New York Times – Contest Aims for a Cleaner-Burning Wood Stove

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 As Seen In | Blogs & Information Comments
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The New York Times profiled the 2013 Wood Stove Decathlon, a contest that aims to find ways to “get twice as much heat out of a log of firewood”.

The University of Maryland was just one of twelve teams competing to define technology for clean-burning wood stoves. This contest is important because 2.3 million American homes rely on wood as a primary source of heat. A typical wood stove can deliver 40-50% of the energy potential of the wood, but the competitors of the Wood Stove Decathlon are achieving 90% or more in their clean-burning wood stoves. Our team went beyond the approach of merely installing a catalytic converter, similar to how vehicles operate.

The article explains: “The stoves use clever innovations. Traditional stoves pull in cool air, but a team from the University of Maryland put the air intake pipe inside the exhaust pipe, an arrangement that heats the inlet air and cools the exhaust, thus conserving heat and improving efficiency. Their stove, a prototype built partly by the machine shop at the university’s College Park campus, uses a fan to draw in air. A small computer controls the fan, varying its speed to keep the temperature in the firebox in the proper range.

It goes on to explain how the stove, now called the Catalyst Wood Burning Stove, doubles down on efficiency: “In a twist, the electricity to run the computer and fan comes from a thermoelectric generator, driven by the heat of the stove. For production models, the thermoelectric generator will allow the user to recharge a cellphone.” Read the full article here.

The result of this competition are stoves that not only meet the more strict efficiency standards required by the EPA, but also make operation easier and safer for the typical homeowner. Since the competition, that team has continued to seek The Perfect Burn, bringing to market the best clean-burning wood stoves available.It even regulates the temperature using a smartphone app.

They’ve come a long way since the New York Times profiled them, and we can only expect more innovation ahead.