Catalytic wood stoves were designed in the 1980s to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean air requirements. The stoves have catalytic converters built in to reduce pollutants and improve efficiency.
With catalytic stoves, the exhaust from the fire is sent through the catalytic converter, where the it heated again and allowed to burn in air-tight conditions. In addition to reduced emissions, this leads to a longer-lasting fire with more even heat.
Catalytic stoves typically cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000, and occasionally up to $2,500. On average, they’re about $500 to $700 more expensive than non-catalytic wood stoves.
- Longer burning time - The air-tight conditions allow for a longer burning times, including overnight burning. Catalytic wood stoves also produce even heat than non-catalytic stoves.
- Higher efficiency - Catalytic wood stoves are more efficient than non-catalytic stoves. They’re a great option for those who plan to use the wood stove for a large portion of their heating needs.
- Better features - Catalytic wood stoves are more likely to have modern features such as top loaders and swing-out ash pans.
- More maintenance - The catalytic converter must be cleaned on a regular basis. And the part is likely to need replacement after six to 10 years at a cost of around $200 to $300.
- More expensive - Catalytic wood stoves are considerably more expensive than non-catalytic stoves. Budget at least $500 extra.
Non-catalytic wood stoves are simpler in design, more affordable and more common. Most wood stoves on the market today are non-catalytic. However, they’re also less efficient.
Non-catalytic stoves do not have a catalytic converter. Instead, the combustion process relies on air brought in through the top of the stove to help burn the gas emitted from the wood. Unlike catalytic units, where the exhaust is recycled, non-catalytic stoves simply send out the exhaust.
Non-catalytic wood stoves usually cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500, but some models run as high as $2,000. Generally, you can expect to save $500 to $700 by opting for a non-catalytic stove over a catalytic model.
- Less maintenance - With non-catalytic wood stoves, there’s catalytic converter to replace. However, some of the smaller internal parts may need to be replaced from time to time.
- Bigger flames - Non-catalytic stoves produce larger, livelier fires. Some people simply prefer the visual appeal of a roaring fire.
- Less expensive - You’ll save $500 or more by opting for a non-catalytic stove.
- Shorter burning time - The introduction of secondary air to aid in combustion results in shorter burning times. A non-catalytic stove will not burn overnight. In addition, the heat will not be as even.
- Less efficient - Non-catalytic wood stoves are not as efficient. They’re not a great choice if plan to use a wood stove for a large portion of your heating needs, although they do work well for supplemental heating.
Catalytic vs. non-catalytic is not the only decision you’ll have to make when choosing a wood stove. In particular, you’ll also want to pay attention to size and efficiency.
Size is important because a small stove might heat just one room or provide supplemental heating for the home, while a large stove is capable of heating the entire home. Your best bet when it comes to selecting a size is to talk to a local professional. Explain your needs, and the pro will be able to suggest models that work.
As for efficiency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits wood stove emissions to 7.5 grams of smoke per hour for non-catalytic stoves and 4.1 grams per hour for catalytic stoves. However, if you’re interested in a model that is even more eco-friendly, some of the newest stoves produce only 1 to 4 grams of smoke per hour. The less smoke that is produced, the more efficient your stove will be. Keep in mind that some states have stricter regulations than the federal government, so check with your state for emissions regulations before buying a wood stove.
Try Our Free Wood Stove Cost Calculator
Fill out our 30 second free form to receive competitive pricing from pre-screened HVAC companies. No commitments. Our service is always free!