Vacuum left after one of nation’s top stove regulators and experts retires

When Rod Tinnemore was invited to speak about wood stoves, he didn’t sound like a regulator.  He spoke his mind, he made people laugh and he was never at a loss for words.  Rod was in charge of wood heater regulations in Washington State, the state with the toughest regulations in the country.  By the time he retired in April 2017, he left behind a far-flung community of stakeholders who admired him – or at least respected his judgment.

Rod Tinnemore became an Environmental Planner at the Department of Ecology in 2008, years after the state was pummeled by industry for the audacious move of requiring all heaters to meet a standard of 4.5 grams of particulate per hour.   Rod became the guy who enforced that decision, and it was one he was happy to enforce, because he felt stoves could and should be required to burn cleaner than the federal standard of 7.5 grams an hour.

Washington State also required that all stoves sold and installed in the state be EPA certified.  To enforce this, Rod regularly emailed residents residents trying to sell old, uncertified stoves on Craigslist.  “Most people didn’t know the regulations and were happy to discard the stove instead, but some just sold it another way.  Periodically, we found big box stores selling new, uncertified stoves and had to send them overnight certified letters as well,” Rod recalled.

Rod’s retirement leaves a vacuum among the regulator community, as there are very few non-federal stove regulators who have the depth of experience and expertise that Rod had.  He influenced policies in change out programs in Washington State and beyond and was one of the most influential state regulators in the EPA’s process to develop the New Source Performance Standards (NSPSP).

“Rod was able to build bridges between different factions and he was a diplomat – but he also knew when to take a stand,” said Lisa Rector, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Northeast States for Coordinated Air use Management (NESCAUM).

Many key figures in the wood stove industry thought highly of Rod, in part because he was accessible, responsive and practical.  “Rod had a healthy appetite for knowledge and was a great listener with no preconceived bias.  He was always asking great questions so as expand his knowledge base,” said Chris Neufeld, a vice president at Blaze King and Co-chair of the solid fuel section of the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA).

Some in industry butted heads with Rod because Washington State regulations prevented almost all outdoor and indoor wood boilers from being sold and installed in Washington.  But even companies representing those appliances often said that they he dealt with them fairly.

At least once, in 2013 when HPBA did not like an initiative Rod was spearheading, they had a lobbyist go to the legislature to send a message that Rod’s department’s funding could be in jeopardy if he pursued the initiative.  Rod ultimately had to back off, ending his exploratory work to start a consumer green label for wood stoves.

Rod was also considered one of the insiders of a small group of regulators in the United States who really knew what he was talking about.   Rachel Sakata, who did similar work for the State of Oregon as an Air Quality Planner, said that she continually relied on Rod’s expertise.  “Rod also was a champion for pushing for cleaner devices and thanks in part to him, we now have stricter regulations for wood heating devices that help protect the public,” said Ms. Sakata.  “And he continued to push for developing testing protocols that mimic real world conditions,” she said.

The Alliance for Green Heat also worked closely with Rod, recruiting him to serve as a convener and a judge for our Wood Stove Design Challenge events in 2013 and 2014.  He also served on a committee that we pulled together to integrate stoves into energy audits, leading to BPI adopting them in 2015.  The Alliance was also one of the stakeholders urging Rod to develop a consumer green label for stoves.

After Rod left office, the Alliance for Green Heat interviewed him, in between various trips and activities, for this blog.

Q. What do you consider one of your successes?
A. Working on and helping to fund a new cordwood test protocol that someday could become a Federal Reference Method (pdf) or possibly a state sanctioned cordwood protocol. We focused on testing various tree species to see which ones produced more PM, but most importantly we tried to get a protocol that resembled how homeowners start and use their stoves – which Method 28 did not. This initiative is now being managed by NESCAUM using Mark Champion’s lab in Vermont and I am very pleased with how it’s progressing.

Q. What was something that you did not succeed at?
A. Not being able to continue working on a consumer green label for wood stoves. This country needed a label to recognize high performing stoves and we still don’t have one that is robust and well recognized.

Q. Who were your closest colleagues?
A. Decades ago, West Coast regulators led the efforts to reduce wood smoke, but more recently, its shifted to the East Coast. California is very progressive but not influential on wood smoke issues because it is so fragmented into so many air districts. Other than Oregon, it was more fruitful for me to work with NESCAUM, NYSERDA, Brookhaven National Lab and the Wood Stove Design Challenge events.

Q. What was the best advice your boss ever gave you?
A. He told me early on that my job could be whatever I made of it.

Q. What was best guidance from your department?
A. The Department of Ecology had a policy of returning phone calls within 24 hours and emails within 48 hours. I thought that was good policy and I tried to live up to it every day.

Heated Up!

Experts Gather in Seattle to Design Cleaner Wood Stoves

By John Ackerly
President, Alliance for Green Heat
In January I attended an amazing conference where about 60 people came together to share ideas on building cleaner, more efficient stoves.  But the conference wasn’t just about stove design; it was also about how to incentivize them, how to monitor their use, and how to deploy the clean ones more widely. 

Conference organizers

Speakers gave several presentations showing diagrams of optimal use of primary and secondary air.  Most of the discussion was about the two streams of secondary air and exactly where and when to get them into combustion chamber.  On one model, tests showed that it was critical to get the secondary air lower in the combustion chamber when the stove was operating on low so a separate channel carried it another inch down the stove wall.  And, it was found that if this air was not preheated, the stove operated just as well – often better – than if it was preheated.  One reason is that the air created more turbulence if it sank, rather than rising quickly along with the combustion gases.
Another major topic discussed was how to get people to give up their old polluting stoves and invest in new, efficient ones.  Some research showed that even when families understood how much wood they would save with a new stove, they were still very resistant to giving up their old one.  And, if they did buy a new one, the old one was not always discarded, but used in another place. 
One of the most fascinating subjects concerned the use of wireless sensors that could remotely monitor the temperature of the stove so researchers could learn more about the operating habits of the owner.  PM sensors could also show how the operating habits of owners impacted indoor air quality and measure the improvement compared to the old, more polluting stove.
Outside the classroom, we lit the stoves to see how fast they would be free of visible smoke.  The following day we tested the stoves with a dilution tunnel, not for any certification, but just to learn how testing was done, and to see how design changes impacted efficiency, CO, and PM emissions.  Engineers freely shared their innovations with others, and with the government officials from the EPA and European agencies, who also attended.
What distinguished this wood stove gathering from others I was familiar with is that the engineers and experts were all sharing their work and designs without first patenting their ideas.  It wasn’t about selling anything, but about a community working together, including to help existing and potential manufacturers build cleaner stoves. 
Unfortunately for some of us, the conference was about international cook stoves, not domestic heat stoves.  It made me painfully aware of how vibrant that community is in terms of sharing ideas and designs, and attracting so many different universities and small entrepreneurs.  It was organized by a non-profit called ETHOS: “Engineers in Technical and Humanitarian Opportunities of Service”.  The organization’s mandate is to facilitate research and development of appropriate technology by forming collaborative partnerships between universities, research laboratories, engineers, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
As I sat in the sessions, which were fascinating, I kept wondering why such a collaborative and urgent campaign had developed around international cook stoves and not domestic heating stoves.  Part of the reason must be that the leadership and culture in humanitarian groups, which are publicly funded, compared to the private sector where companies are vying for market share.  Several of the groups and companies had DOE funding for R & D.
One of main leaders of that group is Dean Still, Executive Director of the Oregon based Aprovecho Research Center, a world leader in open source stove technology development.  Dean is a charismatic figure with seemingly boundless energy, the kind of person whom people rally around.  He oversees a biomass stove research laboratory that conducts emission equipment manufacturing, and is the author or co-author of six books and dozens of technical reports and articles on clean stoves.

Dean Still with Prince Charles

There has been some collaboration between Aprovecho and the domestic heat stove community over the years.  Dr. Larry Winiarski, a long-time Aprovecho figure, invented the rocket stove ( and Aprovecho has worked on numerous rocket mass heating stove projects in China, Tibet, Nepal, the Andes, etc.  Omni Test labs, an EPA accredited wood stove test lab, helped Aprovecho set up their dilution tunnel and emission testing system for cook stoves. 
After the conference, which was in Seattle, I drove down to Portland to visit Omni and Dirigo Test labs and discuss how the new EPA wood stove regulations would impact test labs.  Then I kept driving south to Cottage Grove, Oregon where Aprovecho is based.  I spent a few days with Dean Still and his dedicated team of engineers and test lab technicians (14 staff in all).  Every summer they run a “stove camp,” which I had read about in the feature story, “Hearth Surgery,” in the New Yorker Magazine.
Stove camp is a hands-on workshop where participants try to tweak stove designs and test them to see if they can improve efficiency and emissions.  Dean and I got to talking about doing a Heat Stove Camp this summer, where up to 50 participants would bring innovative wood stoves to tweak and test.  Normally at stove camp, applicants are selected based on their background and pay a minimal fee.  Each morning, everyone reviews the test results, which are data logged from the previous day’s tests, and discusses what design elements work best.  In the afternoon, participants can alter designs in the fully equipped metal shop, and then test them again. 

Dean and others think that their extended community can come up with designs that meet the 1.3 gram per hour mark without using a catalyst.  They have extensive experience using combustion fans in stoves, which some think is one of the keys to ultra low emissions.  One model that Aprovecho uses is to collectively design and test a stove, and then have a non-profit patent it so it can be open sourced, allowing anyone to build from it.  If this could be done for a stove that hits the 1.3 grams that the EPA is proposing all stoves meet in coming years, it would be a natural extension of the Wood Stove Decathlon, and help lift all boats.

Heated Up!