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Pellet Cooker Review - The hidden costs of owning a Lohberger Pellet Stove

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Stove Manufacturer: Lohberger

Model: LCP80 Varioline Pellet Cooker

COSTS SUMMARY

Purchase brand new stove £1400

Parts cost to date (over 3years):

Auger motor £620

Capacitor £3

3 ignitors £190 x 3

Temperature probe £80

Exhaust fan £480

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£1750

NOTE: PARTS COST FOR REPLACEMENT OF FAULTY COMPONENTS OVER 3YEARS EXCEEDS COST OF LOHBERGER COOKER"

Percentage of time that cooker has been out of service due to malfunction over 3 years – 80%: YES, REALLY. MOST OF THE TIME IT IS IN BITS ON MY KITCHEN FLOOR

EVERY MAJOR COMPONENT HAS FAILED ON THIS LOHBERGER COOKER. I have other pellet stoves which have worked reliably for years, so it seems crazy that this one is so bad

Would I buy one again? Definitely not

Would I recommend one? Only to people I disliked

How does it compare with other pellet stoves I've used? Absolutely dismally

Is the Lohberger Varioline cooker fit for purpose? Definitely not

What are the running costs? Difficult to say, as it has never run for more than 6months without a major breakdown, but I can say that if you are planning to buy one of these cookers, budget around £800 per year to cover replacement parts... even if you thought it ought to be covered by warranty, and that's assuming that you plan to do most of the repair work yourself. If you are the kind of customer that expects an engineer to come and sort it out, then you probably ought to budget £1600 per year for repairs.

How would you rate the Lohberger for reliability? Very badly. If you want a pellet cooker as an ornament in your kitchen, it looks nice. However, you will struggle to keep it running, and even when it is running ok, it will have such poor temperature stability that you could not cook on it.

HISTORY

This Lohberger Pellet Cooker was purchased from The Green Shop - as a brand new ex-display model for around £1400. It started badly, as the shop wanted to invoice me for wood pellets rather than the stove (so they could save themselves 12.5% of the vat).

FAILURE 1- Week1

A week later the Lohberger pellet stove cooker was installed we had a functional wood pellet cooker. But not for long....a few days later the pellet feed motor failed. I contacted The Green Shop, but they told me they had given up their Lohberger dealership due to problems, and that I should contact Lohberger directly

I started to communicate with Lohberger in Austria. They were very slow to respond to each email - usually taking over a week to respond, sometimes longer, and usually needing one or two emails to chase each reply. They asked me for this and that, and insisted on a copy of the purchase invoice (Luckily, I had not accepted The Green Shop's invoice for wood pellets!). However, after a lengthy exchange, during which the Lohberger left us without heat and without cooking facilities for 3 weeks, the upshot was, that Lohberger told us they would not honour the warranty on the product, despite it being new and unused. Instead, they told us to contact their new UK distributor Euroheat.

Euroheat, were helpful - came and had a look at the problem, and ordered the required part (A replacement auger motor), and arranged to come and install it. The job cost just over £620. A pretty hefty bill, for something that was brand new, and should have been covered by warranty. Repair costs already 45% of purchase cost.

FAILURE 2 - two days later

The new auger motor failed a couple of days later. It exhibited exactly the same issues as the original motor. Euroheat were unsure of the problem - so I had to communicate directly with Lohberger. Again Lohberger were very slow to respond, and it took about two weeks to establish that it was probably an external capacitor failure. It appeared that Lohberger were using faulty, poor quality or very old capitors for their auger motors. I suggested to Lohberger that perhaps this vindicated my original position regarding the original failure that should have been covered by the product warranty. Lohberger refused to be drawn on this. Euroheat obtained the replacement part and posted it to me, together with some installation instructions. I installed it, the motor still did not work. So I purchased a motor capacitor from ebay with similar specification (but somewhat larger), fitted that, and the stove started working again.

FAILURE 3 ~2months later

This time, the Lohberger pellet stove failed to ignite. It appeared that the mechanical grate had failed. This seems to have been caused by excessive use due to burnouts - when the pellet flame extinguishes unexpectedly, and the Lohberger pellet cooker responds by emptying the grate and starting again. Speaking to Euroheat, they considered that this was due to incorrect programing in the machine function code and in doing so, the unburnt pellets then reignite underneath the grate, causing overheating of the grate, and warping, causing it to stick, and jam. Lohberger did not respond to my emails this time, so I dismantled the pellet cooker and through a series of trial and error, modified the grate so that it worked again. This is not easy - as the jammed grate lodges in the ashtray, which means that nothing can be removed. You have to try to burn the pellets in the ashtray using a LPG blowlamp aimed through a small crack! Great design!!

POOR OPERATION - entire duration of ownership

At this point, it is worth noting that although the Lohberger Varioline cooker was functioning, it would regularly extinguish itself for no good reason - and it was highly unusual for it to keep alight for more than about 5hours. Running throgh the night was impossible - we would wake up to a cold kitchen and an error message flashing away on the screen.

Also, the Lohberger cooker was impossible to maintain at a steady oven temperature. It would fluctuate up and down by 50C or more (and that's assuming it did not extinguish itself duing the cooking process). Food always took a lot longer to cook than anticipated, due to the low temperature fluctuations. In the end, we gave up using the Lohberger oven altogether. I spoke to Lohberger about this, but they didn't seem particularly interested, and were not prepared to engage with me to try to solve the problem.

Another quirk of the Lohberger Varioline is that it would normally light, then decide it was too hot, stop feeding pellets, wait for the flame temperature to drop below 120C and then restart. Sometimes it would start/burn out /relight 3 times before it would settle down. As the cooling period to drop below 120C could take up to 20 or 30minutes, it means a long-drawn out process (90-120minutes) before you can even start heating the oven for cooking. Hardly practical!

FAILURE 4, 5 & 6

Igniter failures - the ignitors on pellet stoves generally last 3 years or more. Our first one lasted around 8 months. Not covered by warranty of course, and a replacement costs around £190. The replacement failed a few months later, and the 3rd one developed a short-circuit after about 8months. Eventually I gave up using the ignitors, and settled for a blowlamp from underneath. The downside of this, is that the stove would not relight, so the maximum runtime was 5hours, minimum was often as short as 20minutes before needing manual relighting. In the end I wired up an indicator to power wire for the probe, and found that the control board would often apply power to the igniter at seemingly random times - including when the flame temperature was over 500C, so clearly unnecessary. I suspect that poor logic programing is the culprit, and heating an ignitor up when the flame temperature is already 500+C is a certain route to premature ignitor failure. Perhaps this is the idea? To capitalise on the spare parts market?

Failure 8 - 18months

Temperature probe burnt through. The manual is very clear that the flame temperature sensor needs to be cleaned regularly - which is what I did. However, after about 18months, an unknown error code appeared and it refused to light. It turned out to be a temperature sensor/well failure. For a while I tried to run with s thermistor bodge, but eventually I decided to bite the bullet and buy a new temperature sensor(Having spent many months looking for an off-the-shelf part, I realised that my only option was to buy an overpriced Lohberger spare part).By this time Euroheat had ceased to exist, so I had to deal with another new company 'Zeroridge'. It turns out to be run by the same people that ran Euroheat, but for some reason, a completely new entity. They were helpful, and £80 later, a replacement sensor arrived.

Failure 9 - a couple of days after sensor replaced

This time the cooker will start pellets smouldering, but they fail to light. Luckily I was home when it happened, as the room filled with thick smoke, and I had to open the windows and doors for an hour to clear the smoke (not ideal in the middle of winter!), whilst the Lohberger continued to produce more until eventually the fire (or lack of) subsided. If I hadn't been home, I suspect I would have come home to find my dogs and cats dead. This really highlighted to me , how bad this Lohberger cooker designis, and that it would be definitely dangerous to try to run it overnight whilst asleep. After some investigation, I found the culprit - this time the exhaust fan had failed. Another call to Zeroridge, and I found the price for a new one was nearly £500!! If you search on ebay, you will find plenty from the same fan manufacturer for £90-190, but the Lohberger fan is very slightly different - with an unusually long shaft, making it impossible to fit a standard OEM fan. I spoke to the fan manufacturer, and they said they could sell the fan for about £190, but I would need to buy a minimum of 10 units, as they aren't carried in stock in the UK.

Conclusion

I think I have given up on the stove for now. There comes a point when you realise that you are just throwing good money after bad. It has been in running order for only about 20% of the time I have owned it (from new!).

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