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10 Best Practices for Stove Change-out Programs

Updated: November 12th, 2016
10 Best Practices for Stove Change-out Programs

The following 10 suggested best practices for change-out programs were compiled from recommendations we received from managers of change-out programs and other experts.  The larger the budget of the program, the greater number of best practices can be included.  Some change-out programs already include 6 to 8 of these suggested best practices.  Two of the suggested best practices are just emerging: No program yet disallows public funds from going to the least efficient stoves and stoves are slowly being integrated into energy audit and weatherization programs.  The Alliance for Green Heat is available to assist program managers who wish to integrate these best practices into their stove change-out programs.
  1. Prioritize who gets funds, if funding is limited.  Higher priority could go to homes that use wood as a primary heating source; homes in more densely populated areas; homes where air quality is particularly problematic; homes that have wood sheds; and/or lower income homes.

  2. Give higher rebates or limit options to cleaner stoves.  There are plenty of pellet stoves that meet EPA Step 2 standards and emit no more than 2 grams per hour. There is no reason to allow pellet stoves that emit more than 2 grams.  If wood stoves are allowed in a program, eligible ones can be limited to 3 or 3.5 grams per hour.  (Masonry heaters should be specifically allowed even though there is a tiny market for them. For eligibility, programs can the Washington masonry list.)
    Higher rebates should be offered for pellet stoves, in part because, unlike wood stoves, they tend to burn as cleanly in the field as in the lab.  Unlike wood stoves, pellet stoves burn consistently clean enough to be part of virtually all change-out programs. Programs should also consider providing higher rebates for automated wood stoves that have more predictable emissions performance. This emerging class or stoves deserves recognition and support, if wood stoves are to be included. If the area is in or close to non-attainment, higher rebates for gas appliances and heat pumps should also be considered.  Programs may want to consider not offering incentives for downdraft wood stoves, as they are among the most difficult stoves to operate consistently without visible smoke.

  3. Right size rebate. Some programs are so popular that they close applications in a matter of days (see: the recent Bay Area, California and New England programs).  This may mean that the rebate was too high and fewer change-outs will occur than with a lower rebate.  

  4. Education. Education, outreach and social media need to be built into all phases of the change-out. The application should be used to ask questions about key issues, provide links to key information and get promises to follow Burn Wise practices.  Required classes on stove operation can be considered.  In addition to print literature, consider giving a moisture meter to participants (a practice Travis Industries began in 2013), stove thermostat and/or plans to build a wood shed with each stove. (One program in Washington has a woodshed incentive for qualifying residents.)   



  5. Bounty programs. A bounty program provides consumers a smaller incentive ($100 - $350) to turn in an old wood stove. Or a bounty could go to stove retailers for any stove they remove and destroy in the regular course of their business.  Bounty programs should be considered on a year round basis, or in advance and in conjunction with a change-out program.  Bounty programs remove stoves far more cheaply than change-outs and may attract a different demographic.

  6. Efficiency. Consider giving an additional $100-$200 for pellet stoves listed on the EPA certified stove list with efficiencies over 70 or 75% and/or disallow any pellet stove with an efficiency under 65%.  The Alliance maintains a up-to-date list of all wood and pellet stoves on the EPA list with actual efficiency numbers. Educate consumers about pellet stove efficiency.  (As of October 26, 2016, 25% of all stoves on the EPA list have verified efficiencies.)

  7. Give consumers options not just on heating technologies, but also on whether to purchase from either a specialty retailers or a big box store.  As long as professional installation is required, big box stores can make all the difference for low and middle-income families to participate in a change-out.  Rebate programs can offer this choice more easily when the store does not have to be pre-approved.  Programs should always urge consumers to get multiple quotes and learn about various options for purchasing stoves and professionally installing them.

  8. Advance policy steps. Prior to a change-out, jurisdictions should try to ensure that the future resale and installation of uncertified stoves is forbidden.  Otherwise, the benefits of the change-out will be undermined.  This is particularly important for towns, cities and valleys with persistent smoke problems. State or federal funding could give preference to jurisdictions that take advance policy steps to ensure a change-out has long lasting benefits. The states of Washington and Oregon already forbid the resale and installation of uncertified stoves, as does the Denver-Metro Area in Colorado, and San Joaquin Valley and the Town of Mammoth Lakes in California.  In addition, jurisdictions may also want to require permits and inspections on all stove installs in the future.  For example, Marin County, California forbids the installation of uncertified stoves in new constructions or remodels (see: Ordinance 3395).  The most aggressive policy step requires removing old stoves upon sale of a home, as is required in Oregon.  More examples of uncertified wood stove regulations can be found here.

  9. Energy audits, weatherization and low-income programs. Wood stoves should be integrated into the jurisdiction’s subsidized energy audits and weatherization programs in order to educate homeowners, identify obsolete stoves and repair or replace stoves with non-change-out funding.  Most low-income heating programs will replace a stove for free if the family qualifies for heating assistance and the stove is their primary heater.  Change-outs should always link to those programs and maximize that support. We offer some suggestions about how to incorporate stoves into energy audits here. New York initially tried to require an energy audit in their change-out, but the way it was designed depressed participation too much, so it was dropped.

  10. Evaluation and monitoring. A plan for program evaluation and monitoring should be integrated from the start. This plan should engage key stakeholders and the results should be made public on the program website.