Wood Stove fires are great. In fact, modern wood stoves are quite an efficient low-cost heating method compared to natural gas or propane-based stoves or heaters. However, something many people forget when selecting a wood stove is how they badly affect indoor air quality.
Wood stoves emit dangerous fine particulate matter into your air which aggravates asthma, COPD, and other existing respiratory conditions. Furthermore, over the long term, if you are exposed to high enough concentrations of these particulates they can cause you some serious lung damage .
Accordingly, when selecting a wood stove you want to make sure to go for options with the lowest impact on your indoor air quality as possible. Five great choices of wood stoves for indoor air quality include,
- Pacific Energy Summit LE
- MF Fire Catalyst
- Blaze King
- Woodstock Soapstone Absolute Steel
- Vermont Castings Intrepid Flexburn
I provide more detail on these later in this post. Before I get into the details on these stoves, I also share some important information with you about what to look for when trying to search for a wood stove that will keep your indoor air as clean as possible.
This way, whatever wood stove you come across, you can assess for yourself if it's good enough for your indoor air quality. Lastly in the rest of this post, in addition to getting an air-friendly stove, I leave you with some extra tips you can use to ensure your air quality is at its best when running your stove.
Get through this post and you will have all the info you need to successfully maintain the best air quality possible when running a wood stove.
What Kind Of Wood Stove Is Best For Indoor Air Quality?
As I write this post, there is currently no wood stove that does not release any pollutants into your air. The best you will find for your indoor air quality is a wood stove that minimizes how much bad stuff it releases into your air.
Accordingly, for you to make the best choice for your air, it's important you know which types of wood stoves to go for and which to avoid. You need to know the various types and their advantages and disadvantages before I take you through some viable options from specific brands and models.
The main underlying factor determining how good or bad a wood stove is for your home’s air quality is your stove’s design. Some wood stoves have an airtight design, while others are not, some use catalytic converters while others are non-catalytic. Each of these wood stove designs has its consequences for your air quality.
If you value good indoor air quality, the main types of wood stoves you better stay away from are those that burn wood imperfectly. Such wood stoves create ashes, soot, and creosote as byproducts and these are among the main pollutants from wood stoves that worsen your indoor air quality.
That said the chances of you getting wood stoves that burn imperfectly these days are very low. This is because everyone is now pushing the eco-friendly agenda forcing wood stove manufacturers to move away from the old types of wood stoves to modern ones that burn more efficiently.
The other type of stoves you want to avoid besides those that burn imperfectly are non-airtight stoves. Several scientific studies showed that non-airtight wood stoves caused levels of total suspended particles (TSP) in indoor air to exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s 24-h outdoor air quality standard.
Simply put this means non-airtight wood stoves make indoor air quality really bad. Fortunately, non-airtight wood stoves are largely old generation stoves and you are unlikely to make the mistake of buying one as the world moves away from eco-unfriendly wood stove designs.
Now, seeing that non-airtight wood stoves are something to steer clear of, you might think as long as you stick to airtight stoves you will get better indoor air quality. However, that's not always the case.
Some airtight wood stoves are actually dirtier than non-airtight stoves because they keep out oxygen when burning wood and result in incomplete combustion (an imperfect burn). Indeed you have to go for airtight stoves but only go for environmental agency certified ones to make sure you get one that burns wood properly with minimal air pollution.
In Europe, the best wood stoves for indoor air quality have the CE-Label certification, which is issued by selected environmental enforcement bodies chosen by the European Commission across the EU. In the U.K the airtight models you wanna go for have a DEFRA Approved label.
DEFRA is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. DEFRA is the government body in charge of protecting the environment in the United Kingdom.
In the US, the concerned environmental body is the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the safer airtight wood stoves you want to go for if you are in the US will have an EPA certified label. Besides the wood stoves certifications I have listed here, there are obviously many others from different countries.
To maintain the best possible air quality in your home, go for wood stoves that are specifically certified as eco-friendly by authorities in your country. In cases where your country has no certification program for controlling wood stove emissions then you can instead go for certified wood stoves from other countries.
In addition to going for airtight and eco-friendly certified wood stoves, the final decision you have to make when it comes to choosing a wood stove that’s best for your indoor air quality is the choice between a catalytic and non-catalytic wood stove. Both these types of stoves are airtight and both have certified and uncertified brands and models.
You obviously want to stick to the certified options but where these wood stoves differ is on how much pollutants they release into your air. Certified non-catalytic wood stoves release up to 7.5 grams of smoke per hour while catalytic ones release up to 4.1 grams.
So at first glance, catalytic wood stoves are less polluting and a better option for indoor air quality. However, there is a catch with catalytic wood stoves. Every couple of years, the catalytic converter that makes a better option for your indoor air quality eventually wears out and has to be replaced.
Furthermore, when the catalyst wears out, your wood stove emits smoke and pollutants far exceeding the particulate and smoke emissions of 7.5 grams per hour as recommended by environmental authorities with dire consequences for your indoor air quality.
On the other hand, non-catalytic wood stoves rarely need any parts replaced and are much easier to maintain. Also, with non-catalytic wood stoves, they literally last forever without losing their efficiency.
Given all this information, my conclusion was that I would go with the catalytic wood stove if I don’t mind the cumbersome maintenance it comes with but want the best air quality I can possibly get with a wood stove in my home.
Conversely, I would go with a non-catalytic stove if I don’t want the hustle of maintaining a stove and risks of dangerously high emissions should anyone try to run my catalytic stove while the catalytic converter is worn out.
That said I have some good news. You can actually get the best of both worlds. There are some wood stoves out there that have both a catalytic and non-catalytic combustor in one.
They are designed so that you can easily switch to your non-catalytic combustor when your catalytic converter gets worn out and also so that you can get the various advantages of either type of stove.
These types of combined wood stoves are the ultimate option when it comes to maintaining the best air quality in your home. You avoid the risks of high emissions by switching to your non-catalytic combustor when your catalytic converter is down and when it’s up and running you optimize your air quality by using a stove technology with the lowest possible emissions.
The thing with the combo wood stoves is that they are on the pricier end of wood stoves. At the time I am writing this post, they cost upwards of US$3000. Catalytic wood stoves are the next priciest costing up to US$3000 and lastly, non-catalytic wood stoves come in at between US$500 to US$2000.
So this is the basic story when it comes to types of wood stoves for better air quality. Now that you have an idea of the different kinds of wood stoves to go for and which ones to avoid, we can look at some specific brands and models that will work best for your indoor air quality.
5 Best Wood Stoves For Indoor Air Quality
A lot of manufacturers are now trying to push to make zero-emissions wood stoves and some are getting really close. With this industry moving more and more towards eco-friendly technologies, you really have plenty of options when it comes to good wood stoves for your indoor air quality.
Whether you go for a catalytic or non-catalytic wood stove, today you can get either of these wood stove designs at emission levels of less than 3 grams per hour. In no particular order, below is my list of five best wood stoves for your indoor air quality.
What matters most for indoor air quality is that emissions from your wood stove are kept as low as possible. A good wood stove for indoor air quality emits less than 3 grams per hour of polluting particulates.
All the wood stoves I show you here have emission levels below 3 grams per hour, making them the perfect choice for you if you want to keep your air as clean as possible while running your stove. Let's take a look at the options then.
1. Pacific Energy Summit LE
Emitting only 1.8 gm/hr of particulates into your indoor air, the Pacific Energy Summit LE is among the best non-catalytic wood stoves you can get for your indoor air quality. This wood stove is designed for larger spaces and is perfect for long cold winter nights.
It can keep your home warm for up to 23 hours on the lowest setting for one burn with its extended burn feature. For a large wood stove, the Summit LE is quite affordable at under US$2500.
The trouble is this stove is in such high demand and it can be a mission to get a hold of one. It’s made in Canada and the Canadian market gets served first, so it can be quite tricky to get one in the U.S or any other country.
The summit is designed for rooms of up to 3000 square feet. If you need something for a smaller room of about 500 to 1500 square feet from Pacific Energy, you can try their Vista LE model.
At 1.9 gm/hr, its emission levels are a tiny bit more than the Summit LE. For a reliable non-catalytic wood stove that adds minimal pollutants to your indoor air, explore the Pacific Energy range of wood stoves. Their stoves are all EPA certified so you can rest assured they are good on their word about their emission levels.
2. MF Fire Catalyst
At 1.9 gm/hr, the MF Fire Catalyst does not have the lowest emission level among catalytic wood stoves, but it is still perfect for your air quality. The MF Fire Catalyst is a US-made wood stove and I particularly like this wood stove because of its smart feature.
You can use an app to control how hot your stove burns and how long it burns. The app also tells you the total volume of pollutants released into your air after each burn. It will also notify you when it's time to reload your stove or if your stove has been left open.
The MF Fire Catalyst is designed to warm a room of up to 2000 square feet. This wood stove is EPA certified. Just under US$5000 at the time I was writing this post, it is on the pricier end of wood stoves. For more info, you can check out the MF FIRE Catalyst here.
3. Blaze King
Blaze King manufactures some of the best catalytic wood stoves when it comes to air quality. Their entire range of wood stoves emit particulates into your air at a maximum rate of 0.8 gm/hr.
This is actually really good and way below any environmental body’s wood stove emissions targets. All Blaze King wood stoves are accordingly EPA certified and they are high-quality stoves manufactured in the US.
Blaze King Stoves cost between US$3000 and US$4500 depending on which model you go for. They can burn for as long as 30 hours on their lowest setting.
They claim that burning wood in their stove is carbon neutral due to their stoves’ high efficiency and clean burn capacity. Blaze King has a solid reputation for producing low emission wood stoves.
Do not overlook their wood stoves when you are considering getting a wood stove that minimally affects your indoor air quality. You can have a look at the range of Blaze King wood stoves here at the Stove Shop if you want to immediately check out how much each model costs or visit Blaze King directly here for detailed specifications on each model.
4. The Absolute Steel Hybrid Wood Stove
A company at the forefront of trying to build a zero-emissions wood stove is the US-based Woodstock Soapstone Company. Among all the wood stoves I came across in my quest to find the least polluting one for a home or any place that needs one, Woodstock Soapstone's Absolute Steel Hybrid Wood Stove was the second least polluting stove I found.
Out of 100s of stoves, I looked through, The Absolute Steel Hybrid Wood Stove had the second-lowest emissions rate I could find for a wood stove at a rate of 0.5 gm/hr. It's an EPA certified stove and will cover rooms of up to 1800 square feet.
A lot of people with respiratory conditions triggered by air pollutants recognize this wood stove as their go-to wood stove for air quality. At the time of writing this post, this wood stove was going for between US$2000 and US$3000.
This stove is a hybrid and has both a secondary combustion system and a catalytic combustor. This ensures it burns any gasses and VOCs that get beyond your firebox and in turn, significantly reduces emissions.
It also has automatic dampers that increase the air supply and ensure complete combustion across all its burning levels from low to high. What I like about this stove is that the manufacturer allows you to try it for 6 months for free.
I'm not so happy about them being the only place where you can buy the stove from and get professional support. However, they have been around for over 40 years and they have plenty of happy customers using this approach so you should be just fine in that regard if you go for this stove. You can find out more about the Absolute Steel Wood Stove here.
5. Vermont Castings Intrepid Flexburn
Remember earlier when I talked about combo wood stoves, well in my opinion the Vermont Intrepid probably the best there is. This stove has both a catalytic and non-catalytic combustor, giving you the best of both worlds.
Not only do you have the best of both worlds, but the Vermont Castings Intrepid Flexburn wood stove also has the lowest emissions rate I have seen for a wood stove on both its combustors. Its non-catalytic combustor has lower emissions than even most catalytic wood stoves at 0.6 gm/hr.
Then its catalytic combustor beats everything I have seen at 0.3 gm/hr. This is as close as I have seen a commercially available wood stove come to zero emissions. Unless I am missing something, it's certainly as good as a wood stove will get for your indoor air quality.
Designed to warm rooms of between 600-1800 square feet, the stove is for small to medium-sized rooms. You would think the rest of Vermont Castings stoves would also have such low emissions but the rest all sit just above 1 gm/hr which is actually not so bad for your air.
The Intrepid Flexburn is reasonably priced for a combo wood stove at about US$2300. This stove is known as the cleanest ever wood-burning stove certified by the EPA. Check out the Vermont Casting Intrepid Flexburn stove here.
For good indoor air quality, these are the five best wood stoves I can confidently vouch for. You keep in mind that my assertion here is all based on the emissions rate per hour.
Another thing you have to note is that larger versions of a wood stove are more likely to have higher pollutant emission rates as they burn more wood per hour than smaller ones. The key here is to stay under the 3 gm/hr rate for whatever type of stove you go for. The lower rate the better for your air quality.
7 Ways To Get The Best Air Quality When Using A Wood Stove
Once you have decided on which air quality friendly wood stove you are going to go for, there are several other things you can do to minimize the level of pollution emitted from wood stoves in your home.
1. Get Your Wood Stove Professionally Installed
How you install your wood stove is a major factor behind how polluted your air gets when running a stove. If your stove is supposedly eco-friendly and when you run it it is clearly polluting your air, then it's likely it was not properly installed.
Studies have shown that DIY installed stoves commonly result in high levels of indoor air pollution compared to professionally installed stoves. So to make sure you err on the safe side, rather get your stove installed by a professional for the best air quality.
2. Follow Your Wood Stoves Instruction Manual
Like any appliance, reading your wood stove’s manual will help you avoid silly mistakes. In the case of wood stoves, you will avoid unnecessarily polluting the air in your home. You will know exactly how to work your damper to avoid too much smoke, and when and when not to increase airflow. All crucial steps to minimize your wood stove’s pollution levels
3. Regularly Service Your Stove
Keeping your wood stove clean, also keeps your air as clean as possible. This means getting your chimneys cleaned about every six months, emptying out your ash pans, and changing your catalysts whenever they are due if you have a stove with a catalyst.
4. Burn Dry And Clean Wood
For a clean burn, no matter how advanced or eco-friendly your wood stove, you need your wood to be as dry as possible. Your wood should ideally have less than 20% moisture content. To make sure your wood is not too moist, use a moisture meter (#affiliate link to Amazon) to measure its moisture content before throwing it into your stove.
If you do not, wet wood will produce a lot of smoke and really mess up your indoor air quality. The other thing is that some types of wood are more polluting than others when you burn them.
Hardwoods like maple, birch, and oak have been found to burn better and more cleanly than softwoods such as fir, cedar, and pine. So go for hardwoods rather than softwoods to minimize the level of indoor pollution from your stove.
Lastly, please completely avoid using treated or painted wood, as they emit harmful fumes and do not use pressured lumber, compressed paper products, plywood, MDF, and aromatic cedars. These will totally ruin the air quality in your home and could also mess up your stove depending on the type of stove you have.
5. Refuel The Stove Properly
When placing wood in your stove, the way you place the wood in your stove can not only save you some wood but also help decrease how much pollution your wood stove produces. When using a wood stove, to minimize pollution by burning your wood more efficiently, it is advised that you start your fire from the top of your woodpile rather than at the bottom.
There is less smoke when you burn your wood from the top. Experts also say you should refuel your stove with larger logs stacked at the bottom and smaller ones on top. You also should not overload your stove and you should avoid contact between your wood and stove walls. This way you will get more complete combustion and the cleanest possible burn.
6. Install An Air Quality Monitor
Monitoring your air quality when you have a wood stove can help you know how bad your wood stove is making your air in real-time. To monitor your air quality, you can use carbon monoxide alarms or more sophisticated air quality monitoring tools.
An air quality monitoring device will also help you keep track of your outdoor air quality. If things are bad outside, you do not want to be running your stove at that time as this can make your indoor air quality even worse.
Also in some countries, you will be breaking the law as stoves are banned when air quality is really bad. So, with an air quality monitoring device you know exactly when to turn on and of your wood stove to maintain good air quality. Check out my recommended air quality monitoring gear here.
7. Use An Air Purifier
When you have a wood stove, it's a no brainer to get an air purifier. There are all kinds of air purifiers out there. However, for wood stove pollutants you do not need anything complicated. A HEPA and activated carbon air purifier that filters air pollutants down to 0.3 microns is more than sufficient as pollutants from wood stoves are larger than 0.3 microns.
An air purifier will deal with all the dust and smoke produced from your wood stove. An air purifier I would highly recommend to help minimize the level of pollutants in your air when you are using a wood stove is the EnviroKlenz Air Purifier.
In conclusion, let me briefly remind you to go for certified wood stoves if you want better air quality in your home. Go for wood stoves that are EPA, Ecodesign Ready, or DEFRA certified.
Using an eco-friendly certified and low emission wood stove combined with proper use of your stove should help you ensure you maintain the best possible air quality you can while running your stove. With everything I have shared here, you should now be able to confidently find and select the best wood stove possible for your indoor air quality.
Thank you for this in depth article! I’ve really been searching for information on how different stoves effect indoor air quality as opposed to the emissions they emit outside of the house, which seems to be the standard measurement used. We have an older wood stove, which we recently realized using a particulate sensor, was making the quality of air inside our home pretty poor. We’d prefer to continue heating with wood if possible as it’s just so affordable, but don’t want to invest thousands into a new stove if it’s not going to improve the quality of the air inside the house.
I was happy to see that the Woodstock absolute steel was listed as a good choice as their factory is only an hour from us and I was already considering this stove. When you say the stove measures emissions of .5 grams per hour, is that measured inside the home? Or is that what id measured as emissions leaving the stove pipe? I’d greatly appreciate any further info you have / if you have any studies on this, and thank you again for the great article.