January 26, 2010
Oregon Prepares to "Heat Smart" with New Woodstove Program
In June 2009, Governor Kulongoski signed Senate Bill 102, also known as "Heat Smart" which is designed to protect Oregonians from wood smoke by reducing pollution from residential wood heating devices across Oregon.
Heat Smart allows Oregon to require removal of an old, uncertified woodstove when selling a home, authorizes the Environmental Quality Commission to set emission standards for new stoves and other wood heating devices, and adds language to Oregon law that explicitly states that it is illegal to burn household garbage and other prohibited materials inside homes.
Wintertime residential wood burning is a significant source of air pollution, including fine particulate and air toxics. These older, polluting stoves can remain in service for dozens of years. Removing them from service would help Oregon’s efforts to restore and preserve healthy air.
Oregon is the first state to formally require removal of an uncertified stove upon sale of a home. In the 1980s, Oregon was also the first state to adopt woodstove certification and emission limits. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency later adopted and implemented this certification nationwide.
DEQ expects to submit rules for the Heat Smart program later this year to the Environmental Quality Commission for review and possible adoption. The rules will detail how the program will be managed. An advisory committee of realtors, lending agents, home inspectors and other stakeholders will be formed to help determine the best way to manage the program and ensure the proper removal and destruction of an uncertified stove upon home sale.
Check for updates and opportunities to comment during the development of the rules at: www.deq.state.or.us/aq/burning/woodstoves/index.htm.
Certified woodstoves burn cleaner, safer and save money
A 2009 survey commissioned by DEQ estimated that there are approximately 40,657 wood heating units in Marion County which represents about 34 percent of all home heating units (electric, natural gas, and wood). Of those households that heat with wood in Marion County about 22 percent are using fireplaces with uncertified inserts or uncertified woodstoves.
"Uncertified woodstoves produce approximately 70 percent more pollution than today’s newer, cleaner certified woodstoves," says Rachel Sakata who oversees DEQ’s Heat Smart program. "If each of these homes installed a certified insert or woodstove the reduction in particulate pollution could be dramatic particularly during stagnant air events."
But cleaner air isn’t the only benefit home buyers can expect. Newer certified woodstoves and fireplace inserts save money and are safer to operate.
"Today’s stoves and inserts are way more efficient in terms of heat output so you use less wood," says Sakata. "Many of these older, uncertified stoves may not be installed properly or need repairs. These types of stoves pose a greater risk of house fire and indoor air pollution. At times they can also be a nuisance for neighbors."
Smoke pollution builds up in the winter months
Winter in Salem and the Willamette Valley brings weather conditions that create inversions. Stagnant conditions keep fine particles from wood smoke and vehicle exhaust trapped at ground level, particularly during the evening and early morning hours. These microscopic particles are inhaled deeply into lungs and can damage delicate lung tissues. In 2010, Salem has experienced "moderate" levels six times since January 1.
Higher-than-usual pollution levels may cause health problems for sensitive individuals. According to EPA, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children are at greatest risk from particulate pollution and should consider restricting their outdoor activities beginning early in the evening and through early morning until the weather changes. People with asthma or other breathing problems or heart conditions should follow their health care provider’s advice for taking care of themselves.
Salem area residents can check pollution levels on DEQ’s website at: www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/index.aspx
Proper Woodstove Practices for Woodstove Users
The use of newer, cleaner stoves or alternative home heating devices will certainly offer improvements for Oregon’s air quality. However, all woodstove users should continue to burn smart. For example, a smoking chimney means wood is not being burned completely. Good woodstove burning practices produce less pollution, reduce heating costs, increase heating efficiency and enhance stove safety.
Burn dry, seasoned wood or manufactured logs made of compressed sawdust. Burning green, wet or unseasoned wood provides less heating value and adds to creosote buildup in your chimney, which can lead to chimney fires. It takes about a year to dry and season wood.
Don’t burn garbage, plastic or treated wood. These materials can release toxic fumes.
Don’t burn on poor air quality days. Use an alternative source of heat, if possible. In several Oregon communities, local woodstove curtailment programs let you know when it is safe to burn.
Build small, hot fires instead of large smoldering ones. A hot fire will heat the stove enough to burn wood completely, with less pollution. Keep your stove half full and provide enough air supply for good combustion.
Avoid the temptation to "hold" a fire overnight by cutting down the air supply to your woodstove. Stoves pollute more when they are choked or "damped" down to restrict their heat output. While it appears that you’re saving wood, you’re really wasting fuel and money, plus creating smoke and dangerous creosote.
Keep your stove clean and well-maintained. Follow manufacturer guidelines; replace catalytic stove filters every 1 to 4 years. Have your chimney checked and cleaned at least once a year.
Open your damper if the smoke coming out of your chimney is dark. Dark smoke indicates it is not burning well and that more pollution and fuel is being wasted.
If you plan to buy or sell a used woodstove, check the label to make sure it is certified. The certification label indicates that the stove meets state air pollution requirements. It is illegal to advertise, sell or install a woodstove that does not have the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certification label.
For more information about wood smoke pollution, burning smart, the statewide woodstove program and to sign up to get woodstove announcements by e-mail, go to www.deq.state.or.us/aq/burning/woodstoves/index.htm.