Will Wood Burners Be Outlawed?

Since the beginning of time, wood has often been the main source for providing heat and today there are many popular wood burning products still being both sold and used. The popularity of these units has become evident as the price of home heating oil continues to remaining a high-priced heating product. A few years ago the wood pellet stove gained popularity in many states and other than issues pellet moisture content and availability, I’m unaware of any laws regulating them.

            The wood boiler, however, seems to be getting more than its share of attention. When I first heard about the price for these boilers, I must admit, there was a case of sticker shock from me. The prices I heard range from $6,000-$12,000 per unit and that’s not including the permits or installation, which, I’m told, is a real challenge for a hot water boiler. These boilers are rated in terms of pounds of particulate per 100,000,000 Btus of heat produced inside of the boiler. This translates to 0.60 pound of particular per million Btus. However, in 2010 the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management is calling for a tighter standard of 0.32 pound per million Btus.

            One state that seems to be taking a hard and fast approach to banning wood boilers is Massachusetts. They have already banned these boilers in three municipalities entirely and five more have restrictions in place. I recently read in my own state of Connecticut the attorney general will ask for restriction on wood boiler installation due to the rash number of calls his office has received regarding the excess smoke and smell that is offending neighboring home owners.

            Some of the new wood boiler regulations that are in accordance with Department of Environmental Protection as of Dec. 26 state that no wood boiler can be in use between May 16 and Sept. 30 unless it is more than 500 feet from the nearest dwelling. If an existing boiler is within 150 feet of a dwelling, the stack must be two feet higher than the roof of any dwelling.

It is also now unlawful to operate a wood burner when the smoke level from the unit exceeds an average of 20 percent opacity for two minutes in any one hour time frame. It seems the main issues of concern are that these boilers are giving off particulates of benzene and carbon monoxide. These are found in wood smoke and can cause medical issues for those who breathe the byproducts of the burnt wood. It also seems that DEP has discovered that many boiler owners are also burning trash, and you can bet this is pollution at the highest level. 

            I also know that the wood boiler manufacturers are aggressively working on new designs that will make their products more environmentally safe and efficient in order to meet the new standards. The typical past efficiency of the wood boilers was somewhere between 45 and 60 percent. I’m also told that you can burn logs that are two feet in length and you can load them to burn for 24 to 48 hours depending on the boilers’ wood load capacity. Take it from someone who has had wood burning experience, I vote for the oil boiler, a set back thermostat and a good LL Bean sweater.



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