Updated: May 2014
The modern wood stove
The modern stove emerged in the early 1990s after the EPA required that all new stoves meet minimum emission requirements. These new stoves use up to 30 to 40 percent less wood than older models, saving homeowners a lot of work and money, and they emit far less smoke.
Since 2005, wood stoves are again becoming more popular, especially in areas not served by natural gas. If you use an EPA certified stove and burn well seasoned wood (under 20% moisture) wood heat can be an excellent way to affordably heat your home
The EPA is about to issue new stove regulations so that by 2015, stoves will have to meet stricter standards and loopholes will be removed that allowed some stoves to avoid EPA certification. Most of the very cheap new stoves that sell for $600 or less are uncertified.
Beware of efficiency claims by stove manufactures. The EPA does not require efficiency testing so there is no requirement to use third party test labs or to use standard way of measuring efficiency.
For more reliable information, visit the EPA's wood stove site here
Non-catalytic stoves tend to be cheaper and typically cost between $1,000 and $3,000. They tend to burn more quickly and only the larger fireboxes, usually 2.5 cubic feet and higher, can consistently hold a fire overnight or through the day without reloading. However, they are more idiot proof than catalytic stoves. Efficiencies tend to range between 65% and 75%, using the higher heating values (HHV). 80% of stoves sold in America are non-catalytic.
||Catalytic stoves tend to be more expensive ($2,000 to $3,500) but can hold a fire longer and use less wood. They tend to be 75% to 83% efficient (HHV) and are often favored by people who want to use their stove as their primary or sole heat source and who live in colder climates. Catalysts last much longer than the ones in stoves in the 1980s and if seasoned wood is consistently used, can last 7 to 10 years. They also produce less smoke.