How to Operate High-Efficiency EPA Wood Stoves & Inserts

2020 EPA certified wood stoves are incredibly efficient and require some adjustments to use if you are used to old-school wood stoves. Even experienced wood burners can have trouble operating new wood stoves the first few times, but practice makes perfect, and by understanding how it is different than its predecessors, you can quickly overcome any objections and begin getting longer burn times, burning less wood, and producing fewer emissions.

How are New Wood Stoves Different than Old Wood Stoves?

Due to regulations, the new EPA-certified burning wood stoves, inserts, and fireplaces are cleaner burning and more efficient. Therefore, burning practices and habits from older models to the new ones need to change to adjust for the technology and more restrictive passages. To properly burn these units, you will need to lengthen the unit's kindling (startup) period compared to old wood stoves. A well-established and hot bed of coals is required before any large pieces of wood can be added. It is essential to get your unit hot before adding more wood. Think of each new piece of wood like a bucket of water that will cool your fire. Only use well-seasoned wood with a moisture content of less than 20%. 

Modern wood-burning stoves contain decades of advancements that allow them to burn cleaner for longer while using less wood. Two designs typically allow a wood stove to meet emissions standards – Catalytic and Non-Catalytic. To not only meet but exceed regulations, Regency has created a third category – a Hybrid-Catalytic wood stove that utilizes Eco-Boost triple burn technology.

While many new units have maintained their predecessors' exterior designs, the combustion engines have been completely re-engineered to meet the new emissions and efficiency standards. Many subtle and not-so-subtle changes were made to the stove's interior to better manage airflow and reburn(s) depending on the stove type.

Burn Times

A burn time is the total amount of time a single load of wood will burn from ignition through to smoldering. This includes from the time you light a stove to when the coals are hot enough that you can add another log and the fire ignites again (without having to use another match). Remember, a large amount of the heat output in a wood stove comes from the hot coals. Burn time does not refer to the amount of time a piece of wood will display visible flames.

In modern high-efficiency wood stoves, to maximize burn time, you are likely to see less visible flames throughout the duration of the fire, and people often equate this to a very short burn time when in reality, the stove is burning so efficiently there is no flames and no "wasted" fuel.

See How Burn Times Work & How to Maximize Yours

Watch: Our Regency F2450 Non-Catalytic Wood Stove burn for 10 hours

Quickly Troubleshooting Your Wood Stove Burn Times

While burn times will vary based on environmental factors such as elevation and surrounding geography, if you are unable to achieve burn times within a reasonable variance of the wood stove's stated burn times, there is likely an installation or maintenance issue that needs to be addressed.
Today's 2020 EPA certified wood stoves are precise combustion engines that have been finely tuned to optimize burn time and minimize emissions. If your wood stove is not reaching desired burn times, try checking the following:
  • Check the seal around the door is airtight & replace any damaged gaskets
  • Confirm strong seal on Bypass Gasket (applicable units), ash plug gasket, & glass gasket​
  • ​Ensure door lock is snug & secure
  • Confirm the air tubes are installed correctly and not loose & catalyst is not damaged (if applicable)
Suppose you can confirm that all of these are functioning correctly and are confident you are operating your catalytic & hybrid-catalytic wood stove/insert correctly. In that case you will need to call your installing dealer for service to troubleshoot your problems.

Did You Know: Longer venting can decrease burn times – you could need a damper installed to limit the airflow into the firebox.

How to Light a Fire in an EPA Wood Stove

Note: The process is the same for both Hybrid-Catalytic & Non-Catalytic EPA units, however with Non-Catalytic units there is no Catalytic Bypass to engage or disengage just the air control.
  1. Crumple lots of black and white newspaper (avoid colored newspaper or paper with lots of ink)
  2. Ensure both the bypass & air control are fully open
  3. Build a log cabin/teepee of small finger sized pieces of pieces of kindling – ensure you stack wood to allow lots of airflow between pieces
  4. Light Paper & Close Door 95% of the way – allowing space for significant airflow
  5. Once kindling has fully ignited (engulfed in flames), add additional kindling and close door approx. 95% of the way.
  6. Once the second batch of kindling has ignited, add 2-3 wrist-sized pieces of wood and close the door again approx. 95% of the way (Air control & Bypass still Open)
  7. Once the wrist size pieces have fully ignited, add an additional 2-3 wrist sized pieces and close the door again approx. 95% of the way
  8. Once the second batch of wrist-size wood has ignited, close the door and allow the fire to build. Keep the air control in the fully open position along with the bypass.
  9. Once the fire is just starting to die down, crack the door open and hold it ajar for a few seconds for the air to adjust. Then add 2-3 large pieces of wood stacked in a manner that allows airflow. (Air control & Bypass still Open) 
  10. Once the large pieces have ignited, close the door completely (Air control & Bypass still Open)
  11. Once the large pieces have fully ignited and your firebox is full of flames, add 2-3 more pieces of wood & close the door
  12. After the second load of wood has fully ignited and your firebox is full of flames, you can fully load the firebox (Air Control & Bypass still Open)
  13. Allow the new wood to ignite fully 
  14. Adjust the air control to the desired level
  15. Let the stove or insert heat up
  16. For best performance, wait until your unit has been running for a while and is quite hot before engaging the catalytic combustor. This step is more of an art than a science and will depend on your specific burning situation; however, you can aim to engage your catalyst between 700-1000 F (370-540 C) by pushing the bypass rod towards the unit. Do not activate the catalytic combustor below 500 F (260 C).
  17. Walk away! Your wood stove/insert is now burning efficiently, cleanly and will produce stable heat for hours to come!

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