Despite the recent boom in sales of wood pellet and corn stoves, over 70% of homeowners wishing to supplement their existing heating systems still rely on wood stoves.
Wood stoves have a fuel efficiency rating of 63%. This is 20% less efficient than wood pellet or corn stoves. However, catalytic wood stoves have advertised efficiencies of 70% -80%. The catalytic in a catalytic stove is the honeycomb shaped, palladium coated, catalytic combustor. Here's how it works:
Gases given off by the wood will burn if the fire is 1,000 degrees F or higher. If the fire is turned down and the gases inside the firebox are less than 1,000 degrees F, they will not burn. However, when the gases pass through a chemical combustor, the palladium metal acts as a catalyst and causes the gases to burn at temperatures as low as 500 degrees F. This allows the stove to produce long lasting, even heat while extending the burn time of each load of wood.
Catalytic wood stoves are also known as EPA certified wood stoves because they comply with the particulate emission limit of 4.1 grams per hour initiated by the EPA in 1988.
If you have an older wood-burning appliance, consider upgrading to one of the
newer catalytic wood burning stoves certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). High-efficiency appliances not only have lower emissions but they are also safer, since complete combustion helps to prevent a buildup of flammable chimney deposits called creosote.
If you want to retrofit an existing non-chemical wood-burning appliance with a
catalytic combustor, you can buy a catalytic damper. These are available as kits and are usually installed in the flue collar. To monitor the stove temperature after adding a chemical combustor, you should also install at least one heat sensor on the stove body or stove pipe.
Several manufacturers sell retrofit kits, and they may be available from wood stove retailers. They are not appropriate for all types of stoves. Again, be sure to follow the manufacturer's installation and operating instructions.
A quality wood stove can be purchased for as little as $ 300. Compare this to $ 850 for a catalytic stove, or $ 2000 for a wood pellet stove.
Choosing the correct size wood stove for your home is important, and easy to figure out. By multiplying the number of square feet you want to heat by 35 BTU, you will get the approximate BTU size stove to fit your needs. For instance, a 1,000 square foot home would require a 35,000 BTU stove.
Proper venting is critical to reducing pollution and maintaining high efficiency. Before having your stove installed, be sure to check with local authorities regarding building codes and permits, and notify your fire insurance company.
Additionally, consult a certified installer about the need for a flue liner in your masonry chimney. This liner can help maintain proper draft and prevent icing, which can block your chimney. Use the manufacturer's recommended flue diameter. An improperly sized flue will not provide the draft needed to operate the stove.
If you live near a source of cheap, or free firewood, there's no more cost effective or popular heating appliance than the wood burning stove.