`Check the label' on wood stoves

Anyone planning to buy a wood stove to heat the home this winter should check the label.

Since 1992, it has been illegal to advertise, sell or install a wood stove that does not have the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification label.

Starting in 1986, the Oregon DEQ required all new wood stoves sold in Oregon to carry a Wood Stove Certification Label certifying that the stove met state emission (air pollution) requirements.

The EPA began testing and certifying stoves in 1988 and Oregon adopted the federal emission performance standards for certification. Any stove with either the DEQ or EPA certification labels are considered approved and "Oregon certified." Both DEQ and EPA certification labels are permanently attached to the stove, and are usually located on the back with other safety labeling.

There are exceptions to the label requirement. Some wood heating devices do not need to be certified. These include pellet stoves, antique stoves built before 1940, cook stoves, and ducted wood furnaces that are part of a central heating system.

Consumers need to be aware of the certification label requirement, especially if they are shopping for a used wood stove. Often, homeowners who do not understand the wood stove requirements will try to sell their old unapproved wood stoves through classified ads. They often mistake common safety labeling (for example, the Underwriters Laboratory/UL label) for Oregon certification. Safety labeling is not the same as "certification."

Check the stove carefully for the Oregon DEQ or EPA certification label. If it doesn't have a certification label, don't buy the stove," said David Collier of DEQ's Air Quality Division. "It would also be helpful to others if you suggest to the seller that they contact DEQ so they can get information about their stove."

Certified stoves mean less wood smoke pollution and more heat for the money. Wood smoke is particularly troublesome in areas susceptible to temperature inversions, in which pollution is trapped near the ground. In those areas, wood stoves are the leading source of wintertime air pollution.

Some particles in wood smoke are so small that the body's natural defenses cannot keep them out of the lungs. These smoke particles can cause severe respiratory irritation or aggravate existing lung or heart problems. Older people, children and people with asthma are most at risk for health problems caused by wood smoke particles. Wood smoke also contains toxic and cancer-causing compounds.

In terms of total heat energy produced, an uncertified woodstove can waste up to 60 percent of the wood burned. Persons who currently own an old, inefficient stove should consider replacing it with a newer, cleaner heating system.

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Commonly asked questions:

* What is a "certified stove?" A certified stove is one that has been tested and has passed air pollution standards.

* What is "Oregon DEQ certification"" From 1984 to 1988, Oregon DEQ tested wood stoves for air pollution and approved those that met standards. These approved stoves will carry an Oregon DEQ certification label.

* What is "EPA certification?" Starting in 1988, EPA began certifying stoves. Newer approved stoves will carry an EPA label.

* Do I need a permit to install a wood stove? Yes. State building codes require a permit and inspection for wood stove installations. Building codes allow the installation of only Oregon DEQ- or EPA-certified stoves.

* Are there any exceptions to the wood stove requirements? Yes. Pellet stoves, antique stoves, cook stoves, and wood-fired central heating furnaces do not have to be certified. A permit is still required for installation.

For more information on wood stove certification and wood smoke pollution prevention, contact DEQ toll-free in Oregon at 800-452-4011 or visit DEQ's Web site at:

www.deq.state.or.us/aq .

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