EPA Considers New Regulations for Pellet Stoves

A recent proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aims to update air emission standards for various types of wood burning stoves. These updates would regulate several types of new wood heaters, including pellet stoves, for the first time.

Under the EPA’s current New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Residential Wood Heaters, pellet stoves are largely exempt from emissions standards.

What are the proposed standards?

Much of the emissions standards set by the EPA concern traditional woodstoves. These stoves are usually made of steel or cast iron, and provide heat for homes by burning split logs. Regulation by the EPA is intended to limit the amount of particulate matter—otherwise known as particle pollution—as well as to reduce emissions of other wood smoke pollutants.

The proposed emissions limits for woodstoves are identical to current standards in the state of Washington. Many woodstove manufacturers already meet these standards.

In addition to woodstoves, the new standards would now apply to pellet stoves for the first time. Pellet stoves resemble traditional woodstoves in appearance, but instead of split logs, they burn small pellets made from ground, dried wood and other bio-waste. These stoves are automatically fed with a hopper—which means that they require electricity to operate, unlike traditional woodstoves.

In its latest update proposal, the EPA seeks to place the same emissions limits on pellet stoves as woodstoves.

When will pellet stove regulations take effect?

For both woodstoves and pellet stoves, models that are currently installed and being used as heat sources in households will be exempt from the new EPA guidelines, with no upgrading required.

The new standards are being considered and, if passed, are likely to take effect this year (2014). However, they will be phased in over a period of 5 years from the date the emissions laws take effect—giving both manufacturers and homeowners ample time to meet the limits.

Under the two-step process proposed by the EPA, all stoves that are not currently certified (with the exception of pellet stoves) will have to meet a proposed PM limit of 4.5 grams per hour within 60 days of the final ruling. The second step requires all woodstoves and pellet stoves to meet a proposed PM limit of 1.3 grams per hour within 5 years of the effective final ruling date.

Current pellet stove owners should consider themselves exempt from this proposal. When purchasing a new pellet stove, ask to make sure it will meet the upcoming compliance deadline for the EPA.