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Maintenance

We assessed maintenance only on the frequency of cleaning required by an operator to keep a stove functional. We did not assess longer-term maintenance issues or potential repairs that stoves may need.

We found that these six pellet stoves all had excellent ash collection capacity and could store weeks worth of ash, but the burn pot on some stoves required a quick scrape-out every day or two.

The three most expensive stoves – the Enviro, Quadra-Fire, and Harman–all performed very well without frequent burn pot cleaning. If your sole criterion in a stove is not to have to do anything to it for a week or more other than feed it more pellets, one of these stoves may be for you. These stoves are also likely to handle low quality pellets better, because each has a distinctive and effective way to keep their burn pot area from clogging up. The Enviro and the Quadra-Fire have internal automated mechanisms and the Harman through its burn pot design simply pushes the ash forward, which can result in the visible buildup of ash, but the stove keeps going.

Although we only tested only one stove each from Harman, Quadra-Fire and Enviro, these unique burn pot designs utilized by each company are found on other models within their product lineup. As an example, the Quadra-Fire we tested was a freestanding stove but is also available in a fireplace insert. Although we cannot speak to the insert’s performance because we did not test it, one could assume that these variations will perform similarly from a maintenance point of view.

The three less expensive stoves – the Englander 25-PDVC, Ravelli RV 80 and Piazzetta Sabrina – have burn pots that likely need to be scraped-out every day or two, if the stoves are being run round the clock with medium or low quality pellets. Clogged burn pots usually make themselves known when the stove tries to relight and the crusted ash on the bottom of the burn pot prevents the igniter from lighting the pellets. Scraping out the burn pot only takes a minute, but is essential for the automatic ignition to light the pellets and to keep the stove operating. The Ravelli and Piazzetta have a “clean” cycle prior to start up, which is a higher than average velocity of air which is pulled through the burn pot to help clear ash which may be present but will do little to clear hard ash obstructions within the pot.


Figure 5. The clogged holes in
the bottom of this burn pot
prevented it from re-igniting
after two days of use.
On several days, we tested stoves that had not been cleaned for a week, cleaned them, and tested them again. We did not always see a consistent performance changes except in the cleanliness of the stove, which always improved after the burn pot and surrounding areas were cleaned.

Pellet stoves require more maintenance than wood stoves and it is critical for consumers to understand that they have to periodically clean the stove for it to perform well.

Click here for more on maintenance and how we tested it.