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  1. #1

    Question Quadrafire won't stay lit, overfeeds

    I've got a Quadrafire 1200 - came with the house, so is now about 9 years old. It's a workhorse - our primary source of heat for a 2200sf house. We run about one bag of pellets per day. We are in the process of getting central heat, but it's complicated - no ductwork in place. Meanwhile, we need to keep this stove working, but don't want to invest a lot in it - it's really on its last legs, and we only need to keep it working for a few more weeks. It won't stay lit. I noticed that one of the wires on the thermocouple is broken - where there are two wires twisted together under the ceramic cover. It seems like the other wire would still be conducting enough heat, though??? I'm sure the thermocouple is part of the problem, but I hope to avoid buying a new one - especially since I don't think this is the only problem. If I get the fire up high enough, long enough, the fan will come on and the auger will feed, so I know it's a contributing factor. But, now, even that's not enough. It seems like something else has gone wrong. Is there any way to repair the broken wire on the thermocouple - at least so I can tell if that will solve the problem? The other obvious problem is that the cleaning rods won't move - as if they are welded in place. I tried cleaning up under the plates in the firebox - but can only get there from the side panels - the screw that holds them in place is stuck and the head is stripped. The rods were working fine one minute, the next, they were stuck solid - a hammer won't move them. That happened about 6 weeks ago. Could this be the problem? If so, how do those rods work? What would make them stick like that? How do I get to them? Any ideas? No way to get a tech out here quickly enough - only one company within 50 miles, and we've had major bad issues with their past service - plus, it takes weeks to get on their schedule - by then, we may not need service. When they came and cleaned it last fall, they advised replacing it, rather than trying to replace all the little parts. It was working then, but it's pretty ragged.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
    Posts
    6,295

    Red face bad news

    The short answer is -No.

    The stove was not tested and listed with the thermocouple Band-Aided together. If it is your primary heat source, then you either replace it or wear coats indoors. The part is not that expensive. It certainly is a problem but it may not be your only problem operationally.

    The rods typically stick when someone tries to operate them while the stove is hot. Once they stick, they are fused permanently. There is a stove with stuck rods protruding sitting outside Quad's R&D test lab as a testament to this.

    If you don't want to invest in a dying stove, you have to consider options such as electrical space heaters, which are expensive to run and can cause fires. If you cannot afford any of this I hate to say it but you must be in the terrible position of considering if you can afford to live in that house. I know a lot of us are living tightly and aren't far from your position so please don't take offense to my remarks.

    Otherwise, this is not a DIY site so we cannot coach you on repairs. Sorry,
    Hearthman

  3. #3
    Thanks for your prompt reply! Why in the world would Quadrafire make it so easy to completely screw up a stove?? Those rods shouldn't be operational when the stove is hot, if that can cause permanrnt damage. Or, is it really a problem? Is that a necessary operation? In the dead of winter, there's never a time when our stove ISN'T hot! The question is - could that be part of the problem? Can I accomplish all necessary cleaning without the rods working? If so, I don't mind replacing the thermocouple. I just don't want to spend another $100 bucks on a fix that doesn't work. It's not a matter of not being able to afford it. Just that we've already dumped several hundred dollars into parts and service this year - should have done the central system sooner, but that's another nightmare. The guy who built our house (9 years old) didn't put ductwork in! Anyway, just out of curiosity, can you tell me the purpose for a thermocouple on a pellet stove? I understand how they work, and it makes sense to have that emergency shut-down for a gas appliance, so you're not pumping unburned gas into your house, but how does it add safety to a pellet stove?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
    Posts
    6,295

    Cool

    Shan, if you don't rake the fly ash off those aluminum heat exchanger tubes, they act as insulation. That means you waste pellets trying to extract heat. They actually have a rather sloppy fit when new. They get tight when there has been a lack of maintenance causing the fly ash to adhere to the tubes making them feel tight. With the baffles removed, the crud can be scraped off and often get them working again. If the baffles have never been off, then the stove is probably gunked to heck and back and possibly toast. Sounds like it needs a really thorough cleaning.

    The TC senses fire in the firepot, which thereby initiates the rest of the sequence from ignition to running. If the TC goes, the board cannot *see* the flame and will shut down. Critical component. Easy to replace. Must ensure that ceramic sheath is touching the tip and the tip is located out over the fire.
    HTH,
    Hearthman

  5. #5
    Yes, I'm sure it's all gunked up back there. When we had it cleaned last fall, the guys told us they couldn't get the screw off, and I think they stripped it in the process of trying. At this point, we have no idea how to get it off. It takes an Allen wrench, but it's just a round hole now. Any ideas? I'm trying to clean it by way of the side panels - getting them off enough to get a long skinny brush back there - one designed for cleaning under the refrigerator. It seems to help keep it running for a while, but at this point, it's just hit or miss. I bent the thermocouple wires to ensure that the broken wire was making the best contact possible, and cleaned the heat exchangers as best I could today. It seems to be working okay for now, although I don't know how long that will last. Still working on getting the hvac system designed. Thanks for your help!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
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    6,295

    Talking PIA stove

    I know exactly what you mean by those stripped out Allen head screws. You will need to drill and use an "easy out". The factory does not sell them singly but as part of the entire hardware package for one stove at about $200 to the trade.

    You really need to do what you can to remove these panels and clean out behind them. As they clog, you can actually suck heat under the base center panel causing it to melt away. This allows massive amts of heat directly into the combustion blower and venting. This becomes a fire hazard and must be remedied immediately or shut down. Inspect those back firebox panels closely for signs of blow-by.

    Good luck!

  7. #7

    Working Better

    My husband bought an easy-out bit like you recommended and got the screw out! Yeah! Talk about gunk! When he removed the panels, a pile of ash fell out that completely filled the firepot, overflowing to the drawer! And, this was after I thought I had managed to vacuum it pretty well just a couple of weeks ago. Then, we had to use a screwdriver to get the packed ash out from in between each baffle - once that was done, another ton of ash dumped from above. We used my trusty "under the fridge" brush to try to get at the tops. It's working much better now - putting off a lot more heat - best yet, staying lit without needing to overfeed. So, maybe the thermocouple is still hanging in there, now that the heat is apparently where it belongs. Thanks so much for your help and advice!

    So, what's by-blow look like? How do I know if I saw it?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Madison, WI
    Posts
    1,078
    Now that you can get those panels off, make sure the firepot is also cleaned out really well. If the air holes in the firepot are restricted it can cause the "overfeeding" effect. I say effect, because its not actually over feeding, its just not burning fast enough so it seems like its over feeding.

    If you do not have an owners manual you should check on quadrafire.com and download one, go through the entire maintenece section and give it a really good cleaning. This stove may still be able to make a nice backup or suplimental heat source once you get your central heat installed.

    Also I am wondering if you were able to free up the rods, or are they fused to the tubes? I have never seen one fused in there, just stuck pretty good from ash.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
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    6,295

    Thumbs up success

    Glad you got it apart and back together. You really do need that owners manual. All this service is detailed in there as something a homeowner could be expected to do so this is not DIY advice.

    Blow-by signs would be any heat discoloration, sooting, cracking or melting of steel in the combustion chamber where, when burning, you see sparks, embers, and ash suck under a panel or through a defect as opposed to the normal circulatory pattern across the heat exchanger.

    If the rods are still sticking, try scraping the heck out of those aluminun HX tubes then scrub them with a Scotchbrite pad or steel wool until smooth. That should do it. Honestly, they actually fit rather sloppy when new so a tight fit means a lot of gunk. Its just hard to reach. I have a large assortment of all sorts of funky brushes and vacuum hoses to get up, in and around pellet stoves and their baffling baffles. Dont' forget to clean the combustion blower vanes and discharge tube on out the vent. Some will collect ash in the bend in the discharge chute so make sure it is clean ALL the way out. If you don't do as JTP said and let those firepot holes clog, you begin to lose that self-clean aspect of the firepot. You get an imbalanced flame, instead of the normal helix. Those holes cause the intake air to swirl into a cyclone sucking up spent ash when entraining fresh air into the fire. Don't forget the 4 holes across the bottom right at the guillotine gate. A 3/16 Allen wrench works nicely to hook into those holes and ream them out. Make sure the gate closely fully and those side ash dumps are closed completely before burning.

    Glad to help where we could.
    Good luck,
    Hearthman

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