EPA proposes to amend 2015 NSPS for residential wood heaters

By Erin Voegele | November 27, 2018

The U.S. EPA has announced it is taking two separate actions that aim to amend its new source performance standards (NSPS) for residential wood heaters issued in 2015. A proposed rule would provide retailers additional time to sell existing inventories of hydronic heaters and forced air furnaces, while an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) seems comments on several aspects of the 2015 NSPS. The agency announced both actions on Nov. 21.

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.

The EPA claims the proposed amendments to the 2015 NSPS for new residential wood heaters will save approximately $33 million in regulatory costs from 2019 through 2022.

“Extending the sale of new, Step 1-compliant wood heaters will provide manufacturers and retailers with much-needed certainty and will incentivize more Americans to purchase newer, cleaner heaters, which supports rural economies and improves air quality,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are also taking comments on the testing methods underlying the Step 2 limit to ensure the standards are based on real-world conditions and do not deprive many rural Americans of affordable access to their primary source of heat.” 

“Maine applauds the EPA’s efforts to revise the 2015 Residential Wood Heater NSPS. We support the improvement of Step 2 wood heater emission standards to ensure they are based on reproducible testing methods using cord wood, which better represents real-life operations,” said Marc A. R. Cone P.E., director, Bureau of Air Quality, Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “This provides opportunity to establish the most appropriate emission standards for each residential wood heater technology based on representative data and sound scientific methods.”

A 45-day comment period on the proposed rule will open once the proposal is published in the Federal Register. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Dec. 17 in Washington, D.C.

A 75-day comment period will open on the ANPR following its publication in the Federal Register.

Additional information, including full copies of the proposed rule and ANPR, is available on the EPA website.