Idaho Outdoor Solutions

How NOT to Operate a Wiseway Pellet Stove

Posted by Mathew Heath Van Horn on Nov 16, 2015 3:31:09 PM

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Wiseway Pellet Stove

The nice thing about being the leader in introducing new products to Idaho is we get to act like kids with a new toy.  And boy do we love to play!  Fortunately, we learn many lessons in how not to use our products so customers don't make the same mistakes.  In this post I describe a well-earned lesson in using the Wiseway Pellet Stove in a manner for which it was not designed.

Idaho Outdoor Solutions offers the Wiseway Pellet Stove

Laziness = Bad Decisions

So there I was; Sunday night at home.  I was enjoying a movie, popcorn, and hot chocolate with Rachel and I really didn't want the evening to end.  Even though it was my night to head to work and fill the stove, an act which only takes 15 minutes, I was feeling cozy and lazy and just didn't do it.  The next morning, there we were; two workers coming into work and facing a cold winter day and an even colder Wiseway Pellet stove. 

I lit the propane torch to start the Wiseway, but the cold made it seem like it was taking forever to get the primary burn chamber to start.  My sense of urgency was heightened when I saw my Arizona wife shivering uncontrollably despite her four layers of clothes.  So it occurred to me (the Computer Science major) that normally, more air gives us more flame, which results in more heat.  Therefore, a lot more air should produce a lot more heat and get us toasty warm in no time.  Thus, making up for my laziness. 

My Brilliant Idea

With the primary burn chamber already opened for the propane torch, I cracked opened the secondary burn chamber a little bit.  BINGO!  More flame!  I was feeling pretty proud of myself, but it was still taking too long to warm up and I think I noticed Rachel's lips developing a bluish tint.  What I needed was even more air.

So I blew air into the primary burn chamber and the flames were really racing now!  But in between breaths, the flames died back down and I was starting to feel a bit light-headed from all the deep breathing.  So I got an even better idea!  It occurred to me that I needed a constant source of more air and I remembered the desk fan we keep in the filing cabinet.

A desk fan doesn't have much height, so I couldn't aim it at the hole of the primary burn chamber.  Furthermore, I couldn't open the secondary burn chamber any further and still have a platform for the burning pellets.  Then I noticed the air intake on the back of the stove was at the same height as the fan.  And the opening was only slightly smaller than the fan blades.  Also, because the Wiseway air intake is even with the secondary burn chamber, it would push air into both chambers and really get the flames moving.  Genius!  I placed the fan into position and before Rachel got the words, "ahhh, Matt..." uttered, I switched it on...


I can only describe the result as something between a blacksmith's forge and the afterburner of a military fighter jet.  With flamethrower sounds roaring in our ears I watched the stack temperature rise quickly ...500...550...600...700!  I DID IT!  I made fire!  I actually did it so well that I pegged the temperature gauge!  But my man-pride celebration was over quickly and immediately turned to panic.

Keep in mind the Wiseway Pellet Stove uses four factors to operate: fire, fuel (pellets), air, and gravity.  Douglas Fir wood pellets might come in 40 lbs sacks, but individually each pellet weighs just a small fraction of an ounce.  And each pellet weighs even less after it has burned down a bit and fallen to the secondary burn chamber.  The same chamber I was now forcibly injecting air with an electric fan. 

FIRE, FIRE, and more FIRE!

The forced air prevented the now featherweight, orange hot, burning pellets of destruction from using gravity.  Actually the airflow was such the glowing embers had to go somewhere, and since they couldn't go down, they went out the small crack I made earlier in the secondary burn chamber.  The forced air caused them to soar past the edges of the hearth resulting in my use of 80's dance moves to stomp out the embers.  Luckily, I quickly realized my mistake and shut the secondary burn chamber to close the ember outlet.  Which meant the burning pellets had to go somewhere else...up!

The burning pellet embers started traveling up the chimney stack path!  To counter this act, I decided to stop the fuel flow.  I quickly closed the pellet hopper, but this left me with about 12 inches of unburned pellets still in the tube ready to feed this flaming disaster.  So I removed the cover of the mini hopper hoping to scoop out the unburned pellets. 

You Cannot Change the Laws of Physics

When I removed the cover, I created a new path for the forced air to go and the flames started licking up the pellets in the feeding tube at an alarming rate.  This new air outlet also stopped the chimney from working and now the room was filling with smoke.  My wife was no longer concerned about being cold, but getting out of the office alive and shouted, "why don't you turn off the fan?!"  As usual, my wife is smarter than I am.

I turned off the fan and we opened all the office doors to the very cold air to let out the smoke.  After 10 long minutes, the flames died.  Now, the feeding tubes and mini hopper are not intended to act as burn chambers, so the pellets only partially burned.  This resulted in a blackened charred mess superglued to the chamber walls.

…And the partially burned pellets in the chimney stack.

…And the ones in the little nooks and crannies of the primary, secondary and ash chambers.

…And the ones that fell onto the hearth.

The Aftermath

Rachel went home to keep warm while I spent the next two hours in the freezing cold, chiseling away the half-burned pellets from every surface they touched.  I had to leave the doors open because the lingering smoke still choked my throat.  Eventually I got the mess all cleaned up and restarted the Wiseway Stove and it worked just fine. 

In the end, my misadventures did not result in any permanent damage to the stove itself.  The only evidence of my misguided attempt to thwart the laws of nature was the absence of paint on the stove.  Apparently the stove got so hot, it burnt the 950° F-rated paint right off the steel in several places.

Moral:  Don't be Lazy.

 And if you choose to be lazy anyway, don't try to force feed air into the Wiseway pellet stove.

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Topics: heating, pellet stove, Idaho Outdoor Solutions, Idaho, Wiseway Pellet Stove