Residents using outdoor wood burning furnaces to heat their homes and businesses could now be eligible for state money. A new program offers cash for the removal or replacement of old heating units.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection estimates there are about 520 of the furnaces in the state. That relatively small number has generated lots of calls to DEEP.
"As of August of last year, we've received about 1,000 complaints," said Richard Pirolli, director of planning and standards in DEEP's Bureau of Air Management. He said the complaints typically follow a standard narrative: my neighbor has an outdoor wood furnace, and it's blowing smoke into my yard.
"Wood smoke has fine particulate matter. Carbon monoxide, volatile organics, and some toxins," said Pirolli, which can trigger asthma and other lung and heart problems. Some towns have outlawed the furnaces, but Pirolli said legislative efforts to ban them statewide have failed. Instead, DEEP has turned to regulation, establishing things like mandatory chimney heights and minimum setbacks from neighboring properties.
While Pirolli said DEEP would prefer people choose to not use an outdoor wood furnance to heat their home, he said the agency will throw a resident an additional $3,000 if they chose to upgrade to a state-of-the-art outdoor wood furnace, which burns about 90 percent cleaner than older units.
"By removing the unit and going to a cleaner burning source they are improving the environment, they are improving the conditions they are living in and they are helping their neighbors out if there is an issue with smoke going over to their neighbor's property," said Pirolli.
DEEP has allocated about $350,000 for the program, which came from an interstate air pollution settlement.