The Wood Stove Exchange Program is up and running, grants for exchanging wood burning to non-wood burning appliances have increased from $250 to $400 this year. (Image: Thinkstock)

Wood stove exchange aims to clear the air

Since 2008, communities have received almost $2.9 million from the Wood Stove Exchange Program

Almost 90 households from Rossland to Fruitvale have replaced their old wood stoves for new models, using grants from the provincial Wood Stove Exchange Program.

But to better clear the air, a little education is also needed.

John Vere has been coordinating the program for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) since its 2008 inception, when almost 80 stoves were replaced each year.

Getting word out has been a challenge since the province cut funding, and now, Vere says it’s hard to use up the 20 grants he receives annually.

“The program is still running but is coming to its end of usefulness,” Vere told the Trail Times. “Part of this might be a lack of awareness as the government cut our budget for advertising and workshops right out,” he added.

“I am expected to find other funding for these items or, like I’ve been doing, use anything free. But that said, all the retailers are made aware of the program and therefore anyone buying a new appliance should have been made aware.”

However, a new stove doesn’t mean there won’t still be smoke – and that’s where the program runs short, Vere says.

“Yes, old stoves pollute the most and are inefficient and burn more wood,” he began. “But even the new stoves, if improperly used, will still belch smoke.”

Vere added, “This is where education overall, is much more important than exchanging the stoves.”

People will still burn wet or poor quality firewood, he said.

“Firewood is totally mismanaged … if you see people out gathering this year’s wood right now then I rest my case … Sorry, most of that wood is not ready to burn.”

The amateur, under the table system we use, is the heart of the problem, Vere continued.

“The day that firewood is handled seriously, and only seasoned firewood can be burned in a good quality stove, the smoke will go away almost completely,” he stressed.

“But wood heat, even at it’s best, will put more particulate into the air than any other heat source.”

Locally, the program has been most popular in Rossland, with 34 households exchanging an old wood burner for new. Elsewhere in this area, 16 old appliances have been exchanged in Fruitvale, 14 in Area A, 11 in Trail, nine in Area B and three in Montrose.

The RDKB board recently agreed to continue with the $6,000 program again this season (the 12-month agreement is through the BC Lung Association and reviewed annually).

Vere noted one change, which is a grant increase from $250 to $400 for the exchange of a wood burning appliance to a non-wood burning appliance such as a pellet stove, an LP and propane gas space heater, or an electric heat pump.

At first the government (Ministry of Environment) was supporting wood burning as a renewable resource, Vere explained.

“B.C. has no shortage of firewood, but I think they finally see that what people really need is home heating solutions that are not so labor intensive,” he speculated.

“So possibly this is the reasoning behind the new higher incentive when exchanging a wood burner for another fuel type.”

Another issue Vere says, is that many who require wood heat have old poorly insulated homes.

“This is a place we’ve tried over time to address but it’s still the biggest reason people burn wood,” he concluded.

“A modern airtight building could not even use wood heat, you’d be cooked to death.”

Since 2008, communities have received almost $2.9 million from the Wood Stove Exchange Program, helping to replace over 7,000 old stoves with cleaner burning models.

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