Some hot about potential outdoor stove regulations
February 03, 2010One day, there was an almost empty petition sheet laying on the counter at Marcy's Kitchen in English. Three days later, the sheet was completely full of signatures on one side and half full on the back. People in Crawford County like their woodstoves and any threat to that source of heat will obviously be met with even hotter opposition.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has begun the process of writing new rules to regulate outdoor hydronic heaters, also known as outdoor wood furnaces, outdoor wood boilers, wood heaters and water stoves. The units are used to heat homes and businesses and also can be used to heat swimming pools and hot tubs.
IDEM is considering rules that would set requirements for smoke stack height and emissions standards for units installed after the rule is effective. The agency also is considering additional operational rules and fuel restrictions.
|Local opposition has grown to new rules to regulate outdoor hydronic furnaces being proposed by the Indiana Department of Environ-mental Management. Photo by Lee Cable|
According the IDEM Web site, an initial public comment period for the rulemaking on the units was published on Dec. 5, 2005, with a deadline to comment set at Jan. 3, 2006. Due to several requests, an extension was granted that set the deadline for March 3, 2006. That public comment period flew under the radar for many people and only created a luke-warm response.
This time, when the public comment period was announced (Dec. 5, 2009 to Feb. 22, 2010) opponents took notice and began a closer look at the proposed regulations and the impact they would have on rural areas where many homes are heated by burning wood. Petition sheets have been showing up at places like Marcy's and other businesses asking residents for support in opposing the new rules.
"A lot of people in the county have been signing the petition sheets," Wayne Larimore of Marengo said. "So far, only one person who was asked refused to sign. But we've had a lot of people sign the petition who don't even heat with wood. One person who has a neighbor with an outdoor furnace said he doesn't really like the wood smoke but likes rules placed on them even less. We've placed petitions in almost every major business in the county, and several individuals are collecting signatures. But we may need a statewide effort to stop this thing."
Jimmy Bates, who represents the Hardy Outdoor Furnace Co. in Philadelphia, Miss., agrees.
"I have traveled all over Indiana," Bates said. "I was just in Indiana last week. Indiana is, for the most part, a rural state. There are hundreds of small towns all over the state and it's rural America at its best. There's a lot of woodburners in the state and, for not just us but other outdoor furnace manufacturers, as well, this is our bread and butter.
"We're not saying that we shouldn't improve the furnaces or that we shouldn't reduce smoke output. There's new technology being developed, but the industry hasn't had time to catch up.
"It takes time to develop new products, but we have to keep the ball rolling. We're spending every dime we can on research, but we also have to keep people employed," Bates said. "Most of these furnaces are built right here in the U.S., and we certainly don't need to lose more jobs."
According to IDEM descriptions, outdoor wood boilers are free-standing, wood-burning appliances that heat water, which is then pumped underground to provide heat to a structure. An outdoor wood furnace also can be used to provide hot water year-round. Units are typically the size of a small wood shed or mini barn. They can heat buildings ranging in size from 1,800 to 20,000 square feet. Outdoor wood furnaces are much larger and differ in design, operation and emissions produced from the much smaller indoor woodstoves, pellet stoves, fireplaces and barbecue pits. Some outdoor furnaces have auxiliary units or attachments that allow gas, oil or coal to be burned in addition to wood.
IDEM also claims that larger capacity, low stack heights, design differences, operating conditions and lower operating temperatures cause more intense smoking and smoldering conditions nearer to ground level than in other woodburning devices. The agency also claims that those factors have led residents to complain to IDEM about certain outdoor wood boilers.
"It's my understanding that there have only been 41 complaints to IDEM over a long period of time," Bates said. "And out of those 41, some have been bogus. Now, I agree that there are places where the outdoor boilers shouldn't be used. They shouldn't be placed in subdivisions or municipal areas or when there are really close neighbors.
"And I can see why they shouldn't be used during the summer months. And there are some who have complained that the units are being misused, burning trash and other fuels, but that is not recommended by the manufacturers.
"But that's not the fault of the unit. If I use my truck to run over someone, that's not a fault in my truck; I've misused the truck," he said. "These units are designed to burn clean wood, and there's an abundant supply of that in Indiana. Trees that are harvested all over the state as an agricultural product leaves behind tree tops, many of which are used for firewood. You can't burn tree tops in some states due to open-burning laws, but they can be used for firewood."
According to IDEM, stack heights on outdoor wood boilers are typically eight to 10 feet above ground level. Chimneys on homes are almost always above the roof line and are typically 20 to 30 feet above ground level. The lower stack heights decrease the opportunity for wood smoke to disperse, to some extent, in the surrounding air before affecting nearby individuals and residences at ground level. And IDEM states that the basic design of outdoor wood boilers causes fuel to burn incompletely, or smolder, which can result in thick smoke and high particulate emissions.
"Despite what IDEM says, companies do have products in the testing stage now," Larimore said. "It's complicated and expensive to produce new products and to troubleshoot potential problems. And the cost of newer versions of these units could cause the outlay of buyers to jump from $4,000 to $5,000, to $12,000 to $15,000. The state could make this type of heat unaffordable."
Mailed comments on the new rules should be addressed to:
#05-332 (APCB) Outdoor wood boilers
Sean Gorman Mail Code 61-50
c/o Administrative Assistant
Rules Development Section
Office of Air Quality
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
100 N. Senate Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
IDEM will accept comments on the issue until Feb. 22.