Contest on National Mall to showcase wood, pellet stoves

By Alliance for Green Heat | November 02, 2018

The Wood Stove Design Challenge, an international competition to showcase innovative and clean-burning wood stoves, will begin on Nov. 9 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The goal is to demonstrate how improved designs including sensors and computer controls can make wood stoves cleaner and more efficient. One portion of the competition will focus on how electricity can be produced from wood and pellet stoves and be paired with rooftop solar and other renewable technologies. The event is free and open to the public through Nov. 13.

More than 10 million American households use wood stoves to heat their homes, but they are a significant source of ambient particulate matter (PM) emissions. The technology boom of the past few decades has largely missed the wood stove industry, yet innovation still holds great promise. Moreover, all stoves in America were tested for EPA certification with 2x4s for fuel. The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management and Brookhaven National Lab, with support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, have been researching new methods for the next generation of assessment protocols for wood heating appliances.

Research has focused on in-home use to operational practices, user fueling patterns and new real-time measurement method techniques. The results of this work will be showcased during a demonstration on a wood stove providing real-time results. Automated stoves that are designed and tested with this new, robust cordwood test method can help improve wood stove designs and in-use performance, leading to higher efficiency and lower emissions.

“The Wood Stove Design Challenge is re-imagining America’s most common residential renewable energy device to be part of our renewable energy future,” said John Ackerly, president of the Alliance for Green Heat and founder of the Design Challenge. “Most homes in the colder half of the U.S. could nearly be all renewable by using pellet or automated wood stoves or boilers along with solar panels, helping to vastly reduce fossil heating fuel.”

Creators of the competition say that just as the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon helped lay a foundation for the solar industry, the Design Challenge is laying the foundation for a cleaner, more modern stove industry. For this event, the DOE provided essential baseline funding to each of the competing teams.

The competing stoves will feature WIFI connectivity, sensors and micro-processors that eliminate the need to manually adjust air flow and help ensure a much cleaner and efficient combustion. Other competing wood stoves and boilers will generate enough electricity to power everything from a cell phone to part of a home or electric vehicle. One European pellet boiler at the Design Challenge will be charging a Tesla.

Teams from companies and universities will compete in two contests—one to find the best automated stove and the other recognizing the best electricity-producing stove. The teams will be scored based on criteria such as particulate matter emissions, automation and innovation, electricity production, safety, delivered heat efficiency and consumer appeal. A full list of the competing teams can be found here

Other teams will showcase wood stoves that incorporate thermoelectric technology capable of converting heat into electricity. One goal is to integrate these thermoelectric wood stoves with solar residential systems to increase power output by 50 percent in northern climates like New England, where solar production is limited during winter months. 

The competition also includes a People’s Choice award, a chance for the public to cast a vote that enters them into a drawing to win a Biolite stove. Voters are being asked which stove they believe has the most potential to meet residential energy needs and is best-suited to be part of the world’s energy future, without considering cost or complexity.  Voters do not need to be present at the competition to vote. Pictures and descriptions of the stoves can be accessed here, and votes cast here.

Partners for the Design Challenge include the U.S. Department of Energy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, the Osprey Foundation and Olympia Chimney. The automated stoves will be tested by teams from the Brookhaven National Lab. The Masonry Heater Association and Myren Labs will test the thermoelectric stoves. A complete list of partners and sponsors can be found here.