Agency pushes wood stove upgrades

Demand expected to pick up as weather cools; financial help available

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

 

Learn more

More information about the Southwest Clean Air Agency’s wood stove replacement program is available at 360-574-3058.

Most Vancouver residents aren't thinking about their heating systems yet, much less replacing them for the sake of air quality or efficiency.

Paul Mairose expects that to change soon.

"It still is a little bit slow," said Mairose, chief engineer at the Southwest Clean Air Agency. "The activity will pick up when we get a good cold snap."

The agency is one of several in Washington that offer financial assistance to residents replacing old, uncertified wood stoves. But locally, demand has been slow since the latest iteration of the program received state funding last year, Mairose said.

Southwest Clean Air's program is available to anyone living inside the Vancouver urban growth boundary, which includes most of the metro area. A state Department of Ecology grant in 2011 gave the Vancouver-based agency just over $200,000 for its wood stove replacement program. That two-year allocation is now in its second year, Mairose said, and a large portion of that funding is still available.

"We have the money. It's there," he said. "It's just a matter of getting the word out."

Southwest Clean Air recently used advertising to create a slight bump in demand, according to Mairose. The arrival of more fall-like weather will likely do the same. The program has existed locally for about a decade, but has seen fluctuating interest partially due to inconsistent funding and availability over the years, Mairose said.

The program typically awards between $500 and $1,500 for stove replacements, according to the Southwest Clean Air Agency. Grants differ depending on the income level of the applicant, and what kind of stoves are involved in the replacement. The goal is to entice residents to ditch old, uncertified wood stoves — generally, those built before 1990 — in favor of gas, electric, pellet or other newer heating units. Certified units can save homeowners money in heating costs and cut down on air pollutants, according to the Southwest Clean Air Agency.

Jeff Brown, whose Stove Shop is a participating vendor, said he's installed about five new heating units so far this year for people using the grant program. A late start kept demand slow at first, Brown said. But he and other heating businesses have entered the peak season that keeps them busiest.

"Now there's starting to be some response," Brown said.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro; eric.florip@columbian.com.