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EPA releases proposed update to residential wood heater standards

By Anna Simet | January 03, 2014

The U.S. EPA has released its New Source Performance Standards proposal for new woodstoves and heaters, which go into effect in 2015.

EPA said the proposal, which marks the first time that the standards have been updated since 1988, will make the next generation of stoves and heaters an estimated 80 percent cleaner than those manufactured today, affecting certain wood heaters manufactured beginning in 2015 and not affecting heaters and stoves already in use in homes or currently for sale today.

The agency’s proposal covers several types of new wood-fired heaters, including pellet stoves, which were not named in the previous standards, as well as wood stoves, fireplace inserts, indoor and outdoor wood boilers or hydronic heaters, forced air furnaces and masonry heaters.

Many residential wood heaters already meet the first set of proposed standards, according to EPA, which would be phased in over five years to allow manufacturers time to adapt emission control technologies to their particular model lines.  

John Ackerly, president of the Alliance for Green Heat, said the proposed rule has few surprises.  "Virtually all the key numbers were included in draft proposed rules shared with industry, states and non-profits during 2013," he said. "It does reflect the much stricter numbers that the EPA developed after states and air quality agencies intervened. Previously, the EPA was considering 2.5 gram per hour (g/h) to be the strictest level. But last year, the EPA floated a 1.3 g/h for all pellet and wood stoves and that is the number that was released today." 

 As expected. the EPA is proposing the wood and pellet stoves initially meet a 4.5 g/h standard, and then meet a much stricter standard of 1.3 g/h five years after promulgation, Ackerly said. "Alternatively, the EPA proposes a three-step process of going to 2.5 g/h after three years and then 1.3 g/h after eight years."

 Similarly, EPA is proposing two options for furnaces and boilers, and Ackerly said the first would establish strict emission limits after five years, the second would have an intermediate step after three years, and then the stricter standard after eight years. "Initially, warm air furnaces would only be held to 0.93 lb/MMBtu, whereas hydronic heaters would be held to .32.  Ultimately, both would need to reach 0.06 lb/MMBtu either five or eight years after promulgation."

Acklery pointed out that both efficiency and CO would have to be recorded and reported, but no minimum standards are set for either, and that 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. "

Ackerly said the AFGH thinks the proposed rule is reasonable and achievable, and will help move the sector forward. "It will be a challenge and require a lot of innovation, but that will help our industry stay competitive with Europe, instead of falling behind, as we have been," he said.

EPA will take comment on the proposal for 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold a public hearing Feb. 26 in Boston, and expects to issue a final rule in 2015.

The 355-page document can be viewed here