NeighborWorks of Western Vermont wood stove installation program expands to Bennington County

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A wood stove rebate program aimed at combating air quality issues has expanded to Bennington County.

This year, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont's HEAT squad is offering rebates to homeowners in both Bennington and Rutland counties to install Environmental Protection Agency-certified pellet or wood stoves, along with energy audits and efficiency upgrades.

This is a continuation of a program that's been offered since 2018. The expansion was enabled by more funding.

The HEAT Squad's Stove Change-Out program offers homeowners up to $3,800 towards the removal of their old stove and the purchase and installation of a new EPA 2020 certified stove, according to a media release from NeighborWorks of Western Vermont.

Melanie Paskevich, HEAT Squad program manager, emphasized that the program isn't only for people who already have a wood stove — homeowners who want to burn wood or pellet but have never done so before could also be eligible.

Rebates are scaled based on household size and income, giving Vermonters with limited income the most assistance.

Rutland County has some of the worst outdoor air quality in the state, due to geography as well as the prevalence of old, non-EPA-certified wood stoves in the region, according to the release.

Bennington County also does not have good outdoor air quality, Paskevich said.

Fine particulates released from wood stoves pollute the air both outside and inside a home, causing a wide range of health problems for both older adults and children.

The Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund and Green Mountain Power awarded NeighborWorks of Western Vermont's HEAT Squad the $309,330 for the program, which will expire on Dec. 31.

Stove rebates will vary from 50 percent to 100 percent, subject to maximums, by income bracket and whether the homeowner changes out an old stove as well.

For those in the lowest income bracket, with a maximum income of $39,869 for a one-person household, a stove rebate without change-out would be $2,400 or 100 percent, whichever is less.

For that same income bracket with a change-out, the rebate would be $3,800 or 100 percent, whichever is less, according to the program intake form.

"A new efficient, clean-burning pellet or wood stove reduces air pollution, both inside your home and out," Paskevich said in the releas "Our program helps homeowners - especially those who need the most assistance - afford this health and safety upgrade, positively impacting their families as well as reducing the prevalence of respiratory issues."

Besides new stoves, the program will offer rebates for completing energy efficiency measures such as air sealing and insulation, according to the release.

Participants must change out or install a new stove to be eligible for weatherization rebates from the HEAT Squad, according to the program intake form.

Weatherization rebates cover between 12 and 20 percent of project costs up to a limit, depending on income brackets, according to a flyer advertising the program.

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Those in the lowest income bracket are eligible for weatherization rebates of 20 percent of the project cost or $1,200, whichever is less.

There are also weatherization rebates from Efficiency Vermont that cover 50 percent of project costs up to $4,000, according to the flyer.

Income verification is required for those applying for the Stove Change-Out program, and rebates will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the intake form.

Old wood stoves to be replaced must be installed and not EPA-certified, or if certified, manufactured before 1998 and not compliant with current EPA standards, according to the form.

Those interested in the program can call 802-438-2303 or visit www.heatsquad.org to learn more. The intake form is available on the website, Paskevich said.

Paskevich said this program involves changing out wood stoves that, on average, have a particulate matter output of 30 grams per hour — "which is bad."

The new stoves installed have a particulate matter output of 2 grams or less per hour.

It also represents an efficiency improvement for homeowners, she said.

"So they're going to save money," she said. "You're going to be burning less, because it's more efficient."

Using wood to heat homes is common practice for many Vermonters, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation's website.

According to the Vermont Residential Fuel Assessment for the 2018-19 Heating Season, 35 percent of Vermont households reported burning cordwood for primary or supplemental space heating during the 2018-19 heating season.

This was largely unchanged from the 2015 season, with 37 percent doing so, according to the assessment.

Wood stoves have historically been the most common wood-heating device, but wood pellet stoves and wood-fired central heaters have become more common over the past 15-20 years, according to the DEC.

The most recent development to promote cleaner wood burning technology came with the update of the existing federal regulation for residential wood heaters in 2015. The new regulation made several significant changes to the original requirements for woodstoves and wood pellet stoves.

It removed some loopholes in the original regulation that excluded certain woodstoves and wood pellet stoves from having to meet the emission standard, and it also put in place more stringent emission limits to woodstoves and wood pellet stoves in two phases, with the first applying to those manufactured after May 15, 2015 and the second as of May 15, 2020, according to the DEC website.

The new federal regulation also established the first nationwide emission standards for wood-fired central heaters, according to the DEC.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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