Lists of Cleaner Appliances
There are several types of wood-burning appliances that people use to heat their home – either as a primary source of heat, as supplemental heat, or for ambiance. These include:
- Wood stoves
- Pellet stoves
- Fireplace inserts
- Fireplace retrofits
- Hydronic heaters
- Masonry heaters
In addition to wood-burning appliances there are also alternative heating options, including:
A wood stove is an appliance that is usually made of cast iron, steel, or stone. Wood stoves that burn wood for fuel can be used as a primary or secondary source of heat. Learn more about choosing the right wood stove.
Pellet stoves are similar in appearance to wood stoves; however, instead of wood, pellet stoves burn a renewable fuel made of ground, dried wood and other biomass wastes compressed into pellets. Pellet stoves operate by pouring pellets into a hopper which feeds automatically into the stove. Unlike wood stoves and fireplaces, most pellet stoves need electricity to operate. Learn more about pellet stoves.
Fireplace inserts are similar in function and performance to free-standing wood stoves, but are designed to be installed within the firebox of an existing masonry or metal fireplace. A certified installer will make sure the flue liner in your masonry chimney is installed correctly. If your fireplace is factory built (or "zero-clearance"), you must use an insert that was specifically designed and tested for your unit to make it more efficient and less polluting.
There are two major types of wood-burning fireplaces, traditional masonry fireplaces that are typically built of brick or stone and are constructed on site by a mason; and “low mass” fireplaces that are engineered and pre-fabricated in a manufacturing facility prior to installation. Most fireplaces, whether masonry or low mass, are not used as a primary source of heat; their function is primarily for ambiance and secondary heating. Learn more about choosing the right fireplace.
A fireplace retrofit is a device that is installed into an existing wood-burning fireplace. The existing fireplace can either be factory built or masonry construction. The primary purpose of the retrofit is to reduce wood smoke pollution from existing fireplaces. If installed and operated properly, fireplace retrofit devices can reduce pollution by approximately 70%. Learn more about choosing the right fireplace.
Hydronic Heaters (also called outdoor wood heaters or outdoor wood boilers) are typically located outside the buildings they heat in small sheds with short smokestacks. Typically, they burn wood to heat liquid (water or water-antifreeze) that is piped to provide heat and hot water to occupied buildings such as homes, barns and greenhouses. However, hydronic heaters may also be located indoors and they may use other biomass as fuel (such as corn or wood pellets). Learn more about choosing the right hydronic heater.
A masonry heater is a site-built or site-assembled solid-fueled heating device, consisting of a firebox, a large masonry mass, and a maze of heat exchange channels. It stores heat from rapidly-burning fires within its masonry structure, and slowly releases the heat into the home throughout the day. Masonry heaters currently do not require EPA certification. The Masonry Heater Association of North America can provide you with more information on masonry heaters and installers near your area.
Gas stoves are designed to burn either natural gas or propane. They emit very little pollution, require little maintenance, and can be installed almost anywhere in the home. Today’s gas stoves can be vented through an existing chimney, or direct vented through the wall behind the stove. While some models do not require outside venting, EPA does not support their use due to indoor air quality concerns. For more information, see the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association Fact Sheet on Gas Stoves (PDF). (2 pp, 1.2 MB, About PDF)
Decorative Fireplace Gas Logs
Decorative fireplace logs can be installed in an existing fireplace. While not designed to be a significant source of heat, decorative logs provide an alternative to burning wood. Because they burn either natural gas or propane, they have low emissions.