Wood-Fired Boiler vs. New EPA Regulations

Is the EPA going to ban your boiler?


Wood boilers have been under attack for years, with some communities going so far as to ban their operation altogether. Now the EPA is about to announce new regulations regarding wood stoves and boilers, and many are concerned about the future of wood heat and how these regulations may impact those who heat with wood. The answer is: very little.

There was a loud backlash against this legislation stemming largely from the inaccurate and sensational reporting of the story — “EPA to Ban 80% of Stoves.” Few stories noted the good news — that 20% of the stoves on the market today already meet these requirements.

Over the summer, the EPA has been hearing public comments on the legislation. The suggestions from our industry center mainly on the schedule for compliance — how long will manufacturers have to sell their current inventory? The National Firewood Association isn’t aware of any manufacturers saying that the new standards are too strict, only that they need sufficient time to meet them.

The more interesting issue is the insistence (by the industry) that stoves be tested using actual cordwood. Currently, the EPA is testing by using a “crib” of 2×4 and/or 4×4 air-dried Douglas Fir lumber arranged in a standardized pattern with 3/4″ spacers. While the goal of these cribs is to create a uniform testing protocol, the readings obtained are of questionable value when we know that the stove (or boiler) will never be used this way. The problem, however, is devising a method of faithfully replicating thousands of tests in a way which mirrors consumer use.

Where is the threat?

The threat to homeowners with wood boilers is at the local and state level — town boards, city councils, all the way up the line — this is where legislation that regulates or bans boilers come from. (State-by-state information is available from the EPA here.)

Note that some states levy fines against violators while other states offer incentives to replace a non-certified stove with a new, cleaner burning unit. Some areas offer regularly updated advisories and burn-bans similar to those enacted to prevent forest fires.

What can I do?

Keep an eye on the local newspaper. Attend city council and county board meetings. Talk to others, and talk to us at the National Firewood Association! If the issue of wood stove emissions comes up in your area, suggest options like cash incentives for changing out older wood stoves and boilers, and education programs to insist that people burn clean, dry wood.