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Warming up to wood in the Okanagan
Wood-burning stove manufacturer Blaze King recently received a major honour, though it didn’t come in the form of an industry-award to put on a fireplace mantel.
These honours are much more real world. In a highly competitive market, Blaze King stoves came out on top in a listing from the Environmental Protection Agency of the most efficient stoves in North America. Not only that, but they took five out of the top eight spots, with their King and Princess models coming in at first and second.
“What’s nice about this is it’s not me saying we are the cleanest in the world, it’s EPA publishing everyone’s efficiencies and Blaze King is coming out No. 1,” said Alan Murphy, vice-president of business development for Valley Comfort Systems, the manufacturer of Blaze King stoves. And with nearly 1,000 stoves on the list, from more than 300 companies, it’s an impressive recommendation.
“That is a key factor for me. We all shout about how great we are, but when an independent authority of note tells us we’re great, then that is big news,” he said. “We’re a small company, based out of Penticton, taking on the world and we’re No. 1 and 2.”
Blaze King has been manufacturing wood-burning stoves since 1977 at two plants; the first in Walla Walla, Wash. and the Penticton plant, which began operation in the early ‘80s. Wood-burning stoves have come a long way over those years, Murphy said, but the public image of wood-burning stoves is still about 20 years behind the times.
The difference in particulate emissions between a stove of 30 years ago and today is substantial, according to Murphy. “You are probably going from 80 or 90 grams per hour down to 4.5 or 7.5. So there is a massive difference in particulate output,” he said. The Blaze King stoves on the list are even lower, ranging from 2.5 to .97 grams per hour.
Combined with high efficiencies, Blaze King stoves also make the most of a load of wood, producing heat for 20 hours or more.
“On our King model, we can get over 40 hours of burn time. What happens with other wood stoves is because they don’t control both sides, the input and the output of the fire, they are not able to control the airflow as accurately as we can,” said Murphy. “It’s not new, we’ve known that we’ve been like this for a very long time. What is new is that the EPA has now recognized and is willing to publish it on their website.”
And, according to Murphy, wood-burning stoves are still a growing industry. Depending on season and demand, they employ up to 70 people.
“There has always been a core wood-burning population out there. They are usually off the grid, either by choice or by necessity, in mainly rural areas and they like the idea of having control over their energy,” he said. That group is growing, with people joining due to concerns about the cost and security of other heating options.
“You have oil prices skyrocketing, then going down. That was a big shot in the arm for the wood stove industry,” said Murphy. “There are always fluctuations. At the moment natural gas is cheap, but in general, the general trend of wood is to be stronger today than it has been for a long time.”