Tuesday, February 14, 2017

States strive to update outdoor wood boiler regulations to conform to new federal rules

The EPA’s new wood heater regulations has left more than 10 states with outdoor boiler regulations that now need updating. Most state regulations refer to Phase 1 and Phase 2 boilers, a voluntary program that has now been superseded by certified boilers in new EPA regulations.  

Currently, at least New Hampshire and Maryland are updating regulations and the province of British Columbia already incorporated language for the new EPA certified boilers.

The wording in these regulations is often tricky and several states have created unintentional results in the past, such as Maryland whose regulations only allowed Phase 2 outdoor boilers to be installed, effectively prohibiting the installation of far cleaner and more efficient indoor pellet boilers.

Scott Nichols, owner of Tarm biomass in Orford New Hampshire, is working with New Hampshire officials to avoid unintentional results.  One issue, for example, is his recommendation to maintain the exemption for outdoor pellet boilers from property line set back rules, an exemption in place since 2010.  Most states that regulate outdoor boilers have established set backs, from 50 to more than 200 feet. 

This shows the set back and stack height rules in Fairbanks, Alaska, one of more than 100 towns and counties that established local ordinances, albeit years after many boilers were already installed too close to other homes, schools and business.
The Alliance for Green Heat is urging states to retain or establish property line set backs for outdoor wood boilers, including the new certified ones, since they can still emit excessive smoke if they are loaded with unsplit, unseasoned wood.  “We recommend a minimum of 50 feet from the property line and 150 feet from the nearest neighboring residence for certified wood boilers and more for non-certified ones,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. Towns and counties with deep valleys or where weather inversions are common will likely need far bigger set-backs.

As of mid-February, 2017, New Hampshire is proposing 50 foot set-backs for certified cord wood boilers, but Maryland’s draft did not include any set backs.

Another key issue for states is ensuring that only certified outdoor boilers are allowed for both residential and commercial use.  Unless states stipulate that all new installations be certified, unregulated boilers could still be installed in residential areas for commercial purposes, such as a chicken house or greenhouse.  The EPA does not regulate outdoor wood boilers that are used for commercial purposes.  Boiler manufacturers can sell unregulated boilers to homeowners who do not have any registered business, as long as they sign a form saying the boiler will only be hooked up to a greenhouse or garage, and not connected to the home.  If the homeowner connects the boiler to the house, the signed form protects the manufacturer from liability.

Another issue that retailers of modern indoor certified wood and pellet boilers are concerned with is the definition of outdoor boiler. “The EPA definition is poorly written and is a dragnet that catches every boiler in existence since any boiler can be installed outside or in a structure not normally occupied by humans” Scott Nichols said.  New Hampshire agreed and changed their regulations to specify that outdoor boilers are those boilers that are required to be installed outside, so as not to include indoor boilers that happen to be installed in a garage, for example. Nichols is urging “all states to change their definitions for OWHH as New Hampshire has.”

The EPA’s former voluntary qualification program and recent certification program for outdoor wood boilers (hydronic heaters) has helped to reduce particulate matter when the boilers are operated responsibly.  In addition to stricter emission standards, most certified boilers now have controls that help ensure better combustion throughout the burn cycle and reduce the impacts of cycling. 

However, many experts and state and local air quality agencies remain concerned that EPA-qualified Phase 2 and EPA certified boilers can produce excessive smoke in the hands of many operators.  One major policy response has been to establish set backs from property lines and/or nearby residences.  Most states where outdoor boilers are popularwith the exception of the Great Lake states where most outdoor boiler manufacturers are locatedmaintain set backs.  set backs help ensure that outdoor wood boilers are not installed in densely inhabited areas and even in rural areas, they provide a buffer with the immediate neighbors.

Property line set backs: The most common type of set backs are property line set backs.  They typically range from 50 to 200 feet, with 100 feet being the most common.  Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, and British Columbia all use property line set backs.

Set back from nearest neighboring residence: Connecticut and Vermont are the only two states that use set back from the nearest neighbor’s residence.  They both require 200 feet, representing stricter rules.

Both property line and nearest residence: Maine and Massachusetts use both property line and nearest residence.  For EPA Phase 2 boilers, Maine requires 50 feet from the property line or 70 feet from a neighbor’s house.  Massachusetts requires 50 feet from a property line and 75 feet from nearest home.

Seasonal restrictions: Two states, Indiana and Massachusetts, do not allow outdoor boilers to operate in the summer as they can cause even more pollution in warmer weather when they are likely to cycle on and off more frequently.  In addition, Maryland recently wrote draft regulations that would restrict use from May 1 to September 30.

Stack heights: Most states that require set backs also require minimum stack heights.  (This memo does not address these.)

Sunset clauses: Most state rules only apply to future installations, but some, such as Vermont and British Columbia, have sunset clauses for conventional boilers.  In British Columbia, only EPA certified and Phase 2 boilers can be operated after November 1, 2026.


Connecticut Law
CGS § 22a-174k, enacted in 2005, bans the installation or operation of OWBs that do not meet certain requirements. A violation of the law is an infraction.
With a few exceptions, the law prohibits anyone from building, installing, establishing, modifying, operating, or using an OWB until EPA regulations governing them take effect.
The law allows OWBs if they were either built, modified or in use before July 8, 2005; or they
1. are installed at least 200 feet from the nearest neighboring home;


DEP INFORMATION SHEET Regulation of Outdoor Wood Boilers , Effective Date: November 9, 2007 Contact: 1-800-452-1942 or 207-287-2437 Amended: July 4, 2008
OWB installations need to meet minimum setback requirements designed to protect public health. The setback distance required depends on the unit’s emission rating, with reduced setbacks allowed for cleaner-burning OWB models. The setback table below lists the minimum distance an OWB unit needs to be from any neighboring property line or dwelling. Buyers should carefully consider whether their property configuration provides the necessary space to meet the setback requirements before purchasing a boiler unit.

OWB Emission Rating
(in pounds per million BTUs or lbs/MMBtu)
Minimum Setback Distances
from Property Line OR from Dwelling
0.32 lbs/MMBtu
50 feet OR 70 feet
0.60 lbs/MMBtu
100 feet OR 120 feet
>0.60 lbs/MMBtu (including uncertified OWBs)
250 feet OR 270 feet

310 CMR 7.26(50) Outdoor Hydronic Heaters

On and after December 26, 2008 no person shall:

1.     Site or install a residential-size outdoor hydronic heater that meets the emission standard defined in 310 CMR 7.26(53)(a), unless it is installed at least 50 feet from any property line and 75 feet from any occupied dwelling that it is not serving, at the time of installation.

New Hampshire 

125-R:3 Setback and Stack Height Requirements. –
   I. No person shall install a Phase I OWHH unless it is installed at least 100 feet from the nearest property line and has a permanent attached stack that is at least 2 feet higher than the peak of the roof of a residence or place of business not served by the OWHH if that residence or place of business is located within 300 feet of the OWHH.
    II. No person shall install a Phase II OWHH unless it is at least 50 feet from the nearest property line.
    III. No person shall install an OWHH that is not a Phase I or Phase II OWHH unless it is located at least 200 feet from the nearest abutting residence and has a permanent attached stack that is at least 2 feet higher than the peak of the roof of a residence or place of business not served by the OWHH if that residence or place of business is located within 300 feet of the OWHH.
Source. 2008, 362:2, eff. Aug. 10, 2008.

New York
6 CRR-NY 247.4


All new OWBs must meet minimum setback requirements. Residential-size new OWBs (thermal output ratings of 250,000 British thermal units per hour (Btu/h) or less) must be sited 100 feet or more from the nearest property boundary line. Commercial-size new OWBs (thermal output ratings greater than 250,000 Btu/h) must be sited 200 feet or more from the nearest property boundary line, 300 feet from the nearest property boundary line of a residentially-zoned property and 1,000 feet or more from a school.


[25 PA.CODE CHS. 121 AND 123]
Outdoor Wood-Fired Boilers
[40 Pa.B. 5571]
[Saturday, October 2, 2010]
Under final-form subsection (d), regarding setback requirements for new Phase 2 outdoor wood-fired boilers, a person may not install, use or operate a new Phase 2 OWB unless the boiler is installed a minimum of 50 feet from the nearest property line.

ADOPTED RULE – Effective Date: July 5, 2014 
                          AGENCY OF NATURAL RESOURCES                               Montpelier, Vermont 
                     ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION REGULATIONS                                    CHAPTER 5                              AIR POLLUTION CONTROL 

1.     Installation Requirements
(i) After October 1,1997, no person shall install or allow the installation of any OWB that is not a Phase I OWB or a Phase II OWB unless the OWB:
  1. (A)  Is located more than 200 feet from any residence that is neither served by the OWB nor owned by the owner or lessee of the OWB; and,

R307. Environmental Quality, Air Quality.
Rule R307-208. Outdoor Wood Boilers.
As in effect on January 1, 2017

(2) No person shall operate an outdoor wood boiler within 1000 feet of a private or public school, hospital or day care facility.
(3) Setback. A new residential outdoor wood boiler shall not be located less than 100 feet from the nearest property boundary line. A new commercial outdoor wood boiler shall not be located less than 200 feet from the nearest property boundary nor 300 feet from a property boundary of a residentially zoned property.

British Columbia (Canada)


Order in Council No. 650 , Sept. 19 2016
Boilers -setback and operational requirements
7 (1) In this section, "installed" means installed outdoors or m a structure not ordinarily used as living space.

(2)  An owner of a parcel must ensure that a boiler that is installed on the parcel after November I, 2016 but before May 1, 2017 is installed as follows:
(a) if the boiler is a certified boiler or a phase 2 qualified boiler, not less than 40 m [131 feet] from each of the parcel's boundaries;
(b) in any other case, not less than 80 m [262 feet] from each of the parcel's boundaries.

(3)  An owner of a parcel must ensure that a boiler that is installed on the parcel on or after May 1, 2017 is
(a) a certified boiler, and
(b) installed not less than 40 m from each of the parcel's boundaries.
(4)  Despite subsections (2) (a) and (3), if the certified boiler is designed to bum only pelletized fuel, the boiler must be installed not Jess than I0 m [32 feet] from each of the parcel's boundaries.
(5)  A person must not operate a boiler installed contrary to subsection (2) (a) or (b), (3) or (4).

(6)  On and after November 1, 2026, a person must not operate an installed boiler unless the boiler is a certified boiler or a phase 2 qualified boiler.

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