Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2005-12-15
  Burning myself out of house and home
So after using the pellet stove on and off in November we got serious and started running it all the time in December. From the 2nd to the 12th it was on constantly (though turned down during the day), and to its credit, the house was very warm. It also ate pellets like mad.

From the 1st to the 12th we used another 1000# of pellets. I think this is a bit excessive.

So for the last three days I've turned the stove off in the morning, and re-lit it before bed time; while running a fire in the wood stove. (The wood stove can run day and night and I don't care as much as I have a fair amount of free wood out back to burn. All I have to do is split it first and that's actually going fairly well as the stuff is really dry.) With all this I've gotten consuption back down to fourty pounds a day. We're still going to need more pellets, but not a whole rail car full.

With the stove going I've also managed to come up with a third way to manually light the stove that I really like. The stove does have an automatic lighter but its electric based and smokes a bunch starting up, and some of that smokes leaks out and smokes up the basement. So I've been doing manual lighting.

[propane torch] [starter gel] [hot coal]

The first way was to wedge a propane torch inside the burn compartment so it acted like a pilot light and eventually lit the pellets. Unfortunately this was slow, prone to errors (like the torch going out), and used a lot of propane. The second way was to use the pellet starter alcohol which still was problematic, would blow out if it wasn't layed down evenly, and still needed the propane torch a little bit to nudge along. The third way takes advantage of the fact that I have a fire in the wood stove going every night now: I lay down a bed of pellets, go upstairs with a tin can and my thick gloves on, blast up the coals in the woodstove till they're glowing good, grab one quickly with the fire implements and put it in the can, dash downstairs with the coal smoking and trying to set fire to the paper on the can, toss the ember on top of the pile of pellets, nudge the pellets to surround the ember, turn the fan on and close the door. As simple as cake, and it lights every time. Well ok, last night I wasn't quick enough with the first coal so I had to go get a second one, but as long as there is some life when the ember goes in the box, it will light.

I don't think I'm going to be able to get my wife to try that lighting method though. When I have to go on another trip, I don't think she's even going to try any of my lighting methods. She's probably going to use the electric start. Or more likely she's going to leave the stove going all the time and never have to start it at all. I'll just need a lot more pellets when I get back, but at least she'll be warm.

 
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