Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Emissions Characteristics of Heating Systems Phase II(ST8909)

Brookhaven National Lab


New York State is a major user of fuel oil for residential and small commercial heating applications and represents about 25% of the oil heat market in the United States. Lower sulfur fuel oil and advanced heating technologies offer the potential for significant environmental benefits in New York State. New York State is also a major user of natural gas for residential and commercial heating. Natural gas has lower sulfur content that is comparable to ultra-low (15 ppm) sulfur fuel oil. Natural gas-fired heating systems are nevertheless significant producers of carbon monoxide, NOx and fine particulate emissions. With increasingly higher fuel prices for oil, propane, and natural gas, and the local availability of forest resources, New York State residents have recently been using larger quantities of solid wood and wood pellets for heating. Wood-fired heating appliances have regained popularity and are gaining widespread use to offset the consumption of traditional fuels. Wood pellet stoves, in particular, have achieved popularity due to their semi-automatic mode of operation. Although several studies were performed a number of years ago to evaluate the emissions performance of solid wood-fired appliances, only limited testing with outdated procedures, has been performed to date on pellet stoves.

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Project Description

Phase I of the proposed project will measure carbon monoxide, NOx, SOx, and particulate matter (PM 10 total mass and PM 2.5 total mass) emissions from a representative sample of typical natural gas-fired, oil-fired, and wood pellet-fired heating systems that are found in existing homes and small businesses in New York State. Oil-fired heating systems will be tested with conventional heating oil, low sulfur diesel, and ultra-low sulfur diesel. Phase II of the proposed project will measure the same types of emissions from advanced heating technologies including; low NOx, natural gas/oil-fired burners, natural gas/oil-fired condensing boilers/furnaces, and oil-fired systems fueled with biodiesel. Emissions data will be evaluated and reported in technical articles and conference proceedings.


The project will provide up-to-date emissions information on typical residential and small commercial, natural gas-fired, oil-fired, and wood pellet-fired, heating equipment emissions as well as estimated environmental benefits of cleaner fuels and advanced heating technologies.

Project Results

An evaluation of energy and emissions (PM2.5¬) performance was conducted on a variety of fossil fuel and wood pellet heating appliances. The fuels involved high sulfur (5500 ppm), standard sulfur (1500 ppm), low sulfur (300 ppm), and ultra low sulfur (15 ppm) heating oil, natural gas (10 ppm sulfur), and wood pellets. The fossil fuels were tested on equipment ranging from run-of- the mill to high performing, condensing appliances. Among the fossil fuels, a strong linear relationship was found regarding PM2.5 emissions and sulfur content, showing that sulfur is a significant component of PM2.5 emitted from fossil fuels. For example, PM2.5 levels dropped off approximately 98% when switching from standard sulfur fuel to ultra low sulfur. The wood pellet performance was evaluated in three pellet stoves. It was found that, compared to the fossil fuels; the wood pellet stoves had significant PM2.5¬ emissions as well as larger sized particulate emissions. Nevertheless, the wood pellets virtually had a zero sulfur content that showed the composition of wood fired PM2.5 is different than that of fossil fuels. A thorough report has been published by Brookhaven National Laboratory.


Brookhaven National Lab
32 Lewis Road Building 130
Upton, NY 11973

Principle Investigator

Feng Wang

Universities Involved


Project Type:

Research Study

Technologies Types:

Building Systems
Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning

NYSERDA Contact Information

Nathan Russell


R&D - Buildings Research

Contract Details

Start Date: 12/6/2005
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST8909

Last Updated: 11/2/2010