Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Woodstock Soapstone, Travis and Wittus Win the Wood Stove Decathlon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 20, 2013

Woodstock Soapstone, Travis and Wittus    Win the Wood Stove Decathlon

Catalytic, Masonry and Electronically Controlled Stoves Show High Results in Testing

Washington D.C. – In an international competition to significantly reduce pollution from wood stoves on the National Mall, one finalist, Woodstock Soapstone of New Hampshire, won first prize of $25,000. Two other teams, Travis of Washington State and Wittus of New York, were awarded $5,000 each. The teams were recognized for all around performance in efficiency and emissions, affordability, consumer appeal and innovation. Members of Congress Dan Benishek (R-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Paul Tonko (D-NY) took part in the awards ceremony.

The Woodstock Soapstone Team
In accepting the first prize of $25,000, Woodstock Soapstone owner Tom Morrissey announced that he was giving part of the prize money to two other teams - Walker Stove and Intensi-Fire - who had come to the Decathlon on a shoestring and needed funds for their work. Travis donated their $5,000 to the Alliance for Green Heat to help pay for the expenses of the Decathlon.

“These award-winning technologies are part of the solution for millions of Americans to reduce their reliance on fossil heating fuels,” said John Ackerly Founder and President of the Alliance for Green Heat, which organized the Wood Stove Decathlon. "We'd like to thank all the teams for participating and contributing to an ongoing educational effort to help the US government appreciate the potential of cleaner and more efficient wood heating," Ackerly added.

Competitors represented a wide range of wood stove technologies. Two of the top three winners were catalytic hybrid stoves. While the three masonry stoves did not take home prizes, they had some of the highest scores in efficiency and cleanliness.  

The Wittus Twin Fire, that was tied for second prize overall, scored highest in the efficiency category. Travis’s Cape Cod Hybrid, which also tied for second overall, scored highest in consumer appeal and for low carbon monoxide. The Hwam 3630 IHS scored highest in innovation, with its oxygen sensor and control device that alerted the consumer when and how much wood to reload. The Woodstock Soapstone, which won the Grand Prize, also won in the affordability category. And the University of Maryland’s stove, the Mulciber, won in the lowest particulate matter category. 

The overall ranking of stoves was:













The competition differed from EPA tests of wood stoves in several key respects to more closely resemble how consumers use stoves. First, the stoves in the competition were tested using cordwood instead of 2x4s and 4x4s. Second, technicians loaded stoves with 12 pounds of wood per cubic foot of firebox space for the first round of testing, whereas EPA only uses 7 pounds of wood per cubic foot.

Two of the stoves made small amounts of electricity and four had electronic control systems. More detailed analysis will be forthcoming. The primary funders of the Wood Stove Decathlon are NYSERDA, the Osprey Foundation, the District of Columbia Urban Forestry Administration, the US Forest Service, the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund and the Arbolito Foundation. 

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The Alliance for Green Heat is an independent non-profit that promotes high-efficiency wood heating as a low-carbon, sustainable and affordable heating solution. The Alliance seeks to make wood heat a cleaner and more efficient renewable energy option, particularly for those who cannot afford fossil fuel heat.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Preliminary Ranking of Stoves at Wood Stove Decathlon as of Sunday, Nov. 17

The Wood Stove Decathlon judges and technicians have completed one round of emissions and efficiency on 8 out of 12 of the stoves in the competition. Each stove will have at least two tests and the results will be averaged. (See our previous post explaining how the stoves in the competition are scored.) If time permits, the judges may decide to do a different type of test using a cold start to measure start-up emissions on the stoves in contention for first place.

As of 4:00 PM Sunday 11/17, the number one stove for low emissions is the Mulciber stove by the University of Maryland.  The number one stove for high efficiency is the Wittus Twinfire.  The full rankings are:

1. Un. of Maryland      
2. Woodstock Soapstone              
3. Intercontinental      
4. Wittus Twinfire          
5. Travis Cape Cod                
6. Ecolabel Tile Stove              
7. Hwam
8. SmartStove
9. Tulikivi
10. Kimberly
11. Intensifire
12. Walker

1. Wittus Twinfire
2. Ecolabel Tile Stove
3. University of Maryland
4. Tulikivi
5. Woodstock Soapstone
6. Travis Cape Cod
7. Intercontinental
8. Hwam
9. Intensifire
10. Walker
11. SmartStove
12. Kimberly

Monday, November 11, 2013

How the Stoves are Scored

Twelve stoves are competing in the Wood Stove Decathlon and the  nine independent judges give each stove a score of 1 – 10 in five different areas.  The scores of the nine judges are averaged.  The five scoring areas are equally weighted.  The stove with the highest number wins.

Emissions.  Particulate emissions or smoke is the hardest area to judge.  The judges are using portable particulate matter analyzers that take samples of the smoke and provide a numerical amount of particles that are 2.5 milligrams or less.   The judges will aim to test each stove 3 times and average the results because there can be a margin of error on any single test. 
Monday, Nov. 11: the tent goes up on the Mall

Emissions samples are taken after the stove has started and warmed up in what is known as a “hot-to-hot” test.  We do not test the emissions during the 20-minute start up phase, when emissions are the highest.  Each stove is given wood that is the same moisture content (about 20%) and is loaded with about 12 pounds of wood per cubic foot of firebox volume. 

Efficiency. Efficiency is measured using a “stack loss” method, meaning the temperature in the chimney is monitored to determine how much heat is being generated from the stove and how much is being wasted through the chimney.  The higher the temperature coming out of the chimney, the lower the efficiency as this is heat that did not remain in the house.  Stoves use many ways to extract heat before it goes up the chimney.  Exhaust gases cannot get too low without an exhaust fan, because smoke would not be hot enough to rise, and moisture would condense.  The highest recorded efficiencies in EPA certified wood stoves are 83%, using high heat value (HHV).  Europeans use low heat values (LHV), which explains why you see numbers in the high 80s and low 90s in their wood stoves. 

Innovation. This is a more subjective area of scoring by the judges, each of whom may give higher priority to certain kinds of innovation.  Generally, judges are looking for new technology or components that are not standard on existing wood stoves. Judges will be looking for how “idiot proof” the stove is, meaning how it reduces opportunities for operator error, which can be significant in stoves with manually operated air controls.  Judges will also be looking for how well a stove may be able to reduce emissions upon start up, mitigate the problem of using unseasoned wood and tackle many other common issues that wood stoves face. 

Affordability. Judges are looking for stoves that are affordable to the average American family and will assess the cost of components of the stove and retail price, if there is one.  Judges may also consider lifetime cost, and give higher marks to stoves that have longer lifespans or stoves that have lower installation costs.  Operating costs are mainly reflected in the efficiency scoring area.

Consumer appeal. Judges will try to assess which stoves will be most attractive to buyers and have a greater chance of wide deployment.  Features that do not impact emissions, efficiency or even affordability could score points in this area.  Ease of use is important here, and a stove that recharged a cell phone or powered lights could gain points here, as could a variety of aesthetic attributes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wood Stove Decathlon puts focus on policy toward wood and pellet heating

MEDIA ADVISORY for November 15-19, 2013

Next Generation Wood Stove Competition Coming to National Mall

Competition puts focus on policy toward America’s most common renewable energy

Washington D.C. – An international competition being held on the National Mall from November 15 – 19 to make far cleaner and more efficient wood stoves is focusing attention on the Congressional districts where wood heating is most pervasive.  The organizers are calling on the members who represent those districts to develop policy that advances this renewable energy sector.

Many of the members of Congress who represent top wood and pellet heating districts are attending the Wood Stove Decathlon to show their support for making America’s number one residential renewable energy cleaner. Among those who have confirmed attendance include Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Jared Huffamn (D-CA), Dr. Dan Benishek (R-MI) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-NM). The Decathlon is showcasing next generation wood stoves that are automated, connect to smart phones and emit virtually no smoke.

In the 20 Congressional Districts where wood and pellet heating are most common, between 9 and 15% of households use wood or pellets and little or no fossil fuels for heating.  For this reason, wood and pellet heating have massive potential to contribute to significant carbon reductions. In some counties in these districts, more than half the homes use wood or pellets for primary or secondary heating. However, many homes still have old, uncertified wood stoves that produce too much wood smoke pollution and lead to the impression that wood heating is just an antiquated, crude form of heating. New technologies like the ones on display at the wood stove decathlon would change this trend.

“Wood and pellet heating has already taken off in Europe, but its potential is just beginning to attract attention from the Obama Administration or the US Congress,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat, the group that is hosting the Wood Stove Decathlon. “America’s huge fleet of stoves is outmoded and no federal policies encourage companies to make the cleanest stoves, or consumers to buy them. The Department of Energy doesn’t have a single person or program that addresses America’s most common residential renewable energy technology,” Ackerly said.

The Alliance for Green Heat is calling on members of Congress who represent the districts where wood heat is pervasive to take a leading role in developing strategies for this technology.  Several Obama administration officials and members of Congress will be attending and addressing the large group of companies, engineers, inventors, college teams and renewable energy advocates at the Wood Stove Decathlon. 

Nationally, 2.3 million households use wood or pellets as primary fuel and make three times as much energy as all residential solar panels. Since 2000, wood and pellet heating has grown 35%, faster than any other heating fuel.

“The rapid rise of wood heating since 2000 is great news for displacing significant quantities of oil and propane heating,” said John Ackerly. “And now there is a solution that can drastically reduce the smoke that wood stoves too often emit. It’s the same computer chips, sensors and innovation that is making all major appliances more efficient,” said Ackerly. 

Policies to bring wood and pellet stoves into mainstream of renewable energy policy and incentivize far cleaner and more efficient appliances include inclusion in the Energy Star program, inclusion in energy audit standards and incentives for the very cleanest and most efficient models.  The BTU Act (S. 1007, H.R. 2715) would provide incentives for the most efficient stoves.  And EPA has drafted long-overdue regulations to require stricter emission standards for residential wood heaters which will be open for public comment this winter.

The top 10 wood and pellet heating Congressional districts are represented by: Mike Michaud (D-ME), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-NM), Peter Welch (D-VT), Dan Benishek (R-MI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Greg Walden (R-OR).


The Alliance for Green Heat is a non-profit that promotes wood and pellet heating as a low-carbon, sustainable and affordable energy source. The Alliance seeks to make wood heat a cleaner and more efficient renewable energy option, particularly for those who cannot afford fossil fuel heat.

Friday, November 1, 2013

How glass-ceramic helped realize Ben Franklin’s wood stove ideal

By Karen Elder, SCHOTT North America, Inc.

Benjamin Franklin famously invented bifocals and discovered electricity, but less known is his hand in the creation of the modern wood stove. In a time before gas and electric heat, Franklin sought a better stove, one that allowed homeowners to see and feel heat without inhaling harmful smoke. His desire drove him to develop the Franklin stove, a metal-lined fireplace featuring an open front that heated rooms more efficiently and reduced smoke exhaust. Franklin’s principles remain a benchmark for wood stoves today.

The advent of glass-ceramic and closed stove systems have realized Franklin's ideals in a way he never could have imagined. Fireplaces and stoves sealed using heat-resistant glass-ceramic offer an unobstructed view of the fire, more evenly radiate heat throughout a room, and stop all smoke and particulates from entering the house while trimming emissions, making them better for the environment too. Here's how glass-ceramic has helped to revolutionized stoves and fireplaces.

Ben Franklin came from the Anglo tradition that prioritized seeing the fire and resisted the more efficient Germanic traditions which sealed the firebox.  It could be argued that he set back the movement for high efficiency heating by popularizing a stove with an open front, even though closed stoves had already proved the efficiency and smoke reduction benefits of a closed firebox.  The technology battle between those that favored open fireboxes, including Franklin, and those that favored closed fireboxes went on for over a century and is explored in detail in a wonderful book by Professor Brewer, Priscilla called From Fireplace to Cookstove.

Improved air quality
Older methods of heating, such as open fireplaces and inefficient wood stoves, are notorious for their emissions, both indoors and out, and Franklin was well aware of the problem, adding a complex siphon system to his stove that drew smoke up the chimney and out of the house.
Glass-ceramic has taken the drive for healthier indoor spaces to a new level. Sealed with heat-resistant glass-ceramic, modern wood stoves and fireplaces make it impossible for smoke or particles to enter the home. These fireplaces funnel smoke and other particles up the chimney, leaving homeowners the comfort of an indoor fireplace without subjecting their families to smoke and particles.
And because modern stoves burn hotter and cleaner, few emissions reach the atmosphere. Modern wood stoves are often 50 percent more efficient than traditional stoves, and they can reduce particle emissions by 70 percent, impacting indoor and outdoor air quality.

Both Ben Franklin and modern fireplace designers would agree: Few sights are more mystifying than a fire. In contrast to wood stoves that seal off the fire behind cast iron or steel doors, the original Franklin stove featured an open-front design to offer a prime view of the flames. Modern fireplaces sealed with glass-ceramic inherited this attribute and offer unobstructed visibility through transparent glass fronts -- sometimes from multiple angles. Manufacturers can produce glass in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and designs -- including 270-degree curved glass -- that allow homeowners to enjoy the fire from anywhere in the room.

Stronger safety
While the Franklin stove boasted an aesthetically appealing open-front design, the open flames posed potential fire threats for homeowners. Modern fireplaces enclosed with glass-ceramic solve this problem. Heat-resistant ROBAX glass-ceramic panes, for example, can withstand heat spikes and temperatures up to 1400 degrees Fahrenheit, containing flames and preventing sparks and ashes from spilling out and igniting while allowing the aesthetic view of the fire that Franklin envisioned. 

More efficient heating
Franklin’s stove contained a system of baffles and inverted siphons to repurpose escaping fumes as an efficient source of heat. Energy efficiency has new meaning in modern stoves and fireplaces. Closed fireplaces sealed with glass-ceramic burn fuel more efficiently and radiate heat more evenly than traditional fireplaces. Glass-ceramic allows fires to burn hotter, and radiate heat more evenly throughout the room.

The higher temperatures also save fuel. By burning hotter, glass-ceramic-enclosed fireplaces fully consume the wood, and produce a slower burn. Fireplaces sealed with ROBAX glass-ceramic can burn up to 43 percent less wood and can produce up to 26 percent more heat per kilogram of fuel than a standard open, wood-burning fireplace under the same conditions.

The ideas behind the glass-ceramic-enclosed fireplace are centuries old, but modern technology has transformed ideas into outcomes. New woodstoves and fireplaces sealed with glass-ceramic provide aesthetic appeal, better air quality, improved safety, and greater heating efficiency, making them the optimal choice over traditional open, wood-burning fireplaces. If Ben Franklin were alive today, he’d be sure to upgrade.