Friday, August 29, 2008

Mansfield Says Yes To Outside Wood Burners

Mansfield council to draft ordinance allowing outdoor wood burners


MANSFIELD - With only councilwoman Marianne Bozzo casting a "no" vote this week, the borough council voted to have its solicitor draw up an ordinance to allow outdoor woodburning furnaces within the borough limits.

After listening to a presentation on the appliances by Mark Wilber, owner of This Warm House outdoor woodburning furnaces, which is located in the borough on Route 6 West, council discussed the issue for about a half hour before voting.

With energy prices soaring and heating bills expected to increase substantially this winter, more people are likely to become interested in purchasing a wood burner than ever before, but other boroughs in the county have had problems with people burning things in them that should not be burned, such as garbage.

Bozzo said that was her biggest concern, that people will burn "anything" in them to save money on their heating bills, causing smoke and pollutants to fill the air and become offensive to neighbors.

Burning only seasoned cord wood is the key, and burning it at 2,000 degrees creates a secondary burn, he said, which Wilber said emits no smoke, only carbon dioxide and water vapor.

"But how are you going to control what people throw into these things?" Bozzo wanted to know, adding "I just can't see having them in our close proximity here."

Wilber said with his units, the warranty is voided if anything other than the proper fuel is used, which makes it self-enforcing.

Wilber said his units, priced between $7,500 and $13,000, pay for themselves in five years and burn at nearly 100 percent efficiency.

The furnaces Bozzo was talking about are not capable of burning at the high temperatures his units are.

"Right now there are probably 200 companies peddling these units. By 2010 there will probably be fewer than a dozen, but until then it is a grave problem," Wilber said.

And, he added, EPA standards that will become mandatory in 2010 are now only voluntary.

The EPA also is getting ready to establish efficiency standards possibly by the end of this year, Wilber said, which should help to educate the public even more.

Council also looked at a recently passed ordinance created by Wellsboro borough, which they will have their solicitor model Mansfield's on, according to the motion made by councilman Dr. Robert Strohecker.

"We could make the setback a little less stringent than 500 feet, I would think," he said.

"But we shouldn't keep people who might live on the outskirts of the borough from having one if they want one," he added.

Codes officer Shawn Forrest will have input into the language used in the ordinance.

"We can revisit this ordinance in 2010, and see if it needs updating then," council president Steve Gee said.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wellsboro Regulates Outdoor Furnaces

Outdoor wood-burning furnace ordinance adopted

By BRYAN G. ROBINSON Sun-Gazette Correspondent

WELLSBORO - Wellsboro Borough Council on Monday adopted an ordinance that regulates outdoor wood-burning furnaces.

The ordinance regulates new and existing furnaces that are used to heat interior spaces, and establishes setbacks of 500 feet of a neighbor's property line. It takes effect immediately.

Just like households with new furnaces, each owner of an existing furnace will be required to apply for a permit to operate furnaces within 30 days of the ordinance being enacted. However, the $25 fees for application and permit, which council also established by resolution Monday night, will be waived for owners of existing furnaces.

Other fees include $25 for an inspection fee, and $250 each for a variance and appeal.

"I know it's not what everybody wants, but it's a starting point and is something for us to work from," said Michael Wood, council president, before the vote was taken. "If it does pass tonight, I would like to see people who have woodstoves and those who don't on the appeals board."

Other key provisions include:

Outdoor furnace owners will be allowed to burn only fuels designed for the furnaces and which are approved by the manufacturer, with a restriction on 14 different materials that might not be burned, from garbage to tires to leaves.

All outdoor furnaces will be prohibited from operating between May 31 and Aug. 31 each year, to cut down on smoke in residential areas during the summer when more people are outdoors or have windows open in their homes for ventilation.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Outside Furnaces Good Option As Fuel Prices Soar

By James Jones
As natural gas prices continue to rise, and the price of fuel oil goes out of sight, more and more people will be looking for a safe and efficient way to heat their homes.

For many that choice will be wood. Wood stoves in the house have traditionally been a dangerous way to heat a home. Improper chimneys build up with creosote and explode in flames burning over 1600 degrees, often catching nearby combustible surfaces on fire.

To eliminate that problem, many homeowners are switching to outside furnaces that provide hot water which can be tied into existing hot water and forced air home heating systems, burning forest waste and turning it into heat.

Pole materials that would be chipped or left to lay on the forest floor can be used in kind of a recycling operation that lets material from the forest be used to provide heat.

Although many areas are regulating the outside furnaces, which usually produce excess smoke
when refilled in the morning, they are a great safe alternative in home heating.

Manufacturers have been working to cut down on the emissions from these stoves. Many are designed to burn at higher temperatures to cut down on smoke and unburned particles.

Municipalities should co-operate in redesigning these burners for efficiency as they are a great option for those who would otherwise have to pay high gas and oil bills.

Those with electric heat are expected to have to bite the bullet in the next few years as deregulation takes place in Pennsylvania.

Opposition to outdoor furnaces have led to bans in some areas of central Pennsylvania, and others have adopted regulations on new installations. Residents should not have to be smoked out by their neighbors, but care in placement will help prevailing winds from carrying smoke to neighbors homes most of the time.

While smoke in the Wintertime may not impact neighbors whose houses are closed up, users may have to find other means to heat residential hot water to lessen the impact in the late Spring, Summer, and early Fall when windows are open.

Modifications would allow a loop of plastic pipe laid out on or under a south facing roof to circulate sun heated water into the boiler to store heat for the night hours and help provide hot water for residential use.

Rather than banning these safe outdoor units, more thought should be given toward improving these systems for the betterment of all residents.

Legislation, if any should be directed on an individual basis toward those who use these furnaces to burn noxious material, irritating to their neighbors, while encouraging their use by those who do not cause problems for others.

Sandy Township Residents Ask About Outdoor Furnaces

Courier Express
DuBOIS - An outdoor furnace in the Oklahoma section of Sandy Township is causing a stir once again.

Several residents attended the supervisors meeting Monday to find out the status of the outdoor furnace ordinance.

Paul Gulvas of Maple Avenue said he hopes he will not have to spend another summer with his windows shut because of an outdoor furnace in his neighborhood. He said this issue was brought to the supervisors last year and he wants to know where things stand.

Supervisor Brady LaBorde asked what type of ordinance everyone is looking for, one that regulates furnaces year round or just for the summer.

Ron Reed said he would like to see an ordinance that is in effect year round.
"The smoke is a nuisance year round," he said. "I understand people have rights, but one person's rights shouldn't overrule a whole community's rights."

LaBorde said the board has been looking into an ordinance, "but maybe not as intensely as we should have been."

Reed said he thinks the supervisors have been dragging their feet.
"Maybe the neighborhood should get a lawyer and get an injunction like other neighborhoods have done," he said.

Supervisor Dave Sylvis said the supervisors are not ignoring the request.
"We have been checking into the legality of your request," he said. "We want to make sure (an ordinance) would be sound. I agree you should be able to breathe clean air. We don't want this to end up in court being challenged."

Solicitor Greg Kruk said there is not a lot of law on these types of ordinances.
"We don't want to draft an ordinance against one person," Kruk said. "We want to write it for the entire community. This hasn't been forgotten."

"Maybe it hasn't been forgotten, but it hasn't been put up too high on the burner," Gulvas said.
LaBorde said there is no time line for an ordinance being passed; "we have just discussed some ideas.

What you must understand is that any ordinance we draft and pass must cover the whole township," he said.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Muncy Says No To Outdoor Furnace Ban

Muncy: No to ban on outdoor burners


Sun Gazette
MUNCY — Choosing an open-minded approach to outdoor burning, Muncy Borough Council will consider restrictions on the burners after rejecting an outright ban.

Solicitor Carl Barlett will draft an ordinance outlining reasonable requirements on outdoor furnace use.

Based on environmental guidelines, use of such furnaces could be contingent upon a permitting procedure yet to be detailed.

Failure to comply will force legal deployment of significant penalties, according to Councilman Rodney Knier, who made the successful suggestion Tuesday.

Council favored Knier’s motion by a vote of 4-3, with Councilman Galen Betzer and Councilwomen Karen Richards and Linda Stein dissenting.

Suggested by Richards, a plan to ban outdoor furnace use was denied by council, with Council President Vivian Daily and Councilmen Michael Fornwalt, Dana Bertin and Knier opposed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wellsboro Suspends Outdoor Wood Burners Again

Wellsboro enacts three-month moratorium on outdoor wood furnaces

By BRYAN G. ROBINSON Sun-Gazette Correspondent

WELLSBORO — Borough Council is enacting a moratorium on outdoor wood furnaces — again.

Monday night, council enacted a three-month moratorium on the installation of new outdoor wood furnaces within the borough limits. In April and September of last year, council had enacted six-month moratoriums. September's moratorium officially ran out Monday night.

Since last fall, council has been working on a draft of an ordinance to regulate the furnaces, by holding a series of meetings with the public. The last such meeting took place in late January.

“I haven’t seen anything back yet from our solicitor,” said Susan Stephens, secretary-treasurer for the borough. “As soon as I receive something, I’ll distribute it.”

Council President Mike Wood said at the late January meetings that residents would be shown a final draft before adoption took place.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Muncy mulls outdoor furnace use

POSTED: March 5, 2008
MUNCY — Outdoor furnace use continues to be the burning issue in Muncy Borough.

With spring fast approaching, more warmth likely will come from the sun rather than fuel heaters by the time a decision is made, but most members of council voiced opinions on Tuesday.

Considering municipalities such as Lock Haven that are banning outdoor furnaces, Councilman Rodney Knier said, “I have a problem with these ordinances.” Newly produced backyard burners produce emissions as clean or cleaner than conventional furnaces, according to Knier.

“I just think an outright ban is, to me, ludicrous,” Knier said.

If the furnace is properly maintained and placed a generous distance from neighboring properties, such a form of alternative energy should be allowed, in Knier’s opinion.

Several years from now, the furnaces may not operate as clean as they do new, according to Councilman Galen Betzer.

Enforcement of what is and what isn’t a nuisance, such as smoke, is subjective to each person, he added.

Although there is nothing on the borough books about outdoor furnaces used for home heating, burn barrels — historically used to burn garbage — were banned years ago.

Betzer said he has yet to see an outdoor furnace that doesn’t emit irritating smoke.

Doing away with offensive odors was a primary purpose of the burn barrel ordinance when it was passed a few years ago, according to Councilman Dana Bertin.

Use of the outdoor furnaces can be considered, according to Councilwoman Karen Richards, but provisions have to be put into place.

Not wanting to see massive stockpiles of wood and coal in residential yards, Richards said, “We can’t just deal with piles of (it) in somebody’s yard.”

From what he’s seen published, resident Barron Zimmers said a variety of fuel options can be considered, including corn pellets, coal and wood.

Chimney height of the furnaces also has to be discussed to ensure they’re high enough to not blow smoke throughout the neighborhood. “I think that’s the biggest issue,” Richards said of the smokestacks.

Letting it be known she agrees with Knier on the issue, Council President Vivian Daily reminded that many families may feel the economic crunch of high heating costs and the affordability of outdoor furnaces may be explored by some.

Borough Solicitor Carl Barlett urged the council to continue to relay ideas to him.

Designed to protect the health and welfare of residents, the ordinance will strive to further regulate outdoor burning.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Lock Haven Bans Outdoor Furnaces

Lock Haven bans all new outdoor burning devices


LOCK HAVEN — City Council had no good news for residents trying to save money on heating fuel bills.

Council voted Monday night to ban all new outdoor fuel burning appliances. Anyone thinking about installing such an appliance, which can be used to heat a house, will have to change plans.

Opponents of outdoor burners pointed out their flues usually are lower to the ground than that of a traditional indoor burner, and the smoke the burners emit can stay low, making the neighborhood unpleasant and causing a health hazard for any neighbors who suffer from asthma. The burners, which aren’t regulated by the EPA, also tend to put out more smoke than in-home burners.

Their owners may be tempted to use the burners to incinerate garbage and anything else they can get away with because the smell won’t be inside their house, some council members said.

Bellefonte already has banned the burners.

Coudersport, however, has not, reported Councilman William E. Baney. That borough chose to pass an ordinance regulating the burners instead, he said. Those regulations require the flue to stand 25 feet tall and have a scrubber and a fan or blower. The burner must be EPA-certified, used to burn only wood and stand 25 feet from the property line.

Baney voted against the ban as did Councilmen Alan D. Black and Richard L. Conklin.

Black said he voted against it because he believes council did not receive enough information from enough different sources to make a decision.

Any existing outdoor burners may stay in place, according to the city ordinance, but must have a flue that is 20 feet high.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Outdoor Wood Stove Burns House To Ground


MAINESBURG — An outdoor wood burning stove is believed to have caused a fire Thursday morning in Sullivan Township near here that burned a home to the ground.

Mansfield Hose Company Chief Jim Welch said the fire was reported about 11 a.m. Thursday at the home of John Spencer on Windy Hill Road, a private drive off Connelly Mountain Road, about four miles from here.

About 30 firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire to find the five-bedroom, 5,300-square foot wood frame house engulfed in flames. The roof already had begun collapsing by the time the first crews arrived, he added.

Extra tankers and engines were summoned from Wellsboro, Blossburg and Daggett as well as Troy.

Welch said that, according to the homeowner, the fire started in the outdoor wood burning stove.

‘‘They said they found the fire, and by the time they got outside it was already well on its way,’’ he said. The house was a total loss, he added.

Welch said the outdoor furnace had been placed on a small deck and the previous owner had enclosed it in a small structure that was attached to the house. More from the Sun Gazette.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

St. Marys Hospital Heats With Wood

Woody biomass heating system unveiled to public at Elk Regional Health Center

ST. MARYS — It was a happy atmosphere at the Elk Regional Health Center on Monday morning when the woody biomass heating system was officially unveiled to the public.

This is the first hospital in the state to have such a system. There are several school districts already operating one, including the Kane and Clearfield area school districts.

The project was brought together by local, state and federal agencies and will help the local economy by using a local company to build the system, local haulers to bring the wood from the Allegheny National Forest. It has already started to save the hospital on their natural gas bill.

The system will use biomass, like wood chips, instead of relying completely on natural gas. The 5,600 foot facility is located at the back of the hospital and uses about 10 tons of material a day.

Greg Bauer, president/chief executive office of Elk Regional Health System, explained that the project began when the board of directors challenged management team to find ways to reduce their energy costs to allow more focus on patient care, which is their mission. He said that they had to look no further than across St. Marys to local company Advanced Recycling Equipment. The $2.3 million project to install a 16 million BTU combustion biomass energy heating system will help lower their heating bills.

“All of our hot water base-board heat, steam heat and domestic hot water is being supplied by this new biomass boiler system at a fraction of the cost of a traditional boiler system,” Bauer said.

“I hope this can be duplicated thousands of times in rural America because energy prices are going to squeeze the life out of business and home owners,” U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., said. “I am so proud to have Advanced Recycling in my district. They are our hope for the future, utilizing other types of energy. He said that by summer, gasoline will be at $3.50 to $4 per gallon. He is extremely concerned about America’s dependency on foreign oil and feels it’s urgent that alternative energy is found.

“This is where the future lies,” he said.

Peterson added his goals for his final year in Congress are “energy for America and no tolling of I-80.”

“These projects are so important to rural America and especially rural Pennsylvania,” Gary H. Groves, state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, said. “I think it’s forward thinking. We should do more of these projects. We are truly interested in improving the quality of life in rural Pennsylvania.” 

Elk Regional received a $300,000 community facility loan from USDA rural development and helped purchase and install the system. A second $1,475,000 has been awarded by rural development to fund the new maintenance building and boiler house that will accommodate the new energy heating system. Additional funding included a $500,000 grant from Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority and a $250,000 USDA Forest Service woody biomass utilization grant.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wellsboro Works To Implement Outside Boiler Laws

Outdoor wood-burning furnace ordinance discussed in Wellsboro

By BRYAN G. ROBINSON - Sun-Gazette Correspondent

WELLSBORO — Borough Council still is working on a draft of an ordinance regulating outdoor wood-burning furnaces.

On Monday night, council members and about 20 residents met at borough hall to continue a workshop on the ordinance that was started last month. In December, they reviewed five sections of the ordinance; this month, they are looking at the final six sections, with residents again suggesting changes.

“Now, we’ll take all the ideas and have the solicitor draw up the ordinance to have its tentative adoption in the near future, at one of the next council meetings” Council President Mike Wood said. “We’ll show all of you a final draft before adoption.”

However, throughout the meeting, more than one resident said they were confused by wording changes made, especially in particular to one section: Section 6, changed shortly before the meeting from “regulations for existing outdoor furnaces” to “variance procedures.”

Brian Meadows, one of the main proponents of the borough enacting an ordinance on the issue, said he thought that Monday’s meeting was going to deal with existing furnaces because last month’s meeting dealt with new furnaces. When discussion arose on Section 6, Tom Warriner, who owns an outdoor wood-burning furnace, admitted he, too, was confused on wording in the section.

Chris Lantz, borough solicitor with Cox, Lantz and Stokes, said the confusion was that an entire part of Section 6 that dealt with existing outdoor furnaces was removed.

“With this ordinance, there are many drafts that were used that we are trying to synthesize,” he said. “How do we do it? It’s a complex issue.”

Lantz said he probably will recommend that council put the section about existing furnaces back into the ordinance.

Council’s next meeting is at 6 p.m. on Feb. 12.

Friday, January 25, 2008

This Farm Saves Money On Heating

Larry Cook Cuts Up At Potter County Century Farm

Photo by James Jones
Larry Cook, farm manager at Kaple's Century Farm in Roulette, cuts up wood for the outside wood boiler that heats the farmhouse. Click on picture to enlarge.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bellefonte May Ban Outside Wood Boilers

Bellefonte, PA, was reported to be considering banning outside wood boilers this week. Council said there are only a few in the boro but they want to anticipate problems in advance. A local newspaper stated that the planning commission had looked into regulating them, but council is inclined instead to ban them entirely.

Nobody wants to be smoked out, and if your smoke annoys your neighbors, whether from indoor or outdoor stoves, you are infringing on your neighbor's right to breath clean air. If you have close neighbors, you should try to locate your chimney where the prevailing winds will blow your smoke away from your neighbor's house.

Users of outside wood boilers should lobby the manufacturers to make a clean burning stove that minimizes the smoke emitted. Burned efficiently, outside wood boilers are a great alternative source of heat. They are safe and remove the mess from the house.

In sparsely populated areas in the northern tier of Pennsylvania, the wood boilers provide a wonderful way to safely heat your home and clean up a lot of the forest scrap at the same time. Coal, available locally is used by many users of outside boilers, and burns quite cleanly. The number of boilers in the northern tier of PA counties has grown by leaps and bounds since the price of natural gas has doubled.

There will probably always be a controversy between those having a wood boiler and those who don't, just as there is between those who want to locate wind generators on their property and those nearby who don't want to look at them or listen to the noise from them.

I invite you to add your comments on these subjects in the comment section.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wood Smoke Is A Controversial Subject

Wood heating in the hills of North Central Pennsylvania is a given. Years ago, nearly everyone used wood to heat their homes in this area. Old pictures show smoke clouding the atmosphere in a haze over the small towns in this area.

As natural gas was discovered, a lot of people switched to gas as pipelines were put in place by the early drilling companies. Natural gas was plentiful and cheap. Glass plants sprung up to take advantage of this resource.

But recently, prices for natural gas have gone way up , and residents have turned back to wood for a reasonably priced heating option.

Wood stoves are not always the safest things as many houses are burned down each heating season from defective chimneys.

Outside wood burners have become the wood stove of choice for the residents of this rural area. They are located outside the house and heat water which is pumped into the house to be used by a heat exchanger and translated to an existing hot air system, or pumped directly to a hydronic heating system embedded in the floor, or a conventional hot water heating system.

At any rate, the fire is outside, which means no smoke or mess in the house, and no danger of catching the house on fire, as with an internal wood stove.

This eliminates a lot of problems for the homeowner, but can cause problems for nearby neighbors if the smoke blows their way.

Considerate neighbors should consider placement so that prevailing winds carry the smoke away from other homes close by. Using a chimney to divert the woodsmoke higher into the atmosphere is a big help.

Important too, is the fuel you are using in your outside wood burner. Properly dried wood emits very little smoke. You should never burn garbage, or green wood as the smoke is noxious.

Some states and municipalities would like to ban outside wood burners altogether, but the benefits of wood heat would make designing these stoves to be more efficient a more worthwhile project.

Your comments as a wood stove user or neighbor of a wood stove user are invited here.