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EPA demands Efficiencies be removed from OWBs

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by tronsliver, Jun 25, 2013.

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  1. tronsliver

    tronsliver New Member

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    Many of the studies and reports I've seen indicate approximately 1.5 tons of PM per heating season. I suppose some states simply are trying to stay ahead of the game by not letting the devices accumulate. When you think about some Midwestern states and the thousands of OWBs installed, 1.5 tons each does impact the breathing envelope, especially where there is an accumulation of the devices. Although many state DEQs know this they are constrained by state politics. However, some have covered their bases by listing OWBs as a potential threat in their implementation plans just in case somewhere down the line federal air standards are exceeded and tier 1 problems alone can't fix the issue.

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  2. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    I think that MA. (here) is a prime example of the OWB folly. People here tend to think they live "out in the country" and freedom(s) have a long tradition here, so folks installed OWB's and figured everything would be OK...

    Next thing you know, their neighbors were complaining...for good reason! We have small hills and valleys and one stinkbomb can definitely smoke up an entire small village. As the signs here in Mass say "thickly settled". This state, despite the views and somewhat small-town and rural nature, is the 2nd most densely populated in the entire country (after RI and possibly NJ).

    I don't think much of the anti-OWB was fake or exaggerated. It was more like the other way around. I was very active in the boiler industry when much of it was happening. It was very normal and typical for OWB's to be sold by fence and lawn equipment dealers and promoted for burning tires, carpet, stumps, green wood, etc.
    I would say that these were MAJOR selling points and that it was probably a minority of owners who burned normally seasoned and dry wood.

    There may have been a time when I bought the idea of "different standards for different areas", but with google sat. images and a better knowledge of how pollution moves, it's tough to buy that line any longer.

    There is too much disinformation in this entire industry - so OWB is by no means alone. We've seen 35% efficient Pellet stoves marketed as 90%, 55% gas units sold as 80%, etc.

    Those who crow against gubment intervention usually have an axe to grind or a wallet to fatten...at others expense.
    UMainah likes this.
  3. tronsliver

    tronsliver New Member

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    I completely concur, gone are the days when there was five miles between farm homes. Now two families can have 20 acres each but their houses are right next to each other on the main road. I like to ask, "is a lung in rural America different than a lung in urban America"?
  4. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Well, to counter the holier than thou anti-OWB posts here... my experience has been very much different. In Oregon at least, they have been classed with all wood burning appliances, and are treated the same. I can count the OWBs I have seen in my 50+ years on one hand, and one of those was ours, one I installed and one was at the dealer we bought ours from. I have lived, worked and traveled all over the US, Canada and Mexico, albeit I have lived mostly on or within 60 miles of the Pacific.

    I have designed and installed two OWB systems. Both had Central Boiler (CB) classics. Dealing with CB was great, and their local sales guy and factory support was superior. We had a house that did not have room for a boiler inside, and it had a hydronic floor heating loop installed in it. An OWB was really the only option that we had, and I retrofitted it into the floor loop and DHW with no real problems. It paid for itself in about 4 years of use, as compared to electric heat that it replaced. I looked at all the major OWB systems available at that time, and CB was the best value and had the best size, and the best reputation in the southern Oregon area. I later designed and helped install a similar system for someone else we knew that saw our system in use. After installing the two systems, I can attest that CB's do not rust out as claimed, they do not fail as claimed, and they certainly do not smoke as claimed. Actually I was quite surprised at how little they smoked, compared to all the flap that the people in New England and New York put up about them. I would say that my Earth Stove here smokes a lot more than the CB classic that my ex still has running at her place, and the Earth Stove has air injection and actually burns fairly clean for a stove of its age. The CB never had any creosote buildup in the flue, ever. The creosote inside the firebox was about the same as any wood stove that I have used, and when scraped down that just burns like wood. My ex has been burning in her CB for about 10 years now, and we and she has never had a single complaint about the smoke.

    I would ask anyone with an older smoke dragon indoor wood stove to cast the first stone toward OWB cycle burning, vs. burning by damping down a smoke dragon (likely the most common way that they are used). I bet the particulates and methane/Co/NOx levels are similar. Basically it comes down to how you burn in your stoves, and what the moisture content is in you wood. If you are burning wood that is. People burn green wood, garbage, treated wood, MDF, diapers, etc. in any and all wood burning appliances, not just in OWBs. But oh! Look at that jerk with an OWB! Scream, yell and holler! When it comes to EPA testing, I say BS to any and all EPA testing methods used for any and all wood burning appliances, and not just OWBs. I will also bet you that I can get my Englander 30 to burn dirtier than any new OWB out there (EPA or not) just by closing off the baffles, damping it down, and burning green or wet wood, or... tossing in one of these tires that I got off the side of the road here yesterday. !!! Then I will take photos and post them on the internet and say, "Look how dirty these EPA/WA State approved Englander 30 stoves are! They should all be banned!" It is all too easy to stage this kind of crap.
    Fifelaker and martyinmi like this.
  5. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    If they are classified right along with other wood burning appliances, that is fine and dandy.

    I don't think there much of a counter argument on this one. My prediction is that if most of us lived in a little valley with a neighbor who burned a very dirty OWB - or fireplace, or brush piles 24/7, etc. - that we would have a problem with it.

    I don't think Englanders are sold by folks who claim you can burn tires...in them.

    It's not a matter of holier than thou, but rather of common sense and looking forward. If OWB's had been labeled from day one with "This appliance will produce only 25% of the wood energy to your home" and "Only well seasoned clean firewood should be burned in this appliance", we wouldn't have had as many problems.

    Most of it is a matter of education. But the fact remains that OWB's were largely created as a way to skirt regulations. So, after making hundreds of millions in sales, do they have a right to complain now that they have to follow similar rules as the rest of the world?
    heaterman likes this.
  6. martyinmi

    martyinmi Member

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    Skirting regulations? Not being a smart alec here, but care to explain? And HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS?
    StihlHead likes this.
  7. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    I'm not anti OWB and I think you are missing the point here.

    OWB claim to fame is that you can burn un-seasoned, unsplit, stumps etc in them, if it fits through the door......it burns it! There are more than I can count on one hand within a 10 mile radius of me. Some are clean, some are not. Most are not, and do billow smoke that can be blinding within 100' or more feet from them.

    There are lots of people who burn wood in my area, I'd be willing to guess at least 30% of people have a wood pile in their back yard of 2 cord or more. In sub zero cold and extreme calm mornings (as they usually are in the cold) there is a bit of a haze over towns from the wood smoke. Keep in mind that oil/LP chimneys are all showing up as well in -30F winter mornings. When you have a huge firebox that has 300 or more pounds of wood in it smouldering away smoke will be generated in large quantities, on those really cold mornings the OWB are burning hard and hot, by afternoon they are just billowing out smoke and not just steam.

    I have a friend about 3 miles from me who owns a CB OWB, and he burns seasoned unsplit wood in his and is on top of a hill, not alot of smoke, and no one complains, big old farm house with two families in it. Take that same OWB and put it in town on an average 1,500 sq.ft. ranch and it will drive people inside due to the smoke.

    The problem is the claimed efficiencies are rediculously high (3x as high) and they claim you can burn any type of wood in them. Even my old conventional indoor wood boiler, which is not a whole lot different than an OWB accept for it's firebox size and pressureized vessle, said "only seasoned, split cordwood can be burned in this appliance, no garbage, naphtha, gasoline etc". So, smaller firebox can't produce the gross amount of unburned HC as a large firebox filled with 3x the wood under the same conditions, and the manufacturer talls you to use seasoned, split cordwood only.

    TS
  8. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    The significant difference between a non rated wood stove and an OWB is that of cycling the fire. Where the OWB almost completely shuts off the air to the fire, a wood stove will generally stay at a setting where it is getting at least some air for combustion which cleans up the burn considerably.
  9. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Not really. When OWBs shut down they keep the wood hot enough to burn when the damper opens. At least our CB classic did. You make a lot of charcoal as a result of overloading them though. The gasses waft off unburned, and the wood turns to charcoal. That is one reason they are commonly so inefficient; they are commonly overfilled. I can do the exact same thing with my Earth stove here. Stuff it full of wood, get it going, then damp it down and it will smolder all night long. The methane and other wood gasses do not get hot enough to burn and they waft off, and you make a lot of charcoal (and creosote). Same effect and results in either stove/boiler in my experience.

    The above reasons are why I did not cram our OWB full of wood, and why I do not stuff my Earth stove full of wood. People seem to be endeared to jamming all types of wood stoves full of wood to get longer burn times. That does lead to longer burn times, but in my experience when you do that the efficiency of wood stoves and OWBs drops significantly. So I add less wood more often. I get more exercise. I avoid making more charcoal. I actually looked into making charcoal and selling it when I had tracts of timber land. However I found out that Kingsford is very aggressive in their sales tactics, and they keep any other charcoal products off store shelves, even if they have to give their charcoal away. For that reason all you see is Kingsford for sale everywhere, and for that reason I refuse to buy it. I buy lump charcoal at a local gas station, or I make my own. Its easy enough to make... ;)
  10. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    I will have to concede on the issue that many OWB ads claim that you can burn green, wet and unseasoned wood. Also there are many home made OWBs out there that people burn anything in (including tires). However, as I said above, people also can and do burn anything and everything in indoor wood stoves, and not just in OWBs. I also do not believe that the efficiency numbers posted for OWBs are accurate, but I also do not believe the efficiency numbers for any wood stoves either, ...or any numbers posted about EPA efficiency.

    That aside, my experience with the CB classic OWBs is that they only smoke for a short time (maybe a minute) after the damper opens, when the burn chamber is cleared of smoke and the wood catches fire. Once they are going they do not smoke much at all, and if the air temps are low and they are cranking, they should not be smoking much if at all. Mine did not anyway. When they are damped shut they do not smoke at all. However at that same time they are actually releasing invisible unburned wood gasses, and that is where/why their efficiency drops so low.

    I worked in the towns of Chelmsford, Burlington, and 'Woostah' in MA a lot back before 9/11, usually between November and February. I got unlimited miles on rental cars in exchange for staying over the weekends so my company got lower air fares. I drove all over NE and upstate New York. I never saw anything like what the New York air quality board posted with several OWBs smoking like mad, or that many issues with smoke in general back there. The smoke was far worse in the south SF Bay area in California where I lived with winter air inversions.

    I would venture to guess that there are at least 100 times as many indoor smoke dragons than OWBs (pure conjecture) but here in the west it is more like 1,000 times more old wood stoves to OWBs (there just are not many OWBs here). Add the millions of masonry fireplaces that are what, 95% useless at heating the homes? Talk about low efficiency and high numbers... but they are all virtually exempt from all these EPA requirements that boilers and stoves are required to meet. I believe that OWBs are just low hanging fruit that municipalities, regions and states can go after, but they are not (in my view) the main cause of the vast majority of smoke issues in most areas. They have become a scape goat for people to point at. We shall see in places that have banned them, and what the actual results are in time. The war on OWBs in NE seems to have settled down after the EPA standards on them. New York state DEC has since removed their 'Hell on Earth' smoking OWB photos from their state web site, as has NESCAUM.
    pelletdude and martyinmi like this.
  11. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Update: VT and MI states still have their dirty smoking OWB photos online. The photos seemed staged though, while burning green/wet wood, tires, or something else. Or the people are running their OWBs wrong. If/when the OWB dampers are open and the fire is burning hot and fast, the smoke would be drastically reduced. If the OWBs were idle, they would not be smoking much, if at all. For a brief time after the damper opens, they will smoke, but they generally clear and the smoke dissipates in a minute or two. The OWB photos were all likely taken during the brief time right after the damper opens, and the fingers all come out and point in horror.... the horror! :eek: and all the political over-hype and news sensationalism follows...
  12. tronsliver

    tronsliver New Member

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    There are many neighbors across the nation in cold climate states that would vehemently disagree. Case in point, see the attached photo. The pictures are part of a long lasting dispute between two neighbors. The state DEQ was involved as was CB. I was told that CB got involved because it was one of their newer models (EClassic 2400). Supposedly they made sure the owner was burning clean dry wood. The state backed off the owner because the distance from the OWB to the neighbor is over 1000 feet. Perhaps its over-sized, I don't know, or maybe when no one is looking he's burning green wood but to the neighbor it's a living hell. Keep in mind, that its not just about smoke, but also, to many, the odor is sickening. Again, to the point of it being ad nauseum, as long as boilers use cycling technology, have high hourly BTU ratings compared to the building being heated, and owners struggle to keep up with the wood supply, these problems will persist and pictures like these and those posted on state websites won't go away.

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  13. hobbyheater

    hobbyheater Minister of Fire

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    Tronsliver, are you the neighbor?
    StihlHead and mikefrommaine like this.
  14. tronsliver

    tronsliver New Member

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    Nope.
  15. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    If it were burning season here, I could get some pictures like those here as well. I'm not sure what StihlHead is thinking, there are some OWB around here that smoke like that on a regular basis. This is not just a now and then type of thing, like someone is sitting around waiting for the damper to open and catch the plume of smoke at the right time. If you look at the pictures you can tell this was not just some short duration. I would be upset if my neighbor had something like that going on all winter.

    This said, you can make an OWB run pretty clean if you actually try, as StihlHead said. I know of several that don't smoke much at all. Is there efficiency good, well not really, but they are not choking people. I still can't wrap my mind around why someone would install one, I want to burn as little wood as possible. Less processing and more time to do other things.

    TS
  16. salecker

    salecker Feeling the Heat

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    There's a couple of CB's near me that look just like that in the winter as well.Unfortanatly one is now part mine,was installed last year on a business my brother and i had to reposess.I looked inside it and the firebox is huge,and dripping with cresote.I watched the operator loading up green and rotten wood in it last fall and shook my head.The install is a joke,the underground lines are exposed going into one building,and they are foam wraped in a black corregeted pipe.
    Makes me feel great about my system.
    Thomas
  17. tronsliver

    tronsliver New Member

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    I think it's important to point out that the problems inherent to OWBs are not in any way constrained to just Central Boiler. Any manufacturer that employs cycling technology in their boliers will experience the same smoke, odor, and pollution as a Central Boiler unit. Also, the efficiency issue discussed in earlier posts applies to 23 models spread out over multiple manufacturers.
  18. hobbyheater

    hobbyheater Minister of Fire

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    I certainly hope the objective of the members of "hearth.com" will be to encourage clean burning practices and encourage those who visit to do the same.
    Lobbing for a legislated solution is not the answer.
  19. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Very well said HH! We at Hearth are a niche, but my hope is that people will see that good burning prectices and proper seasoning are key in doing less work and making wood burning enjoyable and clean.

    TS
  20. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Taylor. I think you hit the nail on the head with your statement about burn practices. If all the folks burning wood simply adopted those habits 90% of our problems would disappear.
  21. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Well, lobbying seems to be the method of choice in New England. I have seen it over and over there, where a small group of people cram more and more legislation down everyone's throats. Similar to anti-CB bashing threads posted by trolls that do not even burn with wood on a wood burning forum like this (and many others on the web). Seemingly they will not be happy until OWBs are banned outright. VT, ME, NH, MD, MA, PA, IN, RI, WA, OR and NY state all regulate or ban outdoor wood boilers now. BUT THAT IS NOT ENOUGH!

    Then they will likely turn to banning or regulating all wood burning appliances. More legislation is coming, that is for sure. WA, OR, NY, ME, and CA have state or regional/local EPA wood burning appliance requirements, or complete bans in effect. There may be more states that have new laws, those are just the only ones I know about.
  22. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    StihlHead, your position and language at this time seems like a rant, which is not very productive.

    Your point is understood, while at the same time many, including me, have used and are experienced with an OWB (mine was a Heatmor), understand how these are marketed and understand the culture of "burn anything especially large green logs that smoulder." Whether there are few or many who burn improperly, they and the mfrs who support and sell to them have tainted the wood burning marketplace and seriously damaged both the public and regulatory perception of wood burning. The OWB is a target with a big red bullseye and the spillover into other wood burning appliances is inevitable, while at the same time it is misplaced and seriously in error. The sooner the supporters and mfrs of the OWB move on to clean burning technology, marketing, and education of users, and the sooner they abandon the support of dirty burning, the quicker wood burning can be better secured as an efficient energy source. That will be good for all wood burners.

    I switched to a Tarm gasifier, my gasifier was the catalyst for a major institution installing gasification wood boilers providing more than 1 million buth, and now we are on an educational goal of changing the perception of wood burning to prove by example that it is efficient, clean, smoke free, economical, carbon neutral, good for local economies, easy and simple to operate, and that it provides energy security. That task is made much difficult with every OWB spewing smoke over the countryside that a non-wood burning member of the public or that a regulator sees. And it is made much more difficult by every mfr who continue to supply that market.
    BoilerMan and Frozen Canuck like this.
  23. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

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    Well said Jim.

    My Heatmor as well is ready for scrap. Glad to see it go.

    The reality is that OWB's burned as advertised in print & by sales people has done nothing but create the anti burning movement, with good reason.

    Now every clean & neighbor conscious burner is going to have to fight a movement that they did not create. I think it is understandable that they are a little POed at having to do so.

    Time we worked a little harder at catching up to Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, etc. AFA burning clean is concerned. Most people in these nations dont know what an OWB is, as they were never able to pass emmisions tests & therefore never made it to market. Note that any anti burning movement was unable to get any real traction there, why? Clean burning appliances maybe played a part. Legislated emmission levels maybe too.

    Btw those emmission level tests also apply to fossil burners in Germany. IOW burn clean or dont burn. Better for all concerned. Rant over.
  24. leon

    leon Member

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    Hello Frozen Canuck,

    your not ranting at all, your simply stating THE TRUTH.
    These water stove builders simply have no desire to increase the
    water capacity of these things to increase the burn time and
    reduce the cycling and thus the smoke too.

    The only ones that work well are the Garns because they have
    a great combustion design.
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