Wood stoves are not generally considered to be at the cutting-edge of energy technology, but they remain a major part of the household energy landscape. The Energy Information Administration reports that 12.7 million homes rely on wood for primary and secondary heating in the United States, and this includes 30 to 60 percent of homes in hundreds of rural counties, according to the Alliance for Green Heat. Though humans have been using wood as a fuel for thousands of years, there is still room for improvement in stove efficiency, design, and integration with emerging smart home technologies. Efficiency advancements are especially important, as over 23 million households in rural areas face some form of energy insecurity, such as being unable to use heating equipment or having to reduce food and medicine purchases to afford energy bills.

The 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge will take place on the National Mall from November 9 through November 13 to encourage technological innovation in wood stove design and manufacturing. Twelve teams from around the world will travel to Washington, D.C., to display and explain how their next generation wood and pellet stoves are advancing ease of use, emissions reduction, and energy efficiency.

A panel of academic, agency and technological experts will evaluate the twelve designs in a competition modeled after the Department of Energy’s (DOE) biannual Solar Decathlon, which challenges university teams to develop cheaper and more efficient residential solar technology. The teams participating in the similar Wood Stove Design Challenge will compete in two events: (1) integration of WiFi technology and sensors to increase ease of use and automation, and (2) thermoelectric conversion of heat to electricity to power additional devices such as lights. The top teams will receive cash prizes.

Several teams have connected their stoves to batteries to supplement photovoltaic systems, and a team from New Zealand has implemented a safer mechanism for users that doesn’t even require electric sensors.

Three previous wood stove design challenges have been held—in 2013, 2014, and 2016. The Alliance for Green Heat is organizing the event for the fourth time, with funding provided by the DOE’s Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO), the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and the Osprey Foundation.

The five-day event is free and open to the public. A schedule of events can be found here.


Author: Patrick Teese