Finalists chosen for international pellet stove competition

By Alliance for Green Heat and NYSERDA | March 09, 2016

The Alliance for Green Heat and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority recently announced that seven pellet stoves have been chosen as finalists in the Pellet Stove Design Challenge. This international competition, administered by the Alliance for Green Heat, identifies innovative low emissions and high efficiency pellet stoves for the residential home heating market. The competition supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's Renewable Heat NY initiative, which is building a sustainable, high-efficiency, low-emissions wood heating sector in New York.

The Pellet Stove Design Challenge supports the commitment of New York State, the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Lab, the U.S. Forest Service and a number of other states, agencies and institutions to understand and improve the technology, engineering and smart deployment of pellet stoves to reduce reliance on fossil heating fuels.

The stoves will be judged for particulate matter emissions, efficiency, safety, innovation and market potential. The winner of the competition will be the team that best blends these qualities. The stoves present a wide range of design approaches, including gravity feed, downdraft burners, a combination cordwood/pellet stove, a $300 stove and more traditional designs.

In April 2016, the teams will showcase their stoves at Brookhaven National Lab during the workshop and conference that are open to the public. The event includes several days of panel discussions and informal roundtables on pellet stove technology, public health, deployment, policy and innovation in pellet and cord wood stoves.

The technology competition will be followed by a multi-year initiative to exhibit the winning stoves and educate consumers and agencies that deal with wood smoke issues and the deployment of residential renewable energy systems. NYSERDA is providing support for this competition with additional support being provided by the Osprey Foundation and U.S. Forest Service.

NYSERDA President and CEO John B. Rhodes said, "The Pellet Stove Design Challenge is an innovative way to advance new technologies that can potentially provide consumers with higher efficiency pellet stoves. This competition aligns with Governor Cuomo's Renewable Heat NY initiative, which is building a sustainable, high-efficiency, low-emissions wood heating sector in New York."

Three stoves will be extensively tested and compete for a grand prize and four demonstration stoves will provide comparative, baseline data. The three competition stoves are:

1. A prototype that will burn cord wood or pellets and is controlled by sensor technology made by DBFZ, a German company, that markets in the U.S. through Wittus Fire by Design of Pound Ridge, New York. 

2. A new stove coming to the commercial market later this year, made by Seraph Industries, a small Illinois company, known for robust heat exchangers and a track record of transparency and high efficiency multi-fuel stoves. 

3. The Torrefire pellet stove, made by Seattle inventor Geoffrey Johnson, which is a prototype that employs radically different combustion and heat transfer strategies.

The four demonstration stoves are:

1. The Vibrastove, made by Noble Metals Recovery, a small Virginia company that is a downdraft, gravity feed stove, inspired by rocket stoves. 

2. A modified Quadra-Fire pellet stove made by a student team from the State University of New York at Buffalo. 

3. One of the cleanest commercial pellet stoves on the market today that is certified at less than .3 grams per hour. 

4. Another very clean commercially available pellet stove, certified at less than .6 grams per hour.

The event is also bringing attention to the need for cleaner cord wood stoves. A student team from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and MF Fire, a company that grew from at University of Maryland team, will be showcasing automated, sensor controlled wood stoves.

The 2016 Pellet Stove Design Challenge is the third stove challenge that the Alliance for Green Heat will host. The first was a cord wood stove competition held on the National Mall in Washington DC in 2013 and the second was held at Brookhaven National Lab in 2014. The Alliance for Green Heat, a non-profit education and advocacy organization manages the Challenge, which was inspired by the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon.

"We strive to foster a community that shares ideas and data to push this technology forward and get pellet stoves the recognition they deserve as a mainstream renewable energy technology," said John Ackerly, president of the Alliance for Green Heat. "Like solar and wind, pellet stoves have huge potential in the United States to drastically reduce household use of fossil fuels if the technology can raise efficiency and reduce emission levels."

According to the Alliance for Green Heat, the average pellet stove in the U.S. is believed to be around 70 percent efficient but many of the most popular models are in the low 60s and the best ones are around 80 percent efficient. About 1 million homes are heated with pellet stoves in the United States, with sales averaging about 75,000 per year. An efficient pellet stove can pay itself back in three-to-five years, depending on the heat source being replaced. Currently, the federal government offers a $300 tax credit for new pellet stoves. Eight states including Idaho, Maryland, Maine, Montana, Oregon and New York, offer incentives of up to several thousand dollars for pellet stoves.

The Advisory Committee that oversees the Challenge includes representatives from NYSERDA, Brookhaven National Lab, the USDA Forest Service, the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, Clarkson University and others.