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EPA Makes Most Wood Stoves Illegal 1143

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the free-nuclear-stoves-available dept.
First time accepted submitter Jody Bruchon writes "The Environment Protection Agency has lowered the amount of fine-particle matter per cubic meter that new wood stoves are allowed to release into the atmosphere by 20%. Most wood stoves in use today are of the type that is now illegal to manufacture or sell, and old stoves traded in for credit towards new ones must be scrapped out. This shouldn't be much of a surprise since more and more local governments are banning wood-burning stoves and fireplaces entirely, citing smog and air pollution concerns."
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EPA Makes Most Wood Stoves Illegal

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  • Re: Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kyle Wormwood (3426275) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:12PM (#45380403)
    Or maybe you see huge swaths of people in the northern states use them just to stay warm. Get out of you bubble much?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:13PM (#45380407)

    Google "charcoal grills banned"

    The EPA need not do anything because liberal fascists in power everywhere are jumping on that one.

  • by blankinthefill (665181) <blachancNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:15PM (#45380413) Journal
    I have lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, which has roughly 100,000 people in and around it, and is basically isolated other than that. During the winter, particulate pollution is insanely bad, and even worse when you consider how small the city is. This is due, mainly, to the amount of wood burning stoves that are used to heat houses. Now, it's exacerbated by the valley that the town is in and the extreme cold, but most of it's terribleness comes from the wood burning in the area. After seeing that, I want to support stronger regulations or even bans on wood burning. On the other hand, many of the people in Fairbanks that burn wood do so because it's the cheapest method they can use to heat their houses, and they can't afford other methods (natural gas is not available in Fairbanks for heating, or at least not cheaply). I don't know what they're supposed to do if these regulations increase the cost associated with wood burning very much... not heating your house when it's -50 out is just not an option.
  • by basecastula (2556196) <basecase...fm@@@gmail...com> on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:17PM (#45380425)
    Is it still legal to burn logs made from waxed cardboard. I say these in the store the other day, and wanted to get in on the recycling money..
  • already happened (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:17PM (#45380427) Journal
    We gave up our wood stove when fire insurance prices increased to make it more expensive than an air conditioning unit (which can be run as a heater).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:23PM (#45380475)

    I'm not entirely against this rule, but I think it should be a local law not a national one. Someone in the middle of the city burning things is a pretty big asshole; someone living in a cabin in the woods isn't causing local problems and could possibly have circumstances that make the usage more understandable -- e.g., using wood that otherwise would go to waste, or using it as a back-up fuel source in case something goes wrong in the middle of winter.
     
    Not to mention that the fairest thing would be to judge each person's energy usage rather than ban particular uses of energy. Piecemeal laws like this are why we end up with absurdities such as the government often giving "green" incentives to wasteful people because they waste through sheer mass of usage (e.g., having a gigantic home) while each particular element in the massive waste is efficient.

  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:39PM (#45380557) Journal

    Assuming it meets the new regulations on coal fired plants, then yes it is.

  • by fazig (2909523) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:55PM (#45380659)
    Yes, I have to agree, it's certainly not bought. Burning fossil fuels does seem to be way more sensible.
    (beware of sarcasm)

    To be honest, I don't live in the US, I live in Germany and use wood burning since years, about 10m^3 per year. Here in the south of Germany we have massive sustainable forestry, leaving over tons of firewood every year. It's cheap, most independent and my emissions in any way are lower compared to using oil or electric energy for heat in winter.
    I have to agree that there is a problem with fine-particle pollution, hence the new regulations, but some of these regulations just appear to be insane. For example here there are regulations for COx emissions, although there should be no net yield for burning a tree, since it pulled its carbon content from the atmosphere anyway. Yet our government is in favour of building new lignite power plants, shutting down subvention for wind and solar power, which again does seem sensible, doesn't it?
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:59PM (#45380687)

    I would love to know which gas / propane / electric company bought this rule....

    Yeah it's another bullshit EPA rule. Did you know that there are cars that emit about half the pollutants into the atmosphere that current EPA-certified cars do by volume? But they're illegal to sell here because the percentage of certain emissions is too high. In other words, we could do less environmental damage per car with (some) imports, but they're illegal because they won't spend a fortune fitting rare-earth metal infested catalytic converters and other emissions systems that, in reality, don't help the environment much -- but they're super expensive and only a few companies sell them here.

    Burning wood is a very efficient way to heat a home. A small home within the arctic circle can keep warming with just a few logs a day; A chord of wood can last them the entire winter; Which is maybe about half of what a single decently mature tree will yield. I used to live on a 30 acre plot of woods growing up in a rural area. We had a furnace to keep the pipes from freezing when we were away for long periods, but the house itself was the size of a barn and was poorly insulated. Even at that, we only needed about 8 logs a day to keep it nice and toasty at 80F. The roof almost never had snow on it unless it was fresh.

    We'd go out in the winter with out little plastic sleds (I was 12) and I'd haul down about 20 logs at a time to the truck and load it up... Then help cut it up and leave it out on a tarp to dry in the sun. Two, maybe three dead trees in the winter was all we needed to keep our massive and poorly insulated house cooking all winter. And up here in the northern midwest of the United States, we're at the same latitude as Moscow. It gets cold.

    By comparison, to heat our house with propane, we'd need to fill our giant tank up about 5 times during the winter, at the cost of a few thousand dollars. As opposed to the gas and oil for the chainsaw... which cost about $20, and the excercise, which I suppose you could say was paid for in pancakes.

    You think about that for a minute now -- all the pollutants we have to burn off, all the electricity we spend, all the labor, and all the extra pollution from transporting it all over the country, to get that propane into the tank... as opposed to just going outside, walking a few hundred feet, and going chop-chop. Those few acres of woods could provide for about ten homes' worth of nearly free heat, and the only pollutant would be carbon. Now think of the average forest fire in California; Think of the hundreds of thousands of trees that go up in flames. California could provide heat for next to nothing to all those homes up along the mountains and keep the ferocity of those forest fires down, by logging the dead trees. Not clear-cut logging like the environmentalists like to showcase... but just the dead trees; Move in on foot, haul them out on sleds.

    But they'd rather you buy the dry heat from a propane or natural gas tap... because it's more environmentally friendly?

    Dude, if you believe that bullshit cover story, you're smoking the cheap $3 crack. Raw oil comes to us on supertankers, and there are no environmental restrictions on the oil those things burn. They are so dirty you can't bring them up-wind less than fifty miles of a major city because you'd have people hospitalized for asthma attacks. A significant portion of our environmental pollution is from these supertankers, powered by the most unrefined, shitty oil you can imagine... it's black like the night and you can see chunks of particulate floating in the tanks, so big you can grab them with your bare hands.

    Environmentalism is a joke... it's just an excuse to let some people get rich at the expense of the rest of us, while making some appeal to the planet that'll fend off the opposition.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:04AM (#45380721)

    and that's why that area has such low life expectancy? oh wait, no they don't, it's average for the USA. Maybe that biofuel isn't so bad compared to coal burning. Maybe the EPA and most the rest of the federal government needs to be cut down to a fraction of its bloated size

  • Re:Good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by glueball (232492) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:09AM (#45380743)

    The stove is about 80%. I burn good wood in it and we use it for base heat. I also have a Tulikivi centrally located on the main floor of the house, which can get to 90% efficient. We use that for 1-2 burns a day on the coldest stretches and let the soapstone radiate the rest of the day.

    A neighbor of mine uses coal. It's a different heat than wood and very nice and much less finicky than wood.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <.tms. .at. .infamous.net.> on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:15AM (#45380791) Homepage

    As someone who lives in a rural area and burns wood as a secondary heat source (oil is primary), I think this may be getting blown out of proportion.

    An overblown story on a website with headlines like "How To Turn Your Home Into A Fortress!" and "Obama Ex-Bodyguard Says Scandals 'Worse Than People Know'"? An overblown story based on an editorial from the Washington Times? An overblown story that defends woodsmoke air pollution by saying it's not as bad as being in a car with a cigarette smoker? Impossible!

    Seriously, this article screams "CRANK!". Actual fact: EPA tightens pollution regulations on new wood stoves. Crank interpretation: Obama wants people to freeze to death.

  • Re: Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BrookHarty (9119) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:23AM (#45380847) Homepage Journal

    As a Washington State resident, there are many counties that are wood only heating. Pierce and Tacoma have large suburbs and are not exactly off the grid living. They are bigger and can force the smaller population to upgrade. The counties like Stevens, Ferry and Okanogan are mostly wood heated homes. I have no real numbers but out of the 39 counties in Washington, I'd say at least 1/2 have majority of wood only heated homes, we still are a big wild state.

    My mothers county has many people that are wood only, and if they went around giving $1000 dollar fines for people burning, they would tar and feather and hold a recall election. Those urban counties are gray haired monsters who know each other and would put pressure to any elected official.

    Those poor gray haired women are the Majority of voters, tell them they cant heat their homes. Most of these people live in urban areas that dont have fire departments, police or or trash pick up. Tacoma I'd say is much different, its urban sprawl.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:25AM (#45380861)
    That is a fair point, $4,000 is indeed a decent amount of money.

    That being said, the payback on my power bill is about 20 months, that is the break even point, after all it is pure profit.

    I financed the thing over 60 months at 4.9% anyway, so the monthly payment isn't actually that bad and the lower power bill offsets about half of the monthly payment, so my actual out of pocket costs isn't all that high each month, less than our family cell phone bills, and we just made a big cut in our carbon foot print.

    As a side benefit, the system does a better job cooling the house and keeping it even, since it is a 2 stage unit, it has a slower speed to run at to maintain the temp and be more efficient.

  • R-Value (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eriks (31863) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:34AM (#45380913) Homepage

    In places where it gets very cold, the way to do it (as others I think are pointing out) is retrofit-assistance and (probably more importantly) insulation assistance programs, like we have in much of New England, so that people can still burn wood, but burn a lot less of it, and actually be more comfortable. Our small house has been well insulated recently and I expect to go from using around 600 gallons of oil a year to around 400, maybe even 300 if I'm careful. If I was using wood, there would be a similar decrease in the amount of wood I'd need to burn to stay warm.

    In the 21st century, it just makes plain sense that building envelope and R-value should be every homeowner's first and second thoughts when heating any home, especially when doing so with the intent to keep from freezing to death. In a (very) well insulted home, it's possible to (easily) keep from freezing to death with little more than a few warm bodies, good clothing and maybe candle or two -- so a high-efficiency heating device, much smaller than you'd need in a conventionally-insulated house, will easily keep you very comfortable in such a home.

  • by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:45AM (#45381001)
    What is so insane about that is that I actually agree, but I'd do it another way...

    Lots of people who need to replace this old stuff don't need a tax break, they don't pay enough in taxes (the kind that you can use such breaks for anyway) to make it help.

    I would provide low interest loans, secured by a lien against the house, for people to buy such things. Many people can't get credit, or it is very expensive, but if the goal is to get people to replace old and very inefficient appliances, HVAC systems, etc. then instead of tax breaks, provide the money in the form of a loan.

    Frankly, most people replacing a 20 year old HVAC system with a new 16 SEER unit would probably find that a 10 year low interest loan would cost the same or less than the reduction in their monthly electric bill, making it a "free" upgrade.

    Huge benefit to society, creates jobs, lowers our energy use, saves people money.

    Win-Win-Win

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:52AM (#45381045)

    We're only talking about a one-time $700 item,

    No. We are not. They're trying to put in a catalytic element, same as they do with cars. These are expensive; Just like your car. It's not a "one time" $700 item, it's a $700 item every 2-6 years. At least. Catalytics decrease efficiency and mean you produce a lot less heat -- you have to burn more fuel to get an equivalent BTU output because it's having to shove all that exhaust through a maze of tiny little tubes.

    They also require regular maintenance and cleaning to keep those tubes open... which means you have to let the whole stove cool down, and the cinders burn out. This can take days before such maintenance can be performed, which means removing the catalytic, which means partial disassembly of the stove. It is a significant fire hazard if done incorrectly. And it also completely disallows the possibility of using only wood heat for your home; It basically mandates a secondary heating source, like (wait for it) a propane or natural-gas powered furnace.

    And all of this so that you can reduce your particulate output from "15-30 grams per hour" to "2-7 grams per hour". [Source [epa.gov]. For comparative purposes, check this [burningissues.org] link out. The EPA's own study put a wood stove in 1998 at 8.2 grams per hour. This 15-30 grams per hour is less than burning the damn log in open air, which clocks in at 8 grams per hour. If you burned sawdust an oil mixed together, you'd get somewhere around the numbers their crack-smoking analysts came up with.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @01:48AM (#45381319)

    Come on, give me a break. It's not all about instant death, it's more often about about quality of life.

    A few years ago I inexplicably developed asthma in Northern California (I have never had a single allergy, etc in 40 years). The doctor said she had seen a huge number of the same cases due to major fires south of San Jose that year (so bad some days you could see a haze in the air 50+ miles away). And I have never had the symptoms since (well, actually - one time - hanging out in a bar in IL before they instituted the smoking ban... so it's pretty clear what triggers it...)

  • Yeah, I love a good warm fire as much as anyone. Spent my fair share of my childhood years throwing wood in the back of a pickup or stacking wood in the shed and warming up by a hot fireplace on cold winter mornings and evenings. It's a very efficient and inexpensive way to heat a home. There is a lot of emotion attached to it, and for good reason. But there are a ton of people out there who are still using stupidly inefficient wood fireplaces that were already outclassed by fireplaces invented over a hundred years ago, including completely open fireplaces which waste ridiculous amounts of heat and burn too cool to properly burn wood cleanly.

    My father became a dealer for a line of fireplaces back in the mid-80s. These things were amazing. You start it, let it get hot for a few minutes then seal the door, damp the flu and turn down the incoming air and then you could watch the smoke recirculate and reburn inside. It put out massive amounts of heat for several hours on just two quarters of a log, and when you walked outside the only thing that gave away that the fireplace was in operation were the telltale heat waves coming out of the chimney. No visible smoke whatsoever after it got started. And these highly efficient and clean-burning stoves were available in the 80s and probably much earlier.

    Contrast that with walking around the neighborhood or driving around my small town in Alaska on a cool morning or evening. The whole place is full of wood smoke from obviously inefficient wood-burning fireplaces. And because of downdrafts and inversions it tends to stay very low and hang around. We often have smoke coming in our house from houses blocks away whenever we open the window for some "fresh" air. There's really no excuse for this when I could have a stove decades ago that basically had zero detectable particulate output when it was running properly. Plus it made the wood last a lot longer.

    Burning wood is air pollution no matter how you slice it, and people need to be strongly encouraged to do it as efficiently as possible. Just like vehicle regulations this only applies to newly manufactured stoves, and all those rural conspiracy theory fruit loops ranting about EPA SWAT teams coming to break down their door and take away their fireplace are just that; fruit loops. This is really much ado about not very much.

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