Should a Pellet Stove Smell Like Smoke?


Using your pellet stove for the first time can be a challenge, as most people are not entirely aware of the full process needed to get the stove to make heat. Each part of the pellet stove needs different adjustments, and most likely, you will start having panic attacks when a strong smell of smoke starts emanating from the stove. Understanding why the pellet stove smells like smoke can be a stressful experience. 

A pellet stove should not smell like smoke when it has been used more than once, with only the first light of a season or the first time it is being used at all, causing the smell of smoke to come from the stove. Once the stove is running and burning hot, there should be no visible smoke or smell of anything burning at all. 

There are several reasons why a pellet stove will emit the smell of smoke, and many people around the world forget that this is normal. Before you go and worry about the smell coming from your pellet stove, there are several things that you need to check to ensure that everything is working properly. A lot of stoves need some work to be done if they have been standing still for an entire summer season. 

Why would a pellet stove smell like smoke?

Your pellet stove will eventually start smelling like smoke, and this usually causes a few people to panic. Understanding why a pellet stove that has suddenly changed its behavior is doing so can be a head-scratcher, and as the room starts smelling worse and worse, it can be a challenge for most to know what the cause is.

Unless something has seriously gone wrong with your stove, like a broken part or worn-out fan, finding the reason a pellet stove smells like smoke can be quite easy. There are 4 reasons that you can trace and usually fix within a few minutes, each one causing the smell of smoke to emanate from your trusty pellet stove throughout its lifetime.

Unused Stove

You may be using your stove every winter, but the other half of the year, the stove will be sitting unused. This is one of the biggest causes of a stove smelling like smoke. As the soot and other materials inside the stove have been left the first time you relight the stove for winter, these will burn first. This usually causes the smell of either burning wood or just a dirty stove for several hours. 

The good thing about this is that the smell does dissipate with time, usually becoming nothing but a memory as the stove continues to burn for the winter. Unused stoves will always have the smell of smoke for a few hours after being lit. As the stove continues to burn away all the settled dust and wood, the smell will lessen. Usually, first-time stove owners start worrying when this happens and unnecessarily shut the stove off entirely.  

New Stove

The first time a pellet stove is lit is a wonderful and stressful experience, and all stove owners will usually end up running around trying to figure out all the smells. The first smell will always be that of burning plastic as the paints harden. However, usually following that smell is the smell of smoke. This is for multiple reasons, not least of which is that there are a few natural gaps between panels.

However, as the stove works, these gaps are filled with soot and other materials, the metals expand to seal, and the stove as a whole becomes more solid. This is one of the only times where you should expect some smokey smells to be carried through for the next few days. The smell of smoke should dissipate after three to four days. If it persists after that, the stove vents may have leaks. 

Wet Pellets

All pellet stove owners experience this at least once in their lives, and it is a big cause for not just the smell of smoke but actual smoke to be spewed out by a stove. It is vital that the pellets that are being used in the pellet stove be as dry as humanly possible. Pellets that are even a little moist will cause the entire stove to smoke and can cause it to run inefficiently.

The only way to remedy this is by getting new, dry pellets to be poured into the stove, as drying out pellets can be a challenging task. A lot of pellet stove owners store their pellets in climate-controlled areas specifically to prevent any moisture from entering their pellets. It is vital to remember that pellets are usually bone dry, having had all the moisture compressed out of them. 

Leaky Vent

If the smell of smoke persists for several days, even when you have the perfect pellets and heat setting being used for your stove, the cause of the smell can only be one thing, the vent. The vents for pellet stoves can have and usually do, have leaks throughout them when they are first installed. These leaks must be plugged and sealed properly as there are soot, CO2, and other gases that flow through a vent.

The best way to do this is to use a flashlight while the vent is shut down. These holes need to either be sealed with the right tape or welded shut. No amount of waiting will seal these holes and can be very damaging to your health if left entirely unchecked. Usually, when your pellet stove suddenly starts smelling like smoke after weeks of operation, it is a good sign that a leak has started to form on the venting system. 

What are the best ways to stop your pellet stove from smoking?

There are several ways to stop the pellet stove from smelling like smoke, apart from waiting for the smell to stop, each of which needs to be done to a specific type of problem. Usually, older pellet stoves just need some love and care to stop smelling like smoke, while newer pellet stoves just need the right pellets. Understanding how to prevent the smoke from happening in the first place is the first step in fighting the smell. 

There are several basic ways that you can prevent the smell of smoke from your pellet stove, with only a few of them require that you shut down the stove entirely. Having a clean and working pellet stove should always be the first thing you ensure before any cold season forces you to have the system running for months on end. 

  • Ensure Airflow: The most common thing overlooked when a stove does smoke is how much airflow it is getting. The fan on a pellet stove is not always enough to ensure it is burning hot enough, and if you find yourself with a smoke problem increasing the space around the stove could immediately improve the overall burn you are getting from the stove. 
  • Clean Vents: The simplest way to stop the smokey smell from coming from the stove is to ensure there is nothing to cause the smoke smell from being there. By cleaning out the vents, the filters, and everything else, you ensure that there is a clear way for all the bad air to flow out of the pellet stove. 
  • New Pellets: Old pellets usually suck and will be the most likely source of smoke for your stove. Using new, sealed pellets can and should be the first thing you do to prevent smoke. This not only allows the entire fire to burn hotter but ensures that there are less soot and other bad air to physically clog the vents of your pellet stove. 
  • Increase Temperature: The overall temperature that the pellet stove is burning at is what determines how much smoke is being released by the pellets. If you are using the only pellets that you have and they are causing smoke, or if it is just the first burn of the season, having the pellet stove burn at a hotter temperature will ensure that almost no smoke is produced. 
  • Clean Ash: The one culprit that few people ever suspect to be causing smoke to be pouring out of their pellet stove is the ashtray beneath the stove. If you have been running the stove for months on end, then the best thing you can do is to clean out the ashtray, ensuring that there can be nothing smoldering in the ashes. 


Pellet stoves should rarely have the constant smell of smoke coming from them, and ensuring that the pellet stove is not leaking is important. However, it is vital to remember that there are times that it will release some smoke, and the smell can easily permeate throughout the house. This should not be a cause for alarm and can usually be caused by something simple or fixed within a few minutes.

Whatever you are doing, just ensure that the pellet stove is cooled down before you start cleaning out parts of the stove!

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