Introduction To Catalytic Wood Stoves

You are probably familiar with wood stoves, but did you know that not all models work in the same way? If you answered no, the following information may be of interest to you. A brief overview of the benefit of catalytic wood stoves and how they operate.

How do catalytic wood stoves work?

high-quality catalytic wood stove burns smoke and produces more heat than a conventional wood stove while using less firewood.

The catalytic combustor or catalytic converter in a catalytic stove resembles a honeycomb.The converter greatly reduces the required temperature for burning smoke.  Smoke usually catches fire at about 1100 degrees.  With the catalyst, smoke is burned inside the wood stove at just 500 to 550 degrees.The catalyst rapidly heats up.  Within 20 minutes of reaching 550 degrees, the catalyst can get as hot as 1700 degrees.  How quickly it heats up depends upon:

  • The size of the catalyst,
  • The strength of your fire
  • Whether you use dry, seasoned or wet firewood

Catalytic stoves slowly burn wood, so a large fire isn’t required to warm up a sizable space.  Once the stove is giving off sufficient heat, the air in the stove can be choked down in order to produce smoldering flames or to extinguish the flames altogether. The catalyst will filter the smoke created by the lack of air.

Because of the way the catalytic wood stove operates, the burn time of a load of wood is significantly increased, the amount of wood required to heat is reduced, and there is less creosote deposited in the chimney lining.

Catalytic wood stoves’ intense temperatures require a professional installer to prevent fires. An improperly installed stove will also generate increased pollution, the opposite effect of the desired result. Catalytic stoves are innovative, but not without potential hazards.

Prior to Installing a Catalytic Wood Stove

There are a few things to investigate prior to the installation of a best value catalytic wood stove, all of which certified professional installers are familiar with:

  • Obtain any necessary permits from local building code authorities.
  • Contact your fire insurance company about your plans to install a catalytic wood stove.
  • Determine whether the current flue in your chimney is a size which fits requirements for the catalytic wood stove.  It’s important to use the flue diameter recommended by the manufacturer so that the needed draft to operate the stove is produced.  If the flue is improperly sized, the result could be that smoke leaks into your home.

Professional installers will want to be inspecting the stove during installation in order to ensure that the seals that connect the flue to the stove are tight, which will help to prevent leakage of smoke and will promote good drafting.

Tips for Maximizing Benefits of Catalytic Wood Stoves

  • Burn only seasoned wood, not freshly cut wood.  It usually takes from six to nine months for wood to dry out, if it is loosely covered and stacked outside in a way that air can circulate through the wood pile.
  • Use a catalyst temperature monitor, if it isn’t included with the stove.  With a monitor, you can avoid engaging the catalyst too early or wasting useful heat by waiting too long to engage it.
  • Initially light the stove in the bypass mode open, in which smoke bypasses the catalyst.  Only engage the catalyst when the stove burns hot, but don’t overheat the appliance.
  • Quickly begin with a hot fire, which will put the catalyst to work faster; once it is lit, the catalyst stays lit even when the fire burns at a much lower temperature.
  • Minimize door openings for hours of continuous burning.

Important information: A catalytic wood stove best works when the catalyst is in good condition and active. A catalytic stove with an open "bypass" is extremely inefficient. A catalytic converter should usually be replaced every five years. The cost varies between $100 and $500, depending on the device.

Below is a list of fireplace and grill stores that service Virginia (VA)

Manassas, VA

Winston's Chimney Service
11301 Industrial Road
Manassas, VA 20109

Winston's Chimney Service LogoVisit Store Page

Mechanicsville, VA

Hearth & Home Shoppe
8151 Mechanicsville Tpk
Mechanicsville, VA 23111

Hearth & Home Shoppe LogoVisit Store Page

Roanoke, VA

Dixie Building Products Inc.
3342 Melrose Ave NW
Roanoke, VA 24017

Warrenton, VA

Costello's Warrenton Fireplace & Hot Tub
251 West Lee Hwy
Warrenton, VA 20186

For more information, contact your local fireplace and grill store..

14 Responses

  1. Ron
    I bring the wood stove up to 550 for 30 minutes. Turn back the damper. Engage the catalytic converter. And the glass tends to get creosote. The wood is seasoned. Any thoughts? Thanks Ron
    • Dominique Page
      Hello Ron Some catalytic woodstoves have a harder time keeping their glass clean when compared to non-catalytic stoves. When you say 'creosote' on the glass, is it a more like soot or is it more like a black glue that builds up on the glass? When the wood is seasoned, there can still be black soot on the glass. It all depends on how the stove is designed with the air flow around the glass.
  2. Theresa ANN Connelly
    Hi,Iread today about the catalyst converter and it seemed like it might be a great thing! I have health issues that are concerning-with indoor air quality.We are changing out our older wood stove.We have to have good indoor air quality! I've been investigating many stoves. I'm getting confused- how can we get good air quality indoors while using a new wood stove. will the catalyst help us have good indoor air quality? Looking Btu's seemed to be around 50-55,000 inside-I've read of people using just a filter's close by to capture the impurities.I'm planning to get 1 or 2 Hepa filters as well.How should we burn and still have good indoor air quality??? I am hoping that you might be able to help us-we don't want to breath in all the toxins-smoke,mold,etc but love to look at the fire! If this reaches you-I could really use the help! Thank you so much! Theresa and Gary*
    • Dominique Page
      Hello Teresa and Gary Thanks for reading our article. Air quality is certainly important. Home air quality can be be lowered if you get smoke back in the house while opening the door of your woodstove. Properly installed quality EPA woodstoves will not smoke back inside the house. Using split dry seasoned wood is also key in building 'clean' fires. As you choose your woodstove, make sure the whole system with the black pipe and chimney is properly installed, and sized to your stove. This will make sure you do not get any smoke back into the house. One item to also consider, is the addition of a 'draw collar', which will keep your stove pipe warm when the stove is cooling down. It makes 're-ignition' much easier. All the best!!! Dominique
  3. Rebecca
    I'm just learning about this type of stove. We had a wood or coal burning stove most of my childhood. I'm looking to get one now and discovered this option. I've read a lot of good stuff about this, but I have a question. If the catalytic converter can't be replaced for some reason in the future, would you still be able to use the stove as a normal wood burning stove? Obviously it wouldn't be as efficient and that would not be ideal, but is there anything that would prohibit it from working in that way?
    • Dominique Page
      Hello Rebecca. Thanks for reaching out. You could use the stove with the damper open. It would be much less efficient, but it would work. The best is to buy a stove that you could have the catalytic combustor replaced if need be. The best brand we know of is Hearthstone. That stove can run efficiently both ways. All made in the USA too.
  4. RobertK
    My Earth Stove was in the house when I purchased it. I used the catalytic stove for 10 years and did not know of how efficiently it could work. I had a chimney fire and then I found and read the manual. My wood usage is about 1/2 and the heating inside is much better. Question: how do determine the intake air setting?
    • Dominique Page
      Good day Robert. Thanks for reaching out. I believe the best way to manage the air control setting is by using a stove pipe thermometer. It shows you what to aim for based on flue temperature. The second way is by comfort level. The more the air intake is opened, the greater the fire. So if you need a greater heat output, open the air. If you need less, turn it down. I hope this answers your question. All the best!
  5. Renae
    When letting the fire die out, is it necessary or advisable to re-open the bypass once temperature drops below optimum for the catalyst?
    • Dominique Page
      Hello Renae. Thanks for reaching out. The simple answer is no. At the end of the combustion cycle, there is no need to reopen the bypass damper, unless you are adding more wood. If no wood is added, you may let it die out with the catalyst activated. All the best! Dominique
  6. Jeff
    Good article, thanks! On my stove (Hearthstone Manchester), it seems closing the bypass and sending gas through the catalyst has been slowing down the fire, and I start to see a good amount of smoke from my chimney. If I open the bypass up, it comes right back to life and burns hot again. I let it burn until hot for 30 minutes or so before closing the bypass when adding more wood. It doesn't seem to matter if I keep the damper wide open, when the bypass is closed and catalyst in use, the fire slows and I get smoke from the chimney until I open the bypass back up again. The stove is new, first season, could the catalyst be dirty already? Any suggestions? Thanks!
    • Dominique Page
      Hi Jeff. Thanks for reaching out. Do you know if the smoke is white or grey? If white, it could be water vapors. If it is grey, then it would not be good, as it would mean the combustion is incomplete. White smoke may happen in the combustion cycle, as there is moisture in the wood that will not burn. The catalyst lowers the fire temperature and will make the moisture more visible in the flue, as the temperature is lower. When you burn with the damper open, the temperature rises higher, and may evacuate the moisture at a faster rate. If the stove is new, the catalyst is not dirty. Make sure to engage your catalyst at the temperature indicated on your stove. That way you will engage only when it is the right time. Hope that answers your question. Dominique
  7. How do wood stoves achieve such high-efficiency ratings? - We Love Fire
    […] equipment utilize re-burn systems designed into the appliance. Secondary burn tubes and/or catalytic combustors are used to burn any smoke created from the fire. By burning the smoke, you’re getting a bit […]
  8. george draginda
    im looking for a catalitic unit to go on top of my 6 inch wood stove can you tell me where i can buy one prefurably in canada as im in nova scotia thanks heaps george
    • Joseph Bodden
      George: Catalytic combustors come in several sizes. It's important to replace yours with the correct size. To find the size, take out the old one and measure it, find out the replacement size from the owner's manual or get the specific stove model off the metal tag that's affixed to the back of your stove. Then, contact of of these dealers in Nova Scotia for assistance:

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