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Why the City of Kamloops offers rebates to replace old wood stoves

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January 22, 2019 - 11:00 AM

KAMLOOPS -  It was around this time last year when Bill McGaw and his wife opted into the annual wood stove and fireplace rebate program.

The city’s sustainability program coordinator, Josephine Howitt, says the rebate program is meant to minimize the amount of particulates in the local air given off by burning wood.

“There is a lot of misunderstanding about wood smoke because we see wood as something natural," Howitt says.

McGaw had an open wood burning fireplace that he was able to trade in for $1,100 off a new natural gas wood stove.

“You still had to pay a fair amount but it became a little more reasonable with the rebate,” McGaw says. He estimates the rebate covered a quarter of the cost of his new appliance.

“It made the difference of whether we bought one or not that’s for sure,” he adds.

Howitt describes the pollutants in wood smoke as being of concern to vulnerable populations such as some elderly people and those with respiratory conditions. Wood smoke produces a type of particulate called PM2.5 that is about 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

“And these can get into the blood stream and into the lungs,” he says. “So they can aggravate heart and lung conditions as well as trigger asthma attacks.”

Since Kamloops is situated in a mountain valley it is prone to temperature inversions in the winter time. This means any air pollution gets trapped. This typically happens more in winter, when people burn wood need to stay warm.

Howitt says the rebate program stems out of a 2012 recommendation for the city to minimize contaminant emissions from wood-burning appliances. It is also offered by the province and Fortis B.C.

“Especially pre-1990 the technology for wood stoves was not great, and the way they were designed they emit a lot of pollutants,” het says. “Since 2015 to 2016 those standards for production of wood stoves have really improved.”

McGaw, who now has a natural gas fireplace says while he and his wife miss the wood fire, they don’t miss getting wood.

“We’re happy with what we have,” McGaw says. “You can program it so that it will come on and off so it will meet a temperature you set. If you forget it, it will turn off after six hours so you can’t inadvertently leave it going.”

He also says he hasn’t noticed much of a difference on his utility bills.

“I think if you ran it at high and a lot, yes it would add to your gas bill,” McGaw says. “Being reasonable about it I don’t think it costs very much at all.”

Though, as Howitt points out, there are still people who will prefer their wood stove, and people will continue to burn wood for a long time.

“We do have resources for if people are burning wood,” Howitt says. “Because there are ways of burning better.”

The city’s webpage offers some tips for burning wood that produces less harmful smoke, such as using dry wood and kindling. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shelby Thevenot or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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