Other areas phasing out wood-burning units
“There are many cities that don’t even allow wood-burning stoves,” said Linda O’Brien, air quality supervisor for Washoe County, which has one of the tightest air quality control regulations in Nevada.
In the basin, where air quality measures are part of the 2001 Threshold Evaluation, the need to limit the amount of particulate matter in the air from wood stove smoke is of great concern, said TRPA spokeswoman Pam Drum.
“The Regional does hope to gradually phase out older, less-efficient wood-burning stoves,” she said.
Hardware stores and home heating companies in the basin say business has been brisk.
“A lot of people are starting to come to us as they prepare to buy or sell their homes,” said Ryan Armstrong, co-owner of Scotty’s Hardware on Kingsbury Grade. “They are telling us their stoves are old and they need to replace them.”
Since the Environmental Protection Agency put restrictions on wood- and chip-burning stoves in 1992, many people are finding that, while it may be a hassle to replace the stoves, it’s worth it in the end.
“The stoves we are selling are all 70 percent or better in efficiency (than the pre-1993 stoves),” Armstrong said. “Whenever there’s more efficiency, it makes for warmer homes.”
There are a number of factors that contribute to air pollution in the basin, including wood-burning stoves.
Keith Cloutier, owner of Rudy’s Energy Works in South Lake Tahoe, agrees with the regulation’s purpose: to thwart the Lake Tahoe’s declining clarity.
“A modern fireplace puts out 7 grams of ash and particulate matter, and it has to go somewhere,” Cloutier said. “When the snow melts onto the ground, the water eventually ends up in the lake.”
Cloutier estimates less than 25 percent of the homes in the basin have EPA- approved wood-burning stoves.
His company, which sells wood-burning and gas stoves, sees more people replacing stoves with natural gas fireplaces and stoves.
He said the difference is good for the air and environment and is a natural progression homeowners are making as the basin tries to address pollution.
“Natural gas is more affordable,” he said. “And the wood guys know it, too, because when natural gas goes up, so does the price of wood.”