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Understanding catalytic’s role in the wood burning stove industry, requires us to look back to the 1970’s when heating costs increased drastically. Oil prices increased 272% in that decade; electric rates increased 215%, while natural gas increased 483%. To combat these cost increases, many homeowners began to switch to wood as a fuel for their heating needs. This was less costly and besides firewood was free and plentiful in many areas.

Hundreds of new stove companies began to spring up; many of them building stoves with efficiency between 50 and 70%. This was as good as or better than gas furnaces and oil burners. However, the advantages of burning wood for heating were also accompanied with some disadvantages.
Much wasted energy was lost in the smoke (30% in some stoves).
The smoke from wood-burning fires produced harmful air pollution.
Airtight stoves burning slow produced heavy amounts of creosote.
It was in the early 1980’s that the catalytic combustor was found to be an ideal solution aimed at answering consumer, manufacturing and environmental problems.

The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) later set standards for the stove manufacturers to follow and a new era in woodburning began. Firecats® role in the industry’s progress was important back then and still is today. Firecat® is the biggest name in catalytic combustors for woodburning stoves.

What happened in “Good Old Europe”?

While American manufactures favored a “burn-first-clean-up-later approach”, European makers went on improving the burn itself by piecemeal adjustments of airflow, insulating combustion chambers, employing thermo-hydraulic and thermo-mechanic control units. This approach worked fine – only until now: planned legislation is getting tough on emissions especially on particulates. Germany is finally taking the lead introducing a new BImSchV (1) which will eventually require shutting down or replacing old fireplaces not complying with new standards. And these standards will be tough compared to what we had here in Central Europe so far. Since it will become more and more difficult to meet these standards, European manufacturers start rethinking their approach; Firecat® might be their answer.

Europe and America went their own ways for the last 30 years. Stoves are looking quite differently here and there and while Americans like their remote-controlled fireplaces with induced draft, fans were never an option in the Old Continent; and there’s no accounting for different tastes.

The consequence: A way had to be found how to install a catalytic combustor in a typical European stove. In cooperation with Applied Ceramics, the manufacturer of the Firecat® Combustor, GS-components,  found that way; registered two patents and developed together with Messrs Rathgeber the necessary components.

1 Bundes-Immissions-Schutz-Verordnung

Cross-section of a Stove

Example for a stove, furnished with a Firecat® Catalytic combustor.

The stove depicted here is equipped with both an automatic and a manual by-pass damper.

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