2007: ME: COMMENTS on Backyard wood-fired boilers neat for owners, but not always for neighbors

2007: ME: COMMENTS on Backyard wood-fired boilers neat for owners, but not always for neighbors

Maine’s DEP sets a hearing for Thursday to discuss limits on siting and emissions.

August 15, 2007
— Turning from fossil fuels to a renewable resource to heat your home is a good idea, but simultaneously adding to air pollution isn’t all that beneficial. That’s why it’s good the state is considering imposing emissions standards on "backyard boilers." The wood-fired boilers, which produce heat and domestic hot water, reportedly can save their owners thousands of dollars in fuel oil and electricity costs, sometimes recovering their purchase price in just a year or two. Therefore, it’s easy to see why these devices are becoming ever- more-popular home improvements in Maine and other cold- weather-climate parts of the country. They generally sit in people’s side or back yards and are tied into existing heating and plumbing systems by underground pipes. But they not only heat homes. They can also get the temperature rising under the collars of their users’ neighbors, who are becoming increasingly steamed about smoke that wafts freely across property lines and into adjacent yards and even homes, bringing unwanted smells and particulate pollutants with it. The Department of Environmental Protection has gone from two complaints about them in 2004 to more than 50 in each succeeding year. So, it has proposed a set of rules governing their emissions, stack heights and property-line setbacks and will hold a public hearing on them at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center. The rules would also prohibit burning garbage, tires or similar items in the boilers and prevent anyone from "creating a nuisance" with one. Nobody wants to bar people from saving money or conserving fossil fuels. But neighbors have a right to breathe unpolluted air, too, and that’s why some sort of rules to enforce that right are necessary. 
MainerMom of North Berwick, ME
Sep 25, 2007 1:30 PM

This is not an issue about an offensive smell or the type of smoke produced by a firplace or woodstove. I have lived in Maine my enitre life. As a kid my parents and all my nighbor’s heated thier homes with a woodstove as the primary souce of heat. This is NOT even close to the same type of smoke. These things are a menace to all but those who use them. The stove pipe for a wood stove or fireplace is ON TOP of a house,where the smoke continues to go up. These woodfired boilers have a smoke stack that is at HEAD LEVEL where the smoke drifts into neighboring yards and homes. My nieghbor has recently installed one of these things and every evening around 7 oclock we have to seal up our home,missing out on that lovely Maine evening breeze to avoid being smoked out. It got so bad one evening that I couldn’t see my kids swing set,it sits 8 feet from my back window! It maybe 80 degrees in my kids rooms but I am unable to open their windows to cool them off due to that smoke. My oldest son,who is already on medication for seasonal allergies,wakes up many mornings stuffy and with an irritated throat from the smoke. My husband deals with the same symptoms on those mornings as well. I feed my kids healthy food,ate well while pregnant and breastfed, even made homemade babyfood for them to be sure they would be healthy. But I have no controll over the air they breathe. So, Mainelyjack and Oak,get some info from people who deal with these things before you make such uninformed comments. This is MUCH more then a sizzleing steak or a woodstove or fireplace smoke. It is a health hazard. Oh, and by the way. I never had trouble with asthma,now I may need to get an inhaler due to the lovely woodfired boiler my neighbor uses to cut down on his heating bills. Thank your lucky stars that you don’t have one of these things nextdoor to you. Because THIS is NOT the way life should be! People who think this is a petty issue do not have the facts or experianced the smoke from these boilersreport abuse

Jersk of Bethel, ME

Aug 15, 2007 10:53 AM

I’ve done a little research on these burners and the results don’t look good. At there best efficiency they are 10 times more polluting than non-catalytic wood stoves. However, they are hardly ever used this efficiently. Generally they are used burning any wood available and are oversized for single home applications. They are best used for high heat loads like multiple buildings, barns, large greenhouses etc. For a single family home they spend too much time in shut down mode. This is when they smolder most. They pipe hot water underground. This results in considerable heat loss. The fire box design is inherently inefficient as it is surrounded by a water jacket. Good for heating water but inefficient for fire. The smoke stacks are too short, thus smoke is not dispersed well, and at house level. The wood pile is generally outside, cold wood doesn’t combust as quickly. They are quite expensive . A good burning indoor wood stove is much cheaper and more efficient. These may be a good thing for large, rural applications with a good wood supply. The average home owner would be better served with more insulation,a better wood stove or furnace.
They really have no place in densely populated areas or areas with close neighbors. The claims that you are going to save money are generally false , but you will have a much higher chance of respiratory ailments.report abuse

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