Sunday, January 19, 2014

Where Are We in California in 2014?


I've been thinking about what to do about sales and regulation in California. Our sales of Rumford fireplaces in California is only a fraction of what it was a few years ago and it's only in part due to the economic downturn. Our sales elsewhere didn't drop as low and are already on their way up.
So, what to do? To begin with here is the situation as far as I know it …

Bay Area
We basically cannot sell any fireplaces in the Bay Area regulated by the BAAQMD. Regulation 6 is not so bad. It requires testing to ASTM E2558 and EPA determination of "qualified". It would also seem to allow any fireplace fitted with gas logs - which was our original back-up plan.
But the BAAQMD disingenuously manages the regulation as a ban so that in four years, of the seven or eight fireplaces (twenty some models) tested and found to be qualified and listed on the EPA Burn Wise list none have been approved.

Los Angeles
Regulations by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) in the LA area have been developed more recently and, although they were aware of the EPA Voluntary fireplace program and had a "place holder" for it, they seem to have forgotten that and now operate pretty much like the BAAQMD. The LA area does have some exceptions for fireplaces at high altitude and they are friendly toward gas logs since a couple of big national gas log manufactures are in the area.

Rest of California
Some other areas regulate fireplaces - notably Northern Sonoma County, Tahoe and San Luis Obispo. These areas seem to be taking their cues from Northern Sonoma county or the BAAQMD.

What really happens
Sometimes our customers get permits in these areas if they have money and/or lawyers or at least seem to be serious by following good "dealing-with-bureaucracies" procedures as outlined hereThere is some rebellion even among plans examiners at having to enforce air quality rules. Napa County approved an Isokern on the EPA list even though the BAAQMD did not.

What to do?
The suit we brought against San Jose and Palo Alto in 1999 might seem a Pyrrhic victory but it bought us five years during which many areas allowed Rumfords, not because they thought or cared that Rumfords were clean-burning, but because we had the resources to sue.
We may not think it worth the money now to sue the BAAQMD. But now there are seven or eight other manufacturers whose fireplaces are not being approved, plus gas log, fireplace screen manufacturers, that might be interested in joining forces.
Public Relations
Whether or not we would ever sue the BAAQMD, just mounting public relations campaign by getting articles in the media and contacting relators and our many architect, builder and mason customers, might be a start. Maybe we could use an "Open Records law" or the Freedom of information Act to find out how the BAAQMD really works. Maybe we could go for a referendum - up or down on fireplaces - or talk with legislators about changing the state rules regulating the BAAQMD to allow local city and county governments to decide. Whatever we do the point would be to get the issue out in the open.
We have not tested Rumfords to the ASTM E2558 standard although I'm reasonably sure they would pass. Until some fireplace is approved - any fireplace - we think it's not worth the time and money to test and jump through the EPA hoops. (The EPA. by the way looks downright reasonable compared with the BAAQMD and the rules in Northern Sonoma County and San Luis Obibpo.) We would also be interested in partnering with any gismo, like the catalytic combustor if it would get us approved without testing.
Importance and high priority
Other states like Colorado and Arizona have fireplace regulations or bans. We may be more successful in starting in one of these states but it does seem that California is perceived as the trend-setter or leader in air-quality regulation. There is also the possibility that fireplaces will be swept into the New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) that regulate wood-stoves - maybe good for us in California where we have little to lose but not so good in New York, Texas or Chicago.
We could just focus sales in areas that don't regulate fireplace emissions. But we would risk being blind-sided by future local regulations and possible NSPS national rules if we are not in the game. I think again of all the good that lawsuit did us to put the regulators on notice that we can't just be regulated out of business without fight.
We could work to develop a UL listed EPA approved (as a stove) version of a Rumford. Seems to me sort of like re-designing a toaster to boil water more efficiently, fireplaces and stoves are so different. We could also come out with a dedicated gas Rumford as Isokern has done but that seems to me to require UL testing, sealed doors and conspicuous labels if we are to avoid violating the National Fuel Gas Code and create a health and fire hazard for our customers.
Bottom line, we have some resources, not the least of which are our customers. I also think the EPA and many local building officials would be on our side. I think we could start a public relations campaign and see where it goes. Currently we have a builder who has a new house with a couple of Rumfords he wants to build in Sonoma County. He would probably welcome a reporter from a local newspaper to accompany him as he tries to get a permit for the Rumfords, asks what the rules really are or tries to settle for installing gas logs.

Jim Buckley
ps: please comment or send me an email at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New 24" and 48" Ovens at

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nice new Rumford in Cambridge, MA

Convoluted Tangle of Rules


This week I spent some time looking into what authority the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has. The legislation creating the BAAQMD is in Division 26, Part 3, Chapter 4 of the California Health and Safety Code.

I can't find where state law gives the BAAQMD the authority to interpret or hold up the rules which they do have the authority to promulgate. In fact I think by adding the words in Regulation 6, "and has been approved in writing by the APCO" they may have tried to expand their authority by rule-making beyond their legislative mandate.

At least that's what I'm finding at the city and county level. The BAAQMD claims to have authority in nine - Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Contra Costa, Alemeda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara. I decided to ask the counties what they think.

Napa County doesn't think so. I learned that an Isokern with a cat was approved in Napa County because it was on the EPA Burn Wise list. The BAAQMD has not approved the Isokern but EPA Qualified was good enough for the Napa plans examiner, John Taylor.

Alameda County and San Francisco allow wood-burning in historic homes built before 1942 which is not in the BAAQMD Regulation 6 and seems to be a more liberal exception.

Santa Clara County still has a 1990 Ordinance on wood-burning appliances that predates Regulation 6 and Joe Takacs, the building inspector, said he must follow the county rules - not the BAAQMD Regulation 6.

So does the BAAQMD have any authority over the city and county building officials? Do the city and county officials even know about Regulation 6? Maybe we should help the cities and counties write their own new rules and ignor the BAAQMD. See our recommendations.

Tell us your experience getting permits for and building masonry fireplaces. Help us build a case. Let us know if you are willing to contact your elected officials. Call us at 360 531 1081 or email us by clicking here. Please tell us your name and a way to contact you.

Monday, October 5, 2009

EPA Wood-burning Fireplace Program Progress

So far, three months after the EPA included masonry fireplaces in the renamed "Wood-burning Fireplace Program", only one fireplace (a metal one) has been tested for emissions to ASTM E2558 and approved by the EPA. Even that fireplace has not been accepted by any state or local air quality management district.

A spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) in California told me that the BAAQMD was waiting until the EPA finished some modeling study which might change the Phase II passing grade of 5.1 g/kg. He had no answer to my question, "Why don't you approve them as a Phase I fireplace?"

We wonder what the EPA is doing to work with these state and local air quality management districts to help them revise their "rules" to recognize the EPA Voluntary Wood-burning Fireplace Program.

We wonder why the fireplace industry is not flocking to the test labs, getting their fireplaces approved by the EPA and applying to the BAAQMD and other air quality management districts.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Rumfords Work

For more on the physics with some test data to back up these claims, read the JLC article about Rumfords.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rumford fireplaces are tall and shallow to reflect more heat,
and they have streamlined throats to eliminate turbulence and
carry away the smoke with little loss of heated room air.
Rumford fireplaces are generally appreciated for their tall
classic elegance and their heating efficiency.

Much more about Rumford fireplaces is on line at

Here, with this Blog, however, we hope to encourage a
dialog about some of the persistent issues presented by
emerging regulations about wood smoke emissions and

We can also, of course, discuss more down to earth topics
like how to fix a smoking fireplace or why use refractory
mortar. I will suggest topics from time to time but feel free
to discuss what's on your mind - about fireplaces and masonry
chimneys, of course. Well maybe masonry ovens and other
related topics too.

Here are some suggestions:

1) Can open fireplaces be "green"?
2) Are glass doors and combustion air good ideas?
3) How does a Rumford compare with a masonry heater or
a metal stove?

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