Wood heat is considered the first form of heat used by humans, so it is no wonder we have this primal fascination with fire. With heating costs rising, concern about greenhouse gases and taking care of the environment, wood heat is still a viable option.
As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightens restrictions on particulate matter from wood smoke, this results in higher efficiencies, meaning more heat from your wood pile! One of the best current technologies to meet the clean burn requirements is through using a catalytic combustor. Catalytic stoves achieve very long burn times with extremely low particulate levels, meaning they can burn cleanly at low temperatures.
Catalytic wood stoves send smoky exhaust through a honeycomb catalyst to burn off the gases and smoke and they extract the heat from the exhaust; this results in fewer pollutants going into our air and more heat into your home. This system is similar to the catalytic converter in your car.
Manufacturers of catalytic stoves do recommend that you burn only dry, seasoned hardwood. Burning garbage or using coloured shiny paper to start your fire will plug up your catalyst and shorten its lifespan. The catalyst life will vary depending on what you burn as well as the placement of the catalyst in the firebox. Some manufacturers have been building these types of stoves for over 30 years, so they typically will have a 10-year warranty on their “cats”. With the tighter restrictions coming many manufacturers are turning to catalytic technology and will have to go through a learning curve so their warranties may be as low as 3 to 5 years.
Have a certified technician install your stove and chimney; check it regularly to ensure you are getting the most from your wood stove and fuel.
Michele Kadwell-Chalmers, fireplace consultant
The Original Flame inc.