EPA opens comment periods on residential wood heater proposals

By Erin Voegele | December 03, 2018

On Nov. 30, the U.S. EPA published its recently announced proposed rule to amend new source performance standards (NSPS) for residential wood heaters in the Federal Register, officially opening a 45-day comment period.

On Nov. 21, the EPA announced it is taking two separate actions that aim to amend NSPS for residential wood heaters that were established in 2015. A proposed rule aims to provide retailers additional time to sell existing inventories of hydronic heaters and forced air furnaces. A separate advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) seeks comments on several aspects of the 2015 NSPS in an effort to inform future rulemakings to improve the standards and related test methods. A 75-day comment period on the ANPR also opened Nov. 30.

The 2015 NSPS for new residential wood heaters updated standards enacted in 1988 to reflect advancements in wood heater technologies and design. It also broadened the range of residential wood-heating applications covered by the regulation.

The 2015 rule requires manufactures to redesign wood heaters to be cleaner and lower emitting. These improvements also make the heaters perform better and increase efficiency. The action applied to adjustable burn rate wood heaters, pellet stoves, single burn rate wood heaters, outdoor hydronic heaters, indoor hydronic heaters, wood-fired forced air furnaces and masonry heaters.

The standards finalized in 2015 phase in over a five-year period. For woodstoves, pellet stoves and hydronic heaters, the rule is being phased in in two steps, with the first set of requirements in effect May 15, 2015 and the second limit taking effect in 2020. For wood-fired forced air furnaces, the final rule required wood practice standards beginning on the effective date of the rule, with emissions limits phased in in two steps between 2016/2017 and 2020, to give manufacturers the time they need to develop cleaner models and conduct emissions testing. Small forced air furnaces were required to meet step one emissions limits by 2016. Large forced air furnaces were given an extra year to meet step one requirements, with compliance required in 2017. All forced air furnaces are required to meet the step two emissions limit by 2020.

The new proposed rule released by EPA would amend the 2015 NSPS for new residential hydronic heaters and new forced-air furnaces by adding a two-year sell-through period for all affected new hydronic heaters and forced-air furnaces that are manufactured or imported before the May 2020 compliance date to be sold at retail through May 2022. Within the rulemaking, the EPA explains this will allow retailers additional time after the May 2020 effective date of step two standards for the sale of step one compliant hydronic heaters and forced-air furnaces remaining in inventory.

The EPA is also seeking comments on whether a sell-through period for all affected new residential wood heaters is appropriate following the May 2020 compliance date. And, if so, how long a sell-through period is needed and why. The proposed rule also seeks comments on whether the current minimum pellet fuel requirements should be retained, and if so, whether they should be revised.

The agency’s second action, the ANRP, seeks comments on several aspects of the 2015 NSPS “in order to inform future rulemaking to improve these standards and related test methods.” The EPA is specifically seeking comments related to the compliance date for the step two emission limits; the step two emission limits for forced-air furnaces, hydronic heaters and wood heaters; step two emission limits based on weighted averages versus individual burn rates; transitioning to cord wood certification test methods; compliance audit testing; third-party review; electronic reporting tool; and warranty requirements.

Comments on the proposed rule are due Jan. 14 and can be submitted online through www.Regulations.gov under docket number EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0195. A public hearing is scheduled to be held Dec. 17 in at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

Comments on the ANPR are due Feb. 13 and be filed online through www.Regulations.gov under EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0196.