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The IRS 10% Biomass Tax Credit: Which Stoves Qualify?
Q: I understand that the IRS tax credit applies to biomass stoves achieving an efficiency rating of 75% or better. But I see wood stoves with lower
efficiency ratings on their EPA labels being advertised as eligible for the tax credit. Are those manufacturers trying to put one over, or what?
A. The EPA tests wood stoves for particulate emissions, not efficiency. In fact, it says so right on the EPA label. Here's the story:
Back in the 1980's when emissions testing was in its infancy, the EPA decided, for some reason, to put an average efficiency number on the
emissions label of every biomass burner they tested. Back then, the presumed average efficiency for non-catalytic wood stoves was 63%, or 72%
for catalytic stoves. So those are the numbers the EPA put on their labels. And the same numbers appear on every EPA emissions label to this day.
In the ensuing 25+ years, thermal design engineering has come a long way. Today, most biomass heater manufacturers submit their models to an
accredited efficiency test laboratory to get actual efficiency ratings which are often much higher than the EPA's presumed averages. These actual
test results are the ones the IRS is looking for.
The manufacturer's advertised efficiency numbers are subject to scrutiny by the Feds. You can rest assured that any manufacturer that advertises
that a given stove meets the 75% efficiency requirement to qualify for the tax credit has a report from an accredited efficiency testing lab to back
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