Updated: January 2018

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Unregulated and Exempt Wood Stoves

Unregulated wood stoves are the most common type of stove found in America today, with an estimated 6 – 7 million still in use, compared to about 4 – 5 million certified stoves. Any wood stove made before 1988 is uncertified and unregulated and is likely to be more polluting and less efficient than the EPA certified stoves made since then, assuming they are operated well.

A nice looking Stove Unregulated by the EPA
Some of these unregulated stoves may look deceptively like more efficient stove designs.
There are also tens of thousands of newer unregulated stoves that were sold right up until December 31, 2015. According to the EPA, about 40,000 thousands of new, unregulated wood stoves were still being sold every year in the US as of 2015 because of a loophole in EPA regulations that allowed cheap, inefficient and usually very polluting stoves to stay on the market.

These stoves continue to be very common on the second hand market and represent one of the biggest barriers to getting a higher percentage of certified stoves in the hands of consumers.

Companies that sold these exempt stoves sometimes engaged in misleading advertising to promote their sales. For example, Vogelzang advertisements said "Meets EPA Requirements", implying that the stoves are approved by the EPA, when in fact they were avoiding EPA requirements. The Alliance for Green Heat exposed that advertising tactic and continues to put pressure on stove companies that mislead consumers.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, all new wood stoves sold in the US must meet EPA’s latest standards, which came into effect for manufacturers on May 15, 2015. Today, the only stoves that are exempt from required EPA regulation are masonry stoves cook stoves, and fireplaces.


Rumsford 1000 fireplace insert
The advanced Rumford 1,000 fireplace emits
only 3.94 grams per hour with the door closed.

Fireplaces are generally the least efficient wood burning technology of all, and typically provide between 0 – 10% efficiency. Luckily, most fireplaces are used only occasionally, not as a primary source of home heating.

New technology has been developed in the past decade to help make fireplaces a cleaner, more efficient wood-burning option. For example, Renaissance Fireplaces received a EPA Clean Air Excellence award for their Rumford 1,000 model.

Fireplaces are not regulated by the EPA, but the EPA has worked with industry to develop a set of voluntary standards for fireplaces. The EPA’s website includes a list of qualifying fireplaces as well as program partners. Washington is the only state to require that fireplaces meet certain emission standards.

Cook stoves

an example of a cookstove that would likely be exempt for
EPA emission standards. Almost all cookstoves on the market
in the US are now manufactured in Europe.
Cook stoves are also exempt from EPA regulations in the United States. For a stove to claim this exempt status it has to have an oven and certain other characteristics.

For more information about cookstoves, this site is one of the best and this article looks at European vs. American cook stoves.
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