EPA Certified Fireplace Buyer's Guide
In the 1980s, the EPA created regulations for wood stoves because cities were being consumed by pollution, a major source of which was wood stove emissions. Over the next thirty years, more regulations were put into place until wood stove pollution was under control.
As of 2020, wood stoves are required to limit pollution output from 2 to 2.5 grams per hour, based on one of two testing methods. That is a huge improvement from the nearly 8 gram an hour limit that was put in place during the late 80s. While these regulations put a damper on the wood stove industry in the beginning, and the final cost for consumers climbed a bit, there are many benefits that come from having an EPA certified high efficiency stove.
In this article, we will discuss all those benefits. A few of them include low particulate output, greater heat output, and less wood use. You can also enjoy the benefit of having the look of a built-in fireplace with the heat output of a wood burning stove.
We hope through this article you will see why purchasing an EPA-certified wood stove might be a good long-term solution for your heating needs. Make sure you keep reading all the way through. There's some great information about tax credits that will be useful if you decide to buy in the next two years.
What is an EPA Certified Fireplace?
First, let's clear up any confusion about terminology. To start, you have EPA-certified wood stoves. Then, you have EPA fireplaces, also known as built-in EPA stoves. The confusion on the latter comes from these units being built into the wall like a fireplace but having the interior makeup & efficiency of a stove.
To be EPA certified, a wood stove is only allowed to put off 2 to 2.5 grams of pollution per hour. When manufacturers made changes to the design of their wood stoves to accommodate this regulation, it also made them much more efficient. A stove's efficiency is determined by how much heat it loses up the vent pipe as it burns. So, a stove that is 70% efficient loses roughly 30% of its heat up the stove pipe.
Today, free-standing wood stoves are commonly 70% - 80% efficient. If that seems low, compare it to open faced wood fireplaces that can be as low as 15% efficient. While many people love the look of a real wood burning fireplace, their inefficiency can turn some away who need them for supplemental heat. This is where the combination of great heating ability and the traditional look of an EPA-certified fireplace comes into play.
- Inefficiency of Open Fireplaces - Image from Energy Depot
The great thing about having a high efficiency stove is, on top of burning very cleanly, it also uses much less fuel. High efficiency stoves draw air into the unit in a very controlled way. Because of this, the fire burns slowly and uses a fraction of the wood that an open faced fireplace uses. So, while you will spend more on the front end if you buy a EPA certified stove, you will save a lot of money over time by conserving wood and getting the most out of what you buy.
As a side note, EPA-certified models operate best on medium to high density hardwood. They aren't designed to handle softwoods which can quickly change temperatures while burning. So, stay away from softwoods like pine, fir, and spruce.
Do I need a wood stove insert to make my fireplace efficient?
Before we move on to other topics, we'd like to briefly address the idea that's floating around that you need to buy an open wood burning fireplace as well as a wood stove insert to make your fireplace efficient. This is not true.
As we just talked about, the EPA-certified fireplace combines the heating ability of a wood stove and the traditional look of a wood fireplace all into one. Though, some people get confused and believe that they need a wood stove insert AND an open wood burning fireplace to make their fireplace meet EPA standards.
- Installing an insert
The good news is an EPA-certified fireplace is all you need. This accomplishes the same task as installing an insert into your open masonry or prefab wood burning fireplace. We know, the terminology is crazy and very confusing. Though, all you need to know is that you do not need two separate units to make your fireplace operate at maximum efficiency. Just install the EPA fireplace and get the best of both worlds.
2021 and 2022 Tax Credit
Now, let's move onto some good, and way less confusing news. For the last decade, there has been a $300 tax credit for high-efficiency wood and pellet heaters. Though, in 2020 a new tax credit was given as an incentive for people to purchase high-efficiency wood stoves and pellet heaters. This credit will last through 2021 and 2022 and give you 26% off your purchase price of the fireplace and the installation - with no limit!
- Tax Credit
So, let's say you have had your eye on the Superior WCT6940 EPA Certified Wood Burning Fireplace. The price is roughly $7,100 and the installation could cost around $2,000, putting your grand total at $9,100. So, with the 26% tax credit, you would get around $2,300 back, which makes your installation costs entirely reimbursed!
Keep in mind that when shopping EPA approved models, not all units meet the criteria for the tax credit. In order to qualify, a unit must meet both the current emissions guidelines and have a HHV (high heating value) fuel efficiency of 75% or greater. The EPA has supplied a searchable database that allows a quick verification that the model you have in mind meets the criteria for the tax credit. Because manufacturers are constantly updating existing models and adding new ones, we strongly encourage checking this resource to ensure the model you have in mind will qualify.
If you have been debating on whether to buy a wood stove insert or not, now would be the time to do it. There is no need to spend more than you have to. For more details on this credit and how to file it on your taxes, click here.
Brands We Carry
Before we discuss more of the advantages and inner workings of an EPA-certified fireplace and close with maintenance and shipping info, let's talk about five great brands that will give you a wide variety of options to choose from.
First, we have Majestic. Majestic is a reliable brand with 125 years in the hearth industry that speaks to the quality of their products. The Majestic Warm Majic II fireplace is 40" and has an arched steel facing. It heats between 1,000 to 2,600 square feet with a maximum burn time of 10 hours.
The black steel facing brings a modern spin on the traditional look of this fireplace. If you are looking for a reliable fireplace made by a company you can trust, Majestic is for you!
- Majestic Warm Majic II
Next, we have Valcourt. For over 60 years Valcourt products have been steeped in ingenuity and excellence. This company leads the industry with innovation and it shows in their ability to create modern yet timeless fireplaces. The Lafayette II fireplace is no exception.
Its 36 inches wide and comes with five options for decorative fireplace louvers. This fireplace is for people who want the strength of a wood stove as well as the beauty many sturdier models don't have. The Lafayette is sure to mesh well with any room you put it in and bring you hours of warmth for years to come.
- Valcourt Lafayette II
Third on the list is Osburn. The Osburn Stratford II fireplace is on the lower end of the price range which makes it a great option for people who want to warm their home without breaking the bank. It is also 36" wide and heats between 1,800 to 2,900 sq ft. You can choose from black steel or brush nickel cast iron for the door as well as two options for faceplates and vent kits. While this model may be low on price, it is not low on quality or customization options.
- Osburn Stratford II
Fourth, we have Superior. The Superior WRT3920 fireplace comes in at the lower end of the price scale and does a great job meeting the 2 gram per hour pollution limit with a 1.8 gram/hr rating by the EPA. This model is simple, straight to point, and effective. If you want a high-efficiency fireplace that does its job without a lot of fuss, this is the one for you.
- Superior WRT3920
Last, we will talk about Ventis. The Ventis ME300 has a unique glass door that gives one of the most unobstructed views of the flames around. It comes in at 40" wide and is a beautiful, decorative piece for those wanting a heater with style.
- Ventis ME300
Advantages of an EPA Certified Fireplace
Unlike traditional wood stoves, EPA-certified fireplaces save floor space by being built into the wall. They are made with a plate steel high-efficiency burn chamber and wrapped in an insulated sheet metal cabinet. The insulated wrapping allows it to be installed safely into a wall. Once installed, some of these wood stove inserts can heat up to 3,000 square feet. So, they are the perfect combination of space-saving and space heating.
Fuel Useage / Pollution
The ingenuity of a wood stove insert is pretty amazing. They use an air injection system that consists of a set of baffles and air tubes in the ceiling of the burn chamber. Combustion air is drawn through a dedicated tube and methodically fed into the fire. This creates a system that feeds the fire in a very controlled fashion. Because the burn slows down through this process, it creates a longer-lasting fire and uses a fraction of the firewood that open-faced wood fireplaces use.
- smoking chimney
What's even more amazing is these units also release little to no smoke through the chimney system. Outside of the initial startup, high-efficiency fireplaces release no smoke into the atmosphere. So, for those of you who are conscious of environmental conservation, this is a great option to heat your home and be confident you aren't contributing to pollution.
At first glance, the price of a high-efficiency fireplace might turn you off from purchasing it. If it were limited in its heating ability and more like open wood fireplaces, that are meant more for decoration, that would be understandable. Though, high-efficiency fireplaces are meant to be a great source of heat and are built to last for decades. So, you can be sure that when you buy them, you are investing in a long-term heating solution and not another box store heater that will break a year from now.
Also, many wood stove inserts can have systems installed that allow them to pump heat from the unit into the central heating system so your entire home can be heated from one insert. That's pretty amazing and will save you tons of money on utilities in the long run.
If the heating abilities and low pollution output of wood stove inserts weren't enough, there are also some advantages in the venting systems they use. Many manufactures specify that a fireplace must use the venting system they create. However, high-efficiency fireplaces use solid pack chimney systems that are often created by 3rd party companies. So, they are tested to be used with several different brands and give you the option to shop around for the best price. Some high-efficiency fireplaces can accept up to a dozen different solid pack chimney systems. So, you will have a wide variety to choose from.
- DuraPlus Stainless Steel Chimney Pipe
Because the solid pack chimney system is made to handle the higher temperatures of high-efficiency fireplaces, they tend to be a bit more expensive than the air-insulated chimney. But they are always made with high-quality materials, so you get your money's worth.
Before we wrap up this article, there are a few tips we need to share about maintenance. If you are going to invest in a high-efficiency fireplace, it is good for you to know how to take care of it.
- Clean the firebox out after every use. It's a good idea to clean the ash out as often as possible. Doing this will help prevent staining and further buildup in the firebox.
- Clean with an all-purpose cleaner and water once a quarter. Another good option for deeper cleaning is paint and peel. This product is put on just like paint, given time to dry then peels right off and reveals the newly restored surface of your fireplace.
- Paint n Peel
- Also, you should check for broken panels and liners as you do these deep cleanings to make sure they are repaired as soon as possible. Catching them before they spread will prevent you from having other problems - like heat escaping through the cracks.
The final thing we will discuss on this topic is shipping. Shipping may seem like a simple task, and it is, but you need to be aware of a few things before your package arrives. When you buy a wood stove insert, it will be delivered by an LTL freight carrier. Before you sign off & allow the driver to leave, make sure you unwrap & inspect the fireplace for noticeable damages. You have the right to refuse the shipment if it comes damaged. Any damages will need to be noted on the delivery receipt before you refuse it.
If you choose to skip this step and happen to find damages later, it will be nearly impossible to get a refund, because you signed off on the delivery receipt stating there was no damage. The responsibility to make sure you get your product in good working order falls completely on you. The driver won't inspect it for you & sometimes they will insist they are in a hurry and don't have time to wait. Though, you have to be sure to take a few minutes & look it over before he/she leaves.
For now, that is all we will cover for today. If you have any other questions about high-efficiency fireplaces, the terminology or what would be best for your home, please call our NFI certified experts at 800.203.1642
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EPA Certified Fireplaces Q&A with the NFI Certified Specialists* Please Note: All customer questions are answered by our NFI Certified Specialists free of charge!
from Denver CO asked:
December 21, 2021
Which EPA certified fireplace can be used outdoor?
These EPA certified units are designated for indoor use only. Most outdoor units are open face fireplace options that do not have to meet the same EPA standards.
on December 22, 2021
from California asked:
August 21, 2021
Looking for an EPA Phase 2 compliant stove. Do you have anything?
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on August 23, 2021
from 43055 asked:
June 10, 2021
Any zero clearance wood burners yet that meet the 2021 heating efficiency standard?
The Majestic Warm Majic 2
meets the newest criteria for the 2021 tax credit for efficiency.
on June 10, 2021
from New Jersey asked:
November 7, 2020
Do you need chimney to install a wood burning zero clearance insert?
Yes, all solid fuel appliances will require a chimney system to be installed.
on November 9, 2020
from CO asked:
September 10, 2020
Do you have dual sided EPA rated wood burning fireplace?
No, all of our EPA-2020 wood stoves are one-sided.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on September 10, 2020