A Wood Stove Catalytic Converter You Can Build

Build this wood stove catalytic converter and your heating appliance can put out more heat while generating less creosote and soot.


| January/February 1983



wood stove catalytic converter - graph of stove performance with and without catalyst

The graph shows relative performance of the same stove with and without a catalytic converter over a 12 hour period.


MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

Wood heating, for all the satisfaction it brings, involves a lot of hard work ... and anything that could trim the burden of cutting, splitting, and hauling fuel or reduce the frequency of chimney cleanings would be more than welcome to just about any stove owner. Of course, most veteran woodburners take pains to see that the wood they cut gets well used, and as a consequence many such folks have toyed with devices that claim to either increase heat transfer efficiency or reduce creosote formation. Unfortunately, as many of those experimenters have found out, heat exchangers generally speed up the accumulation of creosote deposits and most add-to-the-fire chemicals don't seem to help much in removing this messy (and dangerous) substance. (See Testing Chemical Chimney Cleaning Products).

Of course, over the past few years woodstove manufacturers have devoted a great deal of research effort to improving the performance of their products in the hope of increasing overall heating efficiency, reducing creosote deposits, and limiting the load of pollutants that woodburners release into the atmosphere. We've chronicled that research and have waited anxiously for breakthroughs.

Well, we're glad to say the latest wood stove catalytic converters and secondary-combustion stoves do seem to fill the bill. Many of us have eyed them longingly, wishing that we could justify replacing our old metal boxes with state-of-the-art heaters. Unfortunately, as attractive as those alternatives are, their price tags are usually pretty danged formidable.

Consequently — after suffering through a heating season of wishful frustration — MOTHER EARTH NEWS' staff members began conducting some experiments of their own in April of 1982. The goal was to develop a catalytic converter package that could be added to any of the majority of existing stove types so that efficient, clean burning could be made available to the wood-heating public at an affordable price.

And if you read about the stack temperature thermostat, you already know that members of our staff had been working on woodburning-related projects with independent researcher B.V. Alvarez for some time. The catalyst project was once again headed by B.V. and was, in fact, in progress when we reported on the thermostat. Since that issue went to press, B.V. has accepted a position directing engineering at Buck Stove Corporation, and the final prototype was developed and tested in cooperation with that company. By the time you read this, Buck will be well on its way to introducing a retrofit package (patent pending), similar to the one shown here, for its line of products.

Collectively, Alvarez and our staffers spent thousands of hours — many of them during the hot, humid days of summer — cuddled up in a non-air-conditioned room at MOTHER EARTH NEWS' research center with the stove that Buck provided for testing. We won't belabor the amount of effort that has gone into this article (much of which, of course, also went into the development of Buck Stove's new product) or take the space to try to thank everyone on the outside who's helped out. Perhaps it's enough to say that all of the parties involved had and have  a commitment to see that this technology gets to the public  — that is, to you.





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