This evening we headed down into the cellar to see why the pellet stove has stopped working. We’ve only been using it for two months and it seems to have turned into a three hundred pound boat anchor. A week before it died it was producing thick black greasy soot instead of fine gray dust.
We had hand-carried nearly a hundred forty-pound bags of premium wood pellets into the basement to fuel it and not only do we want the stove to produce heat, but we want the effort of hauling two-tons of pellets into the house not to be wasted.
Delphine calls the customer service number on the user manual. For forty minutes a computer tells us how important our call is to them and to remove the back of the stove before the tech comes on. Forty minutes. I have no patience for this kind of things and on my own would have hung up. Delphine perseveres. Patience is her domain. Finally a technician comes on the line.
He has me pull this wire and that and reconnect it here and there to diagnose the problem. An hour of this and there are still no answers. The auger is still not turning. He transfers us to his senior tech who has us start all over again. The stove is in pieces, the steel back removed, wires everywhere, exhaust disconnected from the brick chimney. The senior tech tells me to reconnect a black wire to the control board that the first tech had me remove and the auger turns. As far as he’s concerned that fixes the problem and the call is over.
Something must still be wrong. Why did the auger stop turning in the first place? Where did the black soot come from?
With the stovepipe disconnected Delphine decides to vacuum it. She inserts the shop-vac hose into the pipe and gets a funny expression on her face. “What’s this?” She pulls out a shiny lump of metal in the shape of a huge tongue.
I pull the double-walled stovepipe completely off the brick chimney and discover more tongues jammed in the space. It looks as if we’ve been visited by aliens. Silver tongues blocking the exhaust to the chimney?
Apparently the charring in the pellet stove came from insufficient airflow over the pellets because the chimney was blocked. The tongues are actually the melted inner wall of the stovepipe. It looks as if we’ve had a chimney fire in the stovepipe itself. Yikes! The whole house could have gone up.
We go to the hardware store that originally sold us the stovepipe. The fellow there takes a look at our pipe and says, “Of course. It’s the wrong kind of pipe.” Of course.
Who knew? Two hundred dollars worth of correct double-walled pellet stove pipe and an hour’s worth of metal fitting later and I have the pellet stove up and running. I could have never solved that problem without Delphine – or her without me. But I guess that’s what partners are for.