By Rod Tinnemore, Wood Stove Coordinator, Air Quality Program
The best solutions to problems create wins all around. A republican president stated in his State of the Union address in 1970, “We can no longer afford to consider air and water common property, free to be abused by anyone without regard to the consequences. Instead, we should begin now to treat them as scarce resources, which we are no more free to contaminate than we are free to throw garbage into our neighbor’s yard.” In a similar vein, my mantra is “Solving a home heating problem by creating an air pollution problem is not a win-win”.
There are devices called wood-fired hydronic heaters or outdoor wood boilers that have caused havoc throughout the NE and Mid-West U.S. Many of these units and their operators are violating this win-win principle. These devices are currently not regulated by EPA and can emit nearly 100 times the pollution per hour of a Washington approved wood stove. Worse, irresponsible owners have used them as crude home incinerators, burning garbage, plastic chairs, animal carcasses and diapers. Remember, what goes into that firebox still comes out, often in a more toxic form. Can you imagine living next door to these toxic, smoke-generating machines? Who would do that to their neighbors?
There is hope for a better solution. The Washington State Department of Ecology prohibits the sale of outdoor wood-fired boilers in Washington State and works to help innovators create better boilers. EPA will begin regulating these devices in 2014 so new, much cleaner models are already making their way into the market. There is currently only one indoor wood-fired hydronic heater and only a few pellet-fueled hydronic heaters approved for sale in Washington State. These devices can heat an entire house with no more pollution than from a Washington approved wood stove. That’s a win for home heating, for neighbors and for the environment.
If you have questions about these or other solid fuel burning devices, contact Rod Tinnemore, wood stove coordinator, at the Washington State Department of Ecology, 360-407-6978, firstname.lastname@example.org . You’ll find the list of Washington approved wood burning devices online at Ecology's woodstove page.