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.



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.


For 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.


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.