WoodStoveInBrickCorner87562305_X_300_C_R_jpgEarlier this month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to regulate new wood burning stoves in the future. EPA has regulated residential wood heaters since 1988.

The proposed updates would strengthen the emissions standards for new woodstoves, while establishing federal air standards for other new wood heaters, including outdoor and indoor wood-fired boilers (also known as hydronic heaters). The proposed rule would not affect existing woodstoves and other wood-burning heaters currently in use in people’s homes.

EPA will take public comment on the proposal for 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold a public hearing Feb. 26, 2014, in Boston.

The proposed standards, known as New Source Performance Standards, or NSPS, also would set particulate matter emission limits for newly manufactured adjustable-rate woodstoves, pellet stoves, wood-fired hydronic heaters, forced-air furnaces, masonry wood heaters, and a type of previously unregulated woodstove known as a “single burn-rate” stove.

While most pellet stoves are exempt from EPA’s current standards, the proposed rule would require all pellet stoves to meet the same emission limits as for woodstoves.

Smoke from residential wood heaters, which are used around the clock in some areas, can increase particulate pollution to levels that pose serious health concerns. In some areas, residential wood smoke constitutes a significant portion of the fine particle pollution problem.

“I think these [regulations] are important,” said Steve Holldber, owner of Idyllwild Heating and Cooling, which sells wood burning stoves. “They will make stoves more efficient and may discourage a lot of people in Southern California from using them over the pollution concern.”

In addition to the health benefits provided by the proposed rule, wood heaters meeting the proposed standards generally would be more efficient than older ones, meaning homeowners will be able to heat their homes using less wood.

EPA is proposing to phase in emission limits over five years for most wood heaters to allow manufacturers time to adapt emission control technologies to their particular model lines. The proposal would allow manufacturers of new residential wood heaters to meet PM emission limits in two steps. The first limit would take effect 60 days after the final rule is published. This step is identical to what is currently required by the State of Washington for noncatalytic stoves. The second limit takes effect five years later.

EPA also is seeking comment on whether to phase in the limits in three steps over an eight-year period.

In addition, EPA did not include new indoor fireplaces for regulation in the proposal, because fireplaces are not effective heaters.

To submit comments, EPA offers the following directions:

  • Please identify all comments with Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0734.
  • Submit comments directly on www.regulations.gov: Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
  • E-mail your Comments to [email protected].
  • Fax your comments to 202-566-9744.
  • Mail your comments to Air and Radiation Docket and Information Center, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20460.