The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today updates to 26-year-old standards on the amount of pollution that it will permit wood heaters made and then sold in the future to emit.

The standards, which will be phased in over a five-year period, are expected to cut harmful emissions from the new generation of wood heaters by roughly two-thirds. the agency said. The rule doesn't affect any heaters already in use today, nor does it replace state or local requirements governing the use of wood heaters.

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, a leading trade group representing wood heater manufacturers, said it welcomes the EPA's efforts to update standards last set in 1988. “Based on what we have heard from the Agency, we believe that EPA has addressed a number of our concerns with the initial proposal," association president and CEO Jack Goldman said in a statement. "For example, we applaud EPA’s recognition of the critical need for transition relief for warm-air furnaces. While the devil is in the details, EPA appears to have allowed warm-air furnace manufacturers time to develop and certify models to the new Step 1 standards."

But HPBA also said EPA "missed the mark in other areas." It asserted that for certain standards, the agency didn't meet its duty to rely on data that shows both a tangible benefit to consumers and cost-effectiveness. "From what we have learned from EPA about the final rule, the new standards for cordwood performance are of particular concern, since the agency appears to have acknowledged that there are no cordwood test methods yet for many appliance categories, much less data using such test methods," Goldman said.

The standards updated from 1988 covered wood stoves. Today's rule sets standards for the first time for hydronic heaters, wood-fired forced air furnaces (also called warm-air furnaces), pellet stoves and a previously unregulated type of woodstove called a single burn-rate stove. These standards do not cover fireplaces, fire pits, pizza ovens, barbecues or chimineas.

Particle pollution (aka soot) from wood heaters is linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including heart attacks, strokes, and asthma attacks, EPA said. It estimates the new standards will provide between $3.4 billion and $7.6 billion worth of public health benefits, and consumers purchasing new models will use less wood to heat their homes.

Visit EPA's page on residential wood heaters