Biomass Heaters - A Case for Renewable Energy

Biomass heaters, including EPA certified wood and pellet stoves are carbon neutral.  Ok, to be technical, trees absorb the carbon produced when these appliances operate, and sure, it takes a few years to sequester that carbon back. But it is renewable energy. Used responsibly, biomass heaters provide affordable heat for people and provides energy security for their families.  Oil and gas from dinosaurs is not renewable. Trees are.  

Climate activists, particularly those concerned with "environmental justice" argue that the particulates they produce harm people. But that's what the EPA is for - to regulate "PM 2.5" particulates to an acceptable level.  Also, activists argue the carbon they produce is a contributor to climate change, so biomass heaters should be regulated or removed. Progressive civic leaders argue people have a right to breath clean air. Sure, they do, and that's what the regulations and the heavily funded agencies that create them are for. 

There are other sources of particulates and carbon. Cars, trucks, forest fires, airplanes, coal and gas electric generation plants, dairy farms. The list is so long that to call out an EPA certified biomass heater seems unfair. We can't ban forest fires or natural gas electric plants. That's impractical.  But woodstoves are viewed as easy targets.

Take a look at the history of the wood stove.  Regulations to reduce particulates started in the 1980's and have drastically reduced emissions from biomass heaters - up to 30 times cleaner.  The industry, to comply with these regulations has spent millions of dollars to engineer more efficient stoves. Our industry advocates for woodstove changeouts to remove uncertified stoves. Its these uncertified stoves and open fireplaces that cause the vast majority of the issues with particulates. To suggest EPA certified woodstoves should be banned is to say the work of the EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and all the millions of dollars spent on innovation was wasted.  

But biomass heat is renewable energy and its part of a solution to allow people to have access to affordable energy. Wood heat, provided by EPA certified appliances, offers anergy choice and provides heat during power outages.  Much like natural gas, biomass heat provides an alternative to electric heat. Surveys show people want that. They DON'T want to be forced to only have one type of energy - electricity.  They want the assurance that when the power goes out they are warm. They want to have some control of their energy bills. And many communities, particularly tribal communities and rural towns, rely on wood heat. Sure, let's put funds toward helping them use modern equipment and sure they use dry seasoned wood or pellets. But don't ban them. That's not fair. 

Affordability, energy security and choice. This is what people want.  If you agree with this, contact your local elected officials.  

For more information on biomass heaters visit these websites:

A Brief History of the Wood Stove

1700 -1800's

The "Franklin" Stove was invented. Primitive versions of wood cook stoves start entering houses and kitchens in the 1800's and they were perfected to be many times more efficient than the earliest models of the Franklin Stove. Many stoves were just built on site. Simple metal barrels, for example. 

Before 1970

Decorative, but moderately effective wood stoves and cook stoves were common in Oregon in kitchens, cabins and out buildings. These early stoves produced particulate emissions well over 40 grams per hour (gph).


Wood stoves and wood fired fireplace inserts refined to be used as central heaters in homes. Stoves were heavy, had solid metal doors, sometimes with a vent feature.  Heavily built, they last forever. Oregon DEQ has estimated that over 100,000 of these stoves are still in Oregon homes, garages and outbuildings.  

Mid 1980's

Oregon passes the first wood stove certification law in the country. Wood stoves must meet limits on particulate emissions. Pellet stove perfected for home use. Catalytic stoves perfected.

Early 1990's

EPA regulates wood stoves nation wide requiring gph emissions of no more than 7.5 gph for non-catalytic stoves, 4.1 gph for catalytic stoves. 40 gph. Wood stove change out campaigns start to become more popular in communities with air quality problems (failing to meet federal particulate emissions standards). Pellet stoves continue to be perfected, much more efficient than wood stoves. Natural gas fireplaces and free standing stoves become more popular and begin replacing wood stoves for supplemental heat. Reselling of uncertified stoves becomes illegal.


EPA begins process of tightening wood stove emissions standards. HPBA begins to work with EPA on the proposed rule. Oregon adopts tax credits for highly efficient wood and pellet stoves. Wood stove manufacturers invest in new technologies for wood stoves that dramatically improve emissions output. Wood stove change out campaigns become much more popular across the country and in Canada. Oregon adopts the Heat Smart" law requiring uncertified stoves to be removed when homes are sold. 


EPA adopts first major reduction in wood and pellet stove emissions requirements in 20 years based on Washington State emissions standards. Phase 1 of the New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) lowers wood stove emissions to 4.5 gph for wood stoves and 2.5 gph for pellet stoves. 


New EPA "Phase 2" NSPS rules take effect. The rules further reduce emissions requirements for wood stoves to 2.5 gph for "cord wood" tested stoves, 2.0 gph for "crib" tested stoves. However,  climate activists begin to identify wood stoves - EPA certified or not - and all sources of carbon emissions - fireplaces and gas appliances - as a contributors to climate change.  

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