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Are Wood Stoves & Wood Fireplaces Illegal? (Answered)

Many people are recently looking to put a wood-burning fireplace or wood stove in their homes. However, there’s some speculation that these types of fireplaces are becoming banned or heavily regulated. So, I did some research to find out more.

While the EPA did introduce stricter regulations regarding wood-burning stoves and open fireplaces in 2014, the usage of these appliances is not outright banned in the US. However, on the state and local levels, different jurisdictions have banned wood-burning appliances, especially in California.

Even though wood-burning fireplaces and wood stoves aren’t fully banned across the board, what do these restrictions mean, and where are they banned? Let’s take a look.

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Why Are Wood-Burning Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Being Banned?

an old wood stove

There are plenty of environmental advocacy groups that discuss the cons of wood-burning. Specifically, they focus on describing the harm done to the environment, air pollution/quality, and that it is not an entirely renewable energy source.

These rules are exclusive to the communities or states in which they are codified. It may serve as a warning that other locations may follow such rules depending on their circumstances.

The other side of the argument are those against the banning of wood stoves and open fireplaces. Specifically, these groups argue the contrary that wood is renewable and that it is far less damaging to the environment than using oil, coal, or electricity.

For readers who are curious about the future of wood-burning fireplaces in the US, it may be more useful to focus on state or city legislation. At this time, it does not appear that the federal government is focusing heavily on wood-burning appliances.

Now, let’s view exactly where wood fireplaces and stoves are currently banned or heavily regulated.

Where Are Wood-Fireplaces & Wood-Stoves Banned?

Some towns may have dynamic rules and regulations, such as emission requirements for appliances, or rules on when you can burn firewood.

Some examples include: 

  1. Puget Sound, Washington: This town has several ordinances instituted between 2004 and 2014 related to woodsmoke and firewood appliances. Violating some of these ordinances could result in fines. While you are allowed to burn firewood in Puget Sound, you have to watch the opacity of the smoke from your chimney, follow town guidance on when you can or can’t burn, and avoid selling or buying uncertified wood-burning appliances.
  2. Bay Area, California: This area has completely banned all wood-burning appliances in 2015 for any newly constructed homes.

Recommended: Here’s When You Can Use Your Fireplace in California

In 2014, the EPA introduced increased restrictions on wood stoves. This applied to a vast majority of wood stoves in existence and created higher standards for emissions. Currently, when a person is looking to install a new wood stove, they must purchase one that is EPA certified.

At the city and town level, remember there are tens of thousands of them in the US, and each town can adopt its own rules regarding the banning or allowance of wood-burning appliances.

At the state level, some ask its citizens to avoid burning wood due to periods of air stagnation or poor air quality. Other states provide no guidance whatsoever.

So, the vital piece to remember is that your town, or a town you are visiting, may have its own rules above and beyond the state’s or EPA’s guidance.

Because of this, review any local ordinances before installing a wood-burning appliance or burning wood in a rented space or new home.

To give you a head start with your local ordinances (and which stoves are allowed), check out these examples in the Ordinances and Regulations for Wood-Burning Appliances by the EPA.

To find the exact requirements of wood stoves and wood-burning fireplaces in your community, the EPA recommends contacting your your local health department or air quality agency.

Are Wood Fireplaces And Wood Stoves Bad?

an old wood burning stove

For individuals who have health considerations, even a single burn in an open wood-burning fireplace could cause negative effects.

Cutting down a tree requires sending workers into the woods with fuel-operated chainsaws, using fuel-operated skidders to haul trees, using fuel-operated trucks for transportation, and using fuel-operated log splitters.

Additionally, even though forests can be regrown and there is an image of burning firewood as holistic and nature-oriented, it is not without its faults. Full-size trees take decades to regrow, and as shown above, the processing of firewood is a fossil fuel-dependent activity.

If your focus is on having an environmentally friendly heat source, a wood fireplace or wood stove may not be the best investment.

However, if you process your own wood, you may likely be able to save money and have a more eco-friendly impact. This involves a lot of manual labor and there’s an old quote to go along with it:

Wood warms you up three times. When you chop it, when you move it, and when you burn it.

In other words, if you want to process your own firewood to save money and have an eco-friendly impact, you might be able to cancel your gym membership too.

If being eco-friendly is not your priority, the cost is what should be taken into consideration next.

Remember the price of firewood is not separate from the cost of gasoline. Still, this is dependent on if you’d like to process your own firewood.

Installation costs vary widely depending on the make/model of your fireplace, the size of the room, and the professionals you hire.

Will Gas Fireplaces Be Banned?

a gas fireplace with a pilot light

There’s currently a strong push to phase out gas appliances. As more and more states and municipalities focus on green energy, there will likely be a slow phasing out of gas appliances.

For example, at least 50 cities in California have instituted a ban on new gas appliances being included in new construction, starting in 2019. 

In most cases, previously installed gas appliances is grandfathered in when new legislation is passed. For example, this means that if you lived in one of those previously mentioned California cities, and your gas fireplace was installed before 2019, you are in the clear. 

In many cities and states, citizens are more likely to see gas appliances phased out than electric appliances. If you’d like to keep up with this, follow your town council or state legislature to determine the likelihood of gas fireplaces being banned.

On a federal level, it may be also wise to keep tabs on developing legislation. Although there’s not a heavy focus on gas appliances, there is an increasing focus on reducing carbon emissions in general. Gas appliances may fall under this umbrella to reduce carbon emissions, regardless of their purpose. 

Additionally, according to the EPA, gas fireplaces emit less pollution than wood stoves and fireplaces. Depending on different legislative bodies’ goals, you may see more wood stoves banned before gas stoves.

For example, in cities with greater smog and pollution, it’d make more sense for them to ban wood stoves instead of gas stoves.

It’s also important to note that the oil industry has stronger lobbying power and money compared to the agricultural/wood processing industry. This will likely have a very strong impact on different cities and states that may or may not choose to ban gas or wood fireplaces.

For more about the banning of fireplaces and wood stoves, check out this helpful video by Wranglerstar.

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