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Rules and Regulations

Residential Wood Heaters

Fire Pit and Campfire Information - Learn Before You Burn
Wood Heaters/Stoves and Air Pollution

EPA Final Rule

On February 3, 2015, the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued final New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Residential Wood Heaters. The standards govern the manufacture, sale, and operation of new residential wood heating devices including single burn-rate and adjustable burn-rate wood stoves, pellet stoves and furnaces, outdoor and indoor wood boilers, and indoor wood-burning forced air furnaces.





Background Wood Smoke Concerns Making Smart Home Energy Choices Reporting Complaints/Problems from Wood Burning Boilers Choosing a Cleaner Burning Outdoor Wood Boiler Local City & Town Regulations Uncertified Outdoor Wood Boilers

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Clean Burning Wood Heaters and Stoves Minimize Health Risks


Some Rhode Island households use wood as a primary heating fuel, while other households use wood stoves and fireplaces as supplementary heating sources. For many people, the sight and smell of wood smoke curling out of a chimney brings back fond memories of hearth and home. Wood is a renewable resource, unlike fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas, which are non-renewable. In fact, if firewood is harvested in a sustainable way, woodlots can provide an abundant source of fuel for years to come. Unfortunately, smoke from wood burning stoves and fireplaces can be a significant source of air pollution, negatively impacting public health and the environment. People can reduce the amount of smoke from their wood stoves by choosing low-emission EPA-certified stoves, operating them properly, and using seasoned firewood. This will improve combustion efficiency, reduce emissions, help protect public health and the environment, and save fuel costs.

Wood Smoke Concerns

Wood smoke contains fine particle matter, carbon monoxide and other organic compounds, such as formaldehyde, benzene and aromatic hydrocarbons, which form from incomplete combustion. Breathing air containing wood smoke can cause many serious respiratory and cardiovascular health problems. Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those suffering from allergies, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia, or any other heart or lung disease. The fine particulates of wood smoke, ten microns or less in diameter (a human hair is approximately 70 microns in diameter), can be inhaled deep into the lungs, collect in tiny air sacs (called alveoli) where oxygen enters the blood, and cause breathing difficulties and sometimes permanent lung damage. Inhalation of fine particulate matter can increase cardiovascular problems, irritate lungs and eyes, trigger headaches and allergic reactions, and worsen respiratory diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, which could result in premature deaths. Wood smoke is a particular concern in the winter, when cold, stagnant air and temperature inversions limit air movement. Smoldering fires and short chimneys may cause heavy smoke to stay close to the ground that can cause a neighborhood nuisance and an adverse impact on public health and the environment. Pollutants are trapped and concentrated near the ground, and the small size of the particles allows them to seep into houses through closed doors and windows. Fortunately, recent advances in wood heater design have resulted in the manufacturing of cleaner-burning wood and pellet stoves. The use of these cleaner-burning stoves, in conjunction with proper operation, can reduce the adverse health and environmental impacts associated with using these devices.

Making Smart Home Energy Choices

When making energy choices, the first thing to do is to make sure that your home or building is tight and well insulated. Then evaluate the different home heating options and make a choice that suits your lifestyle and needs.


Burnwise LogoFor more information from EPA on wood burning and controlling air pollution from residential heaters please look at the EPA Burn Wise Program and the EPA website on Controlling Air Pollution from these heaters.


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Why Regulate Outdoor Wood Boilers?

Emissions from outdoor wood boilers can sometimes cause air pollution problems when not sited, installed or operated properly. State regulations have addressed these concerns by implementing strategies to reduce emissions along with siting requirements for new OWBs and operational practices for both existing and new outdoor wood boilers.

Reporting Complaints and Problems from Wood Burning Boilers

The Department is aware that some of the outdoor boilers can cause air quality problems in their neighborhood. Some existing boilers do not have the benefit of recent cleaner design changes that better reduce the particulate matter and hydrocarbons in their exhaust; some have been sited too close to residential buildings and may also not have adequate stack height to disperse their exhaust.

Persons that have complaints about an outdoor wood boiler can report them by calling RIDEM 401-222-1360.

Choosing a Cleaner Burning Outdoor Wood Boiler

Since Rhode Island allows the use of outdoor wood boilers year-round, check the EPA website EPA Choosing the Right Hydronic Heater.

Local City and Town Regulations

Nothing in the state regulation limits the authority of a city or town to adopt and enforce many ordinances and/or regulations relative to outdoor wood boilers, including but not limited to provisions relative to operation, setbacks and stack heights, prohibiting the installation of outdoor wood boilers, or requiring the installation of lower emitting versions of outdoor wood boilers.

Uncertified Outdoor Wood Boilers

Outdoor wood boilers which have not been tested and approved by the EPA Outdoor Wood-fired Hydronic Heater Program cannot be imported, sold or installed in Rhode Island after July 1, 2011.


  • BTU: British Thermal Unit is a heat unit used to measure the heating capacity of most boilers and furnaces.
  • Delivered Efficiency: A measurement from the EPA Outdoor Wood-fired Hydronic Heater emission test which is the percentage of heat available in the fuel that is delivered to a simulated heat load. Delivered efficiency does not account for heat loss through the boiler jacket or through heat transfer lines. A higher value results in more heat from the fuel wood reaching the building.
  • Heat Input: The amount of heat energy that is contained by the fuel that goes into the heating device.
  • Heat Output: The amount of heat energy that the heating device captures from the fuel that goes into it. This measurement takes the boiler's delivered efficiency into account.
  • Lbs/million BTU: A measurement of pollutant emitted for a unit of heat. Common among most heating devices. Heating devices which emit greater pounds (lbs) of pollutants are more polluting. A cord of dry hard wood equals about 22 million BTU.
  • Outdoor Wood Boiler: fuel burning device designed to (1) burn wood or other approved solid fuels; (2) that the manufacturer specifies for outdoor installation or installation in structures not normally occupied by humans (e.g., sheds); and (3) heats building space and/or water via the distribution, typically through pipes, of a fluid heated in the device, typically water or a water/antifreeze solution. Also known as water stoves, outdoor wood furnaces and outdoor wood-fired hydronic heaters.
  • Particulate pollution: A common type of pollution emitted by most heating devices. Particles are smaller than 10 microns and can cause harm to respiratory system.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Residential Wood Heaters to govern the manufacture, sale, and operation of new residential wood heating devices. This includes single burn-rate and adjustable burn-rate wood stoves, pellet stoves and furnaces, outdoor and indoor wood boilers, and indoor wood-burning forced air furnaces. For more information, see the fact sheets below.

Contact Air Resources
Laurie Grandchamp, Chief
235 Promenade Street
Providence, RI 02908-5767
Phone: (401) 222-2808
Fax: (401) 222-2017