How to Light a Pellet Stove: A Step By Step Guide

Is there anything better than sitting by a nice, warm pellet stove on a cold, snowy night? While wood fireplaces are nice, pellet stoves just seem extra special. 

Unfortunately, lighting a pellet stove can be a bit confusing. If you own a pellet stove or are thinking about buying one, we’re here to help. Check out our fun, informative guide on how to light a pellet stove.

What is a Pellet Stove?

Let’s give any pellet stove newbies out there a quick definition. A pellet stove is a self-contained metal unit used to provide heat for a home or building.

Stoves are made from steel, cast iron and other metals. They can be modern-looking, rustic and everything in-between.

Pellet stoves burn compressed wood pellets or biomass. The fuel is stored in a hopper and steadily fed into the burn area.

The flame produced is consistent and requires no physical adjustments.

What Type of Pellet Stove Do You Have?

There are two types of pellet stoves:

  • A stove with automatic ignition
  • A stove you manually ignite

A Quick Safety Warning

Pellet stove operation will vary by make and model. Always refer to your stove’s owner’s manual for specific instructions.

Pay particular attention to the following:

  • Required clearance levels regarding combustibles
  • Proper health protection
  • Ventilation (both inside and out)
  • Power supply

Stoves are more likely to have problems due to improper installation than due to use. Installing a pellet stove is relatively complicated.

Once your stove is installed, however, maintenance is minimal and operation is easy.

How to Light a Pellet Stove with an Automatic Ignition

Before lighting your automatic stove, first you need to provide fuel.

Automatic.

  1. Make sure the stove if OFF
  2. Pour wood pellets into the hopper
  3. Turn the Stove On
  4. Adjust Blower Setting (if applicable)

How you turn on the stove depends on the model. Most stoves will either have an On/Off dial or an On/Off button. Some fancier models will have a computer screen or even a remote control.

Lighting an automatic ignition pellet stove is easy. Once lit, you can set the thermostat and the stove will automatically maintain a consistent temperature. It’s perfectly safe to let the stove run while you’re away.

While automatic ignition is easy to use, they do have some drawbacks. They’re more expensive because they use more energy and fuel.

Plus, an ignition stove has more moving parts. The risk of eventually needing some type of repair is increased compared to a manual.

How to Ignite Your Manual Pellet Stove

What You Need:

  • Match
  • Ignition Gel

Step-by-Step Instruction for Lighting the Manual Stove:

Manual.

  1. Make sure the stove is OFF
  2. Fill the hopper with wood pellets
  3. Select the lowest heat setting
  4. Wait for pellets to partially fill the burn pot. 

    After a moment, the stove’s combustion motor should start. When you hear it running, continue to step #5.
  5. Pour starting gel onto the pellets.

    Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for how much gel to use. We’ll help you pick the right type of gel for your needs later on in this guide.
  6. Light the pellets/gel mixture. A match will usually be the easiest to use.
  7. Close the door to the burn pot
  8. Let the mixture burn for a few minutes
  9. Set the desired temperature or heat setting

How to Select the Right Igniting Gel

Igniting gel is one of the easiest and cleanest ways to light your pellet stove. Gel works on pellets, wood and coal.

Gel starts fires without any flare up. Plus, unlike fluids, gels don’t run. Gel is one of the safest ways to start a fire in your home.

Igniting gel will burn without odor or smoke. You can use gel to light a cooking source and the flavor of the food will be unaffected.

Gels are typically sold in squeeze tubes. They’re often blue or clear. The main ingredient is usually alcohol. Gels are almost always odorless.

A Quick Note of Caution
About Non-Approved Lighting Fluids

If you light the stove properly, the chances of an accident are slim. But fire always carries some risks. We recommend getting yourself a set of fire-resistant gloves to wear when lighting your manual pellet stove.

Also, NEVER, ever, use any type of igniting fluid besides starting gel created specifically for pellet stoves. First, fluids not approved for use in pellet stoves can cause mechanical damage.

Also, using non-approved fluids is extremely dangerous.

You’ll find plenty of people online who swear that alternate fluids such as a charcoal starter (like what you’d use on the BBQ grill) are a cheaper alternative to starting gel.

The problem is two-fold. “Alternative” fluids can run through and even out of the stove into your home. This creates a serious risk of fire or even explosion.

Home fires are the most common type of disaster in the country. Pellet stoves are perfectly safe as long as you always follow the proper procedures and only use properly approved materials.

How to Apply Gel When Lighting a Pellet Stove

What You Need:

  • Ignition Gel
  • Matches and striking surface

If you’ve never attempted this method before, we’ll walk you through it.

  1. Make sure the Stove is OFF
  2. Check to make sure no heat or flames are present
  3. Access the burn pot
  4. Squeeze one tablespoon of gel into burn pot

    The exact amount might differ depending on the size of your burn pot. Consult your stove’s owner’s manual for specifics.
  5. Add a small handful of wood pellets to the top of the gel glob
  6. Add a half-tablespoon of gel to the top of the pellets.
  7. For extra safety, close the gel container and place away from the stove
  8. Light a match
    You shouldn’t have to hold the match for long. The pellets should catch fire fairly fast.

Lighting a Pellet Stove with a Blowtorch

Many pellet stove users prefer using a blowtorch instead of a match. If you’re new to pellet stoves, this idea might sound a little out there – a blowtorch, in my house?!?

A propane blowtorch is actually very safe, effective and long-lasting. You can pick one up at a hardware or retail store. With push-button operation, practically any adult can use one easily.

Don’t use a blowtorch with igniting gel. It’s unnecessary and can be dangerous.

How to Light a Pellet Stove with a Blowtorch

  1. Make sure the stove is off
  2. Put a handful of pellets in the firepot
  3. Turn the stove on
  4. Wait until about the count of ten
  5. Turn the stove off
    The combustion blower should start.
  6. Activate the blowtorch
  7. Apply flame to the pellets for about 30 seconds
  8. Remove flame
  9. Close the fire pot door
    Be careful to close the door gently so you don’t snuff out the fire.

The stove should start warming the house in about a minute.

How Many Pellets are Needed?

Pellet stoves are very cost-efficient. Pellets average about five bucks for 40 pounds. You can get a literal ton for under $200. Rough winters will require around three tons of pellets per season. In almost every case, wood pellet stoves are cheaper than heating oil.

What are Pellets?

Pellets are made from waste wood and compressed sawdust. This wood would normally be buried in a landfill or left on the forest floor.

Aside from price, another nice thing about pellets is that they’re not bad for the environment. They’re carbon neutral. Burning a pellet in a stove releases the same amount of CO2 as would be released due to natural decomposition.

The Benefits of a Manual Pellet Stove

As you can see, learning how to light a pellet stove isn’t very difficult. Pretty much every adult will be able to operate a pellet stove easily and safely.

But even though operating a manual pellet stove is easy, an automatic stove is even easier. Why do some people prefer a manual pellet stove instead of one with an automatic ignition?

Manual stoves are cheaper, conserve more fuel and require fewer repairs than an automatic stove.

Manual stoves cost less. For the same amount of money, you can get a much better manual stove than one with an automatic ignition. Manuals make sense (and cents) if you want the best overall value.

Manual stoves give you more control. You decide when and how the stove burns. This allows you to conserve energy and fuel.

Manual stoves require fewer repairs. A manual stove has fewer electric and mechanical parts than a stove with an automatic ignition. Fewer parts = less chance of something breaking or becoming damaged.

How a Pellet Stove Works

Sensors inside the stove monitor the fuel supply. Pellets drop into the burn chamber.

No more than a few pellets are allowed in the burn chamber at any given time. The fire inside is kept small but hot.

Room air is pulled into the stove through a fresh-air vent. The air is heated and then blown back out. As long as you keep the hopper filled, the thermostat will keep the room at whatever temperature you like.

Smoke and fumes, which are usually minimal, are blown outside through an exhaust vent.

How to Maintain a Manual Stove

Your manual stove can last a lifetime with proper care. Maintaining and cleaning your stove is easy. Here’s what you need to know:

For best results, perform a basic cleaning every two weeks. If you use the stove frequently, you might want to clean it every three or four days.

How to Clean a Manual Pellet Stove (Basic Method)

You’ll Need:

  • Cleaning tool
  • Shop-Vac
  • Newspapers, drop cloth or similar

Most pellet stoves will come with a cleaning tool, usually a type of brush. If you don’t have one, or don’t like the one you have, you’ll want a wire brush. Home Depot or any general hardware store will have plenty of options.

You might also want a putty knife to scrape away any debris.

A shop-vac will work better than a regular vacuum. You’ll be vacuuming up a lot of ash – and that stuff gets everywhere. A shop-vac gives you more control. Plus, a thin tube lets you vacuum the inner workings of the stove.

Finally, you’ll want to protect your floor with a drop cloth or other catch-all. Once you’ve gathered up the right items, you’re ready to clean:

  1. Empty the burn pot. This is where most of the ash will be stored.
  2. Dump out the ash.
  3. Vacuum the burn pot.
  4. Scrape the burn pot with your cleaning tools.

    Removing harder carbon deposits sometimes requires some elbow grease, but try to remove as much as you can.

  5. Push or pull the level connected to the exchanger tube.

    Carbon deposits need to be removed from the exchanger tube. Refer to your owner’s manual for specifics on how to clean the exchanger tube on your stove.
  6. Vacuum up any remaining ash and debris.
  7. 7. Clean any glass windows on the stove when applicable.

Conclusion

A wood pellet stove is a cost-effective, efficient way to heat your home. Lighting a pellet stove might seem daunting at first, but it’s actually pretty easy.

Remember that the stove must be off before you light it. Add pellets and igniting gel. Once the pellets are lit, close the burn pot and the stove should be good-to-go. Using a blowtorch is also an option.

You can safely let a pellet stove run even when you’re away. Heating your home with a pellet stove is economical, ecological and easy. Learning how to light a pellet stove lets you enjoy warm, cozy nights all winter long.

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