Friday, January 3, 2014

Pro-wood heating group says EPA regulations reasonable and will help industry grow

The Alliance for Green Heat welcomed the release of proposed EPA regulations on residential wood and pellet heating equipment, saying that new, stricter emission standards “will help America embrace wood and pellet heating as a vital renewable energy that can help drastically reduce fossil fuel consumption.”

More than 10 million American homes heat with wood and pellets, ten times more than solar and geothermal combined, according to data from EIA and the US census. “We can harness the huge demand for this type of renewable energy if the stoves and boilers are clean enough,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. “We believe the emissions numbers released by the EPA today are reasonable and achievable and will help the wood stove industry grow and thrive in coming decades,” Ackerly continued.

The proposed rule has few surprises in terms of emission numbers. Virtually all the key numbers were included in draft proposed rules shared with industry, states and non-profits during 2013. But the proposed rule does reflect the much stricter numbers the EPA developed after states and air quality agencies intervened in 2012. Previously, the EPA was considering 2.5 grams per hour to be the strictest level for wood and pellet stoves. But last year, the EPA floated a 1.3 grams per hour for all pellet and wood stoves and that is the number that was released today.

The EPA is proposing that wood and pellet stoves initially meet a 4.5 grams per hour standard, and then meet a much stricter standard of 1.3 grams per hour 5 years after promulgation. Alternatively, the EPA proposes a 3-step process of going to 2.5 grams per hour after 3 years and then 1.3 grams an hour after 8 years.

Similarly, the EPA is proposing two options for furnaces and boilers. The first would establish strict emission limits after 5 years, and the second would have an intermediate step after 3 years, and then the stricter standard after 8 years. Initially, warm air furnaces would only be held to 0.93 lb/MMBTU, whereas hydronic heaters would be held to 0.32. Ultimately, both would need to reach 0.06 lb/MMBTU either 5 or 8 years after promulgation. It is widely anticipated that industry will advocate for the 3-step process and that EPA would be open to this as well.

The EPA’s press release said that “when these standards are fully implemented ... [c]onsumers will also see a monetary benefit from efficiency improvements in the new woodstoves, which use less wood to heat homes.” However, the EPA decided not to include any efficiency standard, leaving open the possibility that some very inefficient units may remain on the market. Wood and pellet heating appliances are the only HVAC equipment without minimum efficiency standards.

Both efficiency and CO would have to be recorded and reported under the new proposed rules. To avoid logjams in testing to the new standards, the EPA is proposing “to allow ISO-accredited laboratories and ISO-accredited certifying bodies to increase the availability of laboratories and certifiers.” 

The EPA is scheduling a public hearing on these regulations in Boston on February 26. Interested parties should register by February 19 at if they want to make public comments. Each person will be limited to 5 minutes. The public has 90 days to comment on the regulations after they are posted in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen in the next week or two. 

The proposed rule does offer an unusual glimpse into disagreements between the EPA, the Small Business Agency (SBA) and the Office of Budget and Management (OMB).  In the Panel Report, the “SBA and OMB recommended that the EPA not move forward with proposed emission limits for pellet stoves, indoor hydronic heaters, biomass pellet stoves, masonry heaters.” The EPA however rejected this recommendation and provided a sound basis for their proposal to include pellet stoves, all hydronic heaters and masonry heaters.

The SBA and OMB also recommended that the NSPS only cover parts of the country where wood smoke pollution was high. They suggested that states and regions where wood smoke is not high be allowed to issue their own regulations and consider voluntary standards. The EPA chose to highlight and counter these recommendations in its proposed rule, showing that they have considered these options but found they were not justified.

The Alliance for Green Heat is a non-profit consumer advocacy organization that fights for cleaner and more efficient wood and pellet heating to help households affordably switch to a renewable heating fuel.

For the full regulations see:

A summary of the regulations prepared by EPA, without emission numbers, can be found here:


  1. And has there been any change to the testing to make the ratings produced at OMNI or whatever, measure up inside winter atmosphere. Are they going to test any of the currently legal and available retrofits that target the wintertime ventilation issues. Are they going to put some flue terminal protection on OWBs and see if there is a notable difference. Are they going to expand scientific assessments to cover real world variables? Is the testing standard also going to be improved? Changing a number isn't doing much work. How much do these people get paid? If it passes in the lab, it's good for the consumer? What about chimney problems? Creosote - adequate exhaust conditions? If the appliance isn't behaving as it does in those expert calibrated lab conditions, the standard is bust and irrelevant. If local revenue collector and energy/ fuel suppliers don't want self sufficiency will we, the people be able to stop their nonsense. They not only ban visible smoke - they, without adequate science or mandate, ban our self sufficient, sustainable off-grid heating altogether - lab/ EPA certified clean, or not. What will be legally be available to stop these energy/ fuel investment fakers, their exaggerated and manipulative social marketing strategies from our freedom?

    1. Dear anonymous,
      Yes, a lot of your questions are being addressed in these regulations. Some of them are among the very key questions the EPA is asking for input on. In fact, much of the 354 pages address things like that, and are based on trying to protect the consumer. Those of us who want to be self-sufficient in heating our homes, like I do, will be able to do it much easier with more efficient stoves. But anyone who wants to use twice as much wood and heat with an old unregulated stove, can still do so. I just bought a $600 Englander from Home Depot and I'm amazed by how much heat it puts out and how little wood I need to use compared to many of the older stoves I've used.
      John Ackerly

  2. John,

    This link is a little long but it is about the results from an Australian study on woodheater operation. I am in the process of reading it and think you would find it interesting.


  3. EPA does nothing but kill business and jobs.Feds need to step aside and let local gov deal with it if wood smoke is a problem.Freedom in this country is getting kinda thin.Go pic on China or India if you want to regulate real pollution.

    1. But the problem with India and China is that they don't have an EPA that can effectively regulate pollution and there is a lawlessness there that is really scary. There food and water supplies are not safe and their air is getting unbreathable.

  4. Can anyone tell me how this is going to effect wood-fueled cooking stoves in the US? Down here in Australia, cooking stoves are exempt from our clean air standard.

  5. Cooking stoves here are also remaining exempt. I think they are tightening the rules around what a cooking stove is, to make sure that they don't leave obvious loopholes that could be exploited.