Posts by date

Utah bill HB 396: A Hastily Crafted Bill that Misses the Mark

Posted by Earth Stove on June 29, 2015 with No Commentsas , , , , ,
Winter inversions, caused mainly by cars
and trucks, often obscure the Utah legislature
in a cloud of pollution that can last days.

A bill was just introduced in the Utah House of Representatives that would mandate certain types of change out programs, set air quality levels that can be used to call no burn days and otherwise undermine the ability of the state to help move toward cleaner burning and cleaner air.

(March 4 update: The bill passed 9-4 in the House committtee. April 1 update: Governor Herbert signed the bill.)

The key to reducing wood smoke in Utah’s populated and often polluted valley surrounding Salt Lake City is a genuine partnership between the states air quality division, industry and other non-profits and stakeholders.  Ultimately, solutions are going to require funding, especially if a change out program is involved, which can be expensive.  For any significant amount of money to be used for change outs, the Utah governor and air quality division should support the change out, not have HB 396 thrust upon them, which will tie their hands.

Utah Governor Herbert’s proposed seasonal ban was ill conceived and drawn up without sufficient consultation.  HB 396 was similarly drawn up without sufficient consultation and will not lead to genuine solutions that can get solid funding.

Like most others, the Alliance did not support the seasonal ban proposed by the Governor, but HB 396 is not the solution.  HB 396 was drafted by key stove industry members and reflects the interests of some stove retailers and manufacturers, but does not embrace many solutions which can benefit homeowners who heat with wood and pellets.

There are a variety of proven ways to reduce wood smoke while protecting the rights of families who heat with wood and pellets.  HB 396 only refers to several strategies and it ties the hands of the Division of Air Quality, without even providing funding for solutions.  Wood stove change out programs are one of the effective strategies, but HB 396 does not include many options and best practices that other jurisdictions use in change outs to support high efficiency wood and pellet heating while reducing emissions at the same time.
This hastily crafted bill needs to emphasize the interests of all Utahans, more than the just retailers and stove manufacturers who drafted the bill.  Lines 28 and 29 which require consultation with representatives of the solid fuel burning industry while not mentioning representatives of other concerned groups is unfortunate.  The solid fuel burning industry does not represent the consumers who use their products any more than any other industry group represents consumers of their products.  For instance, one of the most important reasons people heat with wood and pellets is to save money, particularly lower income families.  However, the solid fuel burning industry refuses to release the efficiencies of the stoves they sell.  Some pellet stoves are between 40 – 50% efficient and some are between 70 – 80% efficient, but industry has long stonewalled consumer interests to know which stoves are more efficient than others. 
Industry has also actively opposed change out and incentive programs which require the disclosure of efficiency or only make the cleanest stoves eligible for replacing older, uncertified stoves.  Such options and programs, however, benefit consumers and should be considered in any change out program.
Ultimately the solution in Utah, like in any jurisdiction, requires the active engagement of all stakeholders and the consideration of all solutions – and funding.   If industry, DAQ, and other stakeholders can agree on the parameters of a change out program, it will be far easier to secure funding each year and for that funding to have the most impact.  HB 396 will not achieve that and pits the solid fuel industry against the interests of many other key stakeholders.
For these reasons, we urge the Legislature to vote against HB 396.
Over the last 4 years, the Alliance for Green Heat has also advocated on behalf of families who heat with wood and pellets with members of the Utah legislature, the Utah Division of Air Quality and the Utah Air Quality Board.  We provide expert background on wood heating technology, wood smoke emissions, and analysis.
On the current debate in Utah, we issued three short papers to help policymakers and the public better understand the importance of wood and pellet heating and options to improve air quality:
On February 24, we provided an informal briefing at the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) on options for reducing wood smoke that other jurisdictions are pursuing, none of which include a ban on stove use.  That powerpoint can be downloaded here

Heated Up!

What Consumers Need to Know about New EPA Wood Stove Rules

Posted by Earth Stove on June 26, 2015 with No Commentsas , , , , , ,
Updated: May 31, 2015

In the long lead-up to the EPA’s new rules on wood and pellet stoves and boilers, there have been many claims, predictions and fears.  Here is a summary of the key points in the rule that will impact you, the consumer.


The rule becomes law on Friday, May 15, 2015 but don’t expect to see many, if any, changes in your local hearth store until Jan. 1, 2016.   Scroll to the bottom to see a timeline of implementation. This rule is an NSPS – a New Source Performance Standard  – established by the EPA with input from industry, states and other stakeholders.

Wood stoves: Consumers will barely notice any change until 2020.  As of 2016, stoves must not emit more than 4.5 grams an hour of particulates and after May 15, 2020, 2 grams an hour.  The biggest near term change is that the really cheap, uncertified stoves will no longer be on the market after Jan. 1, 2016.  (These stoves, often made in China, sold for $ 300 – $ 600.)

Pellet stoves: Consumers will not notice much change here either.  As of Jan. 1, 2016 all pellet stoves will have to be certified by the EPA.  Some models are also likely to get more efficient.  In 2020, pellet stoves also have to emit no more than 2 grams an hour.  Most pellet stoves already meet the 2020 standard.


Prices: There should be no short term price rises, but in the longer term some manufacturers say their stove prices may go up $ 300 – $ 400 in 2020.  Others say their prices won’t rise at all.

Retail “sell-through” period: Retailers have until Dec. 31, 2015 to sell existing stock.  Many retailers don’t carry anything that can’t be sold under the new rules anyway. Beware of sales this summer and fall that are trying to unload inefficient stoves and boilers before its unlawful to sell them.

Existing and second hand stoves: Existing stoves are not impacted by these rules, nor is the vibrant second hand market for wood stoves. States can regulate existing and uncertified stoves and Washington and Oregon do not allow anyone to install an uncertified stove off the second hand market.  All states allow consumers to purchase and install second hand certified stoves. (How to buy a second-hand EPA certified stove.)

Corn, coal and multi-fuel stoves: Corn and coal stoves are not covered by EPA rules and can continue to be sold without any government emission regulation, so long as they don’t advertise that they can also use wood or pellets. To advertise a multi-fuel stove that can use pellets and corn, the stove has to be certified for pellets and also tested with corn.  There is no threshold for emission with corn, but stove has to also be tested with corn and that data must be submitted to the EPA.  (More on corn stoves.)

Misleading advertising: Most manufacturers have posted unverified and exaggerated efficiency claims on their brochures and websites.  The new rules specify how stove efficiency is to be tested and reported, and companies may start posting verified efficiencies by May 15, 2015. It is unknown if the EPA will crack down on the rampant exaggerated and misleading efficiency claims.  Blaze King and Seraph are only companies that provide verified, accurate efficiency numbers of all their stoves to consumers and the EPA.  Beware of any stove that advertises over 83% efficiency.  

Efficiency: There is no minimum efficiency standard, but the new rule requires efficiency testing and reporting.  To date, most companies have treated verified efficiency as confidential records. Some companies are beginning to voluntarily disclose a few efficiency numbers.

New hangtags: The EPA is getting rid of the old hang tags that consumers were accustomed to on the showroom floor.  Instead, they are issuing special, voluntary hang tags only for those stoves and boilers that already meet the stricter Step 2 standards (2 grams and hour) or that have been designed and tested with cord wood. This will help consumers more easily identify the cleaner stoves and those that are designed to be used with cordwood – the same type of fuel that consumers use.  (Currently, all stoves are tested with 2x4s and 4x4s, which burn very differently than cord wood.)

Carbon monoxide (CO): The new rules do not limit the amount of CO that can be emitted but require that it be tested and reported. As with efficiency, it is still unclear if CO levels from existing stoves will be available before 2020.

Stoves tested with cordwood: The rules set up an alternative, voluntary compliance option for Step 2 emission levels of 2.5 grams an hour for stoves tested with cord wood.  This recognizes leaders in the industry who are optimizing their stoves for using cord wood and encourages other manufacturers to follow their example.

Pellet fuel: All new pellet stoves must be tested and warrantied to use with pellets that are certified by a third party entity – either the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI), ENplus or CANplus. Consumers will see more and more pellets certified by one of those entities, which means they meet certain quality and consistency standards.



Export stoves: US manufacturers can continue to make and sell their existing stoves that do not meet the new EPA standards in other countries.  Uncertified stoves with no emission controls or testing can be sold in most of the world.  US stove companies are also increasingly exporting to countries that have emission standards, like Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. These stoves have to be labeled as an “export stove. May not be sold or operated within the United States.” 

Masonry Heaters: The EPA did not set emission standards for masonry heaters in this rule, but asked the Masonry Heater Association to further develop a testing standard so that they could be included in the next NSPS, which should be in 2023.

Fireplaces: The new rules do not apply to fireplaces, but there is a voluntary method for cleaner fireplaces to be tested and qualified by the EPA.  This rule does not even refer to the voluntary program, which may mean there is little interest in including fireplaces in the next NSPS.

Owners manuals: Owners manuals will be updated as of May 15, 2015.  Updated manuals will have more detail and must instruct operators how to get optimal performance from the stove or boiler.

Litigation: The deadline to file suit over this rule was May 15, 2015.  The main stove and boiler industry association, the HPBA, has indicated it will be filing suit, probably over the 2020 emission standards.  Air quality groups are joining that suit to defend it from being weakened or delayed. PFI is suing over the authority of the EPA to regulate pellet fuel.  Tulikivi is suing because they want masonry heaters to be a regulated technology.  Several other companies are also challenging the EPA in court.

Role of states: Several states have passed resolutions barring state agencies from enforcing this NSPS but the rule clearly states that it does “not impose any requirements on state and local governments.”   To date, Missouri, Michigan and Virginia have passed laws barring state enforcement, largely a symbolic gesture. A number of other states will be helping to implement and enforce the NSPS to achieve cleaner air in their states and protect consumers.

Boilers & Furnaces

Boilers: Like stoves, boilers must meet Step 1 emission limits by May 15.  Retailers can still sell older, uncertified and unqualified boilers through Dec. 31, 2015.  In 2020, they must meet stricter emission limits.  Due to a schism between domestic boiler manufacturers and those importing more advanced European technology, most test labs are not willing to test use one of EPA approved boiler test methods.  There in still uncertainty about how one boiler test method, EN3030-5, is treated under the new rule.  


Warm air furnaces: Furnaces that heat air, instead of water, got a reprieve from the EPA after intensive advocacy by industry and pressure from Congress.  Small ones have to meet Step 1 emission standards by May 15, 2016 and large ones not until May 15, 2017.

Loophole for unregulated outdoor boilers: Manufacturers of unregulated outdoor wood boilers can continue to make and sell these units for “commercial” applications.  However, one outdoor boiler company has already indicated that as long as the customer assures the dealer that the unit will be used for commercial purposes, its up to the consumer to use it as they please.

Boiler and furnace prices: Unlike stoves, options for consumers will change more, since the boiler furnace industry had not been regulated and many low-cost, low-efficiency units were on the market.  Prices – and efficiencies- are likely to rise significantly but operating costs will be significantly lower.

Moisture meters: Conventional uncertified forced air furnaces and then certified ones must come with a free moisture meter.  (Some advocates had urged all stoves to come with moisture meters.)

Comments? If you think we have omitted important information in the NSPS for consumers, please let us know at  info@forgreenheat.org.

Heated Up!

Technology Design Challenge to Promote Top Performing Pellet Stoves

Posted by Earth Stove on June 24, 2015 with No Commentsas , , , , , ,
A yearlong project to test and assess pellet stoves is entering its first phase this summer.  This first phase focuses on the most popular pellet stoves in North America and aims to help consumers identify the most efficient stoves and how best to operate them.
The initiative is being led by the Alliance for Green Heat with a wide group of partner organizations and stove experts.  Pellet stoves are increasingly popular in North America and Europe, are far cleaner than wood stoves and have enormous potential to replace fossil heating fuel. 
2013 Design Challenge
in Wash. DC

The second phase of the project will feature an international stove technology competition to spotlight innovative and high performing pellet stoves and prototypes.  The project will culminate in an international gathering at Brookhaven National Lab in New York, where pellet stoves will be tested and the top performers will receive awards.  The focus will not just be on low emissions and high efficiency in a test lab setting, but also in the hands of consumers.  The application to submit pellet stoves and stove prototypes for the competition will be available later this summer.  The competition and workshop is scheduled for the week of April 4, 2016.

Ben Myren, Tom Butcher and others
in a lab at Brookhaven at the 2014
Wood Stove Design Challenge

This pellet stove challenge marks the third Stove Design Challenge, and the second to take place at Brookhaven. Previous challenges, including the inaugural Wood Stove Design Challengeon the National Mall in 2013, focused on promoting technological innovations that would help ensure wood stoves burn cleaner in the hands of consumers.  All the Stove Design Challenges involve stakeholder engagement in testing and assessing stoves, the opportunity to see and understand how testing works, and workshops and roundtables that bring together industry, regulators, air quality groups, non-profits and the media.

Phase one: Testing of Popular Pellet Stoves
There are approximately one million pellet stoves in North America.  Unlike the wood stove market, which has many manufacturers, most pellet stoves are made by just a handful of companies.  The Alliance will independently test some of the most popular models made in North America and Europe for emissions and efficiency.  The first round of tests will follow EPA lab testing protocols, while the second round will approximate how some consumers might use the stoves to better understand the range in efficiency when stoves are burned clean as well as dirty.  We will also test the stoves for noise level and ease of cleaning and repair. We may also test heat output and efficiency differences using high and low quality pellets.
Prior to both rounds of testing, the Alliance will explain what test methods and procedures are to be   used and seek input from industry and other stakeholders.  Testing will begin in an EPA accredited test lab and then move to Brookhaven National Lab.  The project expects to produce some data about the variability and reproducibility of emissions and efficiency in pellet stove testing. 

Planning meeting for the 2013 Design
Challenge. Pictured (left to right) Ray
Albrecht, Rod Tinnemore, Mark Knaebe,
John Ackerly, Melissa Bollman, David Agrell,
Ellen Burkhard & Tom Butcher

To get better baseline data on some popular stoves, the Alliance for Green Heat submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the EPA asking for emission and efficiency data for each of the four tested burn rates.  The Alliance also asked for moisture and ash content of the pellets used in the certification tests. 

Funding for the ongoing Wood Stove Design Challenge initiative has been provided by the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), Osprey Foundation, the US Forest Service and the Alliance for Green Heat.

More information about this yearlong project will be posted on our website, blog, Facebook page and monthly newsletter.

Heated Up!

Air Quality Groups Intervene in EPA Lawsuit, join a growing list of litigants

Posted by Earth Stove on June 23, 2015 with No Commentsas , , , , , , ,

Updated: May 31, 2015 On April 15, three air quality groups filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit that a hearth industry group is bringing against the EPA over their new wood stove and boiler regulations.  These groups said that their interest lies in “defending the Final Rule against challenges brought by industry groups seeking […]

US to begin mandatory survey of wood pellet varieties, volumes and ingredients

Posted by Earth Stove on June 17, 2015 with No Commentsas , , , , , , ,

Rosalie Bianco founded Boulder-based New Earth Pellets using bark beetle-damaged trees to make the pellets.  Her company, like others, will  have to start filling out this survey in 2016.  The US government is poised to begin a monthly survey of pellet producers, much like it conducts similar surveys for coal, oil, gas, and other renewable […]

US to begin necessary study of wooden pellet types, volumes and substances

Posted by Earth Stove on June 14, 2015 with No Commentsas , , , , , , ,

Rosalie Bianco established Boulder-based mostly New Earth Pellets employing bark beetle-broken trees to make the pellets. &nbspHer organization, like other individuals, will &nbsphave to begin filling out this survey in 2016.&nbsp The US authorities is poised to get started a regular monthly survey of pellet producers, considerably like it conducts similar surveys for coal, oil, […]

Fireside business lists grounds for lawsuit in opposition to EPA

Posted by Earth Stove on June 12, 2015 with No Commentsas , , , , ,

David Chung is adirect attorney for HPBA The US Courtroom of Appeals has consolidated at the very least 3 of the lawsuits in opposition to the EPA’s wooden heater rules collectively into a single lawsuit.&nbsp The Courtroom requested these a few parties, the Fireplace, Patio &amp Barbecue Association (HPBA), the Pellet Fuels Institute and Tulikivi, […]