the groove (toward the inside) will often be dark or black, and the other side (toward the outside) should be light. Dark smudges on the outside of the groove may indicate an air leak. If the groove is very shallow or missing, or if there is a heavy ash or creosote deposit along the bottom edge of the gasket it may need to be replaced. Frayed or broken gasket material, or a gasket that is hard and unyielding, will also indicate replacement. Any time a piece of gasket is missing or is broken anywhere, the entire gasket must be replaced. To check the gasket further, when the stove is cooled, insert a piece of paper (a dollar bill will work) into the door opening and close and latch the door. Obvious resistance should be felt when pulling the paper out. Repeat this check several times around the perimeter of the door. For door gasket replacement, bring your door to the Stove Corral, we are happy to help you replace it.
Glass Door Gasket
When the stove is cold, hold the glass in place by placing the palm of each hand on either side of the glass. Press firmly and try to move the glass. If the glass moves the door glass retainers may need to be tightened or the door glass gasket may need to be replaced. If the gasket is frayed or missing sections replace the gasket. For glass gasket replacement, bring your door to the Stove Corral, we are happy to help you replace it.
Glass Door Cleaning
The best way to keep the glass clean is to leave the stove on high burn for a period of time after each reloading. The moisture which is driven from a new load of wood contributes much of the creosote on the inside of the glass. Removing that moisture at the beginning of the burn cycle helps to keep the glass clean. Heavier deposits may require hand cleaning. Never use abrasive cleaners to clean the glass. At the Stove Corral, we offer our recommended glass cleaning products.
Loading Door Tension Adjustment
Follow your owners operation manual for specific tools needed to tighten or loosen the latch and retainer nut. Repeat the paper test to make sure all is secure.
The amount of draft in your chimney depends on the length of the chimney, local geography, nearby obstructions, and other factors. Too much draft may cause excessive temperatures and conversely an inadequate draft may cause puffing of smoke into the room and “plugging” of the chimney or catalyst. If you suspect you have a draft problem, determine the draft by using a water manometer (or digital draft gauge), fill any holes after the measurement is complete, or call a certified Chimney Sweep.
Optional Fan Assembly
Routine maintenance of your optional fan assembly is not required, however, should it become necessary to replace an individual fan or rheostat, contact your authorized dealer, the Stove Corral at 208-263-2541.
Thermometer (Blaze King Models)
The combustor thermometer tells you what was happening 4-8 minutes ago, and remember, it is only and indication of the temperatures of the gasses after they pass through the combustor. (click here for catalytic combustor maintenance). The thermometer probe, the part that fits into the stove, must be cleaned at least once a year. If after several years you find, when at room temperature, the needle no longer points to the bottom of the “Inactive” zone, it may need adjustment or replacement.
Fire Extinguishers and Smoke Detectors
All homes with solid fuel burning appliances should have at least one fire extinguisher in a central location, known to all, and at least one smoke detector in each room with a heating appliance and each room used for sleeping. Don’t forget to make sure your family has an agreed upon meeting place outside should there be an emergency in your home and everyone needs to get out of the house. Be prepared, we care about your safety!
CATALYTIC COMBUSTOR MAINTENANCE
It is important to periodically monitor the operation of the catalytic combustor to ensure that it is functioning properly. A non-functioning combustor will result in a loss of heating efficiency, and an increase in creosote and emissions. Following is a list of items that should be checked on a regular basis:
Combustors should be visually inspected at least three times during the heating season to determine if physical degradation has occurred. Actual removal of the combustor is not recommended unless more detailed inspection is warranted because of decreased performance. Refer to Catalytic Combustor Troubleshooting.
A hot fire will usually prove to be the best method of cleaning the combustion of deposits. However, under certain conditions, ash particles may become attached to the face of the combustor. These may be seen while the combustor is in the glowing stage or when the fire is out. Any deposit on the visible face of the combustor should be removed when the stove is cold. Brushing the combustor with a soft bristle paint brush will remove some deposits. Passing a vacuum cleaner wand or brush near the face of the combustor will remove most deposits. Hot ash in a vacuum cleaner bag will burn, may melt the vacuum or cause a house fire. Exercise caution and never clean the stove when it or the ashes are hot. Never scrape the combustor with any hard tool or brush. Never run pipe cleaner through the individual cells of the combustor. This is not needed and may do more harm than good. Limit cleaning to the face of the combustor. NOTE: Never remove a combustor without approved gasket in hand as original gasket will fall apart when removed from the stove.
If your wood stove has a manual bypass, you can get an indication of whether the catalyst is working by comparing the amount of smoke leaving the chimney when the smoke is going through the combustor to the amount of smoke leaving the chimney when smoke is not routed through the combustor. Significantly more smoke will be seen when the exhaust in not routed through the combustor (bypass mode). Allow 20 to 30 minutes for the fire to stabilize before making your observations.
PELLET STOVE MAINTENANCE
Removing Fly Ash
Most pellet stoves come with maintenance tools (a bottle brush, brush, and cleaning tool) for effective fly-ash removal. However, to ease maintenance, some pellet stove owners have purchased vacuums specifically made to remove fly-ash. Some of these vacuums are heat-resistant to allow for fly-ash removal while it is still warm. NEVER USE A STANDARD VACUUM ON YOUR PELLET STOVE (except to clean the pellet dust out of the hopper). Standard vacuums may spread the fine particles inside the fly-ash into your home and are not heat-resistant (hot fly-ash may cause the internal portion of the vacuum to ignite and therefor could also cause a house fire). Ask us at the Stove Corral for our recommended ash vacuums.
Disposal of Ashes
Ashes should be placed in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. The closed container of ashes should be placed on a noncombustible floor surface (like ceramic tile, stone or concrete) and well away from all combustible materials pending final disposal. If the ashes are finally disposed of by burial in soil or otherwise locally dispersed, they should be retained in the closed container until all cinders have been thoroughly cooled.
WEEKLY MAINTENANCE (or Approximately Every 5 Bags of Pellets)
Inspect Burn – Once a week you should inspect the flame quality inside your pellet stove. When burning on high, the flames should be bright orange. If the flames seem to be coming only from the sides, or are orange/black, turn the heater off and check for clinkers (ashes that solidify into a clump). The most likely causes of clinkers are:
– Restrictor needs adjustment
– Poor pellet quality
– The door or glass has an air leak
– The exhaust system requires cleaning
Clean The Burn Platform – Once a week you should clean and inspect the burn platform by following the steps outline in your owners operation manual.
Clean The Heat Exchanger – Once a week you should clean and inspect the heat exchanger by following the steps outline in your owners operation manual.
Monthly Maintenance (or Approximately Every 20 Bags of Pellets)
Empty The Ash Pan – The ash-pan must be in place while the stove is in use so make sure your stove has fully cooled (approximately 45 minutes) before you conduct this maintenance. The ash-pan will accumulate ash with each use. Follow the steps in your owners operation manual on how to empty your ash-pan.
Clean The Glass – Open the doors and clean the glass with a non-abrasive glass cleaner and clean rag. Do not allow glass cleaner or other liquid to soak into the gasket – this could compromise the gasket cement. At the Stove Corral we have glass cleaners and gasket cement available that are made specifically for gas, wood, and pellet stoves. Also at the time of cleaning the glass inspect it for damage. If the glass is damaged, be sure to replace it.
Inspect The Door – The door must form an air-tight seal to the firebox for the stove to work correctly. Inspect the door gasket to make sure it forms an air-tight seal to the firebox. Severely frayed or thread-bare gasket should be replaced using a high temp silicone, both gasket and silicone cements are available at the Stove Corral. Lastly, a high-temperature anti-seize may be used on the door hinges to eliminate squeaks.
Clean Firebox Liners – The firebox liners help trap fly-ash before it enters the exhaust blower. Remove the liners and clean the area behind them following your owners operation manual.
YEARLY MAINTENANCE (or Approximately Every Ton of Pellets)
When it comes to annual maintenance of your pellet stove, many of the services require the knowledge, skills, and tools of a professional. In addition to cleaning and inspecting your pellet stove our service technicians will conduct the following procedures:
Check For Air Leaks – Check for air leaks around the door, glass, and ash-pan. Air leaks into the firebox will decrease the stove’s performance greatly, leading to excessive sooting, inefficient burning, and perhaps malfunction.
Inspect the door gasket to make sure it is fully attached. If the door gasket is worn or flattened, replace it.
If the glass is cracked, replace it. The glass is typically held in place with clips.
Open the ash-pan access door and inspect the gasket around the door. Re-attach the gasket if necessary.
Clean Lower Exhaust Duct – Remove the exhaust duct cover, clean the exhaust channel with a bottle brush or vacuum. Taking care not vacuum the pressure switch nipple. If the exhaust blower gasket material is deteriorated or damaged replace it when reinstalling the cover plate.
Clean Convection Blower – Your stove may have one or two convection blowers, we will remove all panels, clean the blower, and inspect and balance the combustion blower impellers. If an impeller becomes unbalanced it will cause the blower to be noisy during use.
Clean Negative Pressure Tube – The negative pressure tube connects the negative pressure switch to the exhaust plenum. We will disconnect the tube, blow compressed air through it, and reinstall the tube onto the switch. Also, once the pressure switch nipple is located it will be cleared of any debris and return the stove to its proper configuration.
Clean The Vent – Make sure the cap is free of debris, check the screen for blockage, check the vent sections for creosote accumulation and remove anything over 1/4”. Whenever any portion of the pellet vent is disconnected, the joints must be re-sealed with high temperature sealant
Adjust Door Latch and Hinges – The door latch should pull the door against the face of the stove (but not so tight as to not allow full handle rotation). If the latch requires adjustment, follow your owners operation manual. A high-temperature anti-seize may be used on the door hinges to eliminate squeaks.
Chisel Inspection – The chisel is used to separate pellets as they drop from the hopper into the feed mechanism. The most common symptom of a worn chisel is a recurring “knock” every few minutes while the heater is running.
WOOD FIREPLACE MAINTENANCE
Hints for Burning
• Get the appliance hot before adjusting to low burn
• Use smaller pieces of wood during start-up and high burns to increase temperature
• Use larger pieces of wood for overnight or sustained burns
• Stack the wood tightly together to establish a longer burn
• Be considerate of neighbors & the environment: burn dry wood only
• Burn small, intense fires instead of large, slow burning fires when possible
• Learn your appliance’s operating characteristics to obtain optimum performance
Whenever ashes get 3 to 4 inches deep in your firebox or ash pan, and when the fire has burned down and cooled, remove excess ashes. Leave an ash bed approximately 1 inch deep on the firebox bottom to help maintain a hot charcoal bed. Let the stove cool completely before removing ashes (wait at least two hours after the last coal has extinguished). Ashes should be placed in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. The closed container of ashes should be placed on a noncombustible floor or on the ground, away from all combustible materials, pending final disposal. The ashes should be retained in the closed container until all cinders have thoroughly cooled.
Improperly disposed ashes lead to fires. Hot ashes placed in cardboard boxes, dumped in back yards, or stored in garages, are recipes for disaster. Wood-burning stoves are inherently dirty. During cleaning have a vacuum ready to catch spilled ash (make sure ash is entirely extinguished). There are vacuum cleaners specifically made to remove ash (even if the ash is warm). Contact the Stove Corral for details – (208) 263-1541.
Dry Wood is Key! Dry wood burns hot, emits less smoke and creates less creosote.
Testing Wood Moisture
Wood cut, split and stored in a dry area will be fully dry within a year. This insures dry wood. If purchasing wood for immediate use, test the wood with a moisture meter. Some experienced wood burners can measure wood moisture by knocking pieces together and listening for a clear “knock” and not a “thud”. We have moisture meters available for sale at the Stove Corral.
Why Dry Wood is Important
Wet wood, when burned, must release water stored within the wood. This cools the fire, creates creosote, and hampers a complete burn. Ask any experienced wood burner and he or she will agree: dry wood is crucial to good performance.
Twice Yearly Fireplace Maintenance
- Check Firebrick And Baffle Make sure the firebricks are in tact. The baffle should be intact – some warping and flaking is not uncommon. It rests on three tabs at the rear of the firebox and should be pushed all the way back. NOTE: the bend should go upwards.
- Clean Combustor (if you have one): With the fireplace completely cool (at least two hours after the last coal has extinguished), use a vacuum cleaner to draw all ash from the catalytic combustor (see the illustration below). The catalytic combustor is located above the firebox. It can be seen by looking from below with the doors open. Brushing the combustor with a soft bristle paint brush will remove some deposits. Passing a vacuum cleaner wand or brush near the face of the combustor will remove most deposits. Never scrape the combustor with any hard tool or brush. Never run pipe cleaner through the individual cells of the combustor. This is not needed and may do more harm than good.
- Clean Blower Filter (if you have one): The remote blower has a removable cover to allow for cleaning of the filter. This filter can be removed and washed to clean dust and debris. See the directions in your owners operation manual on how to remove the filter.
- Check Door Seal The door latch and door gasket work in conjunction to seal the firebox. If the doors do not seal, air will leak into the firebox and cause the fire to burn too fast. This reduces the ability to burn the fireplace overnight or precisely adjust the burn rate. Follow the directions below to check the door gasket.
- Check the door gasket It should adhere to the door and be intact (if you have double doors, check both doors). The gasket follows the perimeter of the door along the outside edge (the inside edge does not have gasket).
- Use only wood stove gasket cement to re-adhere loose gasket. Please note, severely frayed or thread-bare gasket should be replaced. The Stove Corral has all the products you need to maintain your fireplace.
- Glass Inspection If the glass is cracked or broken, it must be replaced. The glass & gasket should seal against the door. See your owners operation manual for glass removal instructions. When re-installing the glass, gently press the rope gasket in place (use a putty knife). The best way to keep the glass clean is to leave the fireplace on a high burn for a period of time after each reloading. The moisture which is driven from a new load of wood contributes much of the creosote on the inside of the glass. Removing that moisture at the beginning of the burn cycle helps to keep the glass clean. Heavier deposits may require hand cleaning. Never use abrasive cleaners to clean the glass. At the Stove Corral, we offer our recommended glass cleaning products.
GAS STOVE & GAS FIREPLACE MAINTENANCE
For gas fireplaces, an annual inspection and service is recommended, usually performed in the fall. Dust, dirt, and insects can clog your orifices and burner ports, affecting your unit’s ability to burn. Also, parts wear out allowing dangerous carbon monoxide to leak into your home. Having your fireplace inspected and cleaned on an annual basis will ensure years of beautiful and warm fires when you want them.
During the inspection and service, our professional technicians will check and clean the inside combustion chamber, pilot, burners, logs, safety switches, glass doors or lens, wiring, and gas valve. On a monthly basis, you could inspect and service your fireplace by cleaning the glass doors and checking their bolts for door stability, check the glass-door or exterior gasket for cracks or missing pieces, and check the outside vent for debris/dirt and for tears or damage to the vent kit.
Before the cool, crisp days of autumn make for cozy evenings in front of the fireplace or stove irresistible, take time to make sure your home’s chimney or flue is as safe as it is inviting. Annual inspections keep flames burning right. Not typically a DIY project, we recommend you hire a Certified Chimney Sweep to tackle this dirty job.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD A CHIMNEY BE INSPECTED?
Every year. And, for new wood-burning installations such as fireplaces or wood-burning stoves it is a good idea to have the chimney checked midway through the first heating season to confirm everything is working properly.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD A CHIMNEY BE CLEANED?
Cleaning should be done as necessary – normally when there’s a minimum 1/8” of deposit in the chimney. An annual inspection will determine if any sweeping or repairs are needed. In some cases, it is necessary to sweep more than once a year, especially if the operator, the fuel, or the venting system are not properly matched.
HOW TO AVOID A CHIMNEY FIRE?
Creosote (combustible, tar-like droplets) is a natural byproduct of burning wood. The more wood you burn, the wetter or greener the wood, and the more often you restrict airflow by keeping your fireplace doors closed or your damper barely open, the more creosote is produced. Soot build-up, while not flammable, can hamper venting. One half-inch of soot can restrict airflow 17% in a masonry chimney and 30% in a factory built unit, according to the CSIA – Chimney Safety Institute of America. Soot is also aggressively acidic and can damage the inside of your chimney. The more creosote and soot, the more likely you are to see signs of chimney fire – loud popping, dense smoke, or even flames shooting out the top of your chimney into the sky. If the chimney is properly maintained, you’ll never have to worry about a chimney fire.
At the Stove Corral we’re here to to assist you in maintaining your home’s hearth products and to answer any of your questions about maintenance. Keeping your equipment in good working order provides you peace of mind, knowing they’ll be there when you need them the most. You wouldn’t go for years without changing the oil in your car would you? It also makes good financial sense to keep equipment maintained and serviced to help extend their life spans. Call us if you’d like to be added to our seasonal maintenance reminder list or to schedule a maintenance appointment today! 208.263.1541