Article in Poughkeepsie Journal re Wood Furnaces

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Feeling the Heat
Nov 30, 2005
Hyde Park, New York
POUGHQUAG — For some in Beekman, outdoor wood-burning furnaces are a cheap way to heat homes.

"What are you going to do when oil goes to $5 a gallon?" Peter Zielenski of Stagecoach Pass said.

Others in town say they are a smoky, unhealthy nuisance.

"We are inundated with smoke and a chemical odor everyday," Sharon Contelmo of Paine Road said.

The town board is debating whether to ban the furnaces or better regulate them.

The town currently has no regulations on how the outdoor furnaces can be operated.

That could soon change.

In response to complaints in a Stormville Mountain neighborhood about smoke from two furnaces there, the town drafted a law to ban them in Beekman. The existing ones, however, could continue to burn as long as owners obtain permits and abide by a set of rules.

"Fuel shall only be untreated wood or fuels specifically permitted by the manufacture," the proposed law reads.

Prohibited would be the burning of processed wood, kerosene, garbage and painted or treated wood.

1 supported, 6 opposed

A recent public hearing on the law drew support from one resident and opposition from six, including two furnace dealers.

"People have been burning wood to stay warm since the beginning of time," Zielenski, who opposes the ban, said.

Zielenski, a part-time dealer of Woodmaster outdoor furnaces, said some operating regulations are needed in Beekman.

"People shouldn't be burning pressure-treated wood," he said.

Jeff Contelmo, the sole supporter of the law at the hearing, said he and his wife, Sharon, are subject to smoke from two neighbors with outdoor furnaces — one on either side of their house.

Because the law would allow the existing furnaces to continue operating, the Contelmos say the proposed regulations should include a permissible threshold of smoke emission.

"There needs to be some protection of the neighbors," Sharon Contelmo said.

Councilmen Tom Kinsley and Dan French favor outlawing the outdoor furnaces.

"People don't realize what a nuisance they are," Kinsley said mentioning several towns, including Kingsbury in Washington County, that have banned the furnaces.

"You don't want to take property rights from people and you want to protect their investment," French said of the law's permitting process for existing furnaces.

Stiegler, Beekman Supervisor John Adams and Councilwoman Barbara Zulauf are undecided on how much regulation is needed.

"It's an affordable means of heating for some people," Zulauf said.

John Davis can be reached at [email protected]

Rob From Wisconsin

Minister of Fire
Nov 20, 2005
East-Central Wisconsin
It's more than just garbage that's the problem.
Outdoor furnaces, for the most part, just don't
burn cleanly. They typically throw-out 4 to 20 times
more pollution than your average EPA approved stove.
And that's just burning regular old wood - not garbage, and such.
This morning, on the way to work, I thought I was driving
through a dense fog patch, when I discovered it was dense
smoke being generated by an outdoor wood furnace.
And it stunk a lot too. Oh, by the way, up where I live many
areas are restricting the use of outdoor furnances via Ordinances.


Eric Johnson

Mod Emeritus
Nov 18, 2005
Central NYS
On a drive through northern New England yesterday I saw lots of smoke coming from wood heating appliances. Interestingly enough I only saw one outdoor boiler (which was smoking), but a lot more smoke coming out of chimneys. Part of the problem with outdoor boilers is that they're usually clearly visible, and thus easy targets. But if wood smoke pollution is a concern, I'd say that outdoor boilers are only part of the problem. Even an improperly-operated "clean" modern stove will create the same kind of obnoxious smoke.


Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2005
You always have to worry when these type of "ordinances" start to come around. It's a small step from saying "burning wood in an outdoor furnace" is not allowed to "burning wood in a fireplace that exhausts outdoors is bad." There are bad and good outdoor furnaces and bad and good outdoor furnace burners. I don't like it when people make blanket ordinances that cover all variances.


Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
South Puget Sound, WA
Eric is right, bad burning is bad burning, regardless of the source. We have a few neighbors with pre-EPA smokers that chuff out smoke mightily for several hours a day. When there is a good weather system, or the wind is blowing the other way, it's easy to ignore. But when a stagnant low pressure system lets the smoke droop and blanket the neighborhood, we all get the bad air.

Mike Wilson

New Member
Nov 19, 2005
Orient Point, NY
These outdoor woodburners, and those who burn cold, smokey fires in non EPA stoves and inserts, are going to draw attention to woodburning... bad attention. I can hear it at my town board meeting now... See, look, smoke... wood burning is smokey... smoke is bad, therefore wooodburning is bad... nobody likes bad things, so ban woodburning.

Ignorance is goinig to screw us. So people, get those stoves up to temperature quickly, don't burn wet wood, and eliminate the smoke from your stacks...

-- Mike

Rob From Wisconsin

Minister of Fire
Nov 20, 2005
East-Central Wisconsin
"I’d say that outdoor boilers are only part of the problem. Even an improperly-operated “clean” modern stove will create the same kind of obnoxious smoke."
I adamantly disagree....
I drive past at least a dozen outdoor boilers on my way to work.
They are either in "idle" mode & moderately smoking, or belching a volcano's worth.
Their smoke is ALWAYS VISIBLE and almost always smelled, even when
passing in a car. On the other hand, you have to look hard to find a
conventional chimney that is emitting smoke, even when piles of wood
are stacked outside. At worst, the operator at least has some control in
making a "clean burn" w/ an EPA stove, not so w/ an outdoor boiler.
I'll always remember the time when I was working outside at a relatives
house, and their outdoor boiler kicked-in, and we were blanketed in
stinkey smoke. My brother-in law then said,
"I hate it when it does that....."
Sounds like it is often to me......


New Member
Mar 6, 2006
Western NY
I agree with rob, irregardless of the fact that many wood-fueled appliances emit smoke, smelly, thick, thin, or otherwise, outdoor boilers in areas that are even lightly populated have a high nuisance factor, not only because they are smokey, but mostly because they are so low to the ground that the smoke is not even given a fair chance to diffuse before it goes to a neighbor's home. Indoor boilers and other appliances regardless of smoke don't do this simply because they are usually vented far above people.

Mo Heat

Mod Emeritus
Nov 18, 2005
St. Louis, Missouri
Metal said:
... I don't like it when people make blanket ordinances that cover all variances.
Neither do I.

And I do my part to try and prevent them from being needed. I burn with as little smoke as I can. I don't want to get shut down by a bunch of whiners that don't know the difference between an outdoor wood boiler and a cleaner burning EPA model.

Still, if you are oblivious enough, you can belch smoke with an EPA stove. As wood burners, we must step up and burn right.

I'm not sure exactly how I feel about the outdoor wood boilers in general, but I do know I wouldn't want one next to my house. But I also know I wouldn't install one AT my house, even if I thought I could get away with it. These things belong in the country. It is the folks who INSIST on living in the city AND having an outdoor boiler that are going to get us all restricted.

I wonder if it's possible for the wood stove industry to police itself? Why don't dealers REFUSE to sell outdoor boilers to city folks? Seems like a smart move for the less than greedy merchant. I know you can't stop someone from buying a used boiler, but this could greatly cut down on the problem IMO.


Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
Poughkeepsie, NY
Interesting: since this is right in my neck of the woods. Out of my neighbors, only 1 does not burn wood, and that's cause they have a day care in the home. Two houses away a guy has an outdoor woodfurnace, but It doesn't bother me much since he's about 1/3 of a mile away, but it does smoke a lot more than my stove or one of my neighbors. My stove clearly smokes the least of all the nearby stoves, but the Avalon nextdoor isn't bad. I'd say the house that seems to belch the most is one that has a stove inside the house, but they heat a part of their garage where their dog stays. Other than that, I have no idea what stove they have, but it pollutes about twice as much as the outdoor boiler. My stove smokes so little that unless you really know what to look for, you'd never know a woodstove is installed in the house, and I think a lot of that is that I tend to run small hot fires during the day rather then trying to load up the stove and damp down. Even at night, I get the burn going well before I damp down for an overnight burn.

Would a simple solution be to add a cat to these furnaces? I know Eric did, but his isn't an outdoor.

Eric Johnson

Mod Emeritus
Nov 18, 2005
Central NYS
In my experience, when there's money to be made, no industry is going to adequately police itself. Somebody will always find a way to justify their behavior, if the result is making them money. Cigarettes come to mind.

The guy who is paying through the nose for gas or oil is not going to give two hoots if you have an EPA-certified stove or not. All he's really thinking is that you're saving a fortune on home heating and he's not at the same time that he's eating you smoke and you're not. If you're creating excessive smoke that's blowing in the wrong direction, you're not going to be able to hide behind some notion of technological superiority. I know some outdoor wood boiler owners who burn cleaner, on average, than some people with wood stoves and fireplaces.

Sweeping generalizations may sound good when making an argument on the internet, but they aren't very useful when trying to solve real-world problems, IMO.


Minister of Fire
Dec 9, 2005
When I lived in WV, those things were everwhere, and they all smoked like freight trains.

Enough to smoke out a valley on a still day.


Minister of Fire
Jan 23, 2006
Boulder County
One small problem is, any firebox that is greater then 20 cubic feet is exempt from EPA regs. When i saw these units at the show they shure looked at least that big.


In my town we have had 3 smoke complaints this year. As an inspector there is very little I can do. Not that I want to get in the middle of a pissing war. If the stove has been legalally permitted and passed inspections that's the end of it for me I recomend the complaintant contact the board of health. If the stove is not permitted and illegal I have to issue a letter requesting it be removed or properly permitted, once a complaint if filled, which is hard to do It has to be removed. sorry. What I do is not make it easy I do not nothing on a phone call I require a written request, or complaint. If it is an older stove non UL approved, it can not be permitted and re-installed. I mean I wish I did not have to be forced into issuing removal.

For all the debate in the Ash Can Come Monday I will know if I am elected to the board of health. On my adgenda is approving EPA wood srove regs. In Ma these are left up to the indivual towns to approve. under the local board of health's. Part of my canidacy is to bring forward an alternative septic System, that can be installed in sloping terain Installed in an area 40% and cost 1/3 less than conventional systems just approved in MA and 7 other states. It also has the added benifit, of only requiring normal mantiance not the costly pumping of others alternative systems. the system also can be re-generated. While I not on Hearthnet I am still seeking cost and enviormently solutions. The discharge water is so clean that it is almost drinkable

more research check out


Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
Poughkeepsie, NY
MountainStoveGuy said:
One small problem is, any firebox that is greater then 20 cubic feet is exempt from EPA regs. When i saw these units at the show they shure looked at least that big.
20 cubic ft? good grief...that's huge!! That's like the size of my couch.
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