Cutting emissions from heaters and wood-fired stoves

The proposed standards could lead to important air quality and public health improvements. Photo: © Springfield Gallery -

From 2015, new residential wood-fired stoves and heaters in the US should be less polluting and more efficient.

In early January, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new air pollution standards for new woodstoves and heaters, beginning in 2015. The existing emission standards date back to 1988.

The proposal would make the next generation of stoves and heaters significantly cleaner than those manufactured today, leading to important air quality and public health improvements in communities across the country. It will not affect installations already in use in homes or currently for sale.

Smoke from residential wood heaters can increase toxic air pollution, volatile organic compounds (VOC), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM2.5), to levels that pose serious health concerns. In some areas, residential wood smoke makes up a significant portion of the PM2.5 pollution problem.

The proposal covers several types of new wood-fired heaters, including woodstoves, fireplace inserts, indoor and outdoor wood boilers (also called hydronic heaters), forced air furnaces and masonry heaters. Many residential wood heaters already meet the first set of proposed standards, which would be phased in over five years to allow manufacturers time to adapt emission control technologies to their particular model lines. It does not cover fireplaces, fire pits, pizza ovens, barbecues and chimineas.

Emissions of PM2.5 pollution from new wood-burning installations are expected to be cut by 4,825 tons a year – an 80 per cent reduction over estimated emissions without the rule. Emissions of VOCs and CO would be 76 and 72 per cent lower.

When fully implemented, EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to comply with these standards, there will be between US$118 and 267 in health benefits. Consumers will also see a monetary benefit from efficiency improvements in the new woodstoves, which use less wood to heat homes.

The total health and economic benefits of the proposed standards are estimated at US$1.8 - 2.4 billion annually, while the costs are estimated at US$15.7 million per year. These estimated benefits do not include the value of the carbon monoxide, VOC, air toxics (including formaldehyde, benzene and polycyclic organic matter), and black carbon emissions that would be reduced along with PM2.5 emissions.

EPA expects to issue a final ruling in 2015.

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