Non-cats cleaner than catalytic or pellet stoves in new certifications

In the most recent updated list of EPA certified stoves, 17 more units became 2020 compliant, meeting the 2020 EPA regulations of emitting no more than 2 grams an hour.  While it is not a large sample size, among this batch of newly certified units,  the non-catalytic stoves averaged 1.2 grams an hour, whereas catalytic stove averaged 1.3 and pellet stoves averaged 1.4.  It is not yet clear if the non-catalytic stove designers used new innovative technology or just fine-tuned existing strategies to reduce particulate matter.
Of the 17 newly certified stoves,
non-catalytic models are the cleanest
Many industry experts have argued that the 2020 emission standard of 2 grams an hour favors catalytic and pellet stoves.  But we are seeing some non-cats come in below 1 gram an hour, including 2 of the 5 in this recently certified batch.  Many of the 2020 compliant non-cats do fall in the 1.5 to 2 gram range.  And every once in a while, a stove goes into the lab and doesn’t quite meet the 2.0 gram standard, like a IHP stove that recently came out certified at 2.1 grams.  Assuming this unit was not tested with cordwood (which are allowed up to 2.5 grams per hour), this means that the model can only remain on the market in the US for less than 18 months until May 2020, unless the EPA were to approve a sell-through.
Efficiency

The average efficiencies show a less surprising trend: the 13 newly certified non-catalytic and pellet stoves had the same average efficiency – 69%.  The four catalytic stoves, including one hybrid, had an average of 77% efficiency.  These efficiency numbers are typical of averages of all stoves on the market. Pellet stoves have long had the reputation of being a more efficient technology, but over the last several years, as manufacturers were required to disclose efficiencies,  we saw that pellet stoves had a far greater range on the low and high end, with the average being about the same as non-cats.  Even among this small sample, pellet stoves had the lowest efficiency unit (at 60%) made by Sherwood Industries.  Sherwood also made the highest efficiency pellet stove in this newly certified batch – at 77%.
Efficiency could be a more important metric if Congress re-instates the tax credit for residential wood heaters.  That credit was worth $ 300 but expired in December 2017.  Stoves needed to be 75% efficient to qualify for the tax credit, but manufacturers were allowed to claim eligibility without disclosing their real efficiency, allowing virtually all stoves to qualify.  The practice of exaggerating efficiencies and misleading consumers got to the point that even the industry association, the Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association, changed course in 2018 and recommended that only publicly disclosed efficiencies on the EPA list of stoves be used in the future to determine eligibility.  If the credit is reinstated, there is a chance that the eligibility number could be reduced to 73%, in part to help more non-catalytic stoves qualify.
Carbon monoxide

The other metric that test labs are now required to report is carbon monoxide, another very important test of cleanliness, along with particulate matter.  By far the cleanest technology in terms of CO is the pellet stove. The pellet stoves in this small batch had an average of 0.42. grams an hour of CO, the catalytic had 0.63 grams and non-catalytic stoves had 1.2 grams – almost double the CO of non-cats and triple that of pellet stoves.

A stove’s ability to burn off carbon monoxide often tracks its ability to burn off particulate matter.  Of the pellet stoves, the three with the lowest CO also had a lower average PM (1.2 grams an hour), and the three with higher CO had a higher average PM (1.5 grams an hour).  
Overall progress towards 2020

There are 533 stove models on the latest list of EPA certified stoves that are currently in production.  Many of those units will never be changed to become 2020 compliant and many are already not being produced any more.  Industry experts say that the number of stove models will contract as we get closer to 2020, likely in the range of 300 – 400 models.  As of February 2019, 119 models are 2020 compliant.  (The number of 2020 compliant models is consistently under-reported due to delays in processing and notification.)  Many manufacturers may also have completed their R&D and/or their testing but have not submitted the data to the EPA. 
Most stove manufacturers have at least a third to half of their models 2020 certified – including larger brands such as American Energy Systems, Blaze King, Even Temp, Fireplace Products International, Hearthstone, Pacific Energy, Rais, Ravelli, RSF/ICC, Sherwood Industries, Stuv, Travis and Woodstock Soapstone.
However, the two largest value stove manufacturers in the US market – US Stove and Englander – only have pellet stoves certified and still do not have any 2020 compliant wood stoves.   They sell to big box stores, which buy even earlier than specialty retailers.  It is still too early to tell if big box stores will replace Englander and US Stove models with models from other manufacturers, likely at higher prices.  Some in industry hope that the 2020 emission standards will help specialty heath stores regain some of the market share they had lost to the big box stores over the past decade.  

Heated Up!

DOE offers funding for “state-of-the-art” residential wood and pellet heater R&D

Jonathan Male, Director of the Bioenergy
Technology Office at DOE, speaking at
the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge
Funding can help manufacturers meet 2020 emission standards
Updated on May 9 – For the first time, the US Department of Energy issued a funding announcement to support the development of innovative, state-of-the art technology in residential wood and pellet stoves and central heaters.  
The announcement is part of a larger funding opportunity from the DOE’s Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO), which includes wood heaters because of a Congressional earmark. The DOE will provide up to $ 5 million in grants from $ 300,000 to $ 1,000,000. They expect to issue between 5 – 7 grants. The timeline for applying is short and requires a concept paper to be submitted by June 3 as a precondition of submitting the full application on July 22, 2019.
The funding is timely as it could assist wood stove, boiler and furnace manufacturers in developing heaters that meet the EPA’s 2020 emission standards. Funding is available for research and development on innovative heater design, not just for certification lab testing. Thus, manufacturers who may have delayed R&D could benefit from this grant the most, compared to those who already have a nearly full line of 2020 compliant heaters. Manufacturers can bring Step 2020 compliant heaters to market any time before or after the May 15, 2020 deadline. Funding from the DOE is expected to last for 2 – 3 years, covering work completed in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Many manufacturers are in the midst of completing their testing prior to the May 2020 deadline, but innovation will not end after that. Many manufacturers will initially be offering a smaller variety of models and add more to their product lines based on market conditions.  

“The Alliance for Green Heat applauds the DOE bioenergy program for moving beyond funding for biofuels and supporting innovation in the wood and pellet heater sector,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. “This funding and hopefully more in the future could kickstart a new wave of American innovation and ingenuity in wood heater design which is vital to keep wood and pellet heaters competitive with solar and other renewable technologies.”

The US is a world leader in manufacturing clean wood stoves, but behind European countries when it comes to efficient pellet stoves and wood and pellet central heaters. Most European governments have invested in R&D in biomass heaters, leaving US manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage.
R&D to design cleaner stoves and perform internal testing before sending the stoves to a certification lab constitutes one of the biggest expenses for manufacturers striving to meet 2020 emission targets. If this DOE funding had come two years earlier, it could have played a far greater role in assisting wood heater manufacturers, some of whom are cash-strapped as they must redesign their entire line of stoves and central heaters. 

The DOE appears to be trying to fund more than just tweaks and adjustments to traditionally-designed cat and non-cat stoves. Applications that can demonstrate genuine advancements toward state-of-the-art technology that ensure heaters burn well during start-up and reduce the opportunity for human error may have an edge.

The requirements of the application process include baseline emissions data matched with design change concepts that could substantially lower emissions and increase efficiency. These and other requirements are likely to make it tougher for smaller entities that do not have sophisticated internal labs or certified Step 1 stoves to apply within the short application timelines. Any company that has Step 1 products with baseline data showing they are within the 2015 Step 1 emission standards are eligible if their R&D ideas could achieve the DOE’s requirements of a 50 – 80% reduction in emissions and a 5 – 15% increase in efficiency.
Beyond merely preparing for traditional EPA testing, “applicants are encouraged to expand the testing regimen to evaluate performance over the full cycle of residential wood heater operating conditions (representative of how homeowners actually use their residential wood heaters with representative wood feedstocks).” 
The awards will be substantial but widely dispersed among 10 areas within the bioenergy field. “At DOE, we are focused on expanding America’s energy supply, growing the economy, and enhancing energy security, which will all be furthered by the significant advancements made in bioenergy technologies,” said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “The funding opportunities announced today will help ensure our nation’s competitive advantage in the emerging bioeconomy and allow us to continue to offer U.S. consumers and businesses more homegrown energy choices.”
Areas of R&D interest
DOE listed four specific areas of interest, though other innovations are not excluded.

Automation of wood
stoves using sensors
is one of key areas of
interest for the DOE

  • Novel and innovative residential wood heater designs 
  • Improvements in automation of stoves
  • Wood heater power generation via thermoelectric module integration, and 
  • Improvements in catalyst technologies 
The first area, novel and innovative heater designs, encompasses changes to the combustion chamber, combustion air flow and baffle designs. It could be challenging for the DOE panel reviewing applications to distinguish between more traditional design changes and novel ones in this area, as either one could result in emissions under 2 grams an hour.

The second area, improvements in automation of stoves, includes robust sensing technologies and remote control and real-time performance monitoring. Wood and pellet stoves, boilers, and furnaces could all integrate sensors that monitor and control combustion conditions better. The DOE was a core funder of the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge that focused on automation and gave them insight into the potential of this area.

The third area covers producing electricity from thermoelectric technology, an area that the DOE also explored through the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge.

Lastly, the fourth interest area is improvements in catalyst technology, which appears to cover R&D in the making of catalyst manufacturing as well as their integration into heaters.

Time-line
The timeline is tight and successful applications for similar DOE funding opportunities often do much of the work prior to the release of the funding announcement. The 4-page concept papers are due on June 3, and only applicants who submitted concept papers can submit a full application due on July 22. The DOE expects to notify applicants by September 30 and issue awards in October and November, which is in the DOE’s 2020 fiscal year. Deadlines and other requirements are strictly enforced, and the DOE will not consider applications that stray from the guidelines.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to register and sign on to the DOE’s Exchange System at least a few days before submitting a concept paper, so registration issues can be averted ahead of time.
Eligibility
DOE has relatively broad eligibility requirements. Individuals, for-profit companies, non-profits, universities, and state, local, and tribal governments can all apply. Foreign entities and companies can also apply as long as they have a US office. Federal agencies and DOE labs, such as Brookhaven National Lab, are not eligible to be prime recipients but could be a sub-recipient of a grant. All work must be performed on US soil.
Cost Share

Applicants must provide 20% of the total project costs. The 20% can include in-kind services or cash from non-federal sources.  Cost share may be provided by the prime recipient, subrecipients, or third parties. 

Questions

All questions about the FOA must be submitted to: FY19BETOMultiTopicFOA@ee.doe.gov. DOE personnel are prohibited from communicating directly with applicants.  All questions and answers related to this FOA will be posted on EERE Exchange: https://eere-exchange.energy.gov.
Heated Up!

Bill McGrath: A pioneer in making electricity from a pellet boiler


Bill McGrath

In 2007, Bill McGrath built a thermoelectric pellet boiler that heated his home for almost 10 years. The story, however, starts in 1998, when Bill and a group of other students at Vermont Technical College entered the “American Tour de Sol” Solar Challenge, a solar car competition sponsored by DOE, not unlike the Wood Stove Design Challenge. The competition taught him about solid state technologies and the important role DOE competitions can play in promoting innovation. 


Building on his own experience and Shuji Nakamura’s discovery of commercially viable LED lighting, Bill helped start LEDdynamics in 2000, an LED circuit and lighting manufacturer. However, in the back of his mind he was also thinking about how thermoelectric generators (TEGs–pronounced T-E-G, like L-E-D) could solve a major problem with pellet stoves and boilers: when the electricity goes out, unless you have a big battery or generator, the pellet stove stops operating.

Bill and his colleagues made the TEG powered pellet boiler from an old oil boiler, a washing machine and other various knickknacks. McGrath recalls turning the fire chamber of the old oil burner into a pellet stove, using metal cat food dishes from the dollar store as burn pans, and using an old washing machine as the hopper by shaping it into a funnel that connected to a DC auger that fed the pellets into the burn pans. The hot water coming from the boiler heated one side of the thermoelectric modules, while the cool water that circulated through the home’s radiator system cooled the other side of the modules. This temperature differential (known as the Seebeck effect) generated the electricity to power the auger, blowers and water pump for the heating system.  The thermoelectric pellet boiler produced up to 60 watts and kept him and his family warm for over 9 years, even during power outages. One goal of the Design Challenge is to improve on Bill’s TEG boiler so that a thermoelectric wood stove or boiler can produce substantially more electricity to help power lights, recharge batteries and augment solar power.
After 9 years of heating Bill’s home and
making its own electricity, the home-
made boiler came out of the basement.


In 2013, Bill and his team created a thermoelectric energy generation division at LEDdynamics called TEGpro to share their expertise with everyone from large multinational corporations to small inventors. Surprisingly, the division has found many opportunities for their thermoelectric technologies’ in the petroleum and gas industry. With miles of piping, this industry has a large demand for TEG powered pressure sensors and wireless devices that measure liquid and gaseous chemicals and fuels as they move through the pipeline.  TEGpro is working with the petroleum and gas industry as an “intermediate step” until they can fund projects that hold larger implications for growth in thermoelectric wood and pellet stoves and boilers. 

TEGpro’s customers are already demonstrating the advantages of thermoelectric technology in residential applications across the world. For example, Bill references many instances of users in Alaska and Canada transferring wood stove heat through their cabins by putting TEGs on their central boiler systems, providing them a critical source of electricity without having to use a generator. 

Bill expects TEGs’ trajectory to be like what he experienced with the rise of LEDs since his start at LEDdynamics. Today’s modern LED light was discovered by Shuji Nakamura in 1994, who received the 2014 Nobel prize in physics for his work. Like the pre-Nakamura LEDs, Bill recognizes that the cost and efficiency of thermoelectric generators remains a challenge, but he believes that thermoelectrics will become as commonplace as LEDs.  With events like the Wood Stove Design Challenge, he is optimistic for the future of TEG power generation. However, commercializing energy alternatives like LED lights and solar power needs support from government agencies like DOE to fund the university research and competitions that can make TEGs as common as LEDs.

Heated Up!

Top 10 stories in 2017 for wood and pellet heating

2017 may not have been the most momentous year for wood and pellet stoves, but every year is full of important stories and these are what we see as the top 10. Think we missed one of 2017’s top stories?  Leave a comment.
      1. Wood stove sales lag
Warmer winters and lower fossil fuel prices are likely the main causes of continued sluggish sales of wood stoves and inserts in 2017.  Gas appliances continue to gain in popularity.  The 2015 EPA regulations are rarely cited as contributing to the current malaise in the market, and local restrictions are unlikely to have much of an impact either.  The final weeks of 2017 and first week of 2018 brought arctic temperatures to much of the US, boosting sales of both pellets and stoves.  But will it last?
2. Funding for change out programs rolled back
Whoever thought a motorcycle company would deal a big blow to the stove industry?  To be fair, it had little to do with motorcycles and a lot to do with the Trump Administration wanting to do away with out-of-court air quality violations settlements that allowed polluters to pay part of their fine in programs that improve air quality.  Harley Davidson happened to be the poster child of companies willing to support a change out program, but not allowed to do so by the Trump Administration.  That pipeline of funding, up to 10 million a year, is now cut off, dealing another blow to programs seeking to get people to part ways with their old wood stove, and exchange it for a new pellet, gas or wood stove.
3. Congress – lots of expectation but no action
Three key initiatives – the BTU Act, the NSPS delay and the biomass heater tax credit – did not come to fruition in 2017.  All three initiatives remain in play in 2018, but with each passing month, 2018 will get more consumed by the fall election season. The BTU Act would help the entire biomass thermal energy sector and has some key backers, such as Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). The bills to delay NSPS deadlines by 3 years passed committees, largely on party lines.  With the razor thin majority in the Senate, Democratic support for these initiatives may be more important in 2018.
4. Cordwood test methods are on the rise
The ASTM E3053 cord wood test protocol developed largely by industry members was completed and is now an accepted alternative test method.  However, companies don’t appear to be lining up to use it to certify their stoves.  Meanwhile, NESCAUM is taking the lead in designing what they say is a much more realistic cordwood test method as it takes into account more frequent reloading.  That method appears to have EPA’s interest and may be more likely to be referenced by the federal and/or state governments.
5. The renewable energy movement gains steam, helping pellet systems
Despite a President who champions coal and fossil fuels, the renewable energy movement is gaining ground worldwide.  Automated pellet and chip heating systems are being installed more rapidly in Europe and are gaining wider acceptance in the US.  Pellet stoves and boilers are also becoming more recognized in green building circles.  Campuses, towns, cities and states striving to reduce fossil fuel use usually start with electricity and transition to green heating options. 
6. Anti-wood smoke groups gain legitimacy
In 2017, we saw a rise of clean air groups campaigning for more restrictions on wood stove installation and use.  Some of the core activists emerged years ago when their communities or homes were subjected to excessive smoke from outdoor wood boilers.  In 2017, the focus shifted more to wood stoves, mostly in communities in the West, but to some extent in the Northeast.  Often, tensions rose over lack of enforcement by local jurisdictions who didn’t have the resources, training and/or political will to deal with those creating excessive smoke.  Overall there is a growing recognition that wood smoke is a serious health concern and debates in local and state forums will likely grow in coming years.
7.  Consolidation of stove and pellet plants continues
In the wood and pellet stove world, Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT) did not announce major new acquisitions in 2017, but the company consolidated by moving Quadra-Fire and Vermont Castings production to its Pennsylvania facility.  However, 2017 also saw market share continue to slip away from higher-priced manufacturers like most HHT brands to the lower priced manufacturers that sell from hardware chains.  On the wood pellet front, Lignetics continued its buying spree, finalizing a deal to acquire New England Wood Pellet at the very end of 2017. 
8. DOE co-sponsors Wood Stove Design Challenge
After many years of sitting on the sidelines of thermal biomass, the Department of Energy found an entre in the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge.  DOE is providing funding and its PR department is issuing news releases, lending greater credibility and a higher profile to the event.  The competition features automated stoves and stoves that produce electricity to supplement wintertime solar PV output, showcasing new roles that wood stoves could play if they run more reliably cleaner in real world settings.  The competition will also showcase cordwood testing protocols and fossil fuel reductions achievable by wood stoves compared to solar panels.
9. NY, MD and MA recognize efficiency in stove programs
In 2017, three states began using efficiency criteria to determine eligibility in incentive or change out programs.  NY now requires pellet stoves to have verified efficiencies on the EPA list of certified stoves.  MD & MA provide higher incentives for stoves with verified efficiencies, as Oregon does, but with a far simpler formulas.  The rampant practice by most manufacturers of providing misleading and exaggerated efficiency values – a practice not tolerated in other HVAC sectors – motivated these states to act.
10. The new EPA wood heater regulations move forward
OK, 2017 was not a big news year for the new heater regulations, known as the NSPS.  But in 2017 all large forced air wood furnaces were required to be certified (including smaller ones who pretended to be large to evade certification in 2016).  In April, there were only six EPA certified furnaces ranging from 48% to 89% efficiency, now there are 16.  2017 was a pivotal year in that it marked the midpoint between 2015 and 2020, when all heaters must meet stricter emission standards.  And, with each passing month, more heaters become 2020 compliant as manufacturers hedge their bets in case Congress, the Administration or the courts do not derail the 2020 deadline. In 2017, some exciting new innovation hit the market, including automated MF Fire Catalyst, the Optima designed just to burn pressed logs and more coming soon.

Did we miss something?  Post a comment!

Heated Up!

Six tips to buy the right pellet stove

Retailers say BTU output can be most confusing issue
Glenn Robinson is one
of many retailers struggling
to help consumers avoid
relying on manufacturer
claims about BTU output.
Glenn Robinson has been selling and installing pellet, wood and coal stoves in Pennsylvania for 11 years, and one of the biggest problems he faces is sizing the stove.  “I became tired of false information from manufacturers about how many BTUs they claimed their stoves put out” he said in a recent interview.  “Customers see these exaggerated BTU numbers from a small stove and think it will heat their home, but it won’t.  The result is that the stove is undersized and there is premature wear and tear.  One model from a big name brand would only last for 3 – 4 months before needing repair or even full replacement,” he said.

Glenn is not alone in identifying exaggerated BTU listings as one of the biggest problems consumers face in buying a stove.  Scott Williamson, a Massachusetts pellet installation and repair technician says that he sees stoves “all the time that are being run on high 24/7 and pellet stoves just aren’t designed to do that.”  Both installers say that under sizing of pellet stoves is one of the biggest problems, and urge customers to consider larger (higher BTU output) stoves if they live in average size homes in the northern half of the country and plan to use the stove a lot.
Buying a pellet stove can be a confusing process for consumers. Retailers are likely to push the brands they sell and manufacturer websites don’t tell the whole story.  Objective, third party reviews are rare and often outdated.  Consumer Reports did a pretty good review in 2009 but used very limited criteria and didn’t test for durability.  The Alliance for Green Heat (AGH) also undertook third party testing in 2015 and issued a detailed online reporton some issues including BTU output, maintenance and efficiency. (Like Consumer Reports, AGH conducted completely independent testing by purchasing all the units and doing all of our own testing.)
This blog identifies and discusses six rules for consumers to keep in mind when buying a pellet stove, with a focus on sizing.  This is not an exhaustive list but it’s a good place to start: 1. Don’t undersize, 2. Beware of cheaper stoves, 3. Look for range of heat output, 4. Understand maintenance requirements of the stove, 5. Look for cleaner stoves and 6. Beware of stoves with no efficiency on the EPA list
AGH tested six popular pellet stoves.
Almost all performed well during
intensive 30 day testing, but did not
live up to some manufacturer claims.

Pellet stoves can be a very effective and affordable way to provide primary or secondary heat for your home without the smoke that wood stoves often create in the hands of the typical user. Wood stoves require lots of work on the fuel side of the equation, but pellet stoves involve more work on the appliance side of the equation. 
The Alliance for Green Heat also monitors advertising of pellet stoves and has found over the years that the great majority of companies vastly overrate the amount of heat their stoves put out.  The EPA list of certified wood and pellet stoves is not perfect but it remains the best source of BTU output for consumers. 
Most EPA-certified pellet stoves are listed as producing a maximum of 25,000 – 40,000 Btu and minimum of 7,000 – 13,000 Btu. The average pellet stove on the EPA list, according to data provided by third party test labs, put out a maximum of approximately 31,800 Btu and a minimum of approximately 10,050 Btu. 
The stove with the highest maximum Btu on the EPA list is the Harman P68 at 53,500 Btu (advertised at 71,200 Btu input).  When a stove manufacturer lists Btu input, it refers to amount of Btus in the fuel, if you were to get 100% of those Btus into the room.  But the average pellet stove is around 73% efficiency, which means you will get 73% of the fuel’s potential heat into the room.  (This is similar to the AFUE – the annual fuel utilization efficiency – that is used on gas and oil boilers and furnaces.)
The stove with the lowest maximum Btu is the Thelin Gnome pellet stove that puts out up to 9,000 Btus.  However the company advertises three times that – 27,000 Btus – without any explanation.  Manufacturers usually exaggerate Btu, thinking that it will make their stoves more attractive, but in the case of the Thelin Gnome, there are people looking for stoves to heat very small places and the exaggerated Btu output may make them think even the Gnome is too big.
Here are six critical things for consumers to keep in mind when purchasing a pellet stove:
1.       1. Don’t undersize. If the stove is going to be your primary heat source you will likely need a medium or large pellet stove, even if a smaller unit advertises high BTU output.  Ignore BTU numbers on manufacturers websites and literature and check the EPA list.  The maximum output for pellet stoves is in the 30,000 – 50,000 range, enough to heat all or most of a small or medium house in most climates. “Don’t plan to run the stove all the time at its highest setting,” warns Scott Williamson “or you will be calling someone like me to fix it quicker than you think.”  When we tested six popular pellet stove models, we calculated an output of no more than 21,000 BTUs, far below what the EPA listed and even farther below what manufacturers claimed.
(It is possible to oversize the stove and that can be a problem, but is not nearly as common as under sizing.  For example, the Harman P68 is notorious for being installed in small areas like mobile homes but they gunk up when they aren’t allowed to get up to temperature for a bit before they shutdown,” says Scott Williamson.)
2.      2. Beware of cheaper stoves. There are some good budget wood stoves on the market, but with pellet stoves, you are more likely to get what you pay for than with wood stoves.  “If you want a reliable stove that puts out a lot of heat, we urge customers to ignore pellet stoves under $ 2,500,” says Glenn Robinson.  Scott Williamson generally agrees but has seen some basic stoves like the Pel Pro and Englander hold up pretty well.
3.      3. Check for range of heat output.  Most stoves can put out about 3.5 times more heat at their highest setting, compared to their lowest.  Some stoves have a tiny range, putting out only 1.5 times more heat at their highest setting.  If you live in a more moderate climate, in the early fall and late spring, you may want just a little heat, and still have the capacity for much greater heat output on the coldest days and nights of winter.  All other things being equal in a stove, you may want a stove with a larger range of heat output and you can check the range of all stoves on the EPA listof certified stoves. In our tests, we found that the Enviro M55 insert ran continuously for an impressive 49 hours on its lowest setting with a tested hopper size of 60 pounds and it ran for 22 hours on its higher setting.  However, with a 37-pound hopper, the Englander 25 PDVC only rain for 15 hours on its lower setting and 13 hours on its highest setting, indicating a very low turn down ratio.
4.       4. Understand maintenance requirements. If you don’t clean your stove regularly and have it professionally serviced once a year, don’t expect high BTU output.  Most consumers get subpar performance from stoves and have to repair them more often because they are not maintaining their stoves according to the owner’s manual.  Pellet stoves are not like wood stoves: they have lots of moving parts and need cleaning of the burn pot and inside the stove on weekly, and depending on the stove, a daily basis.  Pellet stoves that are not cleaned regularly can lose 10% or more of their efficiency – and their heat output, and lead to costlier repairs. Understand the daily, weekly and annual maintenance requirements from the start and don’t put them off.  When we tested six popular pellet stoves, we found that the three more expensive ones (Harman, Quadra-Fire and Enviro) could go for a week or more without cleaning the burn pot.  However, the Englander, Ravelli and Piazzetta needed daily burn pot cleanings.

5.       5. Look for cleaner pellet stoves.  Pellet stoves are far cleaner than wood stoves, even if they both have the same particulate matter in grams per hour.  Particulate matter is the tiny stuff that smoke is made out of and pellet stoves should not have any visible smoke after the 3-minute start up.   The average pellet stove used to put out about 2 grams of particulate per hour.  But since the new EPA regulations took effect in 2015, the average pellet stove emits about 1.3 grams per hour that makes pellet stoves more suitable in more densely populated suburban and even urban areas.  Choosing a cleaner pellet stove means a cleaner flue pipe and cleaner air around your and your neighbors’ homes.
6.       6. Beware of stoves without an efficiency on the EPA list. As with BTUs, manufacturers routinely exaggerate the efficiency of their stoves on their websites, so if efficiency and saving money is important to you, check the EPA list of stoves for efficiency ratings.  The problem is some companies still haven’t reported their efficiency to the EPA, so you may only want to purchase a stove that has an efficiency listing on the EPA list.  Pellet stoves with listed efficiencies range from 58 to 87% efficiency, but those not listed could be even lower, drastically increasing your heating costs.
The EPA list includes some slightly exaggerated efficiency numbers, but they are not nearly as exaggerated as manufacturer websites and literature. The EPA used to allow companies to calculate efficiency based on a default of 78% efficiency, even though most pellet stoves are below that, explains Ben Myren, who runs one of the stove test labs approved by the EPA. The result is a 5-10% exaggeration of some stoves on the EPA site, something that the EPA has not publicly acknowledged. (Some incentive and change out programs – Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon – require that the stove have an efficiency listed on the EPA list to get the full rebate.)

Appreciating these six factors are likely to help you make a better decision, but we also encourage consumers to rely on feedback from friends, neighbors and others who own pellet stoves. One site that can be helpful for research is hearth.com.  
A final note of caution is to take advertised hopper size with a grain of salt.  Most manufacturers also exaggerate hopper size.  Of the six models we tested, Harman and Ravelli exaggerated their hopper size by 15 – 18%, while Enviro didn’t exaggerate at all.  Choosing a stove with an advertised hopper size of 50 – 60 pounds can be a good idea, as it means the hopper will likely hold 45 – 55 pounds and you can empty an entire 40 pound bag in it when its low.

Heated Up!

New York adds efficiency requirement to pellet stove incentive program

This month, New York became the first state in the country to set a minimum efficiency requirement in an ongoing pellet stove incentive program.  The State will now only provide its $ 1,500 – $ 2,000 rebates to pellet stoves that are listed as 70% efficiency (HHV) or higher on the EPA’s list of certified stoves.
Two other states use efficiency values and a third is about to announce a similar change in their program.  Oregon has long provided far higher rebates to stoves with higher efficiency listings on the EPA list of wood and pellet stoves.  Massachusetts’ annual change-out program gives an additional rebate if the stove is listed at 65% or higher on the EPA stove list. 
The change in New York’s program, run by the New York State Energy and Research Development Agency (NYSERDA), will limit the number of currently eligible pellet stoves to about 30 models.  NYSERDA also requires that pellet stoves emit no more than 2 grams an hour and that the home does not have access to natural gas, two requirements that the Maryland rebate program also has. 
Last year, NYSERDA gave rebates to help install about 500 pellet stoves and the Maryland program averages about 800 pellet stoves per year.  In both states, this is a significant boost to pellet stove sales.  One of the biggest differences between the two programs is that New York requires the trade-in of an old wood stove, unless you are a low income household, but the Maryland program does not.
Part of the motivation by states and programs to require that stoves have an efficiency listed on the EPA list of stoves is to counter the widespread misinformation provided by manufacturers to consumers.  The Alliance for Green Heat has consistently urged incentive and change out program managers to include efficiency and other best practices in program design. 
This can be particularly problematic with lower income families who may have tried to calculate savings when purchasing a pellet stove, and are relying on manufacturer claims to get one of the higher efficiency stoves.  Incentive and change out programs that give larger amounts to lower income households may be helping those families purchase pellet stoves that are under 60% efficient, saddling them with higher fuel costs for the lifetime of the appliance.
The New York program provides a rebate of $ 2,000 for lower income households compared to $ 1,500 for others, and now protects them from misleading information about efficiencies.  A large portion of the NYSERDA rebate recipients are low-income households.  Both New York and Massachusetts qualify lower income families if they earn less than 80% of median income.  The Massachusetts program was the first to use efficiency in a change out program, giving an additional $ 500 for stoves listed at 65% or higher on the EPA list of certified stoves.  Stoves made by manufacturers who do not disclose actual, tested efficiencies to the public are not eligible for the bonus in Massachusetts or for anything in New York.  Massachusetts also gives a higher rebate amount if you purchase an automated wood stove.
Many retailers welcome the change, as they are often caught between manufacturer efficiency claims and confused consumers.  However, the main hearth industry association representing residential wood and pellet stoves, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, continues to resist efforts to use stove efficiency in incentive and change-out programs.  HPBA provided this statement about the changes in the NYSERDA program: “Unfortunately, there are some very clean, and potentially very efficient, pellet stoves that were certified before efficiency data was required by the new NSPS, but NYSERDA’s program requirements exclude them from consumers’ options.”
Of the approximately 30 pellet stoves that are 2 grams an hour or less and 70% efficiency or more, there are a wide range of more expensive brands carried by specialty hearth stores and very inexpensive ones carried by big box stores.  And more than a third emit no more than 1 gram an hour.  The most efficient pellet stoves on the EPA list, from the Italian Extraflame line, are 87% and 85% efficiency, but do not appear to be on the US market yet.
For consumer tips on how to choose a wood or pellet stove, this websiteoffers advice on stove selection, installation, rebates in your state and how to know when a stove needs replacing.

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All wood and pellet furnaces must be certified by May 15, 2017

One of the loopholes in the new EPA regulations about to close
The cleanest and most efficient
forced air furnace is the Maine
Energy System Auto Pellet Air.
It delivers 89% efficiency.
One of the big loopholes in the new EPA wood and pellet heater regulations is closing this month.  Small forced air furnaces were required to meet new emission regulations in May 2016, but many very small furnaces declared themselves to be large furnaces, giving them until May 2017 to meet the new standards.  As of May 16, 2016, all forced air furnaces, large and small, must emit no more than 0.93 lbs per mmBTU of heat output regardless of whether they are wood or pellet units.
Currently, there are six forced air furnaces that are certified, four of which use wood and two of which use pellets.  The average emissions rate ranges between 0.06 to 0.84 lbs, with the average at 0.411 lbs, less than half the current standard.  However, as of 2020, this class of heaters must meet a far stricter standard of 0.15 lbs/mmBTU.  (This is the subject of litigation by the HPBA.)  Only one of the current six models, the Maine Energy System Auto Pellet Air,  emits less than 0.15 lbs, but it has to be retested using a different test method to comply with the 2020 standards.
Of the six currently on the market, there is a huge efficiency range, from 48% to 89%.  Both ends of the spectrum are listed as pellet heaters.  At the top end is the Maine Energy System’s Auto Pellet Air, which was developed by OkoFEN, a leading pellet boiler company in Austria.  At the bottom end is US Stove’s 8500 multi-fuel furnace.  (US Stove also has a certified cordwood furnace that has lower emissions and higher efficiency than this pellet model.)  The average efficiency of the six
The US Stove 8500 pellet
furnace is the least efficient
certified furnace at 48%, but sells
for less then $ 3,000.

furnaces is 66%.

At the end of May 2017, it will be clear how which forced air furnaces did not get certified.  There are many more coal furnaces on the market today, compared with 3 or 4 years ago, as some companies have added grates and other slight modifications to outdoor wood boilers and furnaces in order to keep them on the market as coal units.  Coal heaters are still not covered by EPA emission regulations, so renaming a wood boiler or furnace a coal boiler or furnace is still a loophole used by some companies.

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Wooden and pellet stove rates increase 3% in wake of new EPA laws


Since the EPA declared stricter emissions rules for wood and pellet stoves, charges increased by an average of 3% more than a two-12 months time period when altered for inflation, based mostly on a evaluation of seventy seven common stove versions. Without having inflation, prices enhanced by an average of four%.

The Alliance for Eco-friendly Heat, an impartial non-revenue targeted on the wooden and pellet heating sector, tracked retail charges for 77 wood and pellet stoves in excess of a two-12 months time period, from February 2015 to February 2017. The EPA introduced new rules on February third and they took effect on May 15, 2015. Even stricter emission boundaries are set for 2020 and the Alliance will continue to monitor charges by way of 2020 and outside of.

We determined seventy seven stoves produced by seven well-liked brand names with varying value points: Jotul, Blaze King, Harman, Quadrafire, Woodstock Soapstone, Hearthstone, US Stove, and Englander.

It is unattainable to explain to how much rules contributed to the 3% cost rise, although every of the 7 makes are likely by way of durations of improved R&ampD as they work toward complying with the 2020 emission limitations. The EPA established a greatest of seven.5 grams an hour in 1990, four.five in 2015 and 2. or two.five grams in 2020. Most stoves currently achieved the 4.5 gram restrict in 2015, but most do not meet up with the 2020 restrictions. It is attainable that some firms are commencing to go those costs alongside to buyers.

There may be steeper cost rises as 2020 ways and organizations have to commence far more intensive R&ampD and certification tests. &nbspHowever, industry is pushing a invoice in Congress to delay the 2020 emission standards to 2023. &nbspThe Fireside, Patio &amp Barbecue Association is also suing the EPA to block the 2020 emission requirements for boilers and furnaces, but not essentially for stoves. &nbspThe monthly bill in Congress is partially created to give the litigation sufficient time to get by means of the courts. &nbsp

We tracked the retail prices of fifty nine wood stoves and 18 pellet stoves making use of the sale or last price of the stove outlined on the retailer’s web site. General, the fifty nine wooden stove retail rates rose an common of four% ($ eighty) or 3% ($ forty five) when accounting for inflation. The pellet stove classification observed a greater average value enhance of 5% ($ 106) or 3% ($ 66) for each stove when accounting for inflation.

  • Four-fifths of the seventy seven wooden and pellet stoves enhanced in value more than the two a long time. Of these, the typical cost enhance was 6% ($ one hundred twenty five) or five% ($ 90) when modifying for inflation.
  • About one-fifth of the seventy seven stoves did not go up in value in between February 2015 and 2017. The vast majority of the Englander and Blaze King models we tracked stayed the exact same cost.
  • Four wood stoves out of seventy seven wooden and pellet stoves — one particular Jotul, two Hearthstone, and one particular US Stove — declined in price tag. The common decrease was 6% ($ 250).

The EPA is needed by law to do an economic regulatory impact evaluation (PDF) and establish if the expenses of the regulation outweigh the positive aspects. The EPA predicted a bit higher retail charges, and as a outcome, a slight decline in demand for new stoves. Nevertheless, on equilibrium they approximated that the general overall health and other benefits vastly outweigh the fees.

Some commentators, members of Congress and editors claimed the EPA laws would make wood stove charges rise sharply and be unaffordable for the average American.

The EPA also is necessary to assess the affect of the regulation on little firms, because much more than 90% of stove producers and stores are little corporations. The U.S. Census Bureau stories that the industry employed fifteen,911 employees in 2011.

Price tag changes by manufacturer and stove type

The wooden stoves with the maximum price tag decreases, Hearthstone’s Bari 8170 and Lima 8150, which declined in value by $ 620 and $ 300 respectively, ended up the priced the highest of any stove on our list in 2015 at $ four,999 and $ 5,299. No pellet stove we tracked declined in price tag in 2017 and the only two pellet stoves did not increase in cost in 2017 (both Englanders priced in between $ one,000 and $ 2,000).

Wooden stove price tag boosts ranged from one% (Hearthstone Castleton 8030 and Craftsbury 8391) to 35% (US Stove’s Big Woodstove). Amid the wooden stoves that increased in cost in between 2015 and 2017, the typical boost was about $ 125 or six% more than the 2015 price. Seven of the 9 pellet stoves that rose in price increased by an even $ one hundred, regardless of their 2015 price tag, which represented a three-4% increase. All five of the Harman pellet stoves, which retailed in between $ 2,999 and $ three,999 retail in 2015, have been outlined $ a hundred larger by the same retailer in 2017.

For the sake of consistency, we only employed stove charges at a single or at most two retailers for every brand name. We employed ultimate or sale charges fairly than “suggested retail price” or “regular price” when offered. The quantity of stoves we selected for every brand name different dependent on the variety of designs available in 2015 and the amount of versions that continued to be bought by that retailer in 2017.

Englander and US Stove experienced some of the most affordable rates stoves we commenced monitoring in 2015, with a median value of about $ 1,000. At about the center ended up the brand names Woodstock Soapstone (median cost of $ two,four hundred), Quadrafire ($ two,550), and Jotul ($ two,seven-hundred). The much more pricey stove brand names integrated our study, dependent on median prices, were Hearthstone ($ 2,900), Blaze King ($ 2,950), and Harman ($ three,000).

Four out of five Blaze King stoves, a few out of 4 Englander wood stoves and all (two) Englander pellet stoves did not increase in cost over these two many years. The sixteen Hearthstone wooden and pellet stoves we tracked declined in value by an typical of one% ($ three.75) per stove, many thanks in excellent part to huge fall in cost for two of the brand’s priciest ($ five,000+) wooden stoves.

As for the manufacturers that increased their charges, Jotul’s 19 wood stoves improved by an average of 3% ($ 79) every. Quadrafire’s and Harman’s wooden and pellet stoves each increased by an average of 4% each and every ($ one hundred and one for Quadrafire, $ 122 for Harman). Harman’s wooden and pellet stoves increased in value by an average of $ 122 for every stove. US Stove and Woodstock Soapstone had the finest common value raises of any brand name at fifteen% each (Woodstock Soapstone has frequent product sales which we did not get into account). US Stove’s stove rates enhanced by an common of $ a hundred and fifty five per stove and Woodstock Soapstone’s enhanced by an regular of $ 408 for each stove.

The EPA regulations had a significantly bigger impact on charges on organizations creating unregulated outdoor wood boilers and unregulated wood furnaces. &nbspPrices for boilers rose at a sharper charge than stoves, although we did not observe individuals costs and cannot offer any estimates.

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Wooden and pellet stove companies boost rankings with the Much better Business Bureau but does it subject?


In the age of Yelp, Facebook, and Angie’s Checklist, thousands and thousands of buyers nevertheless look to the Greater Business Bureau (BBB) for rankings. While the BBB may possibly have lost some of its luster, we have always urged buyers to seek the advice of it when acquiring a new stove.

When the Alliance for Inexperienced Heat reviewed BBB scores for wood and pellet stove companies in 2013, most companies received A scores, but some obtained Bs, one particular obtained a C and one particular acquired an F ranking. As of January 2017, the same businesses all have A+ scores, apart from Fireplace &amp Home Systems, which has a B-.

Does this indicate that stove companies have all grow to be far more trustworthy and reputable or that the BBB has turn out to be less difficult to manipulate? We feel the answer lies far more in the incapability of the BBB to meticulously evaluate every firm. The current scores show the limitations of the aged company ranking product which the BBB was based on. Nevertheless, the BBB still gives some helpful data about stove companies.

Very first of all, appear at which firms are truly accredited by BBB. Only Blaze King, Kuma, and Woodstock Soapstone are accredited, which indicates that they have offered written assurances that they meet up with BBB conditions. That does not essentially indicate a lot, but the Alliance for Green Warmth has independently confirmed that these a few businesses are among the few that buyers can have confidence in to supply correct info on their websites.

Second, previous BBB background is nevertheless essential. US Stove, for illustration, acquired an “F” in 2013, because they experienced “a heritage of violating BBB title and logo plan and falsely mentioned BBB Accreditation (or membership).” (See our 2013 evaluation of BBB stove business scores). The Alliance for Inexperienced Warmth has also highlighted numerous situations of misleading or false advertising and marketing by US Stove, some of which nonetheless proceeds.

It’s crucial to recognize the constraints of the BBB – and to depend on multiple resources. Sadly, Consumer Stories has carried out only a extremely constrained review of pellet stoves and absolutely nothing on wood stoves. The Alliance for Environmentally friendly Heat rates some other overview websites here.

We searched the BBB web site for all significant stove firms and located many of them there. We could find only one European stove company (Jotul) and many Canadian ones. For organizations that personal a number of brands, this kind of as Hearth &amp Property Systems, we identified some of their manufacturers, this sort of as Harman and Vermont Castings, but could not discover other folks, these kinds of as Quadra-fire.

Right here is a chart demonstrating BBB scores as of January 2017:

Sequence 1 marks the variety of fixed complaints. Sequence two marks the number of problems that gained no response. Maintain in head that this only tracks the grievances obtained by the BBB, and there are always many consumer grievances not lodged by way of them. This might point out that customers can get much better responsiveness from a stove manufacturer if they do file the criticism with the BBB.

The factors are included up and a letter quality (A as the greatest, F as the lowest) is assigned accordingly. In order to obtain a great rating, the quantity of buyer complaints that are not responded to have to continue to be lower. The BBB takes into thing to consider whether or not the business makes a fast and truthful hard work to repair the issue and solve the complaint. The reaction of the business can indicate the big difference amongst an A and a B score. For instance, as witnessed in the graph, HHT acquired 27 customer problems. Despite this relatively lower variety, HHT nevertheless acquired a B- due to the fact it seemingly was not sufficiently responsive to some of the complaints. Simply click below to read a complete overview of the BBB grading strategy.

Whilst wood stove organizations fare reasonably nicely on BBB, some other merchandise in the hearth business do not. For case in point, Heat Surge, the Amish “miracle heater” that is intensely marketed and is also a exhibitor at HPBA trade shows currently has a B score and hundreds of complaints submitted in opposition to it. The Alliance for Green Warmth has previously created about the business right here.

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Enviro redesigns EF2 pellet stove, raises effectiveness 19%

Enhanced warmth transfer led to significant
enhancement in efficiency with out
any price tag boost of the EF2.

When the EPA commenced submitting genuine efficiencies on its record of qualified stoves, all of sudden customers could see which makes of pellet stoves have been conserving them a lot more cash in gasoline charges and which weren’t. A well-known pellet stove, the EF2, manufactured by a well known brand name, Enviro, turned up at the really bottom of the record at fifty eight% productive, stunning several. The company had been promoting the stove at 87% to shoppers.

Enviro seems to have redesigned the stove in an hard work to avoid the difference of getting the minimum efficient stove on the EPA listing.&nbspIn July of 2016, Enviro examined their new version, the EF2-one, only a 12 months right after testing the older version, and it arrived in at seventy seven%, practically 20% higher than the aged model. Now, due to higher scrutiny, they also advertise to consumers that the stove receives seventy seven% performance. At the very same time they lowered the emissions from 1.eight grams an hour to one.four grams an hour. Their carbon monoxide values also went from 25 grams an hour to 7 grams an hour, a remarkable enhancement.
At seventy seven% effective, the new Enviro EF2-one is 1 of the most successful pellet stoves created by a main North American stove organization. The average pellet stove is very likely to be about 70% effective, but this may possibly rise as companies like Enviro compete to layout increased performance stoves. One particular of Harman’s decrease efficiency stoves, the Advance, analyzed at sixty seven% efficiency. That stove is currently being discontinued, which could be partly due to its minimal effectiveness. (Harman even now promises that the stove is qualified for the federal tax credit rating for stoves that are seventy five% effective or increased.)
The US Stove design 5660 is now one particular of the minimum productive pellet stoves on the industry at sixty two%, but the firm even now suggests that it is eligible for the 75% federal tax credit. St Croix tends to make two pellet stoves, the Hastings and Ashby, that every examined at sixty six% efficiency by EPA-approved test labs. However, the company website statements that the Hastings is 83% efficient and that its “efficiency ratings are confirmed by an impartial lab.” The Hastings owners manual confirms that the independent lab rated the stove at 66% performance.&nbsp The tax credit history is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2016.
The Enviro EF2-1 is also bought by Hudson River Stove Operates beneath the brand names Chatham, Davenport and Kinderhook.&nbsp Even with the lab take a look at showing the stoves are 77% successful, Hudson River Stove Functions proceeds to tell consumers that they are eighty five% productive.&nbsp Not like the makers of automobiles and major appliances, there is nothing at all halting wooden and pellet stove manufacturers – or their retailers – from blatantly deceptive shoppers, as Hudson River Stove Functions does.
The EPA has produced efforts to carry more transparency by demanding producers to post the take a look at lab paperwork on their internet sites. These files show extra specifics about the stove, including its carbon monoxide amounts and emissions results at every single melt away rate. Enviro is a single of the companies that complies with this rule and posts this details so that consumers can see testing data about the EF2-one listed here.

In the November update to the EPA list of licensed stoves, the EPA additional a column for carbon monoxide, as all stoves examined soon after Could 2015 have to take a look at for and report their carbon monoxide emissions stages along with their particulate issue emissions and performance. Nevertheless, the EPA has only enter the CO check final results for two stoves so much: the EF2-one at 7.4 and the England Stove Operates 55-SHPCB120 pellet stove at 16.2.

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