Older model wood-burning stoves and wood-burning fireplace inserts are not clean burning appliances. Pre-EPA approved models do not have secondary combustion chambers and are inefficient. Consider changing an old stove out to a newer model and get the benefits of a cleaner-burning high-efficiency appliance.
In 1988 the Environmental Protection Agency implemented new rules for wood-burning stove manufacturers. While these rules for higher-efficiency appliances put a lot of manufacturers out of business, the remaining manufactures were able to create new designs that meet the EPA Phase I rules. These manufacturers have been continually working on improving efficiency even more since that time, and today’s stoves are a far cry from the older models that created thick black smoke gushing from the stove pipe.
Today’s wood-burning stoves and fireplace inserts are cleaner burning and very efficient. The average efficiency rating is 75%. Compare that to an open fireplace, estimated at only 10% – 30% efficiency, and its easy to see that an open fireplace sends most of the heat up the flue, while an insert or stove keeps the heat in the house. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, while older un-certified stoves release 15 to 30 grams of smoke per hour; new EPA-certified stoves produce only 2 to 7 grams of smoke per hour.
Another problem that often comes up, particularly in cities, is the building codes. Most jurisdictions follow the International Residential Code, and wood-burning appliances need to meet code in order to be installed in homes. Some homeowners may try to buy used wood-burning stoves or inserts, then later find out that it can’t be installed in their home. Buyer beware when purchasing used items. A permit is required in most cities to install stoves, as well as a license to do the work and obtain the permit. This is not a business license – it is a contractor license usually called an Heating, Ventilating, and Cooling license, or Master Mechanical license. A qualified installer should do the installation as this is not a DIY project. Codes and clearances must be followed, and if not, a house fire could result.
What to look for on the stove: Look for a U.L. (Underwriters Laboratories) label on the stove. The label should be metal and permanently affixed to the stove body. Also look for “EPA approved” or Phase I, or other type of wording that includes EPA. If looking at purchasing a wood-burning stove without these two things, walk away from the deal and look for a new stove from a reputable hearth dealer or chimney sweep. The EPA has published a list of certified wood stoves at http://www2.epa.gov/compliance/list-epa-certified-wood-stoves
Save Money: Using a high-efficiency wood-stove or insert can save money on fuel bills. The Hearth, Patio, and Barbeque Association has published a fuel calculator to help homeowners decide the best way to heat their home: http://www.hpba.org/fuel-efficiency-calculator/fuel-efficiency-calculator/?searchterm=calculator
Spring is the time to buy. Many stove manufacturers offer incentives and rebates during the spring and summer months so take advantage of the offers while they are around.