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September 14, 2005

A Wood Burning Change Out Program is a Healthy Neighborhood Choice

by Stuart Lieberman
Realty Times

People love fireplaces and wood burning stoves. I suspect that they are a great selling feature.

But every year, neighbors get into huge fights over both improvements. The smoke can drive certain neighbors crazy. Especially in instances where a neighbor's stack allows the smoke to enter an adjoining home.

The problem is that wood burning particulates can make people ill. In the past 10 years, there have been legislative moves to reduce the number of particulates being released by these wood burners.

Since April of 2001 the Great Wood Stove and Fireplace Change Out program has been in effect. The purpose of this program, run through out the country, has been to encourage users of these stoves to increase the efficiency of their burning by either replacing the stoves or inserting fuel efficient inserts into them.

Relying on public education about the environmental benefits of replacing stoves and inserts, the program typically also provides financial incentives for the purchase of cleaner burning appliances.

The Change Out program has been successful in enhancing air quality. A program is now being run in Lincoln County, Montana. It is jointly sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.

Under the Lincoln County program, 300 stoves are donated by wood stove manufacturers located throughout North America. These contributions are important in funding the program. Funding has also been provided for installation costs.

The Lincoln County program's objective is to replace all of the older fireplace inserts and wood stoves in Lincoln County. This is a two-phase program.

Phase 1 focuses on low income households. The campaign will primarily encourage no cost change outs for low income households.

In 2006, other households and businesses will be eligible to have their stoves and inserts changed. There may be a co-pay for phase 2 candidates. Landlords will also be able to participate in the program.

All uncertified stoves and inserts will be recycled. Revenue generated from recycling will be placed back into the program.

It's important to note that the stoves must actually be installed. There is no cash and carry under this program.

Lincoln County is a nonattainment area in the United States. This means that its air is considered to be unhealthful as a result of small particulates. That's why the county has the change out program.

There will be an anticipated 70 percent reduction in the wood smoke that will be generated per unit as a result of this program. In addition, the amount of firewood that will be required will be reduced by 30 percent.

These are good public health programs which need to continue throughout the United States and Canada to make air-quality better and to reduce the nuisance that results from the continued use of out of date wood burners.

Does your community have a change out program? If not, you might want to start a grass roots program to begin one. Wood burning stove manufacturing trade groups, as well as public health organizations, can give you guidance to begin this worthwhile program.