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Grants available to replace wood-burning heating devices

Bay Area homeowners can apply Friday on first-come, first-served basis

Money will be available starting Friday morning for roughly 1,500 Bay Area homeowners and landlords to help them upgrade their wood-burning heating devices with cleaner ones to reduce winter air pollution, officials with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said today.

The program will open at 10 a.m. at baaqmd.gov/woodsmokegrant and 415-749-5195.

Homeowners and landlords can apply online or call the phone number to give information to someone who will fill out the online application for the person, spokesman Tom Flannigan said.

The money is available on a first-come, first-served basis, air district officials said.

Landlords and homeowners can install an electric heat pump or natural gas or propane stove or insert, which looks like a gas stove but is installed inside a fireplace.

"This program is really about removing wood burning devices from our region," Flannigan said.

The cleaner devices are designed to be the home's chief heating source.

The air district's board approved $3 million for the program. Funding for a project can range from $750 to $12,000 depending on the type of device, air district officials said.

Groups that are considered heavily impacted such as low-income households and people living in rural areas where natural gas is not available are eligible for additional money.

Some rural areas that may qualify are rural Marin County, western San Mateo County and parts of Sonoma County, Flannigan said.

Households whose sole source of heat is a wood-burning device are also eligible for the program.

That's important because starting Nov. 1, those households must use an Environmental Protection Agency-approved device, a pellet-burning device or install a gas or propane device, Flannigan said.

The households also must register with the air district, he said.

In the past, homes with a wood-burning device as the sole source of heat were exempt from a ban on wood burning during a winter Spare the Air Alert.

Households can also get money to make a fireplace inoperable, or in other words make it decorative. Homeowners do not have to tear the chimney down or remove the fireplace.

Fireplaces tend to be the dirtiest and least efficient sources of heat. Fireplaces don't have any filters and heat radiates only a short distance from the hearth, Flannigan said.

Homeowners and landlords must own a residential property in the air district's jurisdiction to be eligible. Applicants must also apply and get approval to proceed.

Projects completed before the air district approves the project are not eligible, air district officials said.

Residents and landlords are encouraged to apply as soon as possible because the money is expected to go quickly.

Starting in 2008, air district officials offered money for new gas, pellet or EPA-certified fireplaces or wood stoves. This latest program offers money for only non-wood burning devices.

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