Wood stove industry faces unified opposition to deregulation

A 2018 portrait of the Western
Governors Association who
oppose delays in the NSPS timeline.
Amid the scores of comments filed in response to the EPA’s proposal to weaken Obama-era wood stove and boiler regulations, not a single state came out in support of the Trump Administration’s proposals.  
Attorney Generals from eleven states (CT, IL, MA, MD, MN, NJ, OR, NY, RI, VT & WA) filed detailed comments and are likely prepared to sue if the EPA tries to weaken the existing regulations.  Even Alaska and the Western Governors Association is backing the Obama-era timeline. A more troubling sign for the wood stove and boiler industry is an energized, engaged and knowledgeable array of states, air agencies and non-profit organizations that have lined up to oppose virtually all the changes that the stove and boiler industry is seeking from the Administration.

“We are seeing a polarization of stakeholders who once used to make alliances and find common ground,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat, an independent non-profit that promotes cleaner and more efficient wood and pellet heating. “The Trump Administration efforts has energized states and unified them across a range of issues, from compliance deadlines, to test methods, to regulation of wood pellet composition, to warranties and audits for stoves,” Ackerly said.

Key excerpts of stakeholder comments which this analysis is based on can be found here for those who don’t want to download and read through hundreds of pages of comments.

John Ackerly, head of the Alliance
for Green Heat.  Photo courtesy of
Popular Mechanics magazine.
Trump Administration proposes a delay
The biggest issue on the table is whether the EPA will extend a deadline and allow retailers to sell dirtier wood boilers and furnaces – and possibly wood stoves – until 2022 instead of 2020. The EPA has indicated an interest to provide this relief to wood boiler and furnace manufacturers and retailers, but time is running is out and the agency has been moving slowly on this issue.  It’s also unclear if states would be able to get an injunction to prevent such a move while it was being litigated.  
Scores of comments submitted to the EPA depict an industry that has few friends standing up for it outside its own network of manufacturers and retailers.  Attorney generals from three states with Republican governors – Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont – sided with democratic-led states in opposing any delay in stricter emission standards taking effect.  
Among industry, there is widespread unity to allow retailers two more years to sell Step 1 boilers, furnaces – and stoves – that are set to go off the market in May 2020, although a handful of small manufacturers and importers support the existing timeline.  
While manufacturers argue forcefully that they need a two-year sell-through, they are also having to assure their retailers that they will have 2020 compliant products.  For example, in comments submitted to the EPA, Jotul says it faces dire economic consequences with $ 2.5 million in raw cast iron at stake if a 2-year sell-through is not granted.  But in an industry magazine read by retailers, Jotul says they are doing “very well” certifying their 2020 models and expect to release their new 2020 models later this year.  Based on the EPA’s list of certified wood stoves, it appears that Jotul is one of the manufacturers who is far behind schedule, as they do not yet have a single 2020 compliant stove on the list.  Industry sources have said that the list of EPA certified stoves far underestimates the preparedness of many manufacturers who may be waiting to submit test data for 2020 compliant stoves until they are closer to the required date.

Richard Corey, CEO of
California’s Air Resources

While northeast and northwest states have been the principal state actors, California is making a big investment in challenging the EPA’s deregulatory proposals.  They filed extensive comments to both the Proposed Rule Making (PRM) and the Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM).  They and many of other states challenge the legality of the EPA’s approach, setting the scene for what is likely to be a legal battle.  They argue:

“The [EPA’s] requests for information with respect to the emission limit for wood heaters do not request the right information, are biased and outcome seeking towards collecting evidence for weakened standards and miss the opportunity to collect the data necessary to perform an accurate and complete economic and regulatory impact analysis.  Asking “whether Step 2 is achievable at a reasonable cost” is not the correct framing of the question. The answer to this question seems predetermined, particularly for those who ostensibly have “been unable to design a wood heater to meet the Step 2 standard.”

Letita James, the Attorney
General of New York, is the
lead among eleven attorney
generals opposing a sell-
through and other changes.
Perhaps the most detailed argument for a two-year sell-through came from North East Distributors, one of the largest distributors of stoves made by many manufacturers.  They say that they “are in favor of manufacturers having to meet the May 15, 2020 deadline for stopping production of non-2020 compliant models” but against “holding distributors and retailers to the same May 15, 2020 deadline for sales of already manufactured products. Having the one date for all entities (manufacturers, distributors, and retailers) inhibits the results you are trying to accomplish.” 

A push to deregulate outdoor wood boilers

The main regulatory focus has been on a sell-through for outdoor wood boilers, also known as hydronic heaters, and inexpensive indoor wood furnaces.  Leaders of those companies have been testifying to Congress and lobbying the administration. 
For central heaters like boilers and furnaces, the main industry association, the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) is calling on the EPA to “repeal those standards altogether.”  Strengthening emission standards for wood boilers and furnaces was one of the largest goals of the 2015 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), and this call to deregulate that industry altogether represents a new front in the widening gulf between industry, states and air quality agencies.  
HPBA’s John Crouch, an
architect and mediator of
HPBA policies.
US Stove, the dominant manufacturer of indoor wood furnaces is also calling on the EPA to repeal emission standards for furnaces because the “economic feasibility of meeting the standards is impractical” and the emission levels are “preposterous and unrealistic.”  However, a far smaller competitor, Lamppa Manufacturing already has a furnace that meets the 2020 standards.
When it comes to outdoor wood boilers, fringe voices are not uncommon. There is a group of retailers and consumers supporting the “Hawken Proposal”, which calls for getting rid of federal emission standards for outdoor boilers altogether and letting states and municipalities voluntarily adopt standards.  The proposal is being led by Hawken Energy, a Missouri based company that believes the federal government should not interfere with how people heat their homes. 
In contrast, Central Boiler took a more moderate position and refrained from calling on the EPA to repeal Step 1 and/or Step 2 standards, instead asking the agency to “revisit the cost effectiveness and feasibility of the Step 2 emission limit.”
Lack of enforcement undermines certified boilers

Warren Walborn, CEO of Hawken
Energy with Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI).

An important concern among the outdoor wood boiler community is that the EPA has no enforcement capability to rein in the many manufacturers of unregulated outdoor boilers.  Yoder Outdoor Furnace, a HeatMaster retailer in Virginia said, “until [EPA] enforcement actually happens no manufacturer can afford to invest heavily in testing as these cheap illegal models will not allow them to recoup costs.”  That sentiment was echoed in many comments from industry, and it would seem to be an issue of concern to states and air quality agencies as well.  However, states and air quality agencies did not mention this problem in their comments.  
By opening the door to changes in the compliance timeline for stricter emission standards, the EPA may have built far more momentum for a new NSPS process in 2023.  The NSPS is supposed to be reviewed every eight years, and states and groups are likely to sue again to keep the EPA to that timeline.  Virtually all the states and air quality agencies engaged in fighting EPA’s proposed changes are now calling for far-reaching changes in the 2023 NSPS. If a democrat is in the White House in 2023, this momentum may result in even stricter emission limits and test method changes.  A group of eleven Attorney Generals said the 2020 emission standards are already “too lax.” If President Trump is re-elected, industry is likely to keep the upper hand and consolidate its goals, barring defeats in court.
Lisa Rector, a leader at
NESCAUM on wood
smoke reduction.

In addition to seeking input on granting a two-year sell-through for retailers for boilers and furnaces, and possible stoves, the EPA identified a half a dozen other issues for which it wanted feedback, from cordwood test methods to compliance testing.
The transition to cord wood testing

One area on which industry, states, air quality agencies and other groups all agree is the need to move toward testing and certification that more closely represents in-field operating conditions and performance.  This means testing and certifying stoves with cordwood, instead of crib wood (2x4s and 4x4s), capturing start-up emissions and potentially making even more structural changes to how stoves are tested.  The agreement may end there, however, as states and air quality agencies have now coalesced behind a test protocol being developed by Northeast States for Coordinated Airshed Management (NESCAUM) and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), called the Integrated Duty Cycle (IDC) method.  Industry is firmly behind the ASTM E3053 method that they developed through a consensus-based process from 2015 to 2018. 

VP Berger, one of Hearth &
Home Technologies senior
leaders on NSPS issues.
Neither side is proposing a rapid change to mandatory cord wood testing.  States and air quality agencies are looking to the next NSPS in 2023 to consolidate their positions and interests.  The State of Oregon, home to most of the test labs and the very first certification testing in the mid 1980s, submitted comments that were particularly critical of ASTM methods.  
Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT), whose comments were often more moderate than some of their peers, said, “HHT recommends using ASTM E3053 until such time there is data showing that the ASTM method doesn’t replicate real-world cord wood emissions or that a new Federal Reference Method is needed.” 
States want labs to start using TEOMs immediately
While states and air quality agencies say that they do not want to change the existing NSPS and believe that any changes to testing and emission standards should be taken up in the 2023 NSPS.  However, they are calling on EPA to “adopt a requirement now, to take immediate effect, for the concurrent use of a tapered element oscillating microbalance (TEOM) test method to measure real-time particulate matter (PM), using the NESCAUM Standard Operating Procedures.”  Such a requirement would seem to involve a change to the current NSPS, unless it were a voluntary measure that labs could undertake as part of a research effort outside of it.
Third-party certification of stoves 

Once stoves or boilers are tested by third party labs, those labs currently send the test reports to the EPA for review and then the EPA issues the certification allowing the manufacturer to make and sell the appliance.  
Industry urged the EPA to ask for comments about a change in this process, whereby the lab would test the appliance and grant the certification, bypassing review by the EPA. Industry points to delays and backlogs at the EPA enforcement office, which takes up to 90 days to grant certificates once the lab provides the necessary documentation.  
 EPA officials, including Amanda
Aldridge and Rochelle Boyd, listen
to testimony on Dec. 17, 2018
on proposals to revise the NSPS.
Again, states and air quality agencies have lined up to oppose this proposal, arguing that the same lab that is paid by the manufacturer to test the stove should not be paid by the manufacturer to issue the certification.  With cutbacks to EPA funding, it does not appear likely that the EPA would hire additional people to help streamline the certification process and at the same time provide other oversight and enforcement of the NSPS, such as cracking down on manufacturers of uncertified outdoor wood boilers. 
Compliance audit testing

Another topic on which the EPA solicited comments is how and when stoves could be retested and audited for emissions compliance.  Auditing the accuracy of the lab that did certification testing of a pellet stove is far easier, as the variability of emissions in pellet stoves is not nearly as great as in wood stoves.  Industry, led by HPBA and Central Boiler, took the position that an audit test should only happen “where there is suspected fraud in certification test results” not random spot checks.  HPBA took an even stronger position, saying that EPA should “prohibit audit testing for appliance categories until there has been a determination on variability for the applicable test.”
Blaze King’s Chris Neufeld, an
ardent promoter of catalytic stoves.
Others in industry, such as Hearth & Home Technologies, took the position that if a stove is to be audited, it should be done by the same lab that tested it initially or another lab chosen by the manufacturer.  
States and air quality agencies are taking a uniform position that “only an independent, third-party lab should be selected to conduct all compliance audit testing so that there is consistency across the program and that a lab that conducts certification testing is not permitted to conduct audit testing.” NESCAUM proposed that Brookhaven National Lab be designed as the independent lab.
Warranty requirements
Currently, the NSPS has warranty requirements for catalytic stoves, but not for non-catalytic stoves.  The industry position is that the NSPS should not have any warranty requirements. Hearth & Home Technologies commented that “all manufacturers already have warranty language… [and] whether the EPA required it or not, it is standard warranty language for an appliance.”
This topic drew less attention from states and air agencies, but most supported the retention of warranty language for cat stoves and the addition of warranty requirements for non-cats, “particularly ones for key components related to controlling emissions from the device (including, among others, tubes).”  Blaze King, a vocal leader on this issue, agreed that if any type of stove is required to provide warranty language, then all stoves should have that requirement.   
Steve Muzzy, head of Central Boiler.

Different emission standards for pellet and cordwood appliances
Some industry players see a solution to emission standards by holding pellet appliances, and possibly also catalytic appliances, to a stricter standard.  Central Boiler charged that the EPA was “negligent” to hold stick wood and pellet appliances to the same emission standard.
HPBA and industry leader Hearth & Home Technologies are not calling for a bifurcation of emission standards based on fuel type or whether a stove has a catalyst.  The first NSPS in 1990 originally set a 7.5 gram an hour standard for non-cat stoves and a 4.1 standard for catalytic stoves.  States and air agencies also do not support setting separate emission levels based on fuel or inclusion of a catalyst.  Tim Ballo, an Earth Justice attorney, commented, “EPA’s observation that more pellet stoves meet the Step 2 standards than crib or cord wood stoves does not support the adoption of weaker emission standards for crib or cord wood-fired heating devices.”
Bret Watson says Jotul is
doing “very well” in
certifying their 2020 models.
In an exasperated and testy comment, Blaze King accused Jotul of working with the State of Maine to “spread false, misleading and out of date information in an effort to secure market share.”  Jotul has been a strong advocate for non-catalytic stoves and was instrumental in distributing a form letter to retailers to submit to the EPA that severely criticized catalytic technologies.  An unspoken rule in the stove industry is never to criticize another manufacturer by name, but the Blaze King feud with Jotul has only become more intense as the NSPS revision process increased the stakes of the game.  It should be noted that in Jotul’s official comments to the EPA, they did not call for a bifurcation of emission standards. 
A renewable, low carbon energy source
The role of wood and pellets as a renewable, low carbon fuel is virtually lost by the EPA, industry, states and air agencies.  Technically, the renewability of wood plays no legal role in setting emission regulations or other EPA policies governing wood and pellet heating.  However, many industry comments referred to the important role that wood heating plays in the lives of rural, lower income households, allowing them an affordable alternative to fossil fuel heating.  While it didn’t appear in their comments, many of the states urging the EPA to maintain cleaner emission standards are also providing incentives for more deployment of wood and pellet heaters.  New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland and others all have programs aimed at strengthening modern wood heating.  The Alliance for Green Heat was founded to promote the role of biomass as a low carbon fuel source and has tried to gain industry support for innovation leading to the automation of wood stoves.  But for now, the sides have been drawn on this issue based mostly on affordability vs. cleanliness, not on carbon.

What comes next?
The EPA has said that it may make a decision on whether to grant wood boilers and furnaces a two-year sell through in the spring of 2019.  As for all the other issues, including a two-year sell-through for stoves, they have only issued an advance notice and still have to decide if they will issue a formal proposal.  That proposal would also be followed by a public comment period and it is difficult to imagine a scenario that the EPA could announce any “relief” for manufacturers before winter of 2019/2020.
Bill Wehrum, in charge of weakening
air pollution rules at the EPA for the
Trump Administration, has little time
to deliver on wood heaters.
Industry came close to securing a more robust compliance extension from Congress in 2018 but fell short in the Senate.  With Democrats now in charge of the House, Congressional support for weaker or delayed emission standards is not an option in 2019 or 2020.

Clearly, the attempt to dilute the NSPS by the Trump Administration has coalesced and unified states and air agencies behind positions developed by NESCAUM and others.  They are looking to 2023 to regain the ascendancy that they lost under Administrator Pruitt and Wheeler’s leadership at the EPA.  If democrats take the White House in 2022, rewriting the NSPS starting in 2023 could be a possibility.  But a democratic White House and EPA would, in turn, energize Republican governors who seem to have been complacent during this comment process.  Under Republican Governor LePage, Maine was the one state that was emerging as a vocal supporter of the EPA’s deregulation of wood appliances, but during the comment process, a Democratic Governor was elected.  

At this point, time is critical as May 2020 approaches. It appears that the issue was not important enough for the EPA to put on a faster track and members of Congress supporting the hearth industry were not able to change that.  With a little more than a year to go, the question is – is it too late anyway?

Heated Up!

Adobe Wood Fired Stove

This stove was built in one day and performs brilliantly. It cost about 0 in materials, The firebricks are made from pumice and are very cheap. They are made by Brick and Cobble in Henderson

Spotlight: A wood stove retailer sells his store and looks back four decades

Bodmer’s Stoves has been located in
this stone building since 1976.
Ed and Nancy Bodmer opened a wood stove story in the mid 1970s when they discovered Ashley stoves beat out all the cheaply made stoves on the market. That led to more than four decades selling wood stoves – and experiencing the ups and downs in wood heating in America. Ed and Nancy typify the older generation of stove retailers who spanned the transition from the inefficient, uncertified stoves, to the far more efficient and cleaner ones today.  
Unfortunately, by far the biggest heyday for stove sales was in the late 70s and early 80s prior to EPA emission regulations, leaving the country saddled with millions of polluting and inefficient stoves.  Retailers like Ed Bodmer have spent decades of their lives helping with the transition to cleaner stoves.
Their store, Bodmer’s Stoves is also home to Bodmer’s Pottery, run by Nancy and is located in an old, stone building Buckeystown, 10 miles south of Frederick in rural Maryland.  We called Ed to talk to him about his experiences over the years and heard many intriguing stories.
Selling a stove store in 2019
“Actually, I didn’t want to sell this year.  I wanted to wait until 2020 when I turned 75, but this guy really wanted to the business,” Ed recalled in a phone interview. This guy owns a local heating company and he called Jotul and Vermont Castings to become a dealer.  Both of those companies said no, because Ed Bodmer had that territory.  So, his only recourse was to buy out Ed, along with all his inventory.
Ed Bodner
Getting started in the 1970s
“We kind of fell into the business, like many others, when we were just looking for a good woodstove for our own home,” Ed said.  They started with Ashley and grew to represent many big-name brands like Pacific Energy, Jotul and Vermont Casting. “We like the kind of people who are willing to cut their own wood and grow their own food,” Ed recalled.  That culture was popular in the late 60s and 70s and there is a resurgence in local food today, if not heating with cord wood.
High and lows, and diversifying the business

“The high points in our business were the late 70s, after the oil embargo and after Hurricane Katrina,” Ed said.  Katrina was a Category 5 storm that was still strong as it moved north through western Maryland in August of 2005, just before the stove buying season.  Another high point that took the Bodmer’s by surprise was the Y2K scare in 2,000, when people thought computer bugs related to the date change from one century to the next may cause major power outages and other societal breakdowns.  The lows were the mid 1980s after the oil embargo ended and fossil fuel prices went back down during what was then called the “oil glut.”  
Ed and his wife Nancy focused on running a good business from August to February so that they could have time to garden, travel and enjoy life.  They decided not to diversify into patio and barbecue products and instead focused on their core product: stoves.
The ups and downs with pellet stoves
Bodmers carried pellet stoves for many years, but demand was not consistent, and they got out of the pellet stove business several years ago.  They carried the top brands, including Harman, but even so, the repair issues were always so much higher than with wood stoves. “I’d sell a wood stove and didn’t see the person for another 20 years, when they came back to buy a newer one,” Ed recalled. 
Nancy Bodner ran a successful
pottery business out the store.

Cat vs. non-cat and first time vs. repeat customers 
Ed was very interested in our question about what percent of buyers were replacing older stoves compared to first time stove buyers.  “I’d say it’s about 50-50,” Ed told us.  Bodmers had a lot of repeat customers, but unlike retailers of most consumer goods, the stove buyer only comes back every 20 – 30 years.  But that meant a lot to Ed, and he really enjoyed those customers who he had sold to in the 1980s or 1990s.  A lot of them who bought one of the original catalytic Vermont Castings wanted another catalytic Vermont Castings.  Ed told us that a lot of his customers did their research and knew that a catalytic stove would give a longer burn and higher efficiency, and that is what they wanted.  “So, we always sold a lot of catalytic stoves,” he said.  
The 50% of his customers who were first time buyers also got a wood heat lesson from Ed, to ensure that they knew how to use the stove well.  “We don’t have a lot of young customers,” Ed said. “Most were between 30 and 60, but one guy and his wife both in their 70s just bought a new stove because they love the heat and couldn’t live without it.”
The Maryland stove rebate program
Ed said that the Maryland stove rebate program was not that much of an incentive for his customers, many of whom did not want to pull a permit and or have the professionally installed.  Bodmers used to do installations in house but has used an independent installer for the last 6 years. (The Maryland rebate program is far more used by pellet stove buyers because they get a much higher rebate.)
Inventory and the 2020 EPA emission standards
Ed told us that he had very little inventory that was not 2020 compliant and it would not be hard to get rid of it before June 2020.  Bodmer’s is not an HPPA member currently but has been in the past. By staying in close touch with the manufacturers of the stoves he sells, he has stayed abreast of all the recent changes the industry is going through. He said that ordering and receiving new stoves has become even easier these days, and he could order a few Vermont Castings, for example, and have them in the store quickly.  He also didn’t seem too worried about June 2020, when the stricter emission standards kick in. “I heard Jotul just won a Vesta award for an upgraded Oslo and I look forward to seeing that” Ed told us. He currently has an older Oslo in his home.  The only question Ed had about the 2020 deadline was whether there would be another a price increase, which would be hard for some of his price sensitive customers. 

Heated Up!

Despite claims of “devastating” impact, wood stove industry positioned to meet new emission standards

With the Step 2 deadline for wood and pellet stoves just a year away, most stove manufacturers say they are ready or will be soon. Many retailers also say they are ready, while others prepare to deeply discount stoves that can’t be sold after May 2020. Gone are the days when industry was trying to convince Congress and the Administration that EPA’s new stove regulations would have a “devastating” impact. Such claims are common in Washington, as groups try to rally their base, but it can also lead to a diminished credibility for an industry association if the hyperbole goes too far.
From the start, it was clear that the boiler and furnace manufacturers needed relief far more than stove companies and retailers.  Heads of outdoor boiler companies and indoor wood boilers that cost less than the average wood stove were leaders of a campaign to get Congress to give all classes of heaters a three-year delay in meeting the new standards.  At the same time, the industry association Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) was challenging many of these standards in court, meaning a three-year delay could be permanent for some classes of heaters, if courts agreed with HPBA.  But it was never clear that stoves needed any delay and industry effort would have stalled innovation and efficiency improvements and put tens of thousands of families at higher risk of more wood smoke exposure.  The fallback position was that industry needed a two-year sell year, allowing manufacturers to sell Step 1 product during the fall and spring of 2019/2020, and retailers to sell Step 1 product until May 2022.  

At first, it appeared that the EPA under the current Administration was open to providing a two year  sell-through for stoves, but they have only issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for boilers and furnaces, not for stoves.  Theoretically, the EPA could still issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a sell through for stoves but at this point it may be too late to provide any meaningful relief.
Many states pushed back strongly against watering down the NSPS and no state filed comments backing the Trump Administration’s proposals.  States also began preparing their own plans in the event the EPA does change NSPS timelines, which could create a patchwork of regulations and more antagonistic relationships with a renewable energy industry.

If some manufacturers were not taking the 2020 deadline sufficiently seriously from 2016 – 2018, they are all likely to be doing so now.  Instead of focusing on government relief, HPBA’s outreach to industry stakeholders is taking an a more urgent tone that everyone needs to focus on heeding the May 2020 deadline. However, almost all manufacturers were already focused on May 2020 for their own financial health and to assure their retailers that they are a reliable future partner.  And, many manufacturers and virtually all retailers already are well-diversified with gas fireplaces and stoves which often outsell their wood and pellet appliances.

The list of stove manufacturers who are ready for 2020, almost are or “well-positioned” to be 2020 ready grows by the week. As of May 1, they include:  APR Industries, Blaze King, Even Temp, ExtraFlame, Foyers, Heat Tech, Hearthstone, Innovative Hearth Products, Jotul, Kuma, Laminoux, MF Fire, Napoleon, Pacific Energy, Rais, Regency, Roby, RSF Fireplaces, SBI, Stuv, Supreme, Thelin, Travis and Woodstock Soapstone.  Hearth & Home Technologies, by far the largest manufacturer, says a majority of its stoves will be 2020 certified this year.
The 2020 deadline will undoubtedly be tough for much of the industry, but it remains to be seen if it’s tougher than lean shipment years such as 2007 and 2012.  Overall, the threat to industry does not appear to be as serious as industry claimed even a year ago.  The 2020 deadline is also bringing about benefits. some foreseen and others not. Some retailers still have stocks of Step 1 stoves and there is likely to be some heavily discounted stoves in the final year leading up to the deadline.  Retailers are still ordering some Step 1 stoves, but in much smaller quantities.  Many retailers are only buying Step 2 stoves but may face still competition from fire sales of Step 1 stoves by competitors.  Sending Step 1 stoves to Canada could have been a good outlet, but the more populous Canadian provinces have either adopted the 2020 deadline or are in the process of doing so. Other foreign countries are still a good option.  Most big box stores have the buying power to protect themselves by requiring manufacturers to buy back unsold inventory, influence that specialty hearth retailers don’t have. 

Over the last six months, HPBA has developed more clear and insistent messaging for retailers and is using social media more to get the message across.  A facebook post outlined 5 things retailers need to know to survive the NSPS. Included is also a fear that in the race to meet the 2 gram an hour standard, some manufacturers may be putting out stoves that haven’t been sufficiently beta-tested and simply won’t work well in the real world.  This could jeopardize retailers who unknowingly carry those stoves.  HBPA urged retailers to test the stoves themselves, before selling them to customers, a tall order for retailers over the summer season.  The message for consumers is that the next twelve months will be a buyers’ market with unprecedented sales and discounts of Step 1 products
For the most part, the hyperbole from industry that consumers would be priced out of new stoves and there would be very little variety of product on floors, is not materializing.  Some manufacturers that were well known for disparaging catalytic stoves are now embracing them, swelling the ranks of “hybrid” stoves that only mention the catalyst in the fine-print. Presumably, this new crop of hybrids learned the tough lessons of the 80s and 90s, and their catalyst are well protected from flame impingement.

The 2020 deadline is also providing industry a gradual transition to cordwood testing, as some manufacturers opt to test with it.  Some groups idealistically hoped for a far quicker transition to cordwood.  Stoves tested with cordwood can emit up to 2.5 grams an hour, although many of them are coming in under 2 grams.  Despite messaging in advertisements from HPBA that it “shares the same goals as regulators,” the 2.5 gram an hour standard for cordwood is one of the many emission standards that HPBA is challenging in federal court.  The many delays to the lawsuit may make it tougher for HPBA if enough stove models come in under 2.5 grams an hour using the broadly applicable alternative ASTM cordwood test method.
Many stakeholders are already looking past the 2020 deadlines toward the next NSPS, which by law should be scheduled in 2023.  Whenever the 2015 NSPS is superseded, there is likely to be intense controversies over certification protocols for cordwood testing and a timeline for all stoves to be tested with cordwood.  Key northeastern states believe the consensus driven ASTM Method is deeply flawed and are working behind the scenes on new test methods.

Unlike the 1988 wood heater NSPS that decimated the ranks of small stove manufacturers, the 2015 NSPS does not appear to be forcing manufacturers out of business. The 1988 regulations drastically improved the functioning, safety, cleanliness and efficiency of stoves while also driving up prices of those that were not claimed to be exempt.  The question remains whether the 2015 NSPS will significantly improve the functionality of stoves as they become cleaner and more efficient in the lab. Pellet stoves may the winners as their lab numbers should hold up in homes of consumers, a significant benefit that is rarely acknowledged by most in industry.  We can all agree that there will be both intended and unintended consequences which will take years to unfold.  Stay tuned.


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DOE offers funding for “state-of-the-art” residential wood and pellet heater R&D

Jonathan Male, Director of the Bioenergy
Technology Office at DOE, speaking at
the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge
Funding can help manufacturers meet 2020 emission standards
Updated on May 9 – For the first time, the US Department of Energy issued a funding announcement to support the development of innovative, state-of-the art technology in residential wood and pellet stoves and central heaters.  
The announcement is part of a larger funding opportunity from the DOE’s Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO), which includes wood heaters because of a Congressional earmark. The DOE will provide up to $ 5 million in grants from $ 300,000 to $ 1,000,000. They expect to issue between 5 – 7 grants. The timeline for applying is short and requires a concept paper to be submitted by June 3 as a precondition of submitting the full application on July 22, 2019.
The funding is timely as it could assist wood stove, boiler and furnace manufacturers in developing heaters that meet the EPA’s 2020 emission standards. Funding is available for research and development on innovative heater design, not just for certification lab testing. Thus, manufacturers who may have delayed R&D could benefit from this grant the most, compared to those who already have a nearly full line of 2020 compliant heaters. Manufacturers can bring Step 2020 compliant heaters to market any time before or after the May 15, 2020 deadline. Funding from the DOE is expected to last for 2 – 3 years, covering work completed in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Many manufacturers are in the midst of completing their testing prior to the May 2020 deadline, but innovation will not end after that. Many manufacturers will initially be offering a smaller variety of models and add more to their product lines based on market conditions.  

“The Alliance for Green Heat applauds the DOE bioenergy program for moving beyond funding for biofuels and supporting innovation in the wood and pellet heater sector,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. “This funding and hopefully more in the future could kickstart a new wave of American innovation and ingenuity in wood heater design which is vital to keep wood and pellet heaters competitive with solar and other renewable technologies.”

The US is a world leader in manufacturing clean wood stoves, but behind European countries when it comes to efficient pellet stoves and wood and pellet central heaters. Most European governments have invested in R&D in biomass heaters, leaving US manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage.
R&D to design cleaner stoves and perform internal testing before sending the stoves to a certification lab constitutes one of the biggest expenses for manufacturers striving to meet 2020 emission targets. If this DOE funding had come two years earlier, it could have played a far greater role in assisting wood heater manufacturers, some of whom are cash-strapped as they must redesign their entire line of stoves and central heaters. 

The DOE appears to be trying to fund more than just tweaks and adjustments to traditionally-designed cat and non-cat stoves. Applications that can demonstrate genuine advancements toward state-of-the-art technology that ensure heaters burn well during start-up and reduce the opportunity for human error may have an edge.

The requirements of the application process include baseline emissions data matched with design change concepts that could substantially lower emissions and increase efficiency. These and other requirements are likely to make it tougher for smaller entities that do not have sophisticated internal labs or certified Step 1 stoves to apply within the short application timelines. Any company that has Step 1 products with baseline data showing they are within the 2015 Step 1 emission standards are eligible if their R&D ideas could achieve the DOE’s requirements of a 50 – 80% reduction in emissions and a 5 – 15% increase in efficiency.
Beyond merely preparing for traditional EPA testing, “applicants are encouraged to expand the testing regimen to evaluate performance over the full cycle of residential wood heater operating conditions (representative of how homeowners actually use their residential wood heaters with representative wood feedstocks).” 
The awards will be substantial but widely dispersed among 10 areas within the bioenergy field. “At DOE, we are focused on expanding America’s energy supply, growing the economy, and enhancing energy security, which will all be furthered by the significant advancements made in bioenergy technologies,” said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “The funding opportunities announced today will help ensure our nation’s competitive advantage in the emerging bioeconomy and allow us to continue to offer U.S. consumers and businesses more homegrown energy choices.”
Areas of R&D interest
DOE listed four specific areas of interest, though other innovations are not excluded.

Automation of wood
stoves using sensors
is one of key areas of
interest for the DOE

  • Novel and innovative residential wood heater designs 
  • Improvements in automation of stoves
  • Wood heater power generation via thermoelectric module integration, and 
  • Improvements in catalyst technologies 
The first area, novel and innovative heater designs, encompasses changes to the combustion chamber, combustion air flow and baffle designs. It could be challenging for the DOE panel reviewing applications to distinguish between more traditional design changes and novel ones in this area, as either one could result in emissions under 2 grams an hour.

The second area, improvements in automation of stoves, includes robust sensing technologies and remote control and real-time performance monitoring. Wood and pellet stoves, boilers, and furnaces could all integrate sensors that monitor and control combustion conditions better. The DOE was a core funder of the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge that focused on automation and gave them insight into the potential of this area.

The third area covers producing electricity from thermoelectric technology, an area that the DOE also explored through the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge.

Lastly, the fourth interest area is improvements in catalyst technology, which appears to cover R&D in the making of catalyst manufacturing as well as their integration into heaters.

The timeline is tight and successful applications for similar DOE funding opportunities often do much of the work prior to the release of the funding announcement. The 4-page concept papers are due on June 3, and only applicants who submitted concept papers can submit a full application due on July 22. The DOE expects to notify applicants by September 30 and issue awards in October and November, which is in the DOE’s 2020 fiscal year. Deadlines and other requirements are strictly enforced, and the DOE will not consider applications that stray from the guidelines.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to register and sign on to the DOE’s Exchange System at least a few days before submitting a concept paper, so registration issues can be averted ahead of time.
DOE has relatively broad eligibility requirements. Individuals, for-profit companies, non-profits, universities, and state, local, and tribal governments can all apply. Foreign entities and companies can also apply as long as they have a US office. Federal agencies and DOE labs, such as Brookhaven National Lab, are not eligible to be prime recipients but could be a sub-recipient of a grant. All work must be performed on US soil.
Cost Share

Applicants must provide 20% of the total project costs. The 20% can include in-kind services or cash from non-federal sources.  Cost share may be provided by the prime recipient, subrecipients, or third parties. 


All questions about the FOA must be submitted to: FY19BETOMultiTopicFOA@ee.doe.gov. DOE personnel are prohibited from communicating directly with applicants.  All questions and answers related to this FOA will be posted on EERE Exchange: https://eere-exchange.energy.gov.
Heated Up!

EPA releases long-awaited searchable wood heater database

A screen shot of part of the
navigation of different fuel types
in the new EPA database
Consumer friendly site is cause of worry for some

Updated May 30 – This week, the EPA released its long-awaited searchable stove and central heater database, overhauling a decades-old practice of using basic excel sheet lists.

The EPA said the new database was designed to“improve accessibility and usefulness” by allowing users to search for the cleanest stoves, the most efficient stoves, those designed to burn cordwood and other attributes.
A wide range of stakeholders, from industry to states to non-profits, had been urging the EPA to switch to a modern searchable format for nearly a decade. The painfully slow development of the database at times seemed to epitomize the government’s reputation to move at a snail’s pace. The list is maintained by the EPA’s Office of Enforcement, which like much of the EPA has been hit with repeated budget cuts and loss of staff in recent years.
The sleek new functionality of the list, allowing users to focus on one parameter or another, is also worrying to many in the stove industry. Traditionally, this list of certified wood heaters has not been a primary information source for consumers. But with this new functionality, consumers may start relying on it more and more, leading to some unintended results, such as worse buying decisions or ones that favor some manufacturers over others.  One feature that the old excel spreadsheets had that will be particularly missed by many was the clear designation of which stoves were newly added to the list each time it was updated.
One fear is that consumers will put too much reliance on higher BTU output if they can easily search and cross reference by these values. Right-sizing a stove is already problematic, and the BTU values on the list are overinflated due to loose parameters that allow labs to show high BTU output. Another fear, expressed by some manufacturers at the recent HPBA Expo in Nashville, is that consumers will favor “Cord Wood” stoves over “Crib Wood” stoves because they are not familiar with the lexicon of stove testing and the legacy of crib wood. This could lead to a surge in the sales – and reputation – of the 10 models that have been designed for and tested with cord wood. Other stakeholders welcome the feature, hoping that the companies who were among the first to invest in cord wood testing will benefit.
The EPA chose to include a box that helps consumers identify the cleanest and most efficient stoves,

and some say that this puts unwarranted attention to values that won’t necessarily translate from the lab to the home. This “Quick Searches” box will likely be used by consumers who don’t understand pellet stoves work similarly in the home as they do in the lab, but wood stoves can only achieve the optimal lab numbers with a large bed of coals, dry wood and careful operation.

This “certified fuel type” feature also sheds light on one the biggest problems with the new searchable data – accuracy. Six wood stoves are listed as using wood chips as a fuel, an apparent mistake according to one of the manufacturers of those stoves. This could hurt sales of those units if consumers are relying on the database to narrow down the stoves they may purchase. EPA staff are quick to say that this is a work in progress and it is incumbent on manufacturers to vet the list and provide the EPA with corrections. In 2017, the HPBA warned the EPA that many inaccuracies – such as stoves being listed as wood chip stoves – existed in the database. Many of the same errors are still listed two years later.

The Alliance for Green Heat welcomes the new database and had the opportunity to provide input on several occasions as other stakeholders did. Some of our suggestions and wording was adopted and some was not. AGH believes that the new database will help consumers become more educated about the working of stoves and the terminology, but it will take time and effort by the wood heating community.

The release of the database was coordinated with the update of some key pages on the EPA’s Burn Wise website. The EPA finally changed their page on hydronic heaters which previously defined and pictured them just as outdoor boilers, a change that AGH had urged them to make for years. They also made major changes to their efficiency page which had not been updated since the EPA began requiring testing and reporting of efficiency of stoves.

Features and functions
·      Pellet stoves
A simple search that used to take hours, now takes seconds.  For instance, with 5 clicks, the database shows that 40 of the 70 pellet stove models that are 2020 compliant emit one gram an hour or less – an impressive feat considering pellet stove lab values are relatively consistently with how they perform in homes. 
·      Catalytic Stoves
The database shows that 27 of the 68 wood stoves that are 2020 compliant are catalytic, underlining the surge in catalytic models that resulted from stricter emission limits.  
·      Hybrid Stoves
Wood stoves are divided into three
subtypes – cat, non-cat and hybrid – but
hybrid stoves are not yet listed

Hybrid stoves, which almost all use both catalysts and air tubes for secondary combustion, are listed as a subtype, but no stoves turn up in a search for that term.  It is unclear if the EPA intends to populate that subtype. AGH is urging the EPA to also add “automated stoves” as a subtype in the future. Both hybrid and automated stoves offer great promise to help consumers run stoves more cleanly and should be identified in the database.

·      BTU Output
With tighter homes and a new breed of tiny homes, it is now easy to search for stoves with the lowest BTU output. Forty stoves, 20 wood and 20 pellet, were tested at less than 25,000 BTU. AGH believes that many units still have erroneously high BTU values based on loose parameters in lab testing and reporting, and these values should be used with great caution.  For wood stove, firebox size is probably a more accurate indicator of BTU output.
·      Efficiency
The EPA has chosen to use the term “overall efficiency” instead of simply “efficiency.” Some manufactures use “optimal efficiency” or “maximum efficiency” instead of publishing the EPA tested efficiency, which is lower. The database quickly shows, for example, that 37 of the 70 pellet stoves that are 2020 compliant are 75% efficiency (HHV) or higher – another great improvement compared to the performance of pellet stoves just 5 years ago.
·      Carbon monoxide
Nearly 150 stoves that are 2020 compliant have CO values showing a huge range from 0.0 to 6.1. Of the 23 stoves tested at less than 0.1 gram of CO per minute, all but 3 were pellet stoves. The carbon monoxide listing raised concern from some who worry that consumers may use it instead of PM as a primary indicator of cleanliness, or that consumers may think it’s an indication of amounts of CO emitted into the room.
·      In and out of production
The database shows 565 models in production, a number that will likely drop significantly as of June 2020. And it has nearly 700 stoves that emit less than 4.5 grams but are out of production.
·      Previously certified
The database also shows the 205 stoves that were previously EPA certified at 4.6 grams or higher, a feature that could be very helpful for change out program managers who want to target older certified stoves, many of which need replacement.
·      Key terms and definitions
The EPA provides a new page with definitions of key terms such as adjustable burn rate vs. single burn rate heaters, fireplace insert, wood pellets, etc.
·      Central Heaters
The database is separated into two: “Room Heaters” and “Central Heaters” and you have to select one or the other or your search may turn up empty. There are only 12 central heaters that are 2020 compliant, and eleven of those use cord wood. While central heaters have had a harder time meeting the Step 2 requirements, many more have either been approved by labs or are in the pipeline to be 2020 compliant.  Efficiencies of pellet boilers are more complex because those that get listed with European test data are likely to show higher efficiencies, even though they are converted to HHV. 
Not included in the new database

Some stakeholders have urged the EPA to include more search attributes, such as the test method, lab, and a link to the detailed lab report that manufacturers are required to post on their websites. The list also does not say whether PFI certified pellets were used during certification testing and are thus technically required to be used by the consumer.  Up until 2007, list used to include the deadline that the five year certification certificate expired.  Up until the summer of 2015, the list included the outmoded estimated default efficiencies, which listed all non-cats at 63%, cats at 72% and pellet stoves at 78%.  The default efficiencies were set based on testing in the mid and late 1980s, resulting in relative accurate estimates for wood stoves, but helping to develop the enduring myth that pellet stoves had such high average efficiencies.

Contact Rafael Sanchez at the EPA’s Office of Enforcement to address errors or omissions in the database, (sanchez.rafael@epa.gov) at (202) 564-7028.

Heated Up!

Trump Administration to change Obama era wood stove and boiler emission regulations

Delaying or weakening emission regulations will impact thousands of communities nationwide
The EPA is “taking steps to provide relief to wood heater manufacturers and retailers” according to a statement released by the EPA.  The EPA expects to issue a proposed rule this spring that could potentially weaken parts of the regulations enacted under the Obama administration.
This move is supported  by companies such as Central Boiler, the largest outdoor wood boiler manufacturer in North America, who has been aggressively lobbying to delay and weaken the standards that were to come into effect in 2020. But to some smaller companies who have already invested in the R&D to meet the stricter 2020 standards, the EPA announcement undermines the significant investment they’ve made in designing cleaner and more efficient wood heaters. 
Thousands of cities, towns and communities are impacted by excessive wintertime levels of wood smoke, posing health risks and undermining support for an iconic renewable energy technology.
It is widely expected that part of the relief that EPA will be providing to industry is a three-year delay in the emission standards that were  set to take effect in June 2020.  Republicans in the House of Representatives had already passed legislation for a three-year delay, but the Senate has not.  A court filingby the EPA said that it “intends to take final action on this first proposed rule by this fall,” and that would allow manufacturers to slow down their R&D and certification testing.
But the EPA can pick and choose which parts of the Obama era wood heater regulations that it wants to rewrite and they say they will issue a series of federal register notices asking stakeholders for comment and input on substantive issues.  Experts believe that a statement released by the EPA indicate that emission test methods are being considered. 
Environmental groups, industry and the EPA have been wanting to move away from testing and certifying wood stoves with crib wood – 2x4s and 4x4s – which has been the standard testing fuel since the first set of wood stove regulations in 1988.  All parties want to switch to using cordwood, the fuel used by homeowners, recognizing that stoves have been fine tuned to run better on crib wood, rather than cordwood.  This has resulted in stoves that may run at 4 grams an hour of smoke in the lab, but may be 10 grams an hour or more in the hands of homeowners. In a statement this week, the EPA said it is concerned that its regulation“may not be achieving the environmental benefits it was supposed to provide.”  
The EPA appears likely to accelerate the transition to testing with cordwood but industry seems to favor an ASTM cordwood test method while some states and others are developing a new method that reflects how stoves are used by homeowners.  This method, call the Integrated Duty Cycle (IDC) method is still in draft form and is a drastic departure from the traditional way that stoves have been tested since the 1988.  
The EPA could also decide to weaken emission limits for wood boilers, which would primarily benefit the outdoor wood boiler industry led by Central Boiler.  
Since the 2015 regulations went into effect, scores of wood and pellet stoves and boilers have been tested to meet the 2020 standards and most prices have not gone up significantly.  The 2015 regulations began a process of requiring that manufacturers test and report their efficiencies, and delaying the 2020 deadline would set back efficiency disclosures, harming the ability of consumers to choose more efficient appliances. 
States are allowed to set stricter standards but not looser ones, and if the EPA were to weaken the federal rule too much, some states could either stick to the original standards set by the Obama administration in 2015 or develop new ones. States like New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington are already battling long-term wood smoke problems and have started to chart their own course for wood heater regulations. If several states adopted a different cordwood test method or stricter emission standards, they could have a “California effect” of moving the entire market.
“We are very concerned that the Trump Administration  may weaken consumer and environmental protections for wood stoves,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat, an independent non-profit that promotes cleaner and more efficient residential wood heating. “Wood and pellet stoves are vital to help families affordably reduce fossil heating fuels, but we can’t move this technology forward unless they can burn cleaner in people’s homes,” he said. 

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$300 wood heater tax credit extended retroactively for 2017

This map shows which states historically
have the highest percent of residents
claiming the energy tax credits, including
the credit for wood and pellet stoves.

Feb. 9, 2018 – Today President Trump signed into law a budget deal that included a one year, retroactive extension of the wood heater tax credit.  Thus, consumers who bought stoves that are 75% efficient or higher may qualify for a $ 300 tax credit on their 2017 taxes.

However, stove manufacturers often mislead consumers into thinking they are buying a stove that is at least 75% efficient when in fact it may be in the low or mid 60s. Manufacturers are allowed to self-certify which stoves are eligible for the credit and some appear to ignore any common sense definition of the Congressional language which stipulated requiring a stove “which has a thermal efficiency rating of at least 75 percent.”

The Alliance for Green Heat is calling on HPBA and stove manufacturers to publicly support and abide by a policy of only recognizing the average, overall efficiency of stoves based on third party testing at an EPA approved lab.  Currently, some manufacturers will self-certify a stove to be eligible for the tax credit if it reached 75% efficiency on only one of its 4 burn rates. Others self-certify that their stoves are eligible when the stove did not reach 75% efficiency on any burn rate.

The Alliance for Green Heat supports tax credits and other incentives that focus on the cleanest and most efficient stoves.  However, he federal tax credit has no criteria for grams per hour and virtually all stoves have claimed to be at least 75% efficient, minimizing the underlying intent of a tax credit.

The definition of 75% efficient is still unresolved. The IRS recognized the use of the European lower heating value (LHV) efficiency measurement until 2010 when Congress removed the LHV language.  The efficiency measurement should have reverted to the North American standard of using HHV, but industry has continued to use LHV.  (A stove measuring 75% efficiency using LHV would be about 70% efficiency using HHV.)

We will update this blog as it becomes more clear which companies are self-certifying stoves at 75% efficient when they may only be in the low or mid 60s.

To be sure that you are buying a higher efficiency stove, check the EPA’s list of certified wood stoves, and choose one that with an actual, verified efficiency.  There are many non-cat stoves over 70% efficiency and many catalytic and pellet stoves over 75% efficiency.  Unfortunately, if you are buying a stove in 2018, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get a tax credit for it.  Congress may make the credit retroactive again in 2019, but then again, they may not.

For more background on the wood heater tax credit, click here.

Heated Up!

Top 10 stories in 2017 for wood and pellet heating

2017 may not have been the most momentous year for wood and pellet stoves, but every year is full of important stories and these are what we see as the top 10. Think we missed one of 2017’s top stories?  Leave a comment.
      1. Wood stove sales lag
Warmer winters and lower fossil fuel prices are likely the main causes of continued sluggish sales of wood stoves and inserts in 2017.  Gas appliances continue to gain in popularity.  The 2015 EPA regulations are rarely cited as contributing to the current malaise in the market, and local restrictions are unlikely to have much of an impact either.  The final weeks of 2017 and first week of 2018 brought arctic temperatures to much of the US, boosting sales of both pellets and stoves.  But will it last?
2. Funding for change out programs rolled back
Whoever thought a motorcycle company would deal a big blow to the stove industry?  To be fair, it had little to do with motorcycles and a lot to do with the Trump Administration wanting to do away with out-of-court air quality violations settlements that allowed polluters to pay part of their fine in programs that improve air quality.  Harley Davidson happened to be the poster child of companies willing to support a change out program, but not allowed to do so by the Trump Administration.  That pipeline of funding, up to 10 million a year, is now cut off, dealing another blow to programs seeking to get people to part ways with their old wood stove, and exchange it for a new pellet, gas or wood stove.
3. Congress – lots of expectation but no action
Three key initiatives – the BTU Act, the NSPS delay and the biomass heater tax credit – did not come to fruition in 2017.  All three initiatives remain in play in 2018, but with each passing month, 2018 will get more consumed by the fall election season. The BTU Act would help the entire biomass thermal energy sector and has some key backers, such as Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). The bills to delay NSPS deadlines by 3 years passed committees, largely on party lines.  With the razor thin majority in the Senate, Democratic support for these initiatives may be more important in 2018.
4. Cordwood test methods are on the rise
The ASTM E3053 cord wood test protocol developed largely by industry members was completed and is now an accepted alternative test method.  However, companies don’t appear to be lining up to use it to certify their stoves.  Meanwhile, NESCAUM is taking the lead in designing what they say is a much more realistic cordwood test method as it takes into account more frequent reloading.  That method appears to have EPA’s interest and may be more likely to be referenced by the federal and/or state governments.
5. The renewable energy movement gains steam, helping pellet systems
Despite a President who champions coal and fossil fuels, the renewable energy movement is gaining ground worldwide.  Automated pellet and chip heating systems are being installed more rapidly in Europe and are gaining wider acceptance in the US.  Pellet stoves and boilers are also becoming more recognized in green building circles.  Campuses, towns, cities and states striving to reduce fossil fuel use usually start with electricity and transition to green heating options. 
6. Anti-wood smoke groups gain legitimacy
In 2017, we saw a rise of clean air groups campaigning for more restrictions on wood stove installation and use.  Some of the core activists emerged years ago when their communities or homes were subjected to excessive smoke from outdoor wood boilers.  In 2017, the focus shifted more to wood stoves, mostly in communities in the West, but to some extent in the Northeast.  Often, tensions rose over lack of enforcement by local jurisdictions who didn’t have the resources, training and/or political will to deal with those creating excessive smoke.  Overall there is a growing recognition that wood smoke is a serious health concern and debates in local and state forums will likely grow in coming years.
7.  Consolidation of stove and pellet plants continues
In the wood and pellet stove world, Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT) did not announce major new acquisitions in 2017, but the company consolidated by moving Quadra-Fire and Vermont Castings production to its Pennsylvania facility.  However, 2017 also saw market share continue to slip away from higher-priced manufacturers like most HHT brands to the lower priced manufacturers that sell from hardware chains.  On the wood pellet front, Lignetics continued its buying spree, finalizing a deal to acquire New England Wood Pellet at the very end of 2017. 
8. DOE co-sponsors Wood Stove Design Challenge
After many years of sitting on the sidelines of thermal biomass, the Department of Energy found an entre in the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge.  DOE is providing funding and its PR department is issuing news releases, lending greater credibility and a higher profile to the event.  The competition features automated stoves and stoves that produce electricity to supplement wintertime solar PV output, showcasing new roles that wood stoves could play if they run more reliably cleaner in real world settings.  The competition will also showcase cordwood testing protocols and fossil fuel reductions achievable by wood stoves compared to solar panels.
9. NY, MD and MA recognize efficiency in stove programs
In 2017, three states began using efficiency criteria to determine eligibility in incentive or change out programs.  NY now requires pellet stoves to have verified efficiencies on the EPA list of certified stoves.  MD & MA provide higher incentives for stoves with verified efficiencies, as Oregon does, but with a far simpler formulas.  The rampant practice by most manufacturers of providing misleading and exaggerated efficiency values – a practice not tolerated in other HVAC sectors – motivated these states to act.
10. The new EPA wood heater regulations move forward
OK, 2017 was not a big news year for the new heater regulations, known as the NSPS.  But in 2017 all large forced air wood furnaces were required to be certified (including smaller ones who pretended to be large to evade certification in 2016).  In April, there were only six EPA certified furnaces ranging from 48% to 89% efficiency, now there are 16.  2017 was a pivotal year in that it marked the midpoint between 2015 and 2020, when all heaters must meet stricter emission standards.  And, with each passing month, more heaters become 2020 compliant as manufacturers hedge their bets in case Congress, the Administration or the courts do not derail the 2020 deadline. In 2017, some exciting new innovation hit the market, including automated MF Fire Catalyst, the Optima designed just to burn pressed logs and more coming soon.

Did we miss something?  Post a comment!

Heated Up!

Lessons in building a 120-Watt thermoelectric wood stove

Guest Blog: We are reposting a 2012 blog from Instructables by Tecwyn Twmffatt at Goat Industries. It describes an early effort to build a thermoelectric wood stove.  This blog is part of a series of blogs providing information for the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge.

Introduction: Thermoelectric Power Generation (TEG) 

These videos document my first attempts at generating electricity from a thermoelectric peltier device in 2012. The TEG that I used is a high powered unit able to withstand high temperatures and specially made for electricity generation. In terms of instructions, I don't think many people would want to build the 10 TEG system as it was ridiculously expensive, so I'm putting in a section for creating the 1 TEG arrangement, which is relatively easy and low cost.

Step 1: Part 2 of 3 


A ten unit Thermoelectric generator system is shown being constructed and then fitted to a wood burner. The theoretical maximum output is 200 watts. The video shows how the generator was put together and how the wood burner was modified to get maximum heat through the TEGs. The TEGs themselves are able to withstand a constant 325 degrees C on the hot side and require plenty of heat to get the 20 watts that each of them are capable of producing.

Step 2: Part 3 of 3 


In part 3 we successfully generate a significant amount of energy from the woodburning stove. In the first session, a circulation pump, a fan and 10 x 10 watt flood lights are powered up. In the second session, we attempt to get a more balanced load wired up to the tegs and measure a noticable increase in power output. The 10 tegs are wired up in 2 parallel strings and, from the manufacturer's specification, the optimum output voltage is 14.4v . The nearest that we manage is 13.8v, at which we generate 120 watts. The specifications suggest that 200 watts is possible when the load is matched.

Step 3: Full Playlist

31 Minutes of Thermoelectric video heaven!

Step 4: Creating the 1 TEG Generator

Here we are going to build the single TEG generator shown in the first video.

Step 5: Tools and Equipment  

Thermoelectric power generator TEG module (GM250 449 )
...... buy direct from China at: www.thermonamic.com/
Aluminium block 102 x 115 x 20 mm
Steel block 102 x 115 x 10 mm
1/4" BSP blanks x 6 of
1/4" BSP male stud push fit pneumatic fittings for 10 mm pipe x 2 of (See photo above)
5 mm Hex bolts x 40 mm x 2 of
25 litre water butt
OD 10 mm ID 8 mm nylon pneumatic pipe
12V water pump
12V LEDs, 1 watt x 20 of Tools:  1/4" threading tap
5 mm metric coarse threading tap
Drill 11.5 mm
Drill 5.5 mm
Drill 4.2 mm
Drill press
Torque wrench
MIG welder
Plasma cutter / Grinder with cutting discs

Step 6: Drilling and Tapping the Cooling Block

Use the engineering drawing to produce internal coolant passage ways in the aluminium block. I ended up drilling all the way through to the other side and using more of the 1/4" blanks. Connect the 1/4" pipe fittings to the block and plumb in the pump. Add antifreeze to the water in the water butt if it's likely to get cold at all. To create a 'sandwich' with the hot block (steel block), the TEG and the cooling block, drill and tap holes in the steel block for the 5mm bolts. Weld the hot block into the side of the wood burner and recreate the TEG sandwich, tightening the bolts up with a torque wrench (see attached file). Connect up LEDs on the TEG, turn on the pump, light the wood burner and off you go!

Step 7: 10 TEG Layout

If you really must build the 10 TEG generator, the photo above shows what is involved. I have got CAD drawings, PCB drawings etc. If anybody is interested. Not for the faint hearted! PCB 03.pcb
PCB 01.zip
CAD files 02.zip Heated Up!