Hearth Products, a term used to describe products such as wood stoves, pellet stoves, fireplaces, gas-fired fireplaces, and free standing room heaters, are playing a big part in the drive of the “green” movement. There are two “green” terms to consider when looking at hearth products; Emissions and Efficiency.
All woodstoves on the market today are tested for emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency oversees this testing, with independent testing laboratories performing the testing and submiting the data to EPA for certification. This is a requirement before the appliance can be sold in the marketplace. Although woodstoves are required to emit less than 7.5 gram per hour in test conditions, most are certified by the EPA less than 4.5 grams per hour.
Wood and Pellet Burning Hearth Products
Wood Stoves have been regulated in the US for emissions since 1990. The reduction in emissions from pre-EPA certified woodstoves to currently certified woodstoves is significant. The old stoves could emit 30-50 grams per hour of particulate emissions. Wood stoves today are being certified with numbers in the 2-4 grams per hour range. Of course, with this reduction, the efficiency of the stove has improved dramatically. This efficiency has translated into a reduction of the amount of fuel a consumer will burn over the course of a winter heating season.
Pellet Burning appliances are very popular in Europe, and the popularity continues to growth in North America. They may or may not require emission testing, but overall, they are clean burning, highly efficient appliances with average emission numbers less than 3 grams per hour.
The current program for solid fuel appliance emissions is under review. The EPA is reviewing the test protocol to reduce the passing emission number. The updated emission program should be in place sometime in 2011 or 2012.
Until recently, the EPA required only default efficiency numbers to be placed on solid fuel burning appliances. Non-catalytic woodstove were given a default of 63%, catalytic woodstoves 72%, and pellet stove 78% efficiency. These numbers were derived from data generated in the late 1980’s.
In 2009, Congress granted a tax credit for consumers purchasing solid-fuel appliances with a tested efficiency greater than 75%. Manufacturers scrambled to get their appliances tested to determine their efficiency. With new technologies developed over the years, many woodstoves tested had efficiency results greater that 75%.
These tax credits are currently available in 2009 and 2010.
Gas-Fired Hearth Products
Gas fireplaces and free standing gas-fired heaters are tested for combustion emissions and heating efficiency during certification testing. These appliances are required to emit low levels of carbon monoxide.
The majority gas-fired appliances are commonly referred to as direct vent. A direct vent appliance derives all of the air for combustion from outside the home and does not cause any negative indoor air pressure. Since indoor air is not required for these appliances to operate, the current "green" standards look favorable upon these types of appliances.
Hearth appliances continue to be a popular option for heating and decorative additions to homes. With improvements in technology, they are clean burning and efficient heating appliances. Many are designed to be room heaters, which allow the consumer to only heat the portion of the house where it is installed. This regional heating concept can significantly reduce annual heating costs for consumers.