Wood stoves can come in all shapes and sizes, but when you break it down they are basically a metal box that you can build a fire in. This fire creates heat and the heat transfers through the metal to warm your house. The difference between and EPA certified stove and a non-certified stove is what we will discuss here.
The catch is that they have to be vented to the outside of the house for the smoke and exhaust to get out. And naturally a good portion of the heat and un-burnt smoke goes up the chimney. This can lead to both a lot more wood being burned than is necessary and unnecessary air pollution that is a big deal in different areas.
So about 22 years ago now the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) stepped in and started requiring manufacturers to pass specific testing and enforce EPA certified stoves to be the only ones that could be sold. An EPA certified stove is still the only type of wood stove that you can buy to heat your home in the US, Canada and many other countries.
The US just last year passed some laws that will not allow you to sell your home with an un-certified wood stove present. It must be removed and recycled before closing.
So what is the difference between an EPA certified stove and a un-certified wood stove you ask. Well as you might guess it is the emissions, which is what the EPA’s job is to regulate. Most older un-certified stoves emitted up to 100 gr/hr (Grams per hour), EPA certified stoves are required to be less than 7.5 for non-catalytic and 4.1 for catalytic currently, with laws coming in the near future threatening to tighten that up even farther.
The benefit to a consumer besides polluting less is actually getting a lot more heat into your home for every piece of wood that you burn. The difference between that 100 gr/hr and the average EPA certified stove of about 3.5 gr/hr is that you are burning every little bit of fuel up and thus using a lot less wood to get the same or more heat. Other benefits are less ash, cleaner glass door, and a cleaner chimney.
A cleaner chimney actually makes a wood stove safer because you have a lot less chance of chimney fires. That 100 gr/hr building up on the inside of the chimney the igniting at a later date is called a chimney fire and I think is one of the major causes of house fires with wood stoves. That risk is signifigantly reduced when you only have about 3.5 gr/hr of particulate going up the chimney.
Hopefully this has given you some good information about what an EPA certified stove is and why it is important. Anything sold since roughly 1990 will be EPA certified, there will be an article in the near future with how to tell if a stove is EPA certified or not. Stay Tuned!
The Stove Guy