EPA Moves to Place New Regulations on Wood Stoves

Just this week the Federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to lower emissions and pollutants from residential wood stoves. Changes in the policy will affect a wide range of heaters including wood stoves, wood pellet stoves, fireplace inserts, masonry heaters, and forced-air wood furnaces. This is the first time that heating devices aside from normal wood stoves will be regulated by the EPA.

Current EPA policy certifies non-catalytic wood stoves that emit less than 7.5 grams of fine particle per hour. Standards would change in 2019 to force new stoves to emit just 1.3 grams per hour, a sizeable difference by any measurement. With 11.5 million U.S. homeowners using wood for heat, the affect of the policy will have a large affect on an industry that is projected to manufacture 85,695 wood stoves in the year 2015 alone. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Fireplace Emissions

Fireplace emissions based on type of unit. Click to view larger image.

Health Risk Associated With Wood Stoves

Exhaust from wood stoves is a known health hazard and can pose serious threats to the functions of the body’s vital organs. Inhaling fine particles can attribute to decreased lung function, heart attack, and premature death in those with pre-existing medical conditions. Proper heating and ventilation practices should be followed to operate fireplaces in a safe manner. Review these wood stove fire safety tips to make sure that your stove is safe.

The EPA’s Wood Stove Proposal

The EPA plans to reduce emissions by 80% in 5 years. The changes would be phased in beginning in 2015 by requiring new wood stoves to reduce emissions by 1/3. The second phase would be finalized by the year 2019 when all newly manufactured stoves would require a reduction of 80% in comparison to current rates.

Affecting any models built in 2015 or later, the EPA is still debating whether the new regulations should be phased in over a period of 5 years or 8 years. Sources say that the Federal Agency is still accepting feedback and open to modifying the proposal in order to assure a smooth transition for both consumers and manufacturers.

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The American Lung Association has commented on the changes and expressed their approval. The last time wood stove emissions were updated was back in 1996. The EPA hopes to continue help ensure safe air quality levels in regions where wood stoves are used more frequently. The effect on the Earth’s natural environment and the health of consumers is of primary importance.

Reason Behind the EPA’s New Wood Stove Proposal

The EPA aims to improve air quality standards and reduce the amount of harmful pollutants that contribute to adverse health conditions. You may be aware of “No-Burn” policies that are issued in areas where wood burning stoves are prevalent. Wood stoves are especially popular in New England, the Northwest, and Midwest regions of the United States.

Advocates of the proposal marked the initiative as a monumental move to curb harmful living practices. Frank O’Donnell, President of the Clean Air Watch, a nonprofit advocacy group said “This is a very important step towards protecting public health, particularly areas where residential wood burning is widespread.”

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Sources from the EPA say that new regulations will benefit the consumer and the American public. According to the Federal Agency, medical savings would offset the money that manufacturers will spend on Research & Development to be in compliance with the new wood stove proposal. No word yet on whether these expenses will be passed down to the consumer in the form of higher costs to purchase a new heating unit.

“When these standards are fully implemented, EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to comply with these standards, the American public will see between $118 and $267 in health benefits. Consumers will also see a monetary benefit from efficiency improvements in the new wood stoves, which use less wood to heat homes. The total health and economic benefits of the proposed standards are estimated to be at $1.8 billion to $2.4 billion annually.”

Federal Environmental Protection Agency

Response to New Heating Device Standards

While most companies are in favor of improving the quality of life for the general public, some worry whether the EPA’s wood stove regulations may be taking things a bit too far. Director of Public Affairs for the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association John Crouch showed some skepticism about the manner in which EPA laboratories were conducting testing. While Crouch agrees that steps need to be taken to improve fireplace emissions, he questions methodology of testing procedures.

“We’re not opposed to revision. We just want to make sure that this revision delivers some difference in people’s homes, and we’re not sure the data shows that.”

-John Crouch, Director of Public Affairs

A significant portion of particle pollution occurs because the majority of wood stoves are old and because consumers do not use wood that has been dried properly. This may cause a high pollution rate in regions where “No-Burn” alerts are issued on a regular basis. Further investigation into the sources of air pollution caused by heating devices may be necessary to pinpoint the problem.

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