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Burn Wise

Types of Wood-Burning Appliances

People use several types of wood-burning appliances to heat their homes, either as a primary source of heat, as supplemental heat, or for ambiance.

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There are two major types of wood-burning fireplaces, traditional masonry fireplaces that are typically built of brick or stone and are constructed on site by a mason; and “low mass” fireplaces that are engineered and pre-fabricated in a manufacturing facility prior to installation. Most fireplaces, whether masonry or low mass, are not used as a primary source of heat; their function is primarily for ambiance. Fireplaces are typically very inefficient heaters. Find EPA-qualified models.

Fireplace Inserts

Fireplace inserts are similar in function and performance to free-standing wood stoves, but are designed to be installed within the firebox of an existing masonry or metal fireplace. A certified installer will make sure the flue liner in your masonry chimney is installed correctly. If your fireplace is factory built (or "zero-clearance"), you must use an insert that was specifically designed and tested for your unit to make it more efficient and less polluting. Find EPA-certified models.

Fireplace Retrofits

A fireplace retrofit is a device that is installed into an existing wood-burning fireplace. The existing fireplace can either be factory built or masonry construction. The primary purpose of the retrofit is to reduce wood smoke pollution from existing fireplaces. A fireplace can be retrofitted with a more efficient gas stove or an EPA-qualified retrofit device. Check with the retrofit manufacturer to see what retrofits are appropriate for your fireplace. If installed and operated properly, fireplace retrofit devices can reduce pollution by approximately 70%. 

Wood Stoves

A wood stove is an appliance that is usually made of cast iron, steel, or stone. Wood stoves that burn wood for fuel can be used as a primary or secondary source of heat. Most stoves in homes are not EPA-certified. EPA-certified stoves are cleaner burning and more energy efficient.

Gas Stoves

Gas stoves are designed to burn either natural gas or propane, and are typically very energy efficient. The fire in today’s gas stoves looks much like a real wood fire. They emit very little pollution, require little maintenance, and can be installed almost anywhere in the home. Gas stoves can be vented through an existing chimney, or directly vented through the wall behind the stove. While some gas stoves do not require outside venting, EPA does not support use of these models due to indoor air quality concerns. See more on indoor air quality and sources of combustion products.

Hydronic Heaters

Hydronic heaters are pressurized or unpressurized fluid-based heaters located either inside or outdoors.  Hydronic heaters are also known as wood boilers, pellet boilers, outdoor boilers, and outdoor water stoves.  They burn wood fuels such as cord wood, wood pellets, wood chips, or corn.  Heat is transferred to either water or a water/anti-freeze solution, which is piped to the area to be heated.  These types of heaters are used for homes, barns, greenhouses, and garages.  Find EPA-certified hydronic heaters

NOTE: EPA’s hydronic heater voluntary program no longer exists. Hydronic heaters are now regulated under the 2015 Wood Heater NSPS. Most of the EPA-qualified models for this program have been automatically deemed EPA-certified under the 2015 NSPS if they were tested were EPA Method 28 WHH and meet the 2015 Step emission limit. Frequent questions about the hydronic heater program. 

Forced-air Furnaces

Forced-air furnaces (also known as warm-air furnaces) are designed to burn cordwood, wood pellets or wood chips to heat an entire residence. Heat from these furnaces, which are typically located indoors, is distributed through ducts using a blower fan. Stacks or chimneys for these furnaces are generally on the roof of the home they heat.  Large forced-air furnaces are capable of outputting 65,000 BTU per hour or more while small forced-air furnaces output less than 65,000 BTU per hour.  Find EPA-certified forced-air furnaces.

Masonry Heaters

A masonry heater is a site-built or site-assembled solid-fueled heating device, consisting of a firebox, a large masonry mass, and a maze of heat exchange channels. It stores heat from rapidly-burning fires within its masonry structure, and slowly releases the heat into the home throughout the day. Masonry heaters are typically very efficient heaters, and currently do not require EPA certification. The Masonry Heater Association of North America Exitprovides more information on masonry heaters and installers in your area.

Pellet Stoves

Pellet stoves are similar in appearance to wood stoves; however, instead of wood, pellet stoves burn a renewable fuel made of ground, dried wood and other biomass wastes compressed into pellets. Pellet stoves operate by pouring pellets into a hopper which feeds automatically into the stove. Unlike wood stoves and fireplaces, most pellet stoves need electricity to operate. 

Decorative Fireplace Gas Logs

Decorative fireplace logs can be installed in an existing fireplace. While not designed to be a significant source of heat, decorative logs provide an alternative to burning wood. Because they burn either natural gas or propane, they have low emissions. While some gas logs do not require outside venting, EPA does not support use of these models due to indoor air quality concerns. See more on indoor air quality and sources of combustion products.