Pellet heaters burn clean, much cleaner than wood heaters but I still get people asking me if pellet heaters smell while they are running. If you haven’t read my article on pellet heaters being environmentally friendly, then the short version is basically pellet heaters are very efficient, burn super clean and emit fewer emissions than wood heaters. You’ll only ever see smoke coming out of a pellet heater flue for a few minutes during startup and that’s it. You don’t need to open the door to refill like you do with a wood heater, so there’s no way any emissions or smoke get into your house when refilling the hopper. Pellet heaters are completely odourless while running.
New Heater, New Smell: Paint Curing
When a new pellet heater is installed, people may experience an odour when it is fired up for the first time. This is because pellet heaters, like wood heaters, are painted, and the paint needs to cure. During the first firing of the heater, this curing process takes place, resulting in a noticeable smell as the paint cures and hardens. This is completely normal and if you’ve got or are going to buy a pellet heater then you will most likely experience this. Don’t be alarmed or worried about it. If it does happen, open some windows and doors during the first firing of the heater, allowing the smell to dissipate.
In addition, it is suggested that the first firing be done during the day time and at a time of the year when it isn’t cold or not too cold, so that windows and doors can be opened for ventilation and help get rid of the smell. After the first firing, the odour caused by paint curing should go away and you won’t get any more smells due to paint curing on anymore burns. However, keep in mind that the smell from paint curing is totally normal. Your pellet heater retailer should let you know this may occur.
The smell from paint curing on a new pellet heater can be quite strong and off-putting. It’s not a pleasant odor. Some people describe it as a burning plastic or chemical smell. Rest assured this is temporary and caused by the high heat of the fire as it cures and hardens the paint during first use. The fumes given off during this process are what causes the unpleasant odor. While not dangerous, it’s a good idea to open windows or doors to allow the fumes to escape and dissipate rather than linger in your home. The smell itself usually lasts anywhere from 30 minutes up to a few hours for the initial burn.
Don’t Let Your Pellets Burn: Pellets Cooking
Another reason people may experience an odour when using pellet heaters is due to the possibility of wood pellets “cooking” on top of the heater. Whether or not you experience this will depend on the model of your pellet heater. Sometimes, when pellets are being tipped into the hopper, a few pellets may bounce and fall under the top plate, if your heater has one. If this happens, a few pellets may sit inside your pellet heater, closer to the burn box when the surface is much warmer. As the pellet heater heats up, these pellets begin to “cook.” and it creates a wood smell.
To prevent this from happening, the first thing is to be extra careful when refilling the hopper to prevent pellets from falling under the top plate. Pay close attention when pouring pellets into the hopper and go slowly. Try to avoid spilling pellets across the top plate. If needed, use a funnel to guide the pellets directly into the hopper opening. This will help minimize bounce back.
If a few pellets do end up under the top plate, get them out before you switch on your pellet heater or before they start to cook. I have this problem with my pellet heater now and then and I simply use a coat hanger to push pellets out from under the top plate if I do accidentally let a few get in. You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment to suck out any stray pellets. Just be sure to get them all out. Once you’ve cleaned the pellets out the odour will stop and smell will go away.
The smell caused by cooking pellets can range from a smoky wood smell to a more pronounced burning odor. It happens because the pellets essentially get toasted from the radiant heat under the top plate. The hotter they get, the more they smoke and smell. So this is something you’ll want to avoid. Not only does it make the room smell bad, but it can also lead to a build up of fine pellet dust inside the heater over time.
Stop the Stink: Door Gasket
Another potential cause of a smell from a pellet heater is a worn-out door gasket or improperly sealed flue. Over time, the door gasket on a pellet heater can become worn, leading to smoke escaping from the heater, especially during start-up when the fire is getting established and there’s smoke inside the burn chamber. If the door gasket is badly damaged, this will trigger the vacuum sensor in your pellet heater, triggering an E5 error in some pellet heaters and shutting down. It is important to keep an eye on the door gasket to ensure that it is not damaged or worn, and if it appears to be, it should be replaced or serviced as necessary.
Inspect the door gasket regularly, at least a few times a year. Look for any cracking, gaps, or thinning of the gasket. Also check the tightness of the latch to ensure a snug fit against the gasket. If the latch is loose, smoke can leak out. Any deterioration of the gasket can allow smoke to escape during start-up. This will make the room smell smokey. Replacing a worn gasket will vary but and cheaper if you can do it yourself. Regardless how much you pay, the cost of paying someone to repair the door gasket is much less than the cost of smoke damage or having to prematurely replace the pellet heater. A properly sealing door gasket also improves efficiency.
Stop the Stink: Leaky Flue
In addition to the door gasket, it is important to check the flue to ensure it is properly sealed, as any leaks can result in a small amount of smoke escaping from the heater. Again this is most noticeable during startup. This is because when the fire is just getting established there’s smoke in the burn chamber. Some of this smoke can escape out of the flue if it is not sealed properly. An easy way to check for this is to shine a torch on the flue where you think the seal is broken. If tiny amounts of smoke is coming out you will see it in the light of the torch.
If your door seal is damaged or you think the flue isn’t sealed properly, can’t see any smoke but can smell it, please book your heater in for a service if you aren’t able to replace the door gasket or seal the flue properly. If either of these is damaged not only will you get a bad odour in your house but it will impact how efficiently your pellet heater runs. A yearly professional cleaning and inspection is recommended to keep your stove running safely and efficiently.
Do Pellet Heaters Smell Summary
Do pellet heaters smell? No, they don’t and really the only time they will smell is if you’ve just installed your pellet heater or a few pellets have accidentally fallen under the top plate. After the first firing a new pellet heater will no longer smell and to stop pellets “cooking” just be careful tipping them into the hopper. If you do notice your door gasket or the flue doesn’t look properly sealed, book your heater in to be serviced. However, if you do notice any bad odours book your pellet heater in for a service with the retailer you bought the pellet heater from as soon as possible.
Do pellet heaters smell? No, they don’t and really the only time they will smell is if you’ve just installed your pellet heater or a few pellets have accidentally fallen under the top plate. After the first firing a new pellet heater will no longer smell and to stop pellets “cooking” just be careful tipping them into the hopper. Pay attention when filling the hopper to prevent stray pellets from falling onto hot surfaces inside the stove. Also inspect door gaskets and flue pipes yearly for any smoke leaks. Replace worn gaskets and seal small flue leaks.
If you do notice any bad odours book your pellet heater in for a service with the retailer you bought the pellet heater from as soon as possible. . When properly installed and maintained, a pellet heater should not emit any unpleasant smells into your home.
Things to Know About Pellet Heaters