|Indoor furnaces are usually in the |
basement, but can be in a garage. Either
option often leads to better fuel storage
practices than outdoor boilers and
greatly reduces jacket losses.
Indoor wood and coal furnaces—also called warm, hot air, or forced air furnaces—were very popular in the US through the early to mid-1900s, then gradually their lost market share as fossil liquid fuel furnaces gained traction in the late 1900s. Then, outdoor wood boilers gained favor, becoming a far worse threat to local air quality than indoor furnaces and boilers had been for decades.
The Alliance began contacting retailers advertising uncertified furnaces to find out whether they knew about the change in regulations and how responsive they would be to information about the change. “We believe that all manufacturers and retailers should play by the same rules, so that the ones who do follow the rules don’t get undercut by ones who do not,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. “And, we found that many if not most retailers will stop advertising products that are not legal to sell if they are politely and professionally approached by an organization that is knowledgeable about the rules,” Ackerly said.
AGH Project Manager Melissa Bollman contacted nine retailers advertising uncertified furnaces. Of those, six stopped advertising those boilers within 2 weeks. Some of the furnaces were removed from the website entirely or are listed as unavailable, while other models that were previously advertised as capable of burning wood or coal have been rebranded as “coal only” to comply with EPA regulations. Currently, if a stove or boiler is advertised as being able to burn wood, it must be tested and certified to burn wood. (The EPA does not regulate coal heaters and some manufacturers have just added a grate and continue to sell the same unit as “coal only”.)
AGH efforts were not always effective, and a few retailers still appear to be advertising uncertified wood furnaces (see screenshots below). These include Sears’ online marketplace (orders fulfilled by the third party 123Stoves, Inc.), Homeclick, and HVAC direct. All screenshots were taken on June 22, 2017.
Houzz.com, Wayfair, and HVAC direct continue to sell uncertified wood furnaces or ones that are labeled wood/coal. The units they are selling are all made by US Stove Company, whose business model leaves it vulnerable to illegal sales of its units by multiple retailers.
AGH regularly monitors advertising by manufacturers and retailers in order to better educate consumers about misleading claims. We also publicize the names of manufacturers who provide better information and do not mislead consumers.
This continued advertising and sale of products that are no longer compliant highlights the danger that stranded inventory can pose for retailers when deadlines pass. If the 2020 emission rules are not delayed or changed, some wood stove retailers may get stuck with inventory that they are no longer allowed to sell, but are under pressure to unload to recoup their investment.
Without regulation, wood furnaces often sold for $1,000 - $2,000, less than many certified wood stoves. Even after the 2017 rules took effect, certified wood furnaces remain affordable with most selling for $2,100 to $3,200. Ten models are now certified, ranging from a more expensive European-designed pellet furnace at 89% efficiency to a very basic US Stove model 1330E that is 33% efficient.
However, the future of this class of wood heaters is far from secure, as EPA rules require wood furnaces to emit no more than 0.15 lbs/mmBtu as of 2020. Other than the European-designed pellet furnace, the other certified furnaces are not at all close to meeting that standard. Wood furnaces saw extremely little technological development until they were required to be certified between 2005 and 2017, and the sector is far behind the levels of controls that have been built into stoves and boilers.