Listen to the experts

Starla Golie
Farmers Advance

I call myself the pellet stove guru. Dad would be proud of my knowledge of pellet stoves. We have two of them and they are great… when they are in operating order. But when it’s five degrees, the wind is howling and they are throwing error codes and the milk house heaters aren’t keeping up then you will take just about any other heat source known to man. When they work, they give off a beautiful glow, warm heat and offer a soothing sense of peace and harmony.They are generally pain free and I keep the operators manual close by so I can look up the codes and solve the problem when they decide to shut down. Last year I found myself on the phone with a woman with a sweet southern twang as she walked me through the steps to a solution. She was kind and encouraging as she said, “You can do this, I work on these things all the time and I’m sure you can do this.” With her reassurance I was able to diagnose the problem and after she sent me the correct parts, that were under warranty, I fixed the problem and we were off and running.Stove number two is our back up when it gets really cold out. It normally doesn’t get used unless the wind blows and it gets below zero. When the Christmas forecast showed several days of 40 mph winds and below zero wind chills, I headed downstairs to fire up the second pellet stove. After an hour of frustration and six instructional YouTube videos later, I cried uncle and called the pellet stove hotline. The technician and I went through the check list of issues and when we pinpointed the problem, I hung up and started fixing.Just when I thought I was ready for the final fire up, all the lights went black, the stove was completely dead. I called my pellet stove friend back and she started with the most obvious solution first and I have to admit I got a little impatient when she asked if it was plugged in. Of course, it’s plugged in, duh. From there she diagnosed it and said she would send the new part right out, but it wasn’t going to be here in time for this storm.The wind blew, the temps dipped and we made it through the Christmas storms relatively unscathed but now we were headed into the heart of winter and the part still hadn’t arrived. A month later it came. The temps had been mild, but I knew that if I didn’t get this part replaced, I would lose my courage, so I headed downstairs and started to prepare for replacement. I pulled up the YouTube videos, gathered my tools and my first step was to disconnect the power. As I untangled the cord from behind the unit, I discovered the cord was plugged into the outlet, but it was NOT plugged into the unit. My feelings were mixed, I was giddy with excitement that I had found a simple solution and disappointed in myself that we waited an entire month for a part that we didn’t need. I plugged the unit in, turned it on and she fired right up!Note to self, when diagnosing a problem, never get impatient when a technician asks you to begin with the most obvious solution first, listen to the expert and do what they say.Melissa is a farmwife, mom and freelance writer residing on a dairy farm in southern Michigan. She is available for speaking engagements by contacting her at Visit her weblog at