CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County residents looking to update or replace their wood-burning stove or furnace could get some financial assistance thanks to a new county program.
Linn County Public Health earlier this year rolled out the wood-burning appliance change-out program, which provides financial incentives to eligible homeowners looking to upgrade to clean-burning heating appliances.
Amy Drahos, senior air quality scientist with Linn County Public Health’s air and water quality branch, said similar appliance programs are more common on the coasts, but Linn County’s effort marks a first locally.
“It’s the first wood-burning appliance change-out in Iowa. ... We’ve got a unique situation here,” Drahos said.
The change-out program was created in response to a consent order to Interstate Power and Light, which is Alliant Energy’s Iowa subsidiary, following a 2015 complaint alleging the utility’s emissions violated the Clean Air Act. Following the order, Alliant agreed to allocate $250,000 to the change-out program. All but $25,000 for marketing and administration costs will go to the replacement of wood-burning units.
Drahos said the program will benefit the county’s overall public health by reducing overall particulates in the area that come from burning wood.
“We know that old uncertified wood stoves are a cause of pretty significant particulate pollution and other harmful pollutants,” she said. “We are just encouraging those people that maybe have an older stove take a look at what we’re offering as far as incentives.”
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The initiative allows eligible residents to receive program funds to replace an old, uncertified wood-burning appliance with a newer unit, or one that runs on a different fuel, such as natural gas.
Shane Dodge, supervisor of Linn County Public Health’s air and water quality branch, said the program first is trying to focus on more urban residents, where particulate matter has the biggest affect.
“We want to get the most impact for the dollars spent,” Dodge said. “We’re looking to improve the air quality of these neighborhoods.”
Next summer, the program will open up to include all eligible residents.
In addition to reducing pollution, newer appliances are more efficient and safer, said PJ Kalb, with Colony Heating and Air Conditioning, one of the program’s approved retailers.
Kalb said while older wood-burning appliances are known for putting out black smoke into the air, newer units actually pull that smoke through a second burn process, to reduce particulates.
“That’s where they get the efficiency and what breaks that smoke down,” Kalb said.
Kalb said older units also can increase the risk of fires, so updating an appliance is often a good idea.
Drahos said only two residents — one in Marion and one in Central City — have participated in the program so far, but she hopes to see that increase.
About the program
To be eligible for the county’s wood-burning change-out program, homeowners must use a non-EPA certified wood stove or one manufactured before 1988, or a hydronic heater — known commonly as an outdoor wood boiler — built before 2015.
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For the program’s first phase — through June 30, 2019 — residents must be Linn County homeowners who also are Alliant Energy customers and use a wood-burning appliance as the primary or significant source of heat for their primary residence. The home must also be in or within one-quarter mile of an incorporated town or city.
Starting on July 1 and running through the program’s remaining life span to Feb. 15, 2021, applicants can reside anywhere within Linn County. All other requirements still apply.
Additional information can be found at burncleanlinn.org or by contacting Linn County Public Health at 319-892-6000.
The program offers an array of incentives based on a number of factors including applicant income and the type of appliance being purchased. Incentives could range from $1,000 to several thousand dollars.
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