Wood stoves today have a higher degree of safety and efficiency than those of the past. They require less firewood, and the release of smoke and ash has been greatly reduced. They range in size to accommodate heating a family room, a small cottage, or a full-sized home. The highest quality appliances are labeled by the Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada (ULC) or another testing and certification body for safety. They should also be certified to be low-emission according to EPA standards. Stoves that are older and uncertified release 40 to 60 grams of smoke per hour; in contrast to the new EPA-certified stoves that produce only 2 to 5 grams of smoke per hour.
Check the current list of EPA-certified wood stoves (PDF).
Contact an experienced wood stove retailer who knows the performance characteristics of the products they sell. When visiting local retailers, have a floor plan of your home so that they can help you find a wood stove suitable for the space you want to heat.
Pellet stoves are one of the cleanest- burning, and efficient heating appliances available. Using renewable fuel made of ground, dried wood and other biomass wastes compressed into pellets to burn instead of logs. Pellet Stoves do not require EPA certification because of their efficient burning process which pollutes so little. Most pellet stoves use electricity to operate and are easily vented through a wall, unlike log-burning stoves.
Gas stoves burn either natural gas or propane. They are low maintenance, pollute very little, and can be installed almost anywhere in the home. Featuring large, dancing yellow flames and glowing red embers; gas stoves look almost identical to a wood fire. Venting options are through an existing chimney or through the wall behind the stove. While some models do not require outside venting, EPA does not support their use due to indoor air quality concerns.
For more information, see the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association Fact Sheet on Gas Stoves (PDF).
You should consider a fireplace insert if you use your fireplace to help heat your home on cold days. They are similar in function to free-standing stoves, but are designed to be installed within the firebox of an existing masonry or meal fireplace. Municipal installation codes now require that a properly sized stainless-steel liner be installed from the insert flue collar to the top of the chimney. This results in better performance and a safer system. You can choose from inserts that burn wood, pellets, or gas that provide the same safe efficiency as their stove counterparts. EPA certified wood and pellet-burning inserts are available. Some fireplace inserts include state-of-the-art features such as fans and thermostatic controls (depending on the fuel).
If you seldom use your existing fireplace or like it more for looks- you may want to consider decorative gas logs. These decorative logs are designed to provide dramatic realism, (from the lifelike ceramic fiber, concrete or refractory logs down to the glowing embers) not necessarily for heating. They have low emissions because they burn either natural gas or propane. While some models do not require outside venting, EPA does not support their use due to indoor air quality concerns.
For more information see the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association Fact Sheet on Gas Logs (PDF).
A masonry heater is a site-built or site-assembled solid-fueled heating device. It consists of a firebox, a large masonry mass, and a maze of heat exchange channels. Although it resembles a fireplace, a masonry heater works differently because it stores heat from rapidly-burning fires within its masonry structure, and slowly releases the heat into the home throughout the day. Masonry heaters currently do not require EPA certification because their fires are small and burn hot so they produce far less smoke than a fireplace or non-certified wood stove. The Masonry Heater Association of North America can provide you with more information on masonry heaters and installers near your area.
Cleaner burning hearth devices not only reduce your energy bill, but they protect your health. The Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association has developed a cost-effectiveness calculator to show you how various cleaner-burning stoves and fireplace inserts can actually save you money (Note: EPA cannot support the use of non-vented gas stoves or fireplace inserts due to indoor air quality concerns). You can compare the cost of heating your home with wood, electricity, natural gas, oil, or coal. You can also see how using a cleaner-burning hearth device to supplement your existing heating system can reduce your overall home heating cost.
In addition, fireplace inserts also come in various sizes.
Contact an experienced hearth product retailer who knows the performance characteristics of the products they sell. When visiting local retailers, take along a floor plan of your home so that they can help you find a wood stove, fireplace insert, or other hearth products that are well suited to the space you want to heat.