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Tax-Credits & Incentives

Change-Out Program

Wood stove change-out programs are programs that offer rebates to trade in an old uncertified stove to buy a new cleaner stove. Most programs allow consumers to trade in an old wood stove for a new one, at a discounted price, but some only allow trade outs to lower emitting appliances such as pellet and gas stoves, or give much higher rebates for pellet or gas stoves.

Change out programs mainly focus on towns, valleys or regions with excessive wood smoke, but some are state wide, even though wood smoke may not be an equally bad problem in all parts of the state. Change outs are more in the public spotlight as of the spring of 2014, as industry fights against stricter regulations on new stoves, saying that old stoves are the main culprit and can be addressed through change out programs.

Funding usually comes from the state, an air quality district or a supplemental environmental project (SEP), where a company who has violated the Clean Air Act agrees to fund a project as part of a settlement of an enforcement action. In return, EPA agrees to reduce the monetary penalty that would otherwise apply. Industry groups like HPBA (Hearth, Patio, and Barbeque Association) and wood stove retailers are often crucial partners.

Why are change-outs important for wood stoves?
Unlike cars, refrigerators and virtually every other appliance, wood stoves can last so long that they can remain in use for 30 50 years. As a result, most wood stoves are still not EPA certified, a program that started in 1990. Pollution from older stoves, or from incorrectly used new stoves, is a serious health concern, and one of the best ways to get them out of circulation is a change-out program. The Alliance for Green Heat developed best practices for change out programs to maximize their effectiveness.

How effective are change outs?
It depends. Even the success of the landmark Libby change out is still being debated, but there is no question that one reason it worked as well as it did because it was not a voluntary program. Every household had to participate, or stop using their stove. This is rare, but effective. Vermont adopted this strategy with outdoor wood boilers.

The Alliance for Green Heat believes that many wood stove change out programs have not taken a holistic approach and as a result, air quality improvements have been undermined. We believe that towns or counties in areas with air quality non-attainment problems should first ban the installation of non-certified wood stoves after a change out program. While this is being done in Libby it has not been done in most cases. The Alliance for Green Heat has urged the EPA to use their leverage in directing SEP funds to towns or counties that have demonstrated a level of commitment, such as banning the installation of new exempt wood stoves, old, second hand uncertified wood stoves and/or unregulated outdoor wood boilers.

Another growing trend are buy-back programs, where cash is offered to retire a wood stove, without necessarily buying another one. Also, change out programs can be sponsored by stove manufacturers or retailers during the slow seasons to boost their sales, while reducing their profit margin.
 
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