Road Block or Opportunity?
By Evan K. Harris
For those who are old enough, and we are, you may recall the good old days when wood stoves had no regulations; as long as they put out tons of heat and were still burning in the morning, who cared what came out of the flue pipe?
Well, turns out we all should have cared, for our own good. The world isn’t getting any bigger, while the human population is – rapidly. We just have to do things differently and better.
The customer demanded that old, pre-regulation stoves had high, medium, and a smoldering overnight burn. We accepted that the customer was always right, but it turns out they weren’t always right, either.
Now, wood stove regulations in New Zealand are perhaps the tightest and toughest in the world – more on that later. Australia is lowering its emission limit from 2.5g/kg to 1.5g/kg, and even 1.0g/kg in some places.
I understand the U.S. and Canada are lowering their EPA pass mark from 4g/hr to 2.5g/hr for cordwood, or 2.0g/hr for cribwood testing. That new level will not be easy for some manufacturers to comply with, but certainly it’s not impossible. If we are to continue promoting clean and efficient wood stoves as an environmentally acceptable way to heat our homes, then we need to do to our stoves what auto manufacturers have done to new cars – design them cleaner and more fuel-efficient.
Evan K. Harris
WH Harris, Christchurch, New Zealand
We have been through this, and still are going through the changes. I listened to some major manufacturers and the NZHHA (New Zealand Home Heating Association) stomping their feet and claiming “It can’t be done” when our Council introduced its own test method, on top of government-required testing to AS/NZS (Australian/New Zealand Standards) 4012 and 4013 for efficiency and emissions. Our company just sat back and listened and did not commit to either argument, but quickly figured out there might be a buck to be made if we could comply with the new regulations.
It seemed that the most obvious way to comply with this new and additional test, was to design downdraft wood stoves; essentially, we were right, but most of us underestimated the cost of production.
Let me put this new test into perspective. If you test and pass AS/NZS 4012:2014 and AS/NZS 4013:2014 at ≤ 1.5g/kg and ≥ 65% efficiency, then the government will list the stove as a low-emission burner (LEB). If you pass the second round of testing, then the stove is listed as an ultra-low-emission burner (ULEB).
This additional certification allows you to sell into areas where an LEB is not permitted. This new test, named CM 1.6, has some real hurdles in it, and they are…
- Emissions are gathered from a cold start, no warm-up period.
- Low-burn cycle reload is done without touching the air control; the stove is left to ignite on low.
- Day one has a wet-wood burn cycle where the fuel is 45% moisture.
- Day two uses soft and hard wood in some runs.
We had our downdraft stove authorized but knew it wasn’t the future. Somehow we needed to get a conventional stove ULEB authorized.
Then a Canadian catalytic stove managed to pass as a ULEB, but that brought a different set of issues, so we understand.
In the meantime, we beavered away behind the scenes, working on a conventional stove that had all sorts of features, and new to our stove industry, at least. After close to three years of R&D, nearly giving up, and spending much too much money, we cracked it. We now have a great ULEB stove that has become the #1 seller almost from the day it was released.
Our company used to sell stoves and inserts into the U.S. and Canada in the 1980s, until the EPA testing requirements became law, so we let the market go. But just recently, we read about the shift in EPA requirements starting next year, and wondered how close we were to those figures.
Although our Ministry for the Environment (MFE) requires results in g/kg, it is easy to convert to g/hr because the kg/hour figures on each run are given in the laboratory data.
When we converted the results from both the LEB and ULEB testing of our new ULEB stove, we found the following:
Surprised, I had the lab check and, yes, the numbers are correct. So we appear to have a stove that is likely to pass EPA 2020 if we ever wanted it to.
The question raised in the title is, “Road Block or Opportunity?” I think it is both. Those companies that are short of capital, or skill, or imagination will most likely turn their back on the stove industry, but there will be enough of us out there who will manage to design product that will comply with 2020 EPA requirements, and we will do very well. Don’t be totally surprised if the EPA doesn’t stop at 2g/hr; plan for more changes if you can.
Are we going to get our ULEB stove EPA tested? Who knows, but having driven around the Road Block, perhaps we should take advantage of the opportunity now presented. But where should we start? The U.S. and Canada are a long way from New Zealand, down in the South Pacific.
Evan Harris; 41 Braddon St, Addington, Christchurch 8024, New Zealand; Phone: 011-64-800-366-1796; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.woodsman.co.nz