Catalytic vs Non-catalytic Wood Stove – What’s the Difference?

Catalytic vs non catalytic wood stove

When choosing a wood stove, you are always asked if you want a catalytic or a non-catalytic stove. What is the difference? If you’re a newbie to the wooden stove, most likely you’ll choose one that gives the most efficiency at the best price.

If someone from the store told you that a catalytic stove is much more efficient than a non-catalytic one, know that this is not always the case. Just like any other appliance, you have to do a little research before you buy it. Let this be the research you’ll need to choose between a catalytic and non-catalytic wood stove.

Catalytic and Non-catalytic - What’s the Difference?

A non-catalytic stove is the more common type of wood stove. It doesn’t use catalytic combustion, which makes it produce smoke. Most non-catalytic wood stoves release around 7.5 grams of smoke per hour as mandated by the EPA.

On the other hand, you have a catalytic stove that uses a catalytic combustor. It burns more smoke before it vents it out. Usually, this is the more efficient type of wooden stove; however, it needs to be maintained every five years or so. It’s also harder to use compared to the non-catalytic stove.

catalytic wood stove comparison

Pros and Cons of Catalytic Stoves

Because of its efficiency, you might want to buy a catalytic stove right away. However, your decision-making should not just hinge on effectiveness. Here are a few pros and cons of having a catalytic stove.

Pros of Catalytic Stoves

  1. Catalytic stoves are very efficient, and they produce less waste during each use. The mandate of the EPA is that catalytic stoves should only have 4.1 grams of smoke per hour. Compared to the non-catalytic, catalytic stoves are more efficient across all models.
  2. You can control more when you have a catalytic stove. You can adjust the fire, the oxygen, and a number of things depending on your preference.
  3. A catalytic stove burns more heat because of the catalyst. The catalyst here is the waffle-shaped plate that is coated with metal. When the wood is heated at high temperatures, the smoke and ash that fall near the catalyst are also converted into heat, making it useful as much by-product as possible. So you’re practically heating more with the same amount of wood.

Cons of Catalytic Stoves

  1. The most common complaint on catalytic stoves is its maintenance. In all honesty, catalytic stoves have to be maintained once in a while for them to be genuinely efficient. Plus, if you don’t clean them properly, expect to have to repair them soon. 
  2. It has advanced features that are complicated to learn. You have to allot a learning curve for this before you get the hang of it.
  3. You need a more extended chimney so that the catalytic stove can reach its maximum burn time. If you have a short one, then expect some inefficiency because your stove won’t achieve the maximum burn time it needs.
  4. Catalytic stoves are more expensive than the non-catalytic variety. Because it isn’t very common and it has a catalyst that it uses then you need to pay higher.
non catalytic wood stove comparison

Pros of Non-Catalytic Stoves

  1. Because it’s pretty commercialized, a non-catalytic stove is way cheaper. It’s also easy to buy because you can see them in appliance stores. 
  2. It’s easy to operate. If you’re not tech-savvy or you simply don’t want complicated appliances, then a non-catalytic stove will work best for you. It eliminates the process of engaging and disengaging the bypass damper.
  3. It’s easy to maintain. Since a non-catalytic stove doesn’t have a catalyst (which requires you to maintain and clean it regularly), you don’t have to worry about maintaining it in a certain way. Of course, you still shouldn’t treat your stove badly no matter what type it is. 
  4. If you live in a moderately hot environment, then your non-catalytic stove can function most efficiently.

Cons of Non-Catalytic Stove

  1. A non-catalytic stove is not as efficient as a catalytic stove. Although you know this already, it’s important to note that this is due to the absence of the catalyst which makes use of the wastes for additional heat.
  2. It produces more smoke as compared to a catalytic stove. Whether you’re concerned about the environment or not, making sure that you don’t emit too much smoke is a must.
  3. It doesn’t have a long burning time.
Wood burning stove in bedroom

Choosing Between A Catalytic and a Non-catalytic Stove

Now that you know the difference between the two, you can already decide which one will best suit your needs. Use these factors to make deciding a lot easier for you.


Catalytic stoves have more features, so it definitely costs more. Nonetheless, it can give you more savings in the long run. But if you don’t plan on using it as often as you think you should, then stick to the more affordable type which is the non-catalytic stove. And just because non-catalytic stoves are cheaper does not mean they are worse in terms of quality.

Maintenance & Repair

Whether you like it or not, some form of maintenance is needed to keep your wood stove working in its best condition. Sure, a catalytic stove will require you to clean it more often than the other type, but it’s not like the latter doesn’t need any. The difference here is that you have one less equipment (the catalyst) to maintain and repair if it breaks.

Ease of Use

Wood stoves are generally not the easiest to use, but if you don’t plan on wasting too much time setting the fire, then you’re better off with a non-catalytic stove. However, if you’re the kind who wants to be challenged by the complexity of an appliance, then you’ll find the catalytic stove to be worth your time. Catalytic stoves often have more sophisticated features so you can do a little tweaking with the temperature and all.

So there you have it. Again, the most efficient wood stove is not exactly the best one for you. Make sure that you know what you’re looking for in a stove so that you can make an informed decision.

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