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SALT LAKE CITY — If you live in northern Utah, chances are your furnace kicked on after below-freezing temperatures overnight — or you had to stoke the fire in your wood-burning stove.
If you’re still burning wood, the state wants you to take a look at a wood stove conversion program that will make a big difference in the air we all breathe.
Last year, the state used grant money to help nearly 100 Utahns who burn wood as their primary source of heat to switch over to natural gas. This year, through a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, many more residents have become eligible for rebates and incentives, and the state expects to help 3,000 people.
“It’s huge. It’s a really big difference,” said Mark Berger, air quality policy section manager for the Utah Division of Air Quality.
Utahns who live on the Wasatch Front, or in Cache County or Tooele County, can apply online at stoves.utah.gov for rebates on natural gas stoves and fireplace inserts.
“The timing is good right now,” said Berger. “We’re about to enter into our inversion season and we’re about to see PM 2.5 build up in our valleys.”
That’s the particulate pollution that gets lodged in our lungs and can cause a variety of serious health problems. The Utah Division of Air Quality said wood smoke makes up 6 percent of the direct pollution they see on their filters.
“That’s a pretty big amount that we can reduce by converting from solid fuel burning to natural gas in our winters,” said Berger.
Rebates from $2,800 up to $3,800 have been made available if you exchange an operational wood stove or convert a fireplace to natural gas or propane. You can get $500 to exchange an uncertified wood stove for an EPA certified wood stove, or turn in the wood stove for recycling.
Alpine Gas Fireplaces and other qualified vendors expect business to heat up.
“It’s going to give a chance for the people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford it to be able to put it in,” said Dwight Taylor with Alpine Gas Fireplaces in Sugar House.
According to the Division of Air Quality, the emissions from one uncertified wood-burning stove is the equivalent of 550 homes burning natural gas.
“It’s a big difference in what they emit,” said Berger.
This year, with more than $7 million in incentives, the state expects to help about 30 times the number of people as last year. Go to stoves.utah.gov to apply.