HPBA: Pellet stove sales are hot

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted March 12, 2009, at 11:40 a.m. CST

Pellet stove manufacturers are bracing for another record-breaking year in sales. According to Arlington, Va.-based Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, which represents manufacturers and retailers of pellet stoves, the number of pellet stoves shipped from manufacturers to retailers jumped 161 percent in 2008, driven by high gasoline prices and projected higher fuel oil prices for the winter of 2008-09.

"Good golly, the people in the Northeast stormed the fireplace and stove shops and the manufacturers couldn't keep up with it," said Leslie Wheeler, director of communications for the HPBA.

Now, the $787 billion federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law Feb. 17, included a 30-percent tax credit (up to $1,500) for the purchase of a 75-percent efficient biomass-burning stove in 2009 or 2010.

"Our trade show is next week in Reno (Nev.) and it will be the talk of the town," Wheeler said. The HPBEXPO 2009 will be held March 19-21.

While the new tax credit takes effect immediately, Wheeler said the Internal Revenue Service has not issued the guidelines for determining which stoves meet the efficiency requirements to qualify for the credit or how a manufacturer will qualify its products.

"How the IRS is going to determine the 75-percent efficiency is unclear," Wheeler said. "The manufacturers are going to have to provide some sort of credential saying that their stove has met this testing and that it has tested to be 75-percent efficient or more. Our manufacturers are chomping at the bit, because they want to say that their stoves are going to qualify and they want to sell them.

"(However), some manufacturers and some retailers out there are jumping the gun," he continued, "and that is the real danger, because we don't know what that testing is going to be. Pellet stoves are more efficient than wood stoves and so there will be more pellet stoves that qualify compared to wood stoves."

Wheeler said in a letter to the IRS, the HPBA recommended that all pellet stoves be included. "Right now, if you want to sell a wood stove, you have to have a [U.S. EPA] certification," he added. "However, pellet stoves, because of their technology, already meet those requirements for low emissions and so they don't need to be EPA-certified. However, the IRS might require it. Some pellet stoves manufacturers have gone through the certification process, but there are many out there that have not and they may very well have to go through that process. The testing laboratories are going to be busy. It will be a windfall for them, too."

Wheeler said the HPBA has also recommended that the IRS should include fireplace inserts for pellet fuels in the eligibility requirements for the tax credit.