EPA Sets Fireplace Emissions Standard

By Jim Gillam

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established emissions limits for fireplaces under a voluntary Low Mass Woodburning Fireplace Program.

To qualify in Phase I of the voluntary program, fireplace models must be tested to emit no more than 7.3 grams of particulate per kilogram of wood burned. Phase I will last until 2012. In Phase II of the program, qualifying fireplace models must emit no more than 5.1 g/kg.

The test may be taken with doors closed or open, or both, as desired by the manufacturer.

Five Year Process
Development of fireplace emissions standards was five year process that cost approximately a half million dollars.

In 2003, fireplace manufacturers represented by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) approached EPA about creating a partnership effort to develop an emission measurement and standard for traditional open burning fireplaces. A group including Jack Goldman (HPBA President), Carter Keithley (former HPBA Executive Director), David Menotti (HPBA’s legal counsel on air quality issues), John Crouch (HPBA Director of Government Affairs), and Dan Henry (Vice-President of Research and Development, Hearth and Home Technologies, Inc. and co-founder of Quadra-Fire®) met with the Deputy Director of EPA in Washington, D.C. They offered the concept of a partnership, including regulation, between EPA and industry to achieve that goal.

The EPA official was shocked by the proposal, Dan recalled. “When I told him that I represented industry and we wanted to basically create a partnership agreement for regulating fireplaces, he was extremely taken aback. He leaned back in his chair, looked at me and said, ‘You represent industry?’ I said yes. ‘And you are asking us to regulate you?!’ I said yes. He put his hand on his chest, looked at his staff and he said, ‘Call an ambulance. I’m having a heart attack!’”

With the sanction of EPA, HPBA formed a committee to develop a fueling protocol and an emission measurement method that would be recognized by ASTM International (originally known as the American Society for Testing Materials).

Fireplace Emission Measurement
The committee adapted a version of an emission measurement method approved for woodstoves. “We used a dilution tunnel for capturing all of the smoke and effluent being emitted by a fireplace,” Dan explained. “The tunnel had to be much larger than we use for testing woodstoves, because the volume, especially on larger fireplaces, is much greater than the volume coming out of a woodstove.”

Fireplace testing hood at OMNI-Test Labs in Beaverton, Oregon.

Photo courtesy of OMNI-Test Laboratories, Inc.

EPA engineers observed the process. “They looked at the work we developed; they looked at the science behind it and they approved it as an emission measurement method,” Dan said.

Fueling Protocol
The second aspect of the committee’s work was a fueling and operating protocol. To provide consistency in the testing procedure, the committee sought a method of replicating, in the laboratory, a typical residential fireplace fire.

Using data from approximately 500 fireplace emissions tests conducted in laboratories and residences in a variety of locations across North America, “we were able to calculate that fireplace emissions average somewhere around 12 to 15 grams of particulate emissions per kilogram of fuel burned,” Dan said.

The 500 studies also indicated that the average burn duration in a fireplace is three to four hours. “We set about to develop a fueling protocol that was reproducible – from the standpoint of trying to come up with a configuration that pretty much reproduced what the data of the 500 fireplace studies showed,” Dan explained. “We were able to develop one that gave us consistently being 11 and 14 grams per kilogram performance in a stock low-mass factory built fireplace.

“We had to engineer a fuel crib, with the number of pieces and number of reloads to reproduce a three to four hour e vening fire,” he said. “Although woodstoves are usually hot when you reload, fireplaces are generally out. So we had to include the emissions from the cold start all the way through the end of the test.”

Arriving at a standardized fuel load for laboratory replication of typical recreational fireplace usage involved a lot of burning in different configurations. “We had manufacturers’ laboratories burning and taking measurements,” Dan said. “We had Inchcape Testing Services NA, Inc. with Rick Kurkeet, Paul Tiegs with OMNI and Ben Myren at Myren Consulting Lab,” he added. “We did a lot of testing, burning a lot of wood. Our first fuel crib burned way too hot and way too fast and as a result didn’t produce the equivalent of real world emissions. We had to continuously try different configurations. We used hardwoods and softwoods and mixed blends of them.

“All the way through the process,” he continued, “we would take a couple of steps forward, show the steps to EPA, and they would agree or disagree with what we doing. If they disagreed, we would modify our procedure until they were in agreement and it was still meeting the goals.

The final configuration is an “all Douglas fir 2x4 and 4x4 combination that’s nailed together with specific spaces between them,” Dan said.

With a fuel crib that provided laboratory researchers emissions and burn duration parallel to real world consumer use, the committee then “wrote the procedure of how to build the fire, how to do the test and how to take the samples,” he stated.

“There are two aspects to the test,” Dan summarized. “We had an emission measurement method and operating procedure half, and a fueling protocol and operating procedure half” developed by the committee that are now ASTM standards.


This article is adapted from the
May-June 2009 and December 2008 issues of The Chimney Sweep News (SNEWS).
The Chimney Sweep News is an independent trade journal for chimney professionals.
Subscriptions to The Chimney Sweep News are available by calling 541-882-5196.





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