USA: new wood burning emission rules

As the temperature continues to plunge, New Yorkers are cranking up the heat. Many of them are using wood. However, that may not be the cleanest way to heat your home.

The EPA released new emission rules aimed at reducing pollution from wood burning heaters.

When it gets this cold out -- you know people are using more energy to heat their homes and it's kind of pretty to see smoke rising from a chimney this time of year. But officials say that's also making people sick.

Wood fire can be inviting, providing a fragrance that many people love. It's also a good way to heat your home -- cut down your energy bill. However, officials say it's not so good for your air quality.

“Wood heat is the biggest contributor to particulate matter in New York State,” explained Mark Watson of NYSERDA.

About two percent of New Yorkers heat their homes with wood, according to NYSERDA. However, it's estimated that one outdoor wood boiler puts out the same amount of pollution as 250,000 thousand modern oil boilers.

Seven states including New York, even filed a lawsuit against the EPA two years ago, forcing the Environmental Protection Agency to take action on standards that had not been updated in almost 25 years.

“The new source performance standard that just came out yesterday was a result of that lawsuit,” said Watson.

The new standards cover wood stoves, pellet stoves, wood boilers -- indoor and outdoor. Beginning this year, manufacturers are required to produce wood heaters that are more efficient and less polluting.

Evoworld out of Troy says its boilers already meet those standards.

“We have something called secondary combustion where the smoke that actually being emitted from the fire is burned,” said Lou Okonski of Evoworld.

It's technology that came out of Europe where the heaters have sensors and lots of controls that burn the wood at almost 100 percent efficiency.

“If you think of burning wood as a campfire that traditionally people would think of, there's very little control in that. That's where the old technology was,” Okonski explained.

The new EPA standards don't cover wood heaters that are already in people's homes. However, New York State is providing incentives to get homeowners to switch.

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