How to Adjust Your Pellet Stove So There Is No Popcorning

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Small and clean, wood pellet stoves are hard working heat sources. They burn wood or corn pellets to generate warmth for small areas. However, when the air flow in the burn grate is elevated, the glowing pellets can launch into the room or onto a hearth. This popcorning problem can cause scarring or scorching around the area of the pellet stove and can also pose a serious fire hazard. Reduce this popcorn effect to ensure a well-working appliance.

How to Adjust Your Pellet Stove so there is no Popcorning
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Pellets for a Pellet Stove

Pellets for a pellet stove are made of wood or corn, which generate a lot of heat. For best results, buy pellets from manufacturers that are members of the Pellet Fuels Institute to ensure that they are of good quality. Wood and corn pellets emit fewer pollutants and are therefore more environmentally friendly than wood for burning in stoves. Pellets for pellet stove burning tend to be less expensive than wood and easier to transport.

How Pellet Stoves Work

Pellets are poured into the storage hopper at the top of the pellet stove. The pellets are then delivered to the burn chamber by means of an electric auger. The sensors inside the stove monitor the fuel supply and report back to the auger to add more pellets to keep the fire going when it gets low. Hot box stoves generally are easy to use and clean. The ashtray should be cleaned after each bag of pellets has been used. Avoid soot by maintaining regular cleaning according to the manufacturer's directions.

Know Your Flames

A good flame to see when operating a pellet stove is yellow and quick, which allows it to carry the ash out of the burn grate. If the flame is too hot, it will lead to the unwanted popcorning effect, where the pellets that are glowing with potential fire shoot out of the opening of the pellet stove.

If the fire is orange and reddish in color with soot forming at the top of the flame, open the damper slowly. Ventilate the stove 1/8 of an inch at a time until the fire is yellow and bright. If the flames burn to whitish yellow, close the damper at the same rate of 1/8 of an inch at a time. If pellets are firing from the stove, close the damper slowly. When the damper is closed too quickly, it can put out the fire or cause other issues with the rate of the flame. The desired flame is a solid golden yellow that isn't soot-filled. The goal is to have the ash fly out of the burn grate.

Pellet Stove Installation Tips

If you plan to install a pellet stove, consider these tips to help ensure that the pellet stove is safe to use.

  • Don't let the stove pipe crowd into a closet, the attic or other concealed space. It can get extremely hot and cause a fire if it is close to flammable material such as drywall or insulation.
  • The chimney should be a minimum of 3 feet above the highest point where it goes through the roof and extends outside.
  • The chimney should also be at least 2 feet above the roof. For the best ventilation, make sure the flue size is correct and the stove pipe isn't overextended.

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at

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