by Kathleen Pakarinen Aitkin Independent Age
New U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for wood stoves, expected to take effect in 2015, will prohibit the sale of most wood-burning stoves, currently on the market. Aitkin Fire Chief Brian Pisarek recently expressed concern about the new EPA pollution standards and the affect they might have on outdoor wood stove use throughout the area.
â€œTaking the (fire) risk outside has greatly reduced house fires caused by wood heat. Since UL-tested stoves will no longer be for sale, I fear folks may resort to using homemade â€˜barrel-typeâ€™ stoves again,â€ Pisarek said.
Use of wood-burning stoves, already purchased and installed, will not be prohibited but sale of heaters will be restricted to those that meet the new EPA standards. The standards require all new wood-powered stoves and heaters to burn 80 percent cleaner.
According to EPA representatives, the cleaner burning heaters will have a significant affect on the environment and human health. The agency recently estimated that emissions from wood-burning devices accounts for about 13 percent of soot pollution, nation-wide.
â€œSoot from residential wood heaters can increase toxic air pollution, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and soot to levels that pose serious health concerns,â€ the EPA said, adding that â€œparticle pollution is linked to heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks.
The agency also estimates that, for every dollar spent to comply with new standards, Americans will gain $118 to $267 in health benefits, eventually adding up to between $1.8 and $2.4 billion in annual health and economic benefits.
Dan Weerts of Blue Valley Sod said both types of outdoor wood boilers are available now at his Aitkin area business. The older, less expensive types, will be available only until the end of March, 2015. Currently, he estimated, he is selling 50 percent of the new more efficient stoves that meet the new EPA standards.
Weerts uses one of the new types himself and says he loves it. The new stoves are about one-third more expensive but also about one-third more efficient if used correctly. He also said they burn hotter, use less wood, produce less smoke and save money in the long run, especially for homeowners who purchase wood for fuel. The new Central Boiler models he sells operate with up to 95 percent efficiency, Weerts said.
At least in the beginning when the new rules take effect, Weerts expected his sales to decrease due to the increased price of the new stoves.
Pisarek said that was his concern as well.
â€œThe new stoves need higher processed wood and have a tendency to be higher maintenance … Increased cost of the stoves may put them out of reach,â€ Pisarek explained.
The proposed rule and additional background information from EPA is available at epa.gov/residential-wood-heaters.
More fire safety from smoke alarms
Smoke alarms are one of the greatest fire safety success stories. Since they were introduced in 1975, home fire deaths have been cut in half, even as the nationâ€™s population has increased by half. But far too many people let the batteries in smoke alarms wear out, or even remove them to avoid occasional nuisance alarms. And too many people â€“ and their families â€“ pay for their neglect or poor judgment with their lives.
About 2,500 people a year die in structural â€“ mostly residential â€“ fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 60 percent of them â€“ over 1,500 people â€“ are dying in homes that had either no smoke alarms or no working ones. Thatâ€™s more than three people a day.
This fall marks the 27th consecutive year the International Association of Fire Chiefs have recommended testing existing batteries or installing fresh ones in their smoke alarms in conjunction with the end of daylight saving time.
â€œIt takes only a few minutes. This will not only give families critical early warning time to escape a fire, but also helps to protect our firefighters by reducing the likelihood theyâ€™ll have to enter a burning home to rescue someone still inside,â€ a spokesperson for the association said.