Winner announced in Pellet Stove Design Challenge

By Anna Simet | April 27, 2016

A German-designed Wittus pellet stove has been named winner of the third Pellet Stove Design Challenge, an event coordinated by the Alliance for Green Heat and this year hosted by the U.S. DOE’s Brookhaven National Lab.

The competition, held April 6-8 in Upton, New York, was the third Stove Design Challenge aimed at promoting innovation in wood and pellet heating and helping consumers reduce fossil fuel heating with appliances that burn cleaner and more efficiently than average stoves.

The Wittus Pellwood, distributed by a New York cmpany, is an innovative prototype that can burn both pellets and cordwood, achieving very low emissions of less than half a gram per hour, according to John Ackerly, president of the Alliance for Green Heat.

A stove made by Seraph Industries, the smallest U.S. pellet stove manufacture, won second place, consistently burning under 1 gram per hour, and has innovative features to help and encourage the consumer to keep the stove operating well.

Brookhaven National Lab conducted extensive testing of the competition stoves and intends to share the data with the U.S. EPA, the industry and other stakeholders about the strengths and weaknesses of testing protocols.  According to contest rules, each participating stove was tested three times in order to determine wither the stove operated consistently, or whether it was testing protocol that may have led to variable results.

John Ackerly, president for the Alliance for Green Heat, told Biomass Magazine that the main goal of the competition is to explore the overall potential of the technology. “Many people think they know what a wood stove or a pellet stove is,” he says. “We want to challenge them to think of the technology in new ways, and not to see stoves as a static technology.  We want to challenge the perceptions of consumers, but equally important is the renewable energy community and policymakers who steer that community.”

A diverse range of competitors participate in the event, according to Acklery. “We always like to have a healthy mix of backyard inventors, student teams and established companies, and we had all that this year,” he says. “The biggest surprise was probably Steven Spevak's gravity-fed pellet stove that can be made with a welding torch and a few hundred dollars. He ignored all the designs of conventional pellet stoves and came up with a whole new concept that is simple and ultra-efficient.”

The “grandfather of pellet stoves in the U.S.,” Jerry Whitfield, recently said that pellet stove has stagnated, Ackerly added. “In 20 years, stoves have not become cleaner or more efficient. None of the big pellet stove manufacturers will even release their actual efficiency numbers.  This is not a recipe for pellet stoves to become much more accepted by consumers and incentive programs.”

The Pellet Stove Design Challenge was funded mainly by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and other partners include the U.S. Forest Service, Brookhaven National Lab, state agencies from Massachusetts and Washington, and experts from Clarkson University, the Masonry Heater Association and the Osprey Foundation.

The Alliance for Green Heat is exploring a return to advanced cord wood stove technology and bring the event to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2017, as it did in 2013.