The terrible air quality from recent wildfires hundreds of miles away should serve as a reminder smoke from old, inefficient wood stoves have similar impacts, according to Chris Duymich, Air Quality Planner for the Monterey Bay Air Resources District.
The Monterey Bay Air Resources District (MBARD) is offering incentives to homeowners throughout Santa Cruz County, and is especially targeting the San Lorenzo Valley, to change out old, inefficient wood stoves with cleaner burning and more efficient sources of heat.
The Wood Smoke Reduction Pilot Program of the MBARD offers incentives of between $1,000 to $3,500 to replace old wood stoves or fireplace inserts with EPA-certified, low emissions wood stoves, or natural gas, propane or electric heating sources- designed to “spare the air” from wood smoke and particulates that diminish air quality. Open hearth fireplaces also qualify for the program.
The amount of the cash incentive depends on the type of replacement stove and the applicant’s household income. Program eligibility requires that a homeowner or renter is currently using an uncertified wood stove or wood stove insert as a primary source of heat. Those applicants already income qualified by Central Coast Energy Services under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program will be eligible for the highest incentive amounts.
According to Duymich of the MBARD, the San Lorenzo Valley is particularly vulnerable to unhealthy air during the winter months- just as many are firing up their wood stoves. When the hilltops are warmer than the valley floor, cold air, and wood smoke particulates, get trapped in a thermal inversion layer that “stays right at the bottom of the valley, and, without any wind, people are breathing those particulates ,” Duymich said.
Duymich said she understands why people are so fond of wood fires on cold days, but explains she has studied reports on indoor air quality, and urges people to be aware of the health impacts. “Whether you know it or not, you are breathing very fine particulates inside your own home when wood fires are burning- not to mention what’s going up the chimney for the larger community,” Duymich said.
The Wood Stove Change-Out program is funded by dollars received from California’s premiere greenhouse gas reduction program, the “Cap-and-Trade Program,” in which high carbon producing industries are required to buy permits. This funding is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving public health. A total of $250,000 has been set aside for the program in the MontereyBay area.
Discounts are available through participating local dealers, and the cash incentives will be granted to qualifying applicants on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are depleted. Also available through Central Coast Energy Services is assistance with energy efficient weatherization and insulation for low-income residents, both renters and owners. More information on the Wood Stove Change-out Program is available at www.mbard.org/programs-resources/planning/grants-incentives/wood-stovefireplace-grants. More information about Central Coast Energy Services is available at www.energyservices.org/index-wwr.html.