Allegheny County Could Pay You to Convert Your Wood Burning Fireplace

In the hopes of reducing air pollution and improving indoor air quality — particularly for those with asthma — the county health department is conducting a program to convert open-hearth fireplaces into vented gas-burning appliances.

photo by laura petrilla

Pittsburgh’s success with decent air quality has long been clouded with pollution ever since its industrial days. But the city has different plans for the future — and it’s now encouraging individual residents to help take a step toward clearer skies.

A pilot program directed by the Allegheny County Health Department is providing monetary incentives to county residents to convert residential open-hearth fireplaces to vented natural gas-burning fireplaces. Qualifying wood-burning units include traditional masonry fireplaces, pre-fabricated wood-burning fireplaces and uncertified fireplace inserts, according to a press release from the county.

The county designed the program to work in conjunction with the recently revised “Open Burning” regulations, which prohibits burning wood that is not clean and dry. The revised regulations also prohibit any wood burning on Air Quality Action Days. The Fireplace to Natural Gas Conversion project will further contribute to the revised open burning regulations by reducing wood smoke from indoor wood-burning sources.

The program aims to further reduce fine particulate pollution in the county. Residential wood combustion pollution from wood-burning fireplaces is a significant contributor to fine particulates and other various air toxics, which can increase the likelihood of adverse respiratory health effects, according to the press release.

“Natural gas is a significantly cleaner burning fuel than wood and it is an especially abundant local natural resource in southwestern Pennsylvania,” the press release says. “By removing wood-burning devices, fine particulate pollution is expected to decrease, indoor air quality will increase, and wood-smoke related health effects and citizen complaints to decrease.”

One of the main adverse health effects associated with wood-burning smoke is increased susceptibility to asthma, according to the EPA. The ACHD estimates 10 percent of adults and 12 percent of school-aged children live with asthma in Allegheny County. Fine particles produced from wood-burning smoke can worsen existing asthma symptoms and induce asthma attacks.

Funding for the Fireplace to Natural Gas Conversion project is provided by the EPA and the ACHD’s Clean Air Fund. All residents are eligible to apply, but qualifying residents can receive funds to encourage the conversion process. Low-income residents are eligible for up to $1,500 in incentives and non-low income residents are eligible for up to $400 in incentives. Rebates are also available for homes within the county.

Allegheny County is working with Pittsburgh Gas Grill and Heater Company for the program. Upon receiving a voucher from the county, residents will commit to purchasing a conversion option. After Pittsburgh Gas Grill and Heater Company verifies the individual resident’s unit qualifies for the program, the company will deduct the amount of the voucher from the original purchasing price to later be reimbursed by the county once the installation is completed.

For more information on the pilot program, go here. 

Categories: Nest