April 09, 2014

Protect Your Pellet Stove with a Surge Protector & Updated Wiring


Connecting your pellet stove to a surge protector effectively protects digital control boards. I have mine connected to one at all times. They keep damaging surges caused by electrical storms or faulty wiring from cripling your pellet stove. Granted a large voltage spike from an intense electrical storm can immediately blow out a circuit board or control panel. However just like small doses of arsenic in humans, small voltage swings can create accumulative damage of time. In other words this damage can slowly poison the components in the control panel making it act flakey. This condition makes it very hard to diagnose the issue. For example, I worked on 2 Breckwell Big E pellet stoves. Great stoves that crank out alot of heat. Both stoves had no surge protection and after power fluctuations the room fan speed would no longer increase as the heat level was increased. The stove worked but did not put out much heat. After installing a new control panel the stoves heated like new again.

GFCI outlets are not needed for pellet stoves. The older pellet stoves ground design can actually keep tripping a GFI. I had a 1996 Breckwell P2000 that would not stay running on a GFCI.

Ground and polarity is also an important reason to consider using a surge protector. This is most relevant for older Whitfield Pellet Stoves which do not have a modern grounding design. They may have ground loops and be a shock hazard inside the stove. Not having a good ground polarity can be a real safety hazard. This can be checked with a simple polarity or phase tester.

The Breckwell Big E manual on Page 9 states what needs to be changed in an older home with a 2 wire outlet and no ground.
This stove is provided with a 6-foot grounded electrical cord
extending from the rear of the stove. We recommend connecting to
a good quality surge protector that is plugged into a standard threeprong,
120V, 60 Hz electrical outlet. Voltage variations can lead to
serious performance problems. The Breckwell electrical system is
designed for 120V AC with no more than 5% variation. Breckwell
cannot accept responsibility for poor performance or damage due to
inadequate voltage. If connected to an older, two-prong outlet, a
separate ground wire should be run to a proper ground (refer this to
a qualified technician).
 Always route the electrical cord so that it will
not come in contact with any hot part of the stove.

This grounding issue can be exemplified with our old Glenwood kitchen stove. It was an old 3 wire stove.It had two hot wires and a neutral also used as the ground. However, there was no complete wiring of the neutral to a common bus. The front mounted control panel had the neutral grounded to this metal panel so to complete the circuit, the current ran through the stove body! It seemed like a good design at the time. Also it may have saved manufacturing costs for not using the proper amount of ground and neutral wires!

The problem with this configuration is that as the stove got older, the screws that hold the front metal panel to the stove got very rusty! This resulted in a very poor electrical connection. One day my wife was wiping the counter with a sponge in one hand and coincidently  turned on the stove with the other hand. Current always flows through the path of least resistance and went right through her instead of those rusty old screws. Stove designers didn't realize that flaw back then. Thankfully she was ok, but I have heard of cases where people lose their eyesight from the current. The nerves in the eyes are like a weak filament in a light bulb.

The kitchen stoves we have today never run neutral to the stove body. That is why we have a 4 wire stoves. Another reason is if the neutral breaks connection and touches the stove body, the current still makes a solid run to the electrical box and not through us. It helps protect us from power surges and lightning.

Polarity was more important years ago for two prong household wiring and appliances (No separate case ground wire). If the polarity is reversed then the neutral and case of the appliance can become hot and give you a shock. This is the exact condition that trips a GFCI breaker! Back then household appliances such as hair dryers had metal cases instead of the plastic ones we see today. Pellet stoves still currently have a metal shell so polarity may still be an issue. If the polarity is incorrect, then the On/Off button which normally turns the power off where the hot line enters the stove, will disconnect the power upon exit. Even though the stove is off, there may be power in the stove that can cause a shock hazzard and give the wrong side of sensitive components on a digital circuit board a high potential. Even a surge protector cannot eliminate this safety hazard to you and hazard to the circuit board or control panel!

If you are looking for a surge protector, East Coast Hearth can help. Here are some links below to surge protectors and a Multi tester to help determine if your AC voltage is too high or too low.

There are two types of common surge protectors:

The standard surge protector dissipates up to 1,000 joules.

You can purchase it here with PayPal or a major credit card. Orders can also be called in by phone

The UltraBlok428 is the highest rated by absorbing up to 1,410 joules
You can purchase it here with PayPal or a major credit card. Orders can also be called in by phone

Too high or too low AC line voltage can also create problems and keep your pellet stove from running right
The voltage should be 115 plus or minus 5 volts AC
You can easily measure this with our multi tester
You can purchase it here with PayPal or a major credit card. Orders can also be called in by phone

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