How Often Should You Clean a Pellet Heater?

People new to pellet heaters often ask how often should you clean a pellet heater? Pellet heaters need to be cleaned and maintained because they have moving parts and are a mechanical device like car. Just like how firewood in a wood heater produces ash, wood pellets in a pellet heater also create ash. While pellets burn much cleaner and produce very little ash compared to firewood, there’s still ash that needs to be cleaned out to keep your heater burning cleanly and efficiently. The good news is anyone can do most of the cleaning a pellet heater needs. It’s quick and easy and requires no special tools besides an ash vacuum, which can be bought almost anywhere.

how often should you clean a pellet heater
Pellet heaters should be cleaned daily, weekly and yearly.

How often you clean your pellet heater will depend on the kind of maintenance or cleaning you are doing and how much you run your pellet heater. However, generally speaking you should empty the burn pot once a day or so (takes about a minute at the most), vacuum out the burn chamber once a week (5 to 10 minutes of cleaning) and at least once a year a full deep clean of the heater and flue (maybe a few hours at most and this is something you can do yourself but you may want to get a professional to do for you). You’ll spend much less time cleaning your pellet heater than you would messing around with firewood.

Daily – Burn Pot

Burn pots should be emptied once every few days. They don’t need to be cleaned per se (there’s no scrubbing or anything like that), instead they just need to be emptied. Just give them a tap on the bottom as you tip whatever is inside into a rubbish bin. Most pellet heater manuals recommend a daily emptying of the burn pot but many people empty their burn pot once every 2 or 3 days. Will the sky fall if you don’t empty the burn pot daily? No, but the longer you leave it the less efficient your pellet heater heats, as there may be ash and clinker build up in the burn pot which affects how well the fire burns.

Burn pots can become blocked with clinkers, which are a natural by product that can form from burning wood pellets. Clinkers start off small and will grow in size the longer pellets are burnt if the burn pot is not emptied. That’s why it is recommended to empty the burn pot every 2 or 3 days at the very least to avoid small clinkers forming and affecting how well your pellet heater heats. It’s as easy as emptying the burn pot into a bin, giving it a tap and if you want just a light brush with a paint brush to get any super fine ash out. A minute or two at the most.

How often you clean the burn pot also depends on the quality of pellets you burn. Generally speaking, more expensive pellets are much less likely to create clinkers. This may not always be the case but I’ve found it to be true for every kind of pellet I’ve burnt in Tasmania. Some people may only need to empty their burn pot once a week or even longer because they buy wood pellets that produce little ash and clinker and are happy to pay the extra money for such a clean burn. It’s still recommend you at least check the burn pot every day or two to be sure because a burn pot clogged with a clinker will not burn well.

Weekly – Glass Door (Optional)

How often you clean the glass door really depends on whether or not you want to see the fire in the burn pot and the quality of the pellets you burn. Dirty glass does NOT affect how well your pellet heater heats. What causes glass to get dirty? Pellet quality and how well air flows in the heater. Cheaper pellets may produce more ash and as a result the glass door may become dirty quicker. Also, over time ash slowly builds up inside the exhaust of the pellet heater. This build up of ash restricts air flow causing a dirty burn. If you are burning high quality pellets but still getting dirty glass, your heater may need a deep clean.

Most people will clean the glass once the a week while others might clean it more or less often depending on their personal preference. Cleaning the glass door is very easy, much easier than a wood heater. Simply take a paper towel and lightly rub the door to remove most of the ash. You could also use a small paint brush to brush most of the ash off. To finish, take some glass cleaner, spray the glass lightly and then wipe with a paper towel. It should take no more than a couple of minutes and will clean up easily. Check out these tips on how to keep the glass clean for more info.

Weekly – Burn Chamber

To keep a pellet heater running efficiently, the burn chamber should be cleaned out every week to two weeks. How often you do this depends on a few things. First, the quality of pellet and how much ash is produced and secondly how often you want to clean it out. Wood pellets of poor quality will produce an excessive amount of ash. You’ll be to tell how clean a brand of pellets burn by looking in the burn box after a firing. However, ash in the burn box is normal, so you shouldn’t clean it everyday but if you let too much ash build up the pellet heater will have an air flow problem.

Cleaning the burn chamber is simple and easy to do. The idea is to simply remove as much ash from the burn box as possible. Most people use a small paintbrush to brush the insides of the burn box, which loosens any ash that’s stuck to the burn box walls. Once this is done, an ash vacuum cleaner can be used to vacuum out any ash that has built up in the burn box. That’s basically it and you shouldn’t do this anymore than once a week (unless you are burning really poor quality pellets). The process of cleaning the burn chamber helps to remove any ash that may have accumulated in the heater and ensure that it runs efficiently.

Yearly – Deep Clean

Once a year you should perform a deep clean on your pellet heater and the flue (yes, pellet heaters need a flue). A deep clean involves cleaning the inside chambers of the pellet heater. Doing this requires taking off side panels and removing internal metal plates to gain access to airways that are normally sealed off. This is something most people coming from a wood heater may not be used to but is essential for pellet heaters as over time ash builds up inside the pellet heater and if left too long will start to affect how well the heater runs.

At the same time the flue should be given a clean out. Unlike wood heaters, pellet heater flues are easy to clean and do not have the excessive creosote buildup wood heaters suffer from, but the flue should still be cleaned once a year to keep the pellet heater running well. The more pellets you burn the more often the heater and flue will need to be deep cleaned. As a rough guide, every tonne of pellets (66 bags) you should do a deep clean. So, if you were burning 130 bags a year I’d deep clean at least twice a year.

Can You Service and Clean a Pellet Heater Yourself?

You can absolutely do all the cleaning and servicing of a pellet heater yourself. This is what I do because I enjoy it. You will need to potentially buy a few things, like a flue brush to clean out the flue and maybe some hex screwdrivers or similar tools to open the panels and exhaust ports up on the pellet heater, but they are not difficult to service and clean, especially if you enjoying doing DIY work.

However, if the idea of doing the once a year major service and clean doesn’t sound like fun, then most retailers offer this service. Pellet Fires Tasmania have two options of visiting your home to do an in-home service or you can drop the pellet heater off at their shop and they’ll clean it in store for a reduced price. However, they only service and clean pellet heaters they sell. This means if you bought a Bass Pellet Heaters or Piazzetta pellet heater, PFTas will not service it. It’s best to contact your local pellet heater retailer and enquire about servicing costs and terms.

Too Much Time Wasted Cleaning?

You won’t spend heaps of time cleaning your pellet heater. Even if you do the daily burn pot, weekly burn box and glass and the definite yearly deep clean, you will spend MUCH less time cleaning your pellet heater than you would splitting, stacking, drying and moving firewood. You also don’t have to waste time finding a “reliable” firewood dealer or doesn’t sell you wet firewood. I used to spend entire weekends over several weeks getting my firewood ready for next year and that didn’t include time spent constantly moving firewood around to dry and bringing it in to burn. Yes, you need to clean pellet heaters but it’s not hard and doesn’t take long.

Type of CleaningFrequencyMethod
Burn PotDaily or every few daysEmpty the burn pot by tapping it on the bottom and removing any ash or clinker. Use a paintbrush to remove any super fine ash if needed.
Glass DoorWeekly (optional)Use a paper towel or small paintbrush to remove most of the ash from the glass door. Spray glass cleaner on the glass and wipe with a paper towel.
Burn ChamberWeekly to biweeklyUse a small paintbrush to brush the inside of the burn chamber to loosen ash and vacuum out any ash buildup with an ash vacuum cleaner.
Deep CleanYearlyRemove side panels and internal metal plates to access airways and chambers. Clean out ash buildup. Clean the flue once a year.
Summary of when and what to clean in a pellet heater

Cleaning a Pellet Heater Summary

Cleaning and servicing a pellet heater is easy, doesn’t take long and is essential. If you want to get away with the bare minimum, I would say do a weekly and yearly clean (provided your burn pot isn’t filling up with clinkers). If you’ve just bought a second hand pellet heater, give it a thorough deep clean before installing it. A daily clean is also recommend and I made a video showing how easy it is to do. A few minutes is all it takes. Keeping your pellet heater clean ensures it burns efficiently which directly impacts how much it costs to run your pellet heater.

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Pellet Stove Cleaning & Maintenance