CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The American Lung Association is helping residents in Western North Carolina upgrade their old wood stoves and fireplaces to newer, cleaner, and more efficient models. The program began in the spring, but coordinators say the recent drop in temperatures has caused a spike in interest, and they want to make sure residents are taking advantage of this beneficial voucher program.
According to the American Lung Association, non-EPA certified wood stoves can cause a high level of pollutants both inside the home, and in the air surrounding the home, which is why the American Lung Association started the Wood Stove Changeout Program, to help people upgrade outdated systems.
The program is being offered to residents in a number of Western North Carolina counties, including Mecklenburg. Residents in Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, and Swain counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) community may also be eligible for vouchers.
Homeowners who live in the project area and own non-EPA certified wood stoves or qualified fireplaces can apply for a voucher online. If approved, the voucher amount can range from $700 to $4,5000 for a new wood stove, or those looking to upgrade to a furnace could receive up to $10,000. Voucher amounts are dictated by need and/or income-qualified status.
Once applicants receive their vouchers, they can go into any affiliated retailers. In Mecklenburg county, Heart and Patio is the local associated retailer, and store owner Cindy Marze says she’s been working to inform her customers about the benefits for the program, both for the benefit of their wallets and their health.
“The newer models are cleaner, they’re healthier for inside the home, and they’re healthier for the environment. So, it’s a health issue," said Marze.
Program coordinators say, so far, about 140 residents have taken advantage of the changeout across the state, and the Lung Association hopes they can help more people get rid of old stoves that have proved to be both inefficient and unhealthy.
“Not only is [a non-EPA stove] high polluting, but it’s burning inefficiently, so [homeowners are] using more wood. So, the less wood they need to use, the more money they can save on their heating costs, as well as cleaning their air," said Program Coordinator, Michelle Edwards.
The program is funded by companies who have violated the clean air act, and a percentage of the fines they pay for those violations go toward these vouchers.
For more information on eligibility and application information, visit the Wood Stove Changeout Program homepage.