Catalytic vs Non-Catalytic Wood Stoves

December 15, 2014

wood stove

In our last blog, we discussed different types of wood burning stoves and touched upon the two main varieties—catalytic and non-catalytic stoves. Today, let’s dive deeper into the difference between the two to help you determine which one will be the best fit for your heating needs.

Catalytic Stoves

A catalytic stove is equipped with a catalytic combustor, which is a secondary combustion element. The primary combustion occurs when the wood is burned in the fire, then all the smoke, gases and other byproducts of this process are ignited and burnt as they pass through the combustor. When smoke comes in contact with the honeycomb-looking catalyst, chemical changes occur that allow smoke to be ignited at lower temperatures than normal (500F vs. 1000F), so that it can be burnt while still inside the stove. The catalyst has to reach a certain temperature before it can be used, so you would typically have your catalytic stove burning for 20-30 min. before closing the damper and re-routing the exhaust through the catalyst.

This entire process has two major outcomes. First of all, thanks to the secondary combustion, there are fewer pollutants that escape into the air, making catalytic stoves more eco-friendly and socially responsible. Second of all, when smoke is burnt in the combustor, it releases energy that is converted into heat—this means your stove can produce heat for hours without maintaining an active fire. Not only do you get the most out of every log, but you will need less firewood due to slower burning.

Is a catalytic stove right for you?

Due to its high efficiency, a catalytic stove will be perfect for anyone looking to use their Maryland wood burning stove for heating a large portion of their home. Depending on the size of your residence, a catalytic stove can even serve as a primary heating method. Please note that there is a bit of maintenance involved with these stoves, as the catalyst will have to be replaced at some point.

Non-catalytic Stoves

Non-catalytic stoves also use secondary combustion, but instead of using a catalyst, secondary combustion is achieved through injection of preheated air. The air tubes that supply air have tiny holes and tend to reach very high temperatures. Eventually, they will wear out and will need to be replaced, similar to a catalyst. While this approach does help reduce emissions and bring them down to the EPA standards, it does not convert the burning smoke into heat. This means a portion of your heat literally goes up the chimney.

Is a non-catalytic stove right for you?

If you plan on using your stove as a one-room heater or to enjoy the fire every once in a while, then a non-catalytic stove can work just fine for you. It might not be as efficient as a catalytic stove, but it is also not as expensive, which makes it an affordable option for most households.

Need help deciding between the two? Feel free to stop by our Ellicott City fireplace showroom and see for yourself how different stoves look and operate.