Do you have an old wood stove (pre-1991) or an outdoor wood boiler of any vintage? These older wood stoves are almost always much heavier polluters than newer, EPA-certified models, and newer pellet boilers can save you money and create much less smoke than outdoor wood boilers. In 2017-2019, CCETC ran a program to incentivize the replacement of older wood stoves or outdoor boilers with new pellet stoves or boilers. Funding for this program has run out, but NYSERDA is still offering pellet stove and boiler incentives through its Renewable Heat NY Program.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instituted emissions standards for wood stoves in the early 1990s but it is estimated that up to 70% of all wood stoves currently in use predate these regulations. These older units can have emissions levels that are more than three times higher than those of EPA-certified wood stoves. Airborne pollutants, such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), nitric oxides, soot, and condensable organic matter, are associated with increased morbidity and mortality especially among young children and the elderly.
The EPA recently developed a New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for wood heaters including wood stoves, pellet stoves, wood boilers, and other biomass heating technologies used for residential applications. But even though these standards are more stringent than current EPA regulations, newer wood stoves typically have rated emissions levels significantly higher than pellet stoves. More importantly, their emissions are very dependent on the operator -- even the most meticulous wood stove owner would not be able to meet the rated efficiencies that were arrived at in a laboratory setting, and many owners routinely create much higher emissions. While education and practice can go a long way to reduce emissions, we are taking a new approach -- replacing these older units not with newer, EPA-certified models but with pellet stoves.
Pellet stoves not only have lower rated emissions but their emissions are not dependent on how the owners operate them. Instead, a fairly uniform fuel (wood pellets) is fed at a controlled rate into a burn chamber where a controlled amount of oxygen -- constantly checked with an oxygen sensor -- is pumped in. This ensures a clean burn. Try putting wet pellets or garbage in a pellet stove and it just won't work (try that in a wood stove -- which in the case of garbage is illegal -- and you'll result in high levels of smoke and noxious chemicals).
And today, many pellet stoves come with battery backup, or can be modified with kits, that allow the stove to continue to operate if there is a power outage. We have another program that is currently working to bring bulk pellet delivery to the entire eight-county Southern Tier region. This will make pellet heating much more convenient for homeowners and businesses. Particularly for pellet boiler owners, it will allow them to receive pellets much like they do propane or oil now -- with regular deliveries into a hopper situated on-site. From there, the pellets are automatically fed into the boiler. Everything is fully automated, so all you have to do is clean out the ash pan every few weeks.
For more information, contact Guillermo Metz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-272-2292, x185.
Last updated August 24, 2020