Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Questioning Mom About Outdoor Wood Boilers

Mother Earth News published a AGH letter to the editor on unregulated OWB's:

Dear Mom,

Opening the last two issues, we were taken aback to see two full page ads for outdoor wood boilers (OWB) in the first pages of Mother Earth News. Some outdoor wood boilers are fairly clean and efficient, but most states in the US allow even the dirtiest, most polluting models to be installed. Your readers should know the difference.

Unregulated OWBs are the scourge of the clean wood burning movement, and continue to give wood burning a bad name. Only recently has the EPA set standards for OWBs, so if you buy one, no matter what state you live in, please make sure it is Phase 2 EPA certified. You will be doing the environment, your neighbors and yourself a huge favor.

Better yet, look into an indoor wood furnace or boiler, which are smaller and generally much more efficient and clean. Efficient models will save you thousands over the unit’s lifetime because they use much less wood to make the same amount of heat- saving you countless trips to the wood pile. Wood can be a fantastic renewable, low carbon, local fuel source.

As with all renewables, Europeans are decades ahead of us in developing wood as a mainstream, clean energy source. In parts of Austria, for example, installing a fossil fuel furnace is strongly discouraged or even disallowed because their pellet furnaces are so efficient and clean. While the EPA was allowing sales of unregulated OWBs to flourish, Europeans were investing in R&D and incentives to develop products that heat entire communities without the air quality concerns inherent to OWBs.

This is a great year to buy or upgrade your wood stove or furnace. The federal government is giving a 30% tax credit, up to $1,500 for high efficiency, certified wood stoves and furnaces. And many states give additional tax incentives. New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and South Dakota's incentives are geared towards wood furnaces or primary heating systems. Alabama, Idaho, Montana and Oregon (and soon West Virginia) all offer tax incentives for stoves or furnaces. For more details on the federal and state incentives, go to www.forgreenheat.org.

John Ackerly

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