Unregulated Wood Stoves
Most consumers are not aware that tens of thousands of new polluting stoves are still being sold
in the US because they fall outside the EPA's purview. The EPA allows these stoves to escape
regulation because they are purposefully built in such a way as to not meet the agency's criteria
for a wood heater. However, these "EPA exempt" appliances are wood heaters for all intents
and purposes – just inefficient and polluting ones.
Numerous local jurisdictions do not allow their installation, and two states do not allow installing new or old stoves that are not certified by the EPA: Washington
, Oregon and most of California. In addition, the state of Colorado does not allow the sale or installation of new, uncertified stoves, but does allow the sale and installation of second-hand uncertified stoves.
While some of these stoves are used infrequently in remote hunting cabins, work sheds and
garages, many are installed in neighborhoods in small towns or suburban areas where they emit
much more smoke pollution than what should be allowed in a dense residential area. There are
many producers of new polluting EPA exempt stoves on the market, many of which are imported
from China and sold cheaply on the internet. These companies are exploiting a loophole in the
EPA certification system intended for fireplaces to legally produce very low efficiency stoves.
Sometimes they have even been advertised as "Meets EPA Requirements", almost implying that
the stoves are approved by the EPA. Our goal is for companies that sell EPA exempt stoves to
agree on better language to use in their advertisements, so consumers can more easily understand
the difference between EPA exempt and EPA certified stoves.
Some of these unregulated stoves may look deceptively like more efficient stove designs.
Other unregulated stoves have designs more obvious in their lack of efficiency and emission technology.
The advanced Rumford 1,000 fireplace emits only 3.94 grams per hour with the door closed.
Fireplaces are generally the least efficient wood burning technology of all, their open design limiting the user’s ability to control a fire or burn at temperatures high enough to ignite all wood combustion products. Luckily, most fireplaces are used only occasionally, not as a source of home heating.
New fireplace technology has been recently developed to help make fireplaces a more clean wood-burning option. Renaissance Fireplaces received a Clean Air Excellence award for their Rumford 1,000 model. By sealing off the fireplace to only take in outside air, they’ve manage to produce a fireplace which exceeds Washington State emission standards and achieve 70-93 percent fewer emissions than a typical fireplace.
The EPA has also developed a set of voluntary standards for fireplaces, available here. The site includes a list of qualifying fireplaces as well as program partners.
The designers at Earth's Flame have developed a new and innovative product aimed at reducing harmful fireplace pollution. Their strategy has forgone removing pollution from the fire and have instead taken aim at the source of the pollutions itself, a poorly burning fire. This hybrid wood/gas stove both reduces emissions and increases efficiency, for more details, you can find the report here.