Wittus and Seraph acquire Pellet Stove Layout Challenge

Rene Bindig and Niels Wittus,
designers of the Pellwood stove.
A German designed Wittus stove that is dispersed by a New York company, and a stove created by Seraph Industries, the smallest U.S. pellet stove manufacture, gained very first and next spot in the 2016 Pellet Stove Design and style Challenge.&nbsp
This was the 3rd Stove Style Obstaclemarketing innovation in wood and pellet heating to assist buyers minimize fossil heating fuels with appliances that burn up considerably cleaner and far more proficiently than common stoves.
The Wittus Pellwood stove is an really modern prototype that can burn up each pellets and cordwood, bringing innovative technologies from basement furnaces up into the living room to accomplish quite reduced emissions of significantly less than fifty percent a gram for every hour. &nbspThe next place stove, Seraph’s Phoenix F25i, is practically ready for certification testing.&nbsp It also reached a quite clean burn up, persistently beneath 1 g/hr. and has modern characteristics to assist and inspire the client to maintain the stove working well.
The Seraph group with AGH President
John Ackerly (proper).

Other stoves highlighted really modern patterns, which includes the futuristic searching, radiant warmth Torrefire stove with a glass burn up pot. In addition, the gravity fed Vibrastove, with a melt away plate instead of pot, employed only one tiny admirer and made its personal electrical power for off-grid use.

The Section of Energy’s Brookhaven Nationwide Lab hosted the function. The Lab carried out in depth tests of the opposition stoves and will offer valuable data for the EPA, business and other stakeholders about the strengths and weaknesses of tests protocols.&nbsp Each stove was examined 3 instances, to see if the stove operated persistently or regardless of whether the screening protocol could direct to variable benefits.
&nbsp

The Torrefire pellet stove.

“Designing a very inexpensive, high carrying out pellet stove should not be rocket science,” stated Dr. Tom Butcher, Head of the Power Resources Division at Brookhaven National Laboratory. “But in some techniques its tougher than rocket science due to the fact reliable gasoline combustion is extremely challenging to design for and check,” he mentioned.&nbsp “What helps make this competitors wonderful is the new concepts from the competing teams and the spirit of collaboration.”
Pellet stoves are extensively seen as a modern, cleaner, and a consumer-friendlier substitute to twine wood stoves.&nbsp A lot more states and applications are beginning to give more substantial rebates and incentives for pellet stoves than cord wooden stoves, and are starting to target on the stricter emission specifications that will consider influence in 2020.&nbsp This Style Obstacle showed that the 2020 expectations for particulate issue would not be hard for pellet stoves to achieve, but that numerous pellet stoves have mediocre efficiencies.
Steve Spevak, designer of the
Vibrastove and Dr. Tom Butcher
(right) throughout testing.
The Pellet Stove Design Problem is a partnership in between numerous organizations and organizations that are interested in checking out the prospective of technology to satisfy a increasing need for renewable strength.&nbsp The principal funder, &nbspthe New York State Strength Investigation and Advancement Authority (NYSERDA), operates Renewable Warmth New York, a multi-layered incentive software for pellet heating equipment at the residential, commercial and industrial scale.&nbsp Other partnerscontain the United States Forest Service, Brookhaven Nationwide Lab and point out agencies from Massachusetts and Washington, alongside with major specialists from Clarkson College, the Masonry Heater Affiliation and the Osprey Foundation.
The Design and style Problem brought virtually a hundred college students, stove builders, backyard inventors, &nbsplecturers, regulators and authorities with each other to talk about and discussion the condition of the pellet stove engineering, indoor and outdoor air top quality problems and deployment approaches. &nbspOf distinct notice had been a few college teams that are designing stoves from engineering departments at SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Stony Brook and the University of Maryland.&nbsp The speakersincorporated Adam Baumgart-Getz from the EPA, Marius Wohler from the European BeReal initiative, nanoparticle skilled Dr. Barbara Panessa-Warren and scores of other people.&nbsp Presentation abstracts are available along with most of the powerpoint displays.
Marius Wohler, a single of the European
presenters, describing the BeReal survey
and tests, foremost to new screening
protocols in Europe.

&nbspThe occasion coordinator, the Alliance for Environmentally friendly Heat, is discovering a return to sophisticated twine wood stove technologies and employing the Countrywide Shopping mall in Washington DC yet again as a location in 2017.&nbsp Stakeholders are invited to get in touch with details@forgreenheat.org with enter about the following Design and style Problem.
– – –

The Alliance for Green Warmth promotes modern wood and pellet heating systems as a reduced-carbon, sustainable and inexpensive energy solution. The Alliance performs to progress stove&nbspinnovation by way of engineering competitions and advises&nbspstate and federal organizations on strengthening plans that require wooden and pellet heating.&nbspFounded in 2009, the Alliance is an impartial non-profit organization based in Takoma Park Maryland.

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Performance of Popular Pellet Stoves

This is an except of a much longer, and more technical paper by Prof. Gael Ulrich’s -“BioCombustion Institute Bulletin #3.” Gael calculated the efficiency of six popular pellet stoves, finding a wide difference.  The highest, the Italian made Piazzetta Sabrina was 76% efficient and the lowest was the Enviro M55 Insert at 51% efficient.  In between were the Ravelli RV80 (62%), Englander PDCV55 (63%), Quadrafire Mt Vernon AE (64%) and Harman Accentra 52i (71%).
He did this by using performance data produced by the Alliance for Green Heat, who tested these 6 stoves over a 30-day period.  The Alliance operated the stoves, often for 24 hours a day, testing them almost every day at various heat output settings and averaging the results. All the stoves were purchased new, without the knowledge of the manufacturers and operated with the same PFI certified pellets.  The Alliance produced an in-depth report about the findings, but we did not report the efficiency values because the instrument we used was a Testo 320, which produces a proprietary European (LHV) number, not the kind of efficiency values that are used and reported in North America. 
Gael’s full paper can be downloaded as a PDF here, which is quite technical.  We reproduced the less technical parts which are accessible to a wider audience. 

One conclusion is that many pellet stoves lack a very simple solution to increasing their efficiencies – larger heat exchangers.  Gael found that “All [the stoves], except the Enviro and Quadrafire, appear capable of adding another 5 to 10 percentage points by increasing heat exchange area to reduce the flue gas temperature.”  This solution may only add $ 100 – $ 200 to the price of a stove but would save consumers far more in fuel costs. 
One thing is clear: more expensive stoves do not necessarily provide consumers with higher efficiency. The Englander is sold by big box hardware stoves for $ 1,100, and is on par or better in efficiency than stoves that sell for $ 3,000 or $ 4,000.  This is significant because the big pellet stove manufactures do not release the actual efficiency of their stoves to consumers and consumers have virtually no way to tell which models are lower or higher efficiency.  The EPA contributed to a myth that pellet stoves have high efficiencies by giving them a default efficiency of 78%.  Emerging data shows the average pellet stove is likely around 70% efficiency, but many big name brands make pellet stoves that have efficiencies in 50s and 60s. This analysis begins to dismantle the lack of transparency in efficiency values that manufacturers have tried to maintain for many years.
Biomass Combustor Efficiency
BioCombustion Institute Bulletin #3
(Gael Ulrich: 16 March 2016)
Abstract
Gael Ulrich was a professor of
Chemical Engineering at the
University of New Hampshire

If flue gas temperature and composition are known, one can calculate the efficiency of a biomass combustor using the so-call “stack loss” technique.  This paper explains in detail why that is possible and how to do it.  Fortuitously, during the preparation of this bulletin, the Alliance for Green Heat published data from their testing of six pellet stoves this past September.[1] Test equipment used in the AGH study delivered composition, temperature, and efficiency numbers.  Investigators declined to report the efficiency numbers for various reasons, although they do mention a range of 60 to 75%. 

Using the AGH temperature and concentration data, I made independent calculations as described in detail herein.  I find one of the six stoves operating at 51% efficiency, three in the low 60s, and the remaining two operating at 71 and 76%.  I also conclude from my analysis that some of these units use “dilution as the solution to pollution.”  If we consider actual emissions in grams per hour or milligrams per MegaJoule of heat delivered instead of parts per million in flue gas, the rating is rearranged with one stove deemed second dirtiest becoming the cleanest and that ranked third cleanest becoming the dirtiest.  Factors that influence efficiency and cleanliness and how to improve these important performance properties are also discussed herein.  
Introduction
As pointed out in BCI Bulletins #1 (Units) and #2 (Emissions), biomass is intrinsically a clean fuel composed primarily of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and ash.  If burned properly, with ash un-entrained, flue gases from biomass can be as clean as those from natural gas and perhaps even cleaner than from oil.  The problem, of course, is that biomass is neither a liquid nor a gas like these fossil fuels.  Burning a solid cleanly and efficiently is much more difficult.  Bulletin #2 dealt with cleanliness and the standards expected.  This one focuses on efficiency and how it can be measured for a biomass burner.
Instruments and software are available to deliver efficiency ratings and other data even to an ignorant user with enough money to buy them. But to use these tools intelligently, one must know how they function and should be able to calculate efficiency separately and from scratch.  This bulletin describes how to do that. 
Fundamentals
Efficiency is a concept that everyone understands, but different people often define it differently.  Let’s solve that problem first.  For simplicity, visualize a biomass combustor as a black box with fuel and air flowing in; flue gases and ash flowing out.[2] … As defined by logic, efficiency is the ratio of useful heat released to fuel energy provided.  Fuel Energy is the Higher Heating Value,[3] a quantity that has been carefully measured over the last couple centuries by scientists for all common fuels. 
For highest efficiency,
1.  Burn with the least amount of excess air possible.
2.  Operate with the lowest feasible flue gas temperature.
3.  Use dry fuel.
Alliance for Green Heat Data
The AGH study ran for a period of 30 days.  Investigators found results that showed little drift with time.  Five of the six stoves operated with more than 200% excess air; beyond maxima considered in Figure 7.  One could derive additional curves for these high air rates just as was done for the lower percentages of excess air, but I chose to extrapolate instead, creating the dashed lines in Figure 9.
Efficiencies for the six AGH pellet stoves as read from Figure 9b are listed in Table 6. 
Table 6.  Calculated efficiencies of pellet stoves studied in the September 2015 Alliance for Green Heat test series.
Stove                O2         % X’s Air           Flue Gas            Efficiency e                             
Brand                 Conc.    (Figure 8)           Temp. (oC)         (Figure 9b)
Enviro               18.7%       800%                        150                        51 %           
Ravelli              16.8%       400%                        195                        62 %           
Englander         16.0%       315%                        222                        63 %           
Quad                  17.4%       480%                        160                        64 %           
Harman             15.0%        245%                        205                        71 %
Piazzetta            13.5%       175%                        203                        76 %
One of the six operated at 51% efficiency, three in the low 60s, and the remaining two operated at 71 and 76%.  These numbers are consistent with the range mentioned in the AGH report. 
Piazzetta achieves superiority through low excess air rate. Enviro, at the other end of the spectrum, would have an even lower efficiency if its flue gas temperature were as high as the others.  All, except Enviro and Quad, appear capable of adding another 5 to 10 percentage points by increasing heat exchange area to reduce the flue gas temperature. 
Emissions
What about Pollution?  The AGH data demonstrate an interesting application of using “dilution as a solution to pollution.”[4]  The Harman emitted flue gases containing about 820 ppm CO while the Enviro emitted 534 ppm.  But the Harman operated with about 240% excess air; the Enviro with 800%.  And, the Harman was 22% more efficient. 
At the same pellet burning rate, the Enviro produces roughly 900/340 or 2.6 times as much flue gas as the Harmon, and its useful heat delivery rate is only 82 percent as great.  Thus, in terms of mass of CO per kJ of delivered heat, a better measure of actual pollution, the Enviro is (2.6/0.82)*(534/820) = 2.1 or about twice as bad as the Harmon.  Based on the data provided, I calculated mg of CO per MJ of useful heat delivered for the six pellet stoves.  Results are listed in Table 7. 
Table 7.  Calculated CO emissions of pellet stoves studied in the September 2015 Alliance for Green Heat test series.  
                                                                                                CO emissions    
 Stove                                                                     (mg/MJ of       (ppm)
Brand       % X’s Air           Efficiency e        (ppm)    heat   normalized**
Enviro               800%                51%                  534       3000     850  (2.7)
Ravelli              400%                62%                  428       1100    365  (1.2)
Englander         320%                62%                  542       1200    387  (1.2)
Quad                  480%                64%                  318         930     318  (1.0)**
Harman              240%                71%                  821       1300     487  (1.5)
Piazzetta            170%                76%                  648         780     370  (1.2)
           
                  *Normalized to Quad as the reference.
                  **Normalized to Quad as the reference using Wikipedia formula. 
In terms of mass per unit of useful heat, the Enviro emits about four times as much CO as the Piazzetta (3000 versus 780 mg/MJ or roughly 130 versus 35 milligrams per hour).
What about non-steady-state?  My analysis assumes the appliance operates at steady state with feed rates and temperatures invariant with time.  This is valid for automatic-feed pellet stoves but not for wood stoves that are fed batch-wise.  There, the burn mode migrates from de-volatilization and combustion of light organics, gradually progressing to char or carbon burn-out.  Fortunately, stage changes are slow relative to combustion kinetics.  At any given time, the analysis described herein can be used to analyze the appliance at that instant.  To more accurately reflect the performance of a batch-fired wood burner, one must record data over a complete firing cycle and then integrate results to obtain an average.  This is further complicated by the fact that heat of combustion changes with time.  That for carbon, for instance (near burn-out), is about 30,000 kJ/kg.  Since the overall HHV for biomass is 20,000 kJ/kg, that for the volatiles must be lower than this.

What about moisture condensation? Mark Knaebe advocates improving efficiency by increasing heat exchange surface to the extent that water in the flue gas is condensed, adding its latent heat to the useful Q.  This requires dropping flue gas temperature below the dew point.  With low amounts of excess air, the dew point might be as high as 60 deg-C, but with 400% excess air, where many pellet stoves operate, the dew point is nearer 30 deg-C.  
As cleaner appliances develop, the prospect of taking advantage of this extra heat becomes more intriguing because the condensate will be purer and non-fouling.  The added heat transfer surface and increased capital cost, however, may not be practical.  
Ray Albrecht suggests that temperatures in the range of 1000oC or greater are needed to achieve good burnout of flue gases.  He stresses the importance of preserving flame temperature by insulating the combustion chamber to make sure reaction is complete before gases enter the heat exchanger.
Staging the air feed can promote gasification and partial combustion at low excess air conditions where temperatures are higher.  Preheat can almost deliver a one-to-one increase of flame temperature with increased feed air temperature.  Staging and preheat are common in newer biomass burners. 
Catalysts are another important way to promote oxidation at lower temperatures than those needed otherwise.  



[1]Alliance for Green Heat press release [Oct. 27, 2015]  http://www.forgreenheat.org/decathlon/intro.html
[2]For simplicity, assume it is burning at “steady-state” where flow rates and temperatures are constant; not changing with time.  This is true of many pellet stoves and large-scale furnaces.  Small batch-fed systems do experience cycles and are more complex to analyze, but the steady-state analysis gives a useful result even for these systems.
[3]Unfortunately, fuel energy can be expressed in multiple ways, depending on how it was measured–giving different numbers for the same fuel.  As argued in BCI Bulletin #1, HHV or the Higher Heating Value is preferred and will be the only one considered here.
[4]A phrase attributed to the 20th century comic-strip character “Pogo.” 

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Push release: Alliance for Eco-friendly Heat and NYSERDA Announce 7 Finalists in International Pellet Stove Competitors

Two New York teams are among the finalists

Alliance for Green Heat and the New York State Energy Research and 
Development Authority (NYSERDA) today announced that seven pellet 
stoves have been chosen as finalists in the Pellet Stove Design 
Challenge. 

This international competition, administered by the Alliance for Green 
Heat, identifies innovative low emissions and high efficiency pellet 
stoves for the residential home heating market. The competition
supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Renewable Heat NY initiative,
which is building a sustainable, high-efficiency, low-emissions wood
heating sector in New York.

The Pellet Stove Design Challenge supports the commitment of 
New York State, the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National
 Lab, the U.S. Forest Service and a number of other states, agencies
and institutions to understand and improve the technology,
engineering and smart deployment of pellet stoves to reduce reliance
on fossil heating fuels.
The stoves will be judged for particulate matter emissions, efficiency,
safety, innovation and market potential.  The winner of the
competition will be the team that best blends these qualities.  The
stoves present a wide range of design approaches, including gravity
feed, downdraft burners, a combination  cordwood/pellet stove, a
$ 300 stove and more traditional designs.
In April 2016, the teams will showcase their stoves at Brookhaven 
National Lab during the workshop and conference that are open 
to the public. The event includes several days of panel discussions
and informal roundtables on pellet stove technology, public health,
deployment, policy and innovation in pellet and cord wood stoves.
The technology competition will be followed by a multi-year 
initiative to exhibit the winning stoves and educate consumers and 
agencies that deal with wood smoke issues and the deployment of 
residential renewable energy systems. NYSERDA is providing 
support for this competition with additional support being provided 
 by the Osprey Foundation and U.S. Forest Service.
NYSERDA President and CEO John B. Rhodes said, “The Pellet 
Stove Design Challenge is an innovative way to advance new 
technologies that can potentially provide consumers with higher 
efficiency pellet stoves.  This competition aligns with Governor 
Cuomo’s Renewable Heat NY initiative, which is building a 
sustainable, high-efficiency, low-emissions wood heating sector 
in New York.”
Three stoves will be extensively tested and compete for a grand 
prize and four demonstration stoves will provide comparative, 
baseline data. The three competition stoves are:
1. A prototype that will burn cord wood or pellets and is controlled 
by sensor technology made by DBFZ, a German company, 
that markets in the U.S. through Wittus Fire by Design of
Pound Ridge, New York.
2.  A new stove coming to the commercial market later this year, 
made by Seraph Industries, a small Illinois company, known 
for robust heat exchangers and a track record of 
transparency and high efficiency multi-fuel stoves.
3.The Torrefire pellet stove, made by Seattle inventor 
Geoffrey Johnson, which is a prototype that employs radically 
different combustion and heat transfer strategies.
The four demonstration stoves are:
1. The Vibrastove, made by Noble Metals Recovery, a small 
Virginia company that is a downdraft, gravity feed stove, 
inspired by rocket stoves.
2. A modified Quadra-Fire pellet stove made by a student 
team from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
3. One of the cleanest commercial pellet stoves on the market 
today that is certified at less than .3 grams per hour.
4. Another very clean commercially available pellet stove,
 certified at less than .6 grams per hour.
The event is also bringing attention to the need for cleaner 
cord wood stoves. A student team from the State University 
of New York at Stony Brook and MF Fire, a company that 
grew from at University of Maryland team, will be showcasing 
automated, sensor controlled wood stoves.
The 2016 Pellet Stove Design Challenge is the third stove 
challenge that the Alliance for Green Heat will host.  The first 
was a cord wood stove competition held on the  National Mall 
in Washington DC in 2013 and the second was held at Brookhaven 
National Lab in 2014.  The Alliance for Green Heat, a non-profit 
education and advocacy organization manages the Challenge, 
which was inspired by the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.
“We strive to foster a community that shares ideas and data to push 
this technology forward and get pellet stoves the recognition they 
deserve as a mainstream renewable energy technology,” said John 
Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. “Like solar and 
wind, pellet stoves have huge potential in the United States to 
drastically reduce household use of fossil fuels if the technology can
raise efficiency and reduce emission levels,” Ackerly added.
According to the Alliance for Green Heat, the average pellet stove in 
the U.S. is believed to be around 70 percent efficient but many of 
the most popular models are in the low 60s and the best ones are
around 80 percent efficient.  About one million homes are heated
with pellet stoves in the United States, with sales averaging about
75,000 per year.  An efficient pellet stove can pay itself back in
three-to-five years, depending on the heat source being replaced.
Currently, the federal government offers a $ 300 tax credit for new
pellet stoves.  Eight states including Idaho, Maryland, Maine,
Montana, Oregon and New York,  offer incentives of up to several
 thousand dollars for pellet stoves.
The  Advisory Committee that oversees the Challenge includes 
representatives from NYSERDA, Brookhaven National Lab, the 
 USDA Forest Service, the Washington State Department of Ecology, 
the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, Clarkson 
University and others.
About Reforming the Energy Vision 
Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) is New York Governor Andrew 
M. Cuomo’s strategy to build a clean, resilient and affordable energy 
system for all New Yorkers. REV is transforming New York’s energy 
policy with new state-wide initiatives and regulatory reforms. REV will 
grow the state’s clean energy economy, support innovation, ensure 
grid resilience, mobilize private capital, create new jobs, and increase
choice and affordability for energy consumers. REV places clean, locally
produced power at the very core of New York’s energy system. This 
protects the environment and supports the State’s goal to reduce 
greenhouse gas emissions by 40% while generating 50% of its
electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. Successful
initiatives already launched as part of REV include NY-Sun, NY Green
Bank, NY Prize, K-Solar, and a commitment to improve energy
affordability for low-income communities. To learn more about REV,
visit www.ny.gov/REV4NY and follow us @REV4NY.

About NYSERDA
NYSERDA, a public benefit corporation, offers objective information
and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise, and support to
help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use
renewable energy, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. NYSERDA
professionals work to protect the environment and create clean
energy jobs. NYSERDA has been developing partnerships to advance
innovative energy solutions in New York State since 1975. To learn
more about NYSERDA’s programs, visit nyserda.ny.gov or follow us
on TwitterFacebook, YouTube, or Instagram.


About the Alliance for Green Heat

The Alliance for Green Heat promotes modern wood and pellet 
heating systems as a low-carbon, sustainable and affordable energy 
solution. The Alliance works to advance cleaner and more efficient
 residential heating technology, particularly for low and middle-
income families. Founded in Maryland in 2009, the Alliance is an 
independent non-profit organization and is tax-exempt under section 
501c3 of the tax code.

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Wood and pellet stove businesses that you can trust – and these you can not

When it comes to listing accurate efficiency and BTU output on their websites, there are only a handful of companies that you can trust.
The Enviro EF2 pellet
stove is one example
of misleading
advertising.
If a consumer calculates the pay back period of am Enviro EF2 pellet stove based on the 87% efficiency listed on the Enviro website, they may be sorely disappointed. The independent lab that tested the stove found that the stove is only 58% efficient, meaning nearly half of the energy in the pellets goes up the chimney and does not heat the home.
Enviro is not alone in exaggerating their efficiency.  Most wood and pellet stove manufacturers use a variety of ways to say their stoves are more efficient than they actually are, and that they put out more heat than they actually do.  BTU output is the other area where manufacturers routinely report misleading data to consumers and in the case of BTU output, even the EPA is willing to post those exaggerated numbers on its website, further contributing to the problem.
These issues are coming to light in the wake of new EPA regulations that require more accurate reporting and require manufacturers to post the test reports of independent labs that certify wood and pellet stoves.  Many stove manufacturers are not complying with the new rules and will not post their certification reports for consumers to see, but some companies are complying.
A few companies stand out for providing the same efficiency numbers to their consumers as the independent test lab provided to the EPA.  They are: Blaze King, Kuma and Seraph, Travis and Woodstock Soapstone.   These companies also tend to make higher quality stoves and have good efficiency numbers.  Consumers can trust the efficiency numbers that these companies post on their websites and in their promotional materials.
The same is not true of other companies, including many leading brands.  Most companies list efficiencies using the European (LHV) method, which can produce efficiencies of more than 100% and make their stoves appear 5 – 8 points higher than they actually are.  But some companies go further, publishing efficiencies that are 15 – 29 points higher than they actually are.  The most extreme examples come from Enviro and American Energy Systems. Enviro posts 87% efficiency for their EF2 on their tax credit page, but the lab tested it at 58% efficiency, a 29 point difference. (The company did not reply to a query about the discrepancy.) American Energy Systems claims its Little Rascal pellet stove is 99% efficient, 28 points higher than 71% the lab posted.  (A company representative explained that when they say “efficiency” they mean combustion efficiency, not the thermal or heating efficiency that all other companies list.)
Another company, St. Croix pellet stoves, tells consumers their Hasting pellet stove is 83% efficient but the lab tested it at 66% efficient, a 17 point difference.  The largest stove maker in the country, Hearth & Home Technologies, that owns Dutchwest, Harman, Heatilator, Quadra-Fire, Vermont Castings and others brands, is notably absent in disclosing test lab reports or actual efficiencies of their products.
One of the foremost experts in the hearth industry is Dr. James Houck, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Portland in Oregon.  Houck used to work for Omni Test labs, the most well known test lab in the US.  He says, “Many of the pellet (and cordwood) stove efficiency values have been produced by commercial labs which optimized conditions and calculation methods.” 

A wood stove test lab.
Under the new EPA stove regulations, known as New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), labs are restrained from optimizing conditions and calculation methods and will be producing more accurate efficiency and BTU output numbers for consumers.  Still, labs are under pressure from their clients to produce the best possible emission, efficiency and BTU numbers, or they may take their business to another lab.
The new EPA rules are requiring the test labs to produce more accurate BTU output data, which is crucial for consumers to right size the appliance for their home.  The result will be that BTU figures posted by the EPA after May 2015 when the new rules began will be lower than the figures posted before May 2015. 
The EPA has not started enforcing many provisions of the 2015 regulations which are being ignored by many companies. And, its enforcement capabilities are slim, a fact that is not lost on the industry that is regulates. State agencies could help enforce the new regulations, particularly for manufacturers based in their states and if stakeholders in the state pressure them to do so.
Under the new rules, an independent lab testing the St. Croix Hastings pellet stove reported that it produced 7,000 – 27,000 BTU per hour.  However, the St. Croix website says the stove produces up 40,000 BTU per hour.  Many manufacturers used to use the BTU input, which is the amount of BTUs available in the fuel, rather than the BTU output from the stove.  But The EPA has been recording estimated and often exaggerated BTU figures on its list of certified stoves for many years and it will be a slow process for them to start recording more accurate BTU figures from new test reports.  The Alliance for Green Heat has urged the EPA to remove all exaggerated BTU data from their list of certified stoves and only post actual BTU output that is determined by an independent lab using an approved calculation.
“The problem with companies using all manner of efficiency and BTU calculations is there is a disincentive to report more accurate numbers that would make your stoves look less efficient and less powerful,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat, a consumer focused wood heating non-profit organization.  “The new EPA rules are starting to change what gets posted on its list of certified stoves, but manufacturers can still virtually post whatever they want on their websites and no state or federal agency monitors that, as they do with cars and most consumer appliances,” Ackerly said.
Some companies are beginning to post their lab reports on their websites, so consumers who want extensive technical details can have access to them.  The reports are dense, often long and hard to digest, but can provide useful insights for those who want very detailed, technical information.  Blaze King, Enviro, Kuma and St. Croix post test lab report for all their stoves, a move that shows a level of corporate transparency that is not common in the wood stove industry.  For St. Croix, however, those test lab reports reveal that they have far higher efficiency and BTU numbers in their promotional materials. Lab reports can also help consumers understand what air settings or power levels their stove is likely to be cleanest, dirtiest, most efficient and least efficient.
Lab reports from testing that was done prior to 2015 usually do not have efficiency numbers or have been whited out.  Some of the posted lab reports are from as early as 1989, are hundreds of pages long and by test labs that no longer exist such as EEMC, Lokee Labs and Northwest Testing.
Advice for consumers:  Beware of efficiency and BTU output claims on websites and promotional literature of wood and pellet stove manufacturers.  The only companies who accurately report their efficiencies on their websites that we are aware of are Blaze King, Kuma and Seraph, Travis and Woodstock Soapstone.  The EPA’s list of certified wood stoves contains more and more actual efficiency numbers and is one of the few reliable places for efficiency information.  Most companies, such as all the brands owned by Hearth & Home Technologies, are still holding out disclosing lab reports to consumers.  If you want to be certain you are buying a higher efficiency stove, buy one that discloses their actual efficiency on the list of EPA certified stoves.  For more information on this topic and a list of stoves that have actual efficiency numbers, check our blog post, A Review of Wood and Pellet Stove Efficiency Ratings.

(This blog will be periodically updated as more data becomes available or if the companies mentioned reply to queries)

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EPA takes step towards a “green label” for wood and pellet heaters

The EPA issued its long-awaited voluntary hangtag, which will help consumers identify the cleanest burning wood and pellet heaters on the market. Only manufacturers who make stoves and boilers that already meet the stricter 2020 emissions standards can use the hangtag.
The hangtag is a major step towards a “green” or “eco-label” for wood and pellet stoves for designating those stoves that emitted the least amount of smoke in the test lab. The hangtag has a line to record efficiency, if the manufacturer chooses to disclose it, but disclosing efficiency is not required.  The Alliance expects some stoves with higher efficiencies to list their efficiency on the hangtag, and stoves with lower efficiency numbers to not disclose their efficiency. 
Most European countries have had eco-labels specific to stoves for many years that have helped drive the market to exceed the minimum emission and efficiency standards.  The EPA designed this hangtag “to provide an incentive to manufacturers to meet the federal 2020 standards early” but the main industry stove association, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) is suing the EPA to prevent those stricter 2020 standards from taking effect.  It is still too early to tell if the big stove manufacturers may decline to use the hangtag because they may view it as a step toward the 2020 standards. Some smaller companies, that are not members of the HPBA, are already taking steps to display the hangtag. 
The current emission standard for wood and pellet stoves is 4.5 grams per hour and the more stringent 2020 standard will be 2.0 grams per hour.  There are 76 models of pellet stoves on the EPA’s list of certified stoves and 48 of them are already under the 2 grams per hour limit, so 63% of pellet stove models already meet these 2020 standards and are eligible to display the consumer hangtag.  Eleven stoves, or 14% of all pellet stoves are already less than 1 gram per hour.
More than 2-dozen non-catalytic stoves and more than 2-dozen catalytic stoves are eligible to use the hangtag.  (Unlike pellet stoves, the emissions from wood stoves are not designed to estimate emissions from in-home use and homeowners will typically emit far more smoke than labs can achieve during a certification test.)
Among EPA certified wood and pellet boilers, there are 72 models on the market and 38 of them meet the 2020 emissions standards and can use the hangtag.  Of those 38, only 5 of the models use cord wood achieve the 2020 standards but virtually all of the pellet units (33 out of 35) achieve the 2020 standards. Most of the certified pellet boilers are technologies imported from Europe and emit about one tenth of the emissions that certified cord wood boilers emit.
The development of the hangtag posed a number of concerns for the EPA, including whether they should list heat output in BTUs per hour, which is already included on the EPA’s list of certified stoves. The EPA decided to use a more general estimate of heat output, “Heating Area” in square feet,

estimated by the companies themselves, because BTU per hour claims have become too unreliable and prone to exaggeration.  In the past, the EPA did not require that test labs use actual efficiency numbers in heat output calculations, allowing test labs to use a range of efficiency estimates to make stoves look far more powerful that they actually are.

The hangtag also provides a box for companies to designate if they test with cordwood. So, for the first time ever, consumers can start to identify stoves that are designed and tested with the fuel that they would typically use themselves.  No stove has been certified with cordwood yet and the ASTM cordwood test method is still in progress, but several companies are expected to test with cordwood in coming months.
The EPA is using the back of the hangtag to list important educational messages.  Among those messages is the strongest endorsement yet of certified pellets, a move that will irritate many pellet manufacturers who have been resisting getting their pellets certified.  The EPA went so far as to claim that “non-certified pellets may be high in ash content, low and energy output, and have impurities that could harm your families health.”  While some cheaper pellets have high ash content, low heat output and possibly even contain impurities, the quality of many uncertified pellet brands are on par with those that are certified and some of the highest quality pellets are not certified.

The EPA’s willingness to strongly endorse pellet certification comes at a time when the main certifying body, the Pellet Fuel Institute (PFI), is also suing the EPA over some of the finer points of requirements that the EPA puts on pellet certification.

The success of the EPA’s consumer hangtag, like many eco labels, may hinge on branding and how recognizable the hangtag is to consumers.  If the EPA, states, and non-profits put resources into promoting the hangtag, consumers will be more likely to ask for it and base their purchasing decisions on it.  The first companies to start using the hangtag could see a boost in their sales and it could put pressure on the mainstream companies to use the hangtag, if they aren’t already.

“This hangtag will help consumers not only choose cleaner stoves, but also to choose companies committed to making cleaner stoves,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat.  “If the stove you buy today already meets the 2020 standards, the parts and service for that stove are more likely to be available 5-10 years from now, when you need it,” Ackerly added.

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Visit the EPA’s page on the voluntary hang-tag.  For more on problems with EPA listings on Btu output per hour, the lack of disclosure of stove efficiencies, the EPA’s 2020 emission standards for stoves and boilers and PFI pellet certification scheme.

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Study of pellet stoves shows environmental advantages – and corporate exaggerations

An independent assessment of popular pellet stoves conducted by the Alliance for Green Heat  found that pellet stoves, unlike most wood stoves, can achieve low levels of emissions in real world settings that are in line with laboratory results.   
The Alliance for Green Heat ran a battery of tests on popular pellet stoves designed to approximate how they would perform in the real world.  The group found that half of the stoves operated as clean at the end of the thirty-day test than they did at the beginning and the others were only slightly dirtier.
All six stoves, from the least to the most expensive, operated well, and produced enough heat for a small to medium- sized home in most of the United States.  One of the biggest differences was that the three more expensive stoves tested (above $ 4,000) needed very little weekly cleaning and maintenance.  The less expensive stoves ($ 1,200 to $ 3,300) needed daily or at least bi-weekly cleaning of their burn pots and glass.
The study also found a lack of accepted reporting standards, leading to exaggerated claims about efficiency, BTU output and pellet hopper size on manufacturer websites and promotional literature. 
The Alliance for Green Heat tested the stoves to give consumers better tools and make better purchasing decisions.  The study is part of a yearlong Pellet Stove Design Challenge that assesses the state of existing pellet stove technologies.  The Design Challenge will culminate in a competition for the cleanest and most efficient stoves, modeled after the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.
Approximately one million American homes are heated with pellet stoves, more than twice the number that have solar panels.  In Italy alone, 2 million households heat with pellets. Pellet stoves often serve as primary heat sources, enabling homes to eliminate or drastically reduce fossil heating fuel.  Last year, about 40,000 pellet stoves were sold in the U.S. and they may outsell wood stoves in the near future.
The Alliance tested the England Stove Works 25-PDCVC, the Enviro M55 insert, the Harman Accentra 52i insert, the Piazzetta Sabrina, the Quadra-Fire Mt. Vernon AE, and the Ravelli RV80.  The group assessed each stove on its cleanliness, efficiency, maintenance, heat output and visibility of glass.  The overall winner was the Quadra-Fire Mt. Vernon AE, which received top marks in three of the five categories.  The Harman Accentra received top marks in two of the five categories.

The results of this study underscore that pellet stoves tend to burn substantially cleaner than wood stoves in real world settings, but it challenges the notion that pellet stoves generally have higher efficiencies than wood stoves.  The efficiencies of the six stoves were low to medium, which is partially the result of companies not having to test and report actual efficiency numbers. 
“Our testing confirmed that pellet stoves are an effective and affordable renewable energy technology,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. “We hoped to see higher efficiencies, but efficiencies should improve in coming years,” Ackerly added.
Click here to read the full report.
The Alliance for Green Heat promotes modern wood and pellet heat as a low-carbon, sustainable and affordable residential energy solution. The Alliance works to advance cleaner and more efficient wood heating appliances and focuses on low and middle-income families.  Founded in 2009, the Alliance is a 510(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Maryland. 

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US government projects continued increase in wood and pellet heating

On October 6, the US government agency responsible for tracking energy supply and usage released its annual winter fuels outlook. The report predicted that next winter will be warmer than average but energy prices will be lower. Consequently, consumers are expected to pay 10 – 20% less on their household heating than last winter. 
The report notes that the use of cord wood and wood pellets as the primary residential space heating fuel has increased by 33% since 2005 and estimates that about 2.6 million households mainly used this fuel source in 2014. About 8% of households use wood as a secondary source of heat, making wood second only to electricity as a supplemental heating fuel.
The report, produced by the Energy Information Agency (EIA), projects primary wood and pellet heating to grow by 1.4% during the 2015-2016 winter. Electric heating is projected to rise even faster, by 2.5%. Natural gas is projected to remain basically flat, and oil and propane heating are projected to decline by 4.4% and 3.4%, respectively.
The overall national residential wood heat rise of 1.4% includes quicker projected growth in the Northeast and a slight decline in the West. Wood and pellet heating is projected to rise fastest in the Northeast at 2.8% and the South at 2.6%. It’s only projected to rise 0.8% in the Midwest and decline by 0.3% in Western states.
In 2014, the Pellet Fuels Institute reported that shipments of pellet stoves grew by 41%. On average, 2 out of every 5 new stoves sold is a pellet stove and 3 are wood stoves. This ratio does not include the popular, though polluting, uncertified wood stoves that are still on the market until the end of this year.
“The trend towards more pellet heating is crucial as wood heat expands in America,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. “The growth in pellet heating, even as oil and gas prices fall, show a demand for a cleaner, local fuel that still can be greatly scaled up,” Ackerly said.

Wood heating was increasing faster than electric heating for many years, but since 2008, wood has increased by nearly 10% and electricity increased by nearly 15%.
In terms of the amount of energy generated by residential renewables, wood continues to be the dominant player, generating 66% of all residential renewable energy in 2014. Solar produced less than half the energy as wood and pellet stoves, making up 29% of residential renewable energy in 2014. Geothermal produced nearly 5%.
 

However, solar will soon be catching up to wood according to EIA projections, thanks to extensive state and federal subsidies. In 2016, the EIA projects that wood and pellet stoves will only produce 54% of residential renewable energy and solar will produce 40%. Geothermal is projected to rise to nearly 6%.
The EIA did not include data or projections on wood and pellet hearing until their 2012 report. Senator Shaheen (D-NH), the Alliance for Green Heat, and other groups pressed the agency to be more inclusive of the technology that was used by more households than oil or propane. Since then, the EIA has gone much further and is about to start surveying wood pellet producers to provide accurate and timely data about pellet production and usage.
Click here for a full copy of the EIA report.

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Update on the Mt. Vernon Pellet Stove Recall

About 2,000 Quadra-Fire Mt. Vernon E2 pellet stoves and inserts are being recalled and repaired, due to high pressure that can lead to explosions that shatter the glass in the door. The company says the stove is safe if properly operated. The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a voluntary recall on July 9, 2015. Problems were first reported to the company by consumers in the winter of 2015.

The problem is unique to this model and does not present a safety issue in other models sold by Quadrafire or any other manufacturer, according to pellet stove experts. If you own a Mt. Vernon, follow instructions in the voluntary recall notice and the company will repair the stove free of charge.

Some consumers and stove retailers contend that the stove was poorly designed and even if a stove is not operated properly, it should not build up pressures that can lead to explosions. At least 6 stoves have malfunctioned, leading to glass in the front door shattering, sometimes sending flying glass through rooms. No injuries have been reported. AGH believes the EPA should ask that this stove be re-certified since changes to it are substantial.

A number of discussions in independent chat rooms have raised the issues and include commentaries by affected consumers about how Quadra-Fire has responded.

The Alliance wrote to HHT asking for clarifications about what caused the malfunction and whether the stove would be 3rd party tested again for safety. We formally asked for information for our newsletter, which may have led to a less responsive reply, which is reproduced below.

———- Forwarded message ———-

From: Mathis, Kristen (HHT) ‪
Date: Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 11:34 AM

Subject: RE: questions about the Mt Vernon E2 for wood heat newsletter

To: John Ackerly

Hi John,

I wanted to send these responses as promised, although I see the newsletter has already gone out. The responses below in RED are provided by our VP Product Engineering, Gregg Achman.

1. Will HHT be sending this stove back to any 3rd party lab for safety testing?

When a modification is made to a Hearth & Home Technologies product, all necessary certification bodies are informed and the required testing is completed. Updates and notifications are published as necessary, and in accordance with the respective entities.

2. In your certification testing with OMNI, did any of the tests involve running the stove as the consumer might do it, instead of following the owner’s manual?

OMNI follows the testing protocols set forth in the test standard that the appliance is being certified to. The test standards follow ANSI protocol, and go through a revision process that allows for review and comment from interested parties to address future requirements and enhancements for performance and safety.

3. From your website and from talking to various HHT dealers, its confusing as to whether you consider this mainly a problem with incorrect operation by consumers, or whether its a flaw in the stove operating system. Your site says that the stoves in question will receive an enhanced control board “if necessary.” Are there some stoves that are not getting an enhanced control board or do all stoves in the recall get the enhanced control board?

HHT issued this recall proactively and in conjunction with the CPSC to reinforce our commitment to consumer safety. No injuries related to the Mt. Vernon E2 stove or insert have been reported. Issues of glass breakage are only related to Mt. Vernon E2 stoves and inserts when not maintained as outlined in the owner’s manual.

This recall affects an isolated set of units; if the unit is verified to be within the select group of recalled stoves or inserts, the control board should be replaced. HHT dealers have proactively contacted all consumers with affected stoves to have them repaired.

Lastly, you mention being unable to connect with someone at HHT. While I can’t speak to previous relationships, I do want to open the door for you to connect with me when you have questions moving forward. We always appreciate the opportunity to share factual information about our products and/or to share our passion and enthusiasm for the industry, and I can typically turn around responses in 2-3 business days.

Sincerely,
Kristen Mathis
Hearth Expert
Sr. Communications Manager

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Government Report Says Wood & Pellet Heat Dominates Residential Renewables

The 2014 Winter Fuel Outlook released by the US Energy Information Agency on Oct. 7, predicted that wood and pellet heating would continue the trend of being the nation’s fasting growing heat source.  Overall, wood and pellet heating grew 38% from 2004 to 2013, and now accounts for 2.5% of all home primary heating.
The EIA predicts wood and pellet heating will grow again in the 2014/15 winter by 4.7%.  Electricity is predicted to grow second fastest at 3.1%. Natural gas is at .07% growth and oil and propane are each predicted to drop by about 3.2%.  Regional data shows wood and pellet heating growing more than 7% in the northeast and Midwest, and only 2.5% in the south and 1.8% in the west. It was only two years ago that the EIA started to include wood and pellets in the 2012 Winter Fuel Outlook, even though far more homes have wood and pellet stoves than have oil furnaces.

Nationally, solar and geothermal dominate headlines and media imagery, but wood and pellet heating remain the dominant players in reducing fossil fuel usage at the residential level.  In 2014, the EIA says wood and pellet heat will produce .58 quadrillion Btu, or 67% of the nation’s total, while residential solar will produce .25 quadrillion Btu, or 29%.  Meanwhile, geothermal produces only .04, or 4%, and is not showing steady increases like solar.
While wood and pellets are the fastest growing heating fuel in America, residential solar is growing even faster in the electricity marketplace. At current rates, residential solar could produce more energy than residential wood and pellet stoves by 2020.  Solar has enjoyed generous taxpayer subsidies with a 30% federal tax credit in addition to state incentives.  The federal solar credit is set to expire at the end of 2016, but by then the cost of solar panels may have decreased enough for continued growth without federal subsidies.
Wood and pellet heating and solar are not competing technologies in that one produces electricity and the other heat.  They are often combined to make a home virtually carbon neutral, a process which is moving far faster in Europe than in the US due to higher fossil fuel prices and favorable government policies.  
In Europe, many countries are aggressively incentivizing higher efficiency pellet stoves and pellet boilers.   In the US, the Bush and Obama Administrations did not push for incentives for cleaner and more efficient pellet equipment but rather has let Congress and industry shape a tax credit without any effective efficiency or emission criteria.  As a result, the 38% growth of wood and pellet heating since 2004 documented by the EIA is not predominantly an expansion of cleaner and more efficient equipment, as it is in Europe.  Sales of cleaner pellet stoves are rising in the US, but the growth of wood heating in America includes some very polluting equipment such as outdoor wood boilers, also knows as outdoor hydronic heaters and new unregulated wood stoves, neither of which have emissions standards.  After many years of delays, the EPA is finally regulating these technologies and requiring them to meet emission standards by summer of 2015. 
Without effective federal regulations from the EPA, some states have been guiding the market toward cleaner and more efficient wood and pellet heating equipment, with Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon and Washington taking the lead.

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Dec. 4 Webinar: Best Practices in Wood and Pellet Stove Programs

The University of Maryland Extension Woodland Stewardship Education program will host a one-hour webinar on Thursday, December 4th from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. to provide an overview of the “best practices” in wood and pellet stove incentive programs across the United States. 
Sign up here.
As renewable energy programs grow around the country, more and more states are including incentives for wood or pellet boilers and stoves. Unlike other household appliances, such as refrigerators, furnaces or washing machines, wood heating equipment have no “Energy Star” labels for consumers to consult to make energy efficiency comparisons. Consequently, several states have devised a range of methods to determine the eligibility of cleaner and more efficient stoves and boilers.
This webinar will explore the features of these programs, and will use Maryland’s stove incentive program as an example of how one state met its goals for ensuring consumers purchase the most efficient appliances available. The speakers will identify what they see as emerging best practices in stove and boiler incentive programs as these initiatives become more mainstream.
This webinar features presentations from Jonathan Kays, University of Maryland Extension Natural Resource Extension Specialist; John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat; and Emilee Van Norden, Clean Energy Program Manager of the Maryland Energy Administration.
The webinar is free and open to the public.  Sign up now to reserve a spot.
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