By Thom Carter, Guest Blogger
DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.
When we think about things we can do to improve our air quality, we often think about driving less. That’s absolutely right. What may not come to mind right away, though, is something right inside our homes — wood-burning stoves.
Wood-burning stoves are a significant source of air pollution — pollution that negatively impacts individuals’ personal health and the environment. Particles that make up the smoke and soot from wood-burning stoves can cause breathing difficulties and sometimes permanent lung damage for those who inhale the smoke. Especially during the cold winter months, smoke from wood-burning stoves gets trapped with other air pollutants resulting in health-threatening inversions. In fact, wood burning stoves can cause a mini-inversion within neighborhoods.
To combat this air-pollution challenge, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) is launching the Wood Stove Conversion Assistance Program on Oct. 22, 2018. The program was developed to incentivize residents to convert their fireplace or wood stove into a natural-gas or propane device.
Beginning this fall, DEQ will award up to $3,800 to qualified individuals or families to exchange their wood-burning stove or convert their fireplace to natural gas or propane. Not only will the exchange contribute to better air quality, but it will also offer a convenient alternative to wood-burning.
Swapping an old, uncertified woodstove for an EPA-certified stove can reduce fine particulate emissions by 60 percent. While 60 percent is a big reduction, taking out an uncertified woodstove and converting it to a natural-gas stove helps even more by reducing particulate pollution by 99.9 percent.
Anyone who resides in Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, and Weber counties, along with portions of Box Elder and Tooele counties, is eligible for rebates. Residents can choose from a number of options:
- Exchange an operational wood stove (including pellet) for a gas stove (natural gas or propane).
- Convert a fireplace to a gas fireplace (natural-gas or propane).
- Exchange an operational uncertified wood stove for an EPA certified wood stove.
- Turn in an operational wood stove or insert for recycling.
Funding for this initiative comes from a $9.5 million Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Targeted Airshed Grant awarded to the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to reduce pollution from wood stoves in Utah. Under this five-year program, thousands of wood stoves will be replaced with cleaner burning devices, resulting in much less pollution along the Wasatch Front and in the Cache Valley. And that will help all of us breathe a little easier in the winter.
To learn more about the exchange and to see if you are eligible to apply, go to stoves.utah.gov
I am the Executive Director of the Utah Clean Air Partnership. UCAIR is a non-profit organization established to bring communities together with one goal in mind – improving Utah’s air. I have a diverse background, including work in the political and policy arena alongside international experience in professional sports. In the policy world, I have served as an elected official in New Jersey and have also worked on policy initiatives in New Jersey and Utah tied to health care and transportation, respectively. My professional sports background includes growing Major League Baseball’s operations in Australia and helping to build a new indoor football league here in the United States. I grew up in the Northeast and went to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Now at UCAIR, I work diligently to bring partners together for collective impact in addressing Utah’s air-quality challenges.