Understanding Wood Stove Certification

We often get asked if our wood stoves are certified. To properly answer this question we present a short overview of "certification" as it relates to wood stoves in USA, incl. wood cook stoves. "Certification" means one of two things or both:

1) EPA Certification

All newly manufactured wood stoves sold in USA have to be EPA certified. EPA certification has to do with clean burning only and nothing with the safety of the appliance. It basically means that the stove has been tested by a third party lab and was found to be acceptable to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in terms of the pollution it creates, or more specifically the level of wood smoke particle emission. 

Luckily, cooking stoves that meet certain criteria are EPA exempt! EPA recognizes that such stoves are used primarily for cooking as opposed to heating and since they are used a lot less than traditional wood stoves (there are less cooking stoves in US homes + the ones that exist are not usually used as heavily as traditional stoves) EPA found no compelling reason to regulate them. However, not all cook stoves are exempt! In EPA's words:

Cook stove means a wood-fired appliance that is designed, marketed and warranted primarily for cooking food and that has the following characteristics:

(1) An oven, with volume of 0.028 cubic meters (1 cubic foot) or greater, and an oven rack;

(2) A device for measuring oven temperatures;

(3) A flame path that is routed around the oven;

(4) An ash pan;

(5) An ash clean-out door below the oven;

(6) The absence of a fan or heat channels to dissipate heat from the appliance

Our La Nordica cook stoves fit this definition perfectly! So to answer the first question: our stoves are not EPA certified nor do they have to be; they are EPA exempt. This exemption applies also in Washington State, please see the page and the Note on it: Cook Stoves in WA

2) Safety Certification

The second kind of certification has to do with safety of the appliance and is usually expressed on the back of the appliance with UL or CSA marks. Uncertified wood stoves are completely legal in USA! In fact, the majority of the stoves used today are not safety-certified because they preceded the appearance of safety standards or were simply never certified. Safety certification means the stove was tested by a third party lab for the purpose of checking the overall safety of the appliance, venting requirements, and required clearance to combustibles. European certifications (CE etc) are not recognized in North America. If the appliance was never UL or CSA tested it has ramifications in 2 ways:

a) The stove has to be installed according to the local building code which is usually based on NFPA211, the federal fire code for uncertified wood burning appliances. This means that clearance to combustibles will be higher than it would have been if the stove was certified. However, if you are using heat shields to cover your walls the difference may be just a few inches. If your walls are not combustible then there will be no difference at all (for the legal definition of a non-combustible wall please see NFPA211). In other words, if the stove is not UL or CSA approved the manual of the stove which specifies clearances is simply ignored and instead the blanket rules of NFPA211 are used.

b) Your home insurance company. Each company has its own rules and they may or may not cover an uncertified stove. If you are calling them to find out please make sure to tell them that the stove can still be installed by a certified installer. Quite often this is all they will care for. As mentioned most stoves in use today are not certified. Our La Nordica cook stoves have not yet been UL or CSA tested and while they are completely legal in USA please check with your insurance company first whether they insure uncertified appliances.