Finalists chosen for Wood Stove Design Challenge

By Chris Hanson | February 06, 2013

Fourteen finalists have been chosen to compete in the Alliance for Green Heat’s Wood Stove Design Challenge in November. The competition will be held on the National Mall and aims to develop more efficient wood stoves for homeowners and those in developing countries.

The 14 finalists include Dragon Heat, The Firemaster, Helbro Stoves, HWAM, Intercontinental, Kimberly, Mulciber, Ofenbau & Feurstellen, Smartstove, Travis Industries Inc., Tulikivi, Walker Stoves, Wittus, and Woodstock Soapstone.

Teams had to address a variety of challenges in designing their stoves and preparing them for competition. Stephen Rhodes, the general manager and team captain of HWAM, said his team’s biggest challenge was to get the combustion software algorithms correct after hundreds of burn tests in the lab. Rhodes said HWAM’s stove features a system that automatically measures the temperature and oxygen levels present in flue gas and adjusts three different combustion air sources to maximize efficiency and reduce pollutants.

Design presented another challenge for the teams. Travis Industries worked on its stove for four years before submitting it to the design challenge. According to Kurt Rumens, president of Travis Industries, the biggest challenge was design matching the scientific work with a beautiful firebox that consumers would enjoy and be willing to purchase.

Rumens said he thinks his company’s prior experience and stove design gives them the edge in the competition. “We didn’t sacrifice style, and we came up with something that has the lowest emissions ever tested, ever certified, and we got some of the highest efficiencies ever published,” he continued, adding that the stove is also easy to use.

Rumens and Rhodes said the material to build their stoves was based more on design than efficiency. Rhodes’s design is primarily steel, while Rumens is using cast iron. They both noted that cast iron is better for design elements in the stove making, as it can be poured into molds to make more ornate decorations. Rhodes said cast-iron stoves can be designed with fewer parts and assembled quickly, however, the material can crack over repeated heating and cooling cycles. Rhodes added that steel is quite resilient and rarely cracks under stress, but highly fabricated and finished steel stoves require more parts and labor and higher assembly costs.

Rhodes and Rumens also agree that consumer experience from a wood stove is ultimately going to determine the success of a particular design. Both teams aim to create a practical and efficient stove that consumers can still enjoy.

The finalists are competing for a grand prize of $25,000 and coverage in Popular Mechanics magazine. Two to five second place winners will split a $10,000 award based upon points rewarded through innovation, market appeal, affordability, emissions, and efficiency.