Monday, March 16, 2020

HPBA 2020 Expo showcases all new stoves to smaller audience

Jack Goldman, right, opens the 2020
Expo in New Orleans.
Updated, April 9, 2020: The hearth industry’s annual marketplace for manufacturers and retailers concluded on March 14th, a half a day early in New Orleans amidst a dwindling crowd and growing concern about the spread of Covid-19. This was the first hearth industry gathering since the late 1980s in which virtually all the stoves and boilers on the floor were newly redesigned and tested to meet stricter emission standards.  

Some manufacturers were clearly proud of what they felt were genuinely cleaner stoves while others were unconvinced or cynical of the new standard’s impact in the real world. 
Mark Shmorhun of the DOE's
Biotechnology office
attended the Expo to talk to
manufacturers about R&D
funding needs.

Due to Coronavirus concerns, Travis and Jotul, two large manufacturers, pulled out at the last minute, leading to a notably smaller Expo. U.S. Stove, having dropped their HPBA membership, decided not to attend this year, presumably because their inability to meet the 2020 emission standards on most of their appliances weakened their position in the hearth industry.  US Stove has 18 stove models that are 2020 compliant but no 2020 compliant furnaces yet, an area it had once domoniated.  US Stove responded to this blog, saying they are well positioned to move forward with a broad range of new and exciting products.

From the perspective of the Alliance for Green Heat, the 2020 Expo showcased several notable trends, some encouraging and others troubling.  

Vesta gives Best in Show award to an automated wood stove

Possibly the biggest highlight for AGH was seeing automated stoves take more of a foothold in the marketplace. Napoleon’s Eco Smart wood stove won Best in Show at the Vesta Awards, marking the first time that an automated stove won a Vesta Award.  The stove has an optical sensor that monitors particulate matter and can continually adjust air settings to produce a cleaner burn. According to Napoleon, the automation will only add $300 to the price and they expect the complete system with stove to retail for about $2,500. The stove also connects to the Napoleon cloud via the user's smart phone so they can monitor combustion conditions. The user can also allow the company to log data from the stove, providing a valuable record of how the stove runs. The stove is not yet EPA certified, but should be within months. 
The Charnwood Skye 2700, expected to
retail for about $3,300, several hundred
more than its non-automated cousin.

Charnwood, a British manufacturer, also was a finalist in the Vesta award, with their Skye E2700, also an automated stove that does much of what the Napoleon does, but with different technology.  Charnwood will be entering the US market for the first time later this year with this stove. Hugh Wells, head of the Britsh company told AGH, "We are very excited about this product because it does revolutionise how we burn wood by taking out user error." CFS-Teco did the certication testing in Portland and it achieved 78% efficiency, the highest of any non-cat. 

SBI should also have an automated stove on the market within a year, and MF Fire had their automated Catalyst on display at the Expo and have another one in development.  Maxitrol also exhibited a prototype of an automated stove and says that they are taking off in Germany.  Napoleon also won a second Vesta award for their novel "Heat & Cool Electric Fireplace," a mini-split heat pump housed in an electric fireplace.  

2020 stove trends

The 2020 NSPS has resulted in many more catalytic and hybrid stove models. AGH is particularly
Larry Brockman from the EPA's
voluntary Burn Wise program
talks the MF Fire staff about their
automated stove.
happy to see more hybrid models as they help reduce start-up smoke and provide back-up secondary combustion if the operator does not engage the catalyst. A more unnoticed trend is the rapid adoption of the ASTM E3503 cordwood test method. Data from the EPA list of stoves shows the average grams per hour for cordwood tested stoves is 1.6 grams – the exact same average for crib tested stoves. About 45% of all 2020 certified wood stoves were tested with the ASTM cordwood method, which reportedly has more flexibility in its parameters making it easier for manufacturers to pass the certification test. Nearly all of the smaller non-cat stoves were tested with cordwood. Quite a few very affordable stoves that sell primarily in big box and hardware stores are passing the 2020 standards, and some stoves barely had to undergo any redesign.  

A sophisticated, lower priced electronic precipitator
ESPs for wood stoves, considered
far-fetched just a few years ago, are
improving rapidly and popular in
Germany and Switzerland. 

Danish manufacturer Enervex brought a self-cleaning electronic precipitator, known as an ESP. They are commonly used by factories and restaurants, but now small and affordable enough for residential applications. ESPs are a type of scrubber that uses static electricity to remove particulate matter from exhaust fumes before the particulates exit the smokestack. Enervex’s innovation is to design a residential ESP that is self-cleaning, often a big problem, and to bring the price down. They expect theirs will sell for $1,200- $1,600 when it comes on the US market. There is a quickly growing market for them in Germany, now that they are recognized by the country's eco-label, Blue Swan, and some cities may require them. OekoSolve, a Swiss company, made the ESP being tested in Fairbanks.

HPBA recruits Appalachia Service Project to take 2015 stoves in May

To address the fate of potentially hundreds of wood stoves that are 2015 certified but not allowed to be sold after May 15, 2020, HPBA negotiated with the EPA to allow retailers to donate stoves to a non-profit who can them install them. HPBA is teaming up with the Christian ministry Appalachia Service Project, based in Tennessee, who repairs homes in Central Appalachia, making them warmer,
AGH President John Ackerly with
Adam Bean of the Appalachia
Service Project
safer, and drier. At the Expo, AGH met with Adam Bean,
Home Repair Coordinator for the group, 
who is quickly learning about wood stove installations and trying to estimate how many stoves his group has the capacity to install, which will partly depend on securing donated NFI installing and training.

Pellet stoves out of the limelight

Even though pellet stoves were relatively easy to redesign and test at 2 grams an hour or lower, the market for pellet stoves has not been particularly good and there were not many on the Expo floor. There were no pellet stove finalists in the Vesta Awards, which may indicate a pause in innovation in the North American market.

EPA announces final NSPS rule during Expo

On the first day of the conference, the EPA formally announced that they would not allow a retailer sell-through. The EPA had said on October 15, 2019 that entities should follow the compliance dates but some felt that there was still a chance for a sell-through. HPBA expressed its disappointment in a written statement while the Pellet Fuel Institute claimed a victory because the EPA removed minimum requirements from pellet fuel while retaining the prohibition that pellet fuel must not contain any of the prohibited fuels listed in the 2015 NSPS. There remains considerable debate about whether the 5-year timeline would have been enough if manufacturers had started redesigning and testing to the 2020 standards early in the process. Key excerpts of the EPA ruling provide detailed insight into why the EPA did not allow a sell-through. Some did start early and began offering 2020 compliant models to their retailers as soon as 2018, while most did not start releasing 2020 models until 2019 or even this year.  The issue was far more complicated because manufacturers had large inventories of 2015 stoves and some needed the cooperation of retailers to buy their 2015 inventory well into 2019. An HPBA mailer to retailers in 2019 said: “retailers and distributors should NOT immediately stop buying anything that doesn’t meet Step 2” in part because there wasn’t enough variety and in part because manufacturers still needed revenue from sales of their 2015 inventory.

EPA holds 3-day wood smoke workshop

One of the main reasons AGH attends the annual HPBA Expo is to participate in workshops
The wood smoke workshop brought
scores of experts from across the US
to share new knowledge, tactics and
success stories.
organized by the EPA on wood smoke reduction strategies. This year 
the workshop was coordinated and supported by EPA's Burn Wise, the Western States Air Resources Council (WESTAR), the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) and National Tribal Air Association (NTAA) and was going to be the largest one ever, with nearly 100 federal, state, local and tribal participants registered.  But some states like Washington banned their employees from travel and many other participants cancelled, leaving a group of about 60. The workshop mainly consisted of a series of talks and powerpoints about change out programs, cord wood test methods, the impact of the NSPS, DOE funding opportunities for stove R&D, retrofits and ESPs, low cost consumer air quality sensors, indoor air quality issues, addressing wood smoke complaints, etc. Most of the powerpoints can be dowloaded here. AGH also hosted a gumbo and etouffee networking reception on Frenchman Street for all the participants. 

The 2021 HPBA Expo is scheduled for March 4-6 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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