Posted by Earth Stove on June 18, 2017 with No Comments
By John Ackerly & Melissa Bollman
Alliance for Green Heat
This paper was prepared for the Warsaw Stove Summit which brought AGH and scores of experts in coal and wood heating from 19 countries to Poland in May 2017.
The US Census Bureau estimates that approximately 127,000 households used coal as a primary heating fuel in 2015, or about 0.1% of American homes. Residential coal heating dropped rapidly until 2000 and since then has been relatively stable.
More than half of homes using coal heat are concentrated in Pennsylvania and New York, right where it is mined. It appears to be based on cultural traditions and local support for local jobs because its still a very inexpensive way to heat and easy to transport. Most of the United States has no restrictions on coal heating and there have been few attempts to restrict it. Rather, it seems to have gradually died out except in pockets of states where anthracite is mined. Bituminous and sub-bituminous coal is much more widely dispersed but it is used far less than anthracite.
Coal stoves, particularly those fueled with anthracite coal that principally comes form Pennsylvania, typically have less particular matter than wood or possibly even pellet stoves. However, their health impacts may be far worse, as coal often emits high levels of SO2 and oxides from nitrogen. In addition, coal often has poisonous toxins such as flourine, arsenic, selenium, mercury and lead. For more on health impacts of coal and wood heating in the US and Europe, we excerpted key parts of a World Health Organization report here.
Who heats with coal and why?
Homes that heat with coal tend to be concentrated near anthracite coal mines and in homes with lower or mid level incomes. In the wealthier and more urban counties of Pennsylvania that are within 100 miles of anthracite mines, virtually no households heat with coal. High use of coal heat does not correlate with high use of wood heat. Both coal and wood are favored by rural, lower-income populations but coal appears to be favored near anthracite mines, and wood is favored in nearby, rural counties, according to data from the US census. The highest percentage of homes heating with coal at the county level is about 13%.
A prominent 2008 New York Times article reported that residential coal heating was on the rise, but rise was modest, and petered out a few years later. That rise corresponded with a major recession from 2007 – 2009 during which rates of wood heat soared far higher than coal. The New York Times also reported that an additional 80,000 homes use coal as a secondary heat source and the US Census reported 104,000 used it as a secondary heat source in 2005. Only 4,000 homes use it to cook with and 22,000 used it to heat domestic hot water in 2005, according to the US Census.
In 2015, the top five states for residential coal heating were Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. Over 50% of US homes that heat primarily with coal are located in Pennsylvania, where anthracite coal is mined.
The primary benefits of heating with coal, compared to wood, is 1. it burns for longer periods of time, so less reloading is needed and a home can easily stay warm overnight; 2. Like pellets, it can be delivered in bags on pallets by a forklift, and does not need the time consuming splitting, stacking and seasoning that cordwood needs; 3. It is even more inexpensive per BTU (assuming you don’t cut the wood yourself); and 4. It is a very dense fuel, and takes up half the space that the same amount of wood takes, per BTU.
The downside of heating with coal is 1. The odor, which most people find moderately unpleasant; 2. The black dust which is harder to clean than dirt and wood pieces from cordwood; and 3. Its hard to light, requiring most people to start the fire with wood, before switching to coal.
While the above pros and cons are widely agreed upon, other less tangible factors play a role. Coal has increasingly gained a stigma as a dirty, non-renewable fuel, whereas wood is regarded as far more environmentally friendly (even though particulate matter from wood can be equally high). On the other hand, the dwindling economic prospects of coal towns and counties tends to make those populations want to support the fuel to combat what they often see as an unfair bias against coal.
Coal and coal stoves
Coal stoves are either stokers or batch. Stokers automatically feed coal pellets (much like pellet stoves) into the stove, require electricity and only use anthracite. Batch stoves are loaded by hand and can take anthracite or bituminous.
Most coal used for heating in the US is anthracite but anecdotal estimates by experts say that no more than 25% is bituminous, primarily in areas where its abundant.
The EIA stopped collecting data on residential coal consumption in 2008. In 2007, the EIA reported that US residents consumed 353,000 short tons (320,171 metric tons) of coal, which represented only 0.03% of the nation’s annual coal use (1.1 billion short tons or around 1 billion metric tons). The overwhelming majority of course (93%) of US coal is used to generate electricity.
Usually coal is sold in 40 or 50 pound bags or by the ton. Coal may be sold directly to consumers from the mine, a fuel supplier, or a hardware store. Blaschak is one of the largest suppliers of bagged anthracite coal and sold 374,000 tons in 2014. Forty pound bags of anthracite coal (any size) from Pennsylvania usually run $ 6-$ 8. A ton of anthracite typically costs between $ 190 and $ 210 per ton, before delivery charges (which can increase price to $ 250-$ 300). One fuel seller, Central Maine Coal, sells about 200 short tons (181 metric tons) of residential coal per heating season.
Bituminous coal is usually considered a better coal for blacksmithing than heating, but can be burned in some coal stoves and is often only $ 80-$ 100 per ton.
Institutional heating with coal is somewhat relevant to residential coal heating and data indicates that institutional coal heating is declining much more rapidly that residential heating.
According to the EIA, US educational institutions consumed 700,000 short tons (634,900 metric tons) of coal in 2015, down from 2 million short tons (1.8 metric tons) in 2008. Twenty of the 57 US educational institutions that used coal in 2008 reported not using it 2015 due to sustainability initiatives. It is likely that most of the coal consumed at educational institutions is used to generate heat. Most US schools no longer heat with coal. Recent (2015-2016) news articles report that only five public schools heat with coal in West Virginia and four schools heat with coal in Cumberland, Maryland. One of the Maryland schools uses 517 tons of coal annually at a cost of $ 120 per ton.
Coal stove companies
Most coal stoves are made in Pennsylvania except for one big producer, Hitzer stoves located in eastern Indiana. Sales of coal stoves are reported to average 4,000 to 7,000 a year, but in 2008 they may have topped 10,000. In comparison, about 140,000 wood stoves are sold each year. There are about a dozen companies making coal stoves and one notable trend is that the larger wood stove companies are getting out of the coal stove business. Vermont Castings, Harman and Moreso used to sell coal stoves and now don’t. The one company that still focuses on both fuels is US Stove Company, based in Tennessee. Coal stoves cost about the same as wood stoves and range between $ 2,000 – $ 3,500.
Coal stoves remain exempt from EPA emission regulations. Coal stoves have never had a certification program at the EPA or at any state level, although the federal government and some states have indicated an interest in developing emission regulations. Regulation would likely drive up the cost of coal stoves and may reduce sales of coal stoves but other strategies may reduce their use faster and more economically. But without emission regulations, there is little data on coal stove emissions from various types of coal stoves, and there is little incentive for stove companies to try to produce cleaner stoves. Tests conducted in the 1980s suggested that wood stoves emitted higher levels of particulate matter than anthracite stoves, but lower levels than bituminous stoves (Houck, 2009). Of course, wood emits fewer other toxic chemicals than coal.
One significant policy change in 2015 was the ban on advertising dual coal/wood use in stoves unless the stove was certified with wood, and the company also tested for coal emissions and provided that data to the EPA. To our knowledge, no company has done this so no stove should advertise the ability to burn wood and coal any more.
The EPA is currently funding research on coal emissions and has developed an unofficial, draft test method at Robert Ferguson’s lab. However, this is being undertaken only because of an EPA program to change out coal stoves on the Navajo Indian reservation, not because it has any apparent mandate or serious plan to start regulating coal stoves.
It is unlikely under the Trump administration that any certification program would be initiated by the EPA, and the only state with enough coal stoves to justify the effort would be Pennsylvania, which is unlikely to do so.
Restrictions of the use of coal stoves
Unlike the United Kingdom, there has never been any national effort in the US to reduce reliance on coal stoves. Krakow, a major Polish city is banning coal stoves in 2019, after a multi-year effort to provide subsidies for alternative heating sources.
Two states – Washington and Oregon – effectively ban them because they only allow stoves that meet specific emission requirements, but those states would have very little coal heating anyway.
Many air districts that have poor air quality and high particulate matter levels employ temporary burn bans apply to coal stoves and well as wood stoves. A few jurisdictions, such as Fairbanks, Alaska, offer homeowners financial incentives to recycle their solid fuel burning appliance (including coal stoves) or replace it with a less polluting appliance (coal stoves are not eligible). However, most change out programs only remove old wood stoves and do not allow coal stoves to be replaced with wood stoves. A Pennsylvania county offered $ 200 to trade in old wood or coal stoves, but that program has been suspended.
Oregon is the only state where it is illegal to sell a coal stove, or any other uncertified solid fuel burning appliance. Oregon also requires uncertified solid fuel burning appliances, including coal stoves, to be removed and destroyed when a home is sold. According to the latest (2015) Census data, only 143 homes rely on coal for primary heat in Oregon.
At the local level, there may be a number of cities or counties that do not allow coal stoves, but the only one we could find is Summit County, Colorado that forbids the installation of a coal stove (uncertified solid fuel burning device) in a new home or as a replacement unit for an existing non-certified stove.
Dr. James Houck, “Let’s Not Forget Coal,” Hearth & Home Magazine, December 2009, pp.
World Health Organization, “Residential heating with wood and coal: Health impacts and policy options in Europe and North America,” 2015.
Tom Zeller, “Burning Coal at Home Is Making a Comeback,” New York Times, Dec. 26, 2008
This site contains excerpts from a very crucial and readable report released by the Planet Health Organization (WHO) in 2015.  It is mainly from a wellness and policy perspective and is extremely useful for North American as it provides more of a European point of view and is balanced in its technique. The complete 58-page report can be downloaded listed here.
The report is notably interesting as it hits on a lot of themes that were considered or provided in the 2015 EPA wood heater laws, some of which will be litigated in 2017. It addresses greatest available technologies, indoor air quality, effectiveness specifications, stove changeout programs, black carbon, carbon neutrality, HEPA filters and a lot of other troubles. One of the overarching conclusions is that nationwide policy ought to strongly favor pellet above cord wooden appliances, a changeover that has already happened in elements of Europe, but not in the US.
Authors consist of authorities from the US, Austria, Canada, Finland and Germany.  This publication was prepared by the Joint WHO/United Nations Financial Fee for Europe (UNECE).
The report describes the overall health consequences of and coverage possibilities for working with household heating with wooden and coal in Europe and the United States. The benefits introduced indicate that it will be tough to deal with difficulties with outside air pollution in numerous parts of the globe with out addressing this resource sector. National, regional and nearby administrations, politicians and the community at huge need to have a far better knowing of the position of wood biomass heating as a main resource of harmful outdoor air pollutants (specifically good particles). This report is meant to aid boost these kinds of an comprehending.
Actions are offered to minimize emissions of solid fuels for household heating in most locations. Encouraging gas switching (away from coal and other strong fuels) and use of far more effective heating systems (this kind of as qualified fireplaces or pellet stoves) can lessen the emissions from residential wooden and coal heating gadgets. Educational strategies might also be beneficial equipment to decrease emissions from residential reliable gasoline heaters.
In addition, filters may possibly reduce well being results from indoor air pollution. Present regulatory measures include ecodesign regulations and labels in the European Union (EU) and technological innovation based emission boundaries in the United States of The united states and Canada. Fiscal gas switching and technological innovation changeout incentives – as well as specific “no burn” times and ecolabelling – are other equipment accessible to plan-makers.
p. two. Household heating with wood is a sector in which PM2.5 and BC emissions can potentially be decreased with higher cost– efficiency than several other emission reduction possibilities. Even so, in Europe and North The usa only a handful of nations or states have established legal boundaries for minimal combustion effectiveness or greatest emissions of PM and damaging gaseous compounds like CO and gaseous natural compounds (see part six).
p. eight. In the United states fifty five% of properties employed coal/coke for room heating in 1940, but this fell to 12% in 1960, beneath five% in the early seventies and below one% from the early nineteen eighties (Schipper et al., 1985 United States Census Bureau, 2011).
A single review estimates that reductions in the use of bituminous coal for heating in the United states of america from 1945–1960 reduced winter all-age mortality by one% and wintertime infant mortality by 3%, preserving virtually 2000 life for each wintertime month, including 310 toddler lives (Barreca et al., 2014).
Primarily based on this and proof that indoor emissions from family combustion of coal are carcinogenic to human beings, the latest WHO indoor air top quality tips strongly advise in opposition to the household use of unprocessed or uncooked coal, such as for heating (WHO, 2014a).
Infiltration of smoke into homes
p. 10. A home with wood-burning appliances is likely to be surrounded by other homes with wood-burning appliances, and wooden burning also tends to combination temporally as a result, on cold evenings and evenings most residences in the region may possibly be burning wood.
Presented that most wooden burning occurs in cold places exactly where homes are properly insulated, properties are predicted to have lower infiltration (which means that comparatively modest quantities of out of doors air pollution, such as wooden-burning smoke, enter the property and contribute to indoor air pollution), specially in the course of the heating year.
In North The usa heating-time outside temperature is an critical determinant of infiltration, and infiltration ranges are usually lower in the heating than the non-heating time, when doorways and windows are probably to be open a lot more (Allen et al., 2012). In British Columbia the mean infiltration portion of PM2.5 in winter was located to be .28, when compared to .61 in summer, although infiltration factors for person properties in winter season ranged from .1–0.6 (Barn et al., 2008) yet another research reported in the same way reduced mean infiltration stages of .32 Å}.17 throughout the winter season (Allen et al., 2009). Combustion of wood in residential areas and frequently beneath cold, calm meteorological circumstances can even so lead to substantial publicity compared to other air pollution sources, owing to the principle of ingestion fraction.
Modern wooden stoves and fireplaces, when operated according to the manufacturers’ directions, release some PM and gaseous pollutants directly into indoor air, although in most instances the proof for considerable indoor emissions from these modern day stoves is quite minimal. With poor procedure, very poor air flow or backdrafting, even so, elevated concentrations of combustion items (such as PM, CO, VOCs, NOx and aldehydes) may possibly consequence indoors. Acute CO poisoning, which can at times even be fatal, may possibly happen thanks to indoor wood burning and infiltration of filthy ambient air), specifically when air flow of the wood-burning appliance is not managed effectively.
p. 21. This sort of modify-out initiatives have likely constraints. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Surroundings (CCME) – the association of atmosphere ministers from the federal, provincial and territorial governments – evaluated twelve stove exchange and instructional initiatives carried out in Canada and concluded that exchange programmes could have limits relating to equally the expense of new technologies and the lengthy services existence of appliances when set up. The evaluation supported the use of regulation effectively to curb the sale of large-emission appliances. This method is utilised in a quantity of Canadian provinces and American states.
The Canadian National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Well being discovered that emissions standards (based mostly on greatest offered systems) are essential to ensure that the newer units put in by way of alter-out programmes are amid the cleanest offered in the marketplace. Without these requirements, alter-out programmes may, in truth, be dropped possibilities to set up the cleanest obtainable wooden-burning units, which will be in use for a long time to come.
The examine also located that removal of traditional noncertified appliances (through exchanges, time limits or prior to the sale or transfer of a house) was the most powerful approach provided in a model municipal by-law for mitigation of household wood smoke (Setting Canada, 2006) (see “Other rules and voluntary measures” in area 6). [Click for much more on stove alter out packages – editor.]
Although family or individual-amount methods are not typically element of air good quality administration programmes, two studies from Canada show that inhome HEPA filtration might lessen overall health impacts from wooden smoke. An first solitary-blind randomized crossover study of 21 homes during winter season, in an location afflicted by household wood combustion as properly as site visitors and industrial sources, reported a suggest 55% (normal deviation = 38%) reduction in indoor PM stages when HEPA filters were operated (Barn et al., 2008). Use of the HEPA filters reduced indoor PM2.5 and levoglucosan concentrations by 60% and seventy five%, respectively. [Click for much more on HEPA filters – editor.]
Regulatory Emission Limitations
p. 26. Over the past 10 years, the European Commission has worked in the direction of the possibility of regulating strong fuel local space heaters and boilers, especially individuals that use different types of woody biomass gas (wood logs, pellets and biomass bricks), to produce proposed ecodesign emissions restrictions.
According to the Commission proposals, implementation of ecodesign specifications would lead to significant reductions of PM2.5 emissions from solid gas regional place heaters and boilers compared to baseline projections. The draft regulation for sound fuel local room heaters2 states that in 2030 the proposed demands for individuals merchandise, combined with the influence of the energy labelling, are anticipated to conserve about forty one petajoules (.nine million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe)) per yr, corresponding to .four million tonnes of CO2. They are also envisioned to reduce
PM emissions by 27 kilotonnes per yr,
p. thirty. The Wood Stove Decathlon, an initiative of the Alliance for Environmentally friendly Heat, was structured in 2013 to emphasis creativeness and methods on planning subsequent generation wood stoves. The principal purpose was to problem groups of combustion engineers, engineering pupils, inventors and stove makers to construct wooden stoves that are low-emission, large-efficiency, revolutionary and inexpensive, in a common approach that may possibly position to commercially desirable up coming generation stove manufacturing (Alliance for Environmentally friendly Heat, 2013).
p. 31 Any renewable power or local weather modify relevant policies that assist combustion of wooden for residential heating want to take into account the local and global ambient air pollution impacts and quickly advertise the use of only the most affordable emission or ideal obtainable combustion technologies.
Lawful rules for wood combustion effectiveness in new heating appliances are urgently necessary during the globe. These will each sluggish down the present quick pace of worldwide warming (relating to BC in good particles and VOCs that market ozone formation) and minimize the great load of condition triggered by wood combustion-derived particles (especially organic compounds carried by BC). Such rules ought to incorporate tight – but technically achievable – boundaries in distinct for the main emissions of particulate mass, gaseous hydrocarbons and CO from new boilers and heaters.
p. 32. As new wood-burning units turn out to be far more vitality effective and emit less air pollution (specifically PM), nationwide governments require to prepare heater exchange regulations or voluntary programmes. Municipalities, counties and states need to take into account demanding heater exchanges at the time of residence remodels or product sales. In many instances, these laws will be most profitable if monetary compensation is provided to support with the cost of changing aged heaters with these assembly restricted strength effectiveness or emission boundaries regulations.
“No burn” regions are necessary. Particularly with recent combustion technologies, it is crucial to determine urban places with dense populations and/or geographical features (such as valleys amongst mountains) where household heating or cooking with tiny-scale appliances burning reliable fuels (wood and coal) is not permitted at all or is at the very least minimal to registered versions of reduced-emission wood combustion devices. Residential heating with coal in little-scale appliances must also be completely prohibited, at least in communities of developed international locations, as need to the use of wood log burners for central heating with out a sufficiently large water tank (which or else qualified prospects to poorly incomplete combustion and extremely huge emissions).
Co-rewards for health and local climate
As wood is burned … carbon is unveiled back to the ambiance, not only as CO2 but in most household combustion also in the kind of quick-lived greenhouse pollutants this sort of as BC, CO and VOCs like CH4. Thus, to be completely “carbon neutral”, wooden gas has to be not only harvested renewably but also combusted completely to CO2. For both local weather and wellness needs, the type these fuels’ carbon requires when it is introduced matters greatly, given that BC and CH4 are both strongly local weather-warming.
p. 34. A Planet Lender review located that changing recent wooden stoves and household boilers used for heating with pellet stoves and boilers and replacing chunk coal fuel with coal briquettes (mainly in jap Europe and China) could supply significant local climate positive aspects.
One more study coordinated by the United Nations Surroundings Programme and the Entire world Meteorological Group identified that prevalent dissemination of pellet stoves (in industrialized nations) could increase overall health, since these interventions lead to reductions in PM2.5.
If Arctic weather change turns into a emphasis of specific mitigation action (due to the fact of threats from climbing sea amounts, for case in point), popular dissemination of pellet stoves and coal briquettes may possibly warrant further thought simply because of their disproportional reward to mitigating warming from BC deposition in the Arctic (UNEP & WMO, 2011). The World Bank found that substitute of wood logs with pellets in European stoves could direct to a fifteen% better cooling in the Arctic (about .1 ÅãC). For Arctic nations the modeling strongly suggests that the most successful
BC reduction actions would target regional heating stoves for equally local weather and well being advantages (Pearson et al., 2013).
p. 35. Given that household wood combustion for heating will continue in a lot of areas of the planet simply because of financial concerns and availability of other fuels, an urgent want exists to build and encourage the use of the lowest emission or ideal accessible combustion systems.
It might be preferable in a lot of cases to target on making biomass-based residence heating much more successful and significantly less polluting rather than transitioning away from biomass to fossil fuels, presented the weather change implications of using fossil gas for heating.