Information on Mono County Woodstove Replacement Program

Mono County, CA – It seems smoky, hazy skies have become the summer norm as ongoing, out-of-control wildfires burn throughout the Sierra Nevada region. But everyone who breathes local air should be encouraged by a forecast of much clearer skies and bluebird days ahead in the upcoming cold winter months.


Together with precipitation (rain and snow) scrubbing smoke from the winter skies, hundreds of new heating systems throughout Mono County will create significantly less wood smoke than in winters past. Since late 2014, Mono County’s ‘Woodstove Replacement Program’ has replaced 103 smoky woodstoves and open fireplaces throughout the county with new, more efficient and significantly cleaner heating systems. In the same time frame, the Town of Mammoth Lakes changed out 145 systems in town through a similar program. Together, these 248 older and smokier wood-burning systems were swapped out for 76 new EPA ‘Phase 2’ wood-burning systems, 151 new pellet stoves and inserts, and 21 new gas heaters. And this follows the replacement of 140 other old wood-burning systems by recent Air District programs throughout the county and town.

While these programs have now closed with funding depleted, the 388 new heating systems in Mono County should noticeably lessen winter wood smoke by annually reducing TONS of air particulates (i.e., smoke). According to industry standards, an old, pre-1990 woodstove emits around 60 pounds of airborne particulates for every ton of wood burned (one cord equals more than two tons). In comparison, a new EPA ‘Phase 2’-compliant woodstove reportedly emits around 29 pounds burning the same ton of wood, while a new pellet stove emits about 3.5 pounds per ton of pellets burned. Gas heating systems are even cleaner.

Proven to directly impact human health, wood smoke is targeted by state and federal regulators for control and reduction as possible. Soot and airborne ‘particulate matter’ (PM) are of particular concern, especially particulates measuring from 10 to 2.5 micrometers (one millionth of a meter) in size. Because they’re so small, these minute particles, often referred to as “PM 10” and “PM 2.5”, are inhaled deeply into the lungs, leading to many detrimental effects.

Additional components of wood smoke and soot, including sulfur and nitrogen oxides (SOx and NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other reactive organic gases (ROGs), are also identified and targeted by air quality regulators as posing a threat to human health. In addition to humans, the surrounding natural environment, including animals and plants, is also impacted by wood smoke and other airborne pollutants. Wildfires aside, this means limiting exposures to wood smoke and other airborne pollutants is the wisest choice whenever possible.

Funding for all of the replacement programs was provided through agreements between Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power surrounding local air quality impacts from the dry Owens Lake bed. Most recently, an early 2014 agreement provided Great Basin Air District board member agencies, including Mono County and Mammoth Lakes, with settlement funds to directly pay for air pollution prevention programs within their territories.

As calculated on a per capita basis, Mono County was allocated $193,936 of these “Environmental Public Benefit Funds,” while the Town of Mammoth Lakes received $274,963. While either could have chosen to augment their tight budgets by using these funds for internal benefits tied to air pollution like buying new and cleaner government vehicles, both agencies instead chose to directly benefit everyone in the region by spending their EPBF windfall entirely on woodstove replacements for local property owners. Local, qualified businesses contracted to provide the new heating equipment and installation services were also directly benefitted by increased revenues.

To help stretch the available funds and install as many new systems as possible, property owners were required to share some job costs, with total amounts driven by vendor and equipment selection, install requirements and personal choices.

As a strong supporter of the County’s Woodstove Replacement Program, Lynda Salcido, Mono County Public Health Director and interim Chief Administrative Officer, noted, “Anything that reduces particulates, particularly in cold weather, is essential to our local air quality during those months. …Because of the health impact [from wood smoke] on the most vulnerable, including the young, the elderly, and anyone with health issues such as asthma and respiratory problems, indoor air quality will be even more important this winter if El Nino comes to fruition as predicted, leading to more wood burning over a longer period of time.”

In addition to replacing old equipment with new heating systems, wood smoke from woodstoves and fireplaces can also be reduced by other means, including burning only seasoned, dry wood (the harder the better), ongoing equipment maintenance and upkeep, and proper burning techniques. For more information, go to:



12 Responses to Information on Mono County Woodstove Replacement Program

  1. Dr. Brian Moench September 10, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

    Not surprisingly, the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) has been mounting a campaign to convince policy makers that the answer to wood smoke is to sell more of their product, not less. Below are eight reasons that policy makers should not accept this rationale.

    1. EPA stove performance in the real world does not match their performance as tested in the lab, something that the manufactures and the EPA acknowledge.71,72 For example, current testing standards specify the use of kiln dried lumber precisely arranged in a crib formation—hardly representative of the way most stoves are actually operated. Emission rates reported in the certification process do not represent emission levels of stoves in homes after extended use.

    The wood-burning-device industry (HPBA) and the EPA claim that wood stoves emit 70 percent less particulate matter, and therefore the answer to community problems with wood burning is to sell more of these products, not ban them. However, the EPA’s program in Libby, Montana, is proof in the real world that those claims are exaggerated. The wood-burning industry, the EPA and the state paid to change out every wood stove in the Libby area to an EPA-certified stove. They also invested in education programs and proper installation. Yet using industry’s own numbers from an industry-funded study, particulate matter (PM) was reduced by only 28 percent. If EPA stoves performed as claimed, PM reduction should have been 56 percent. Before the change-out, 83 percent of Libby’s winter PM came from residential wood burning. If the subsidies had gone to change to propane or electric heat, PM levels would have dropped almost 80 percent, while also reducing toxics and carcinogens.

    Another change-out study in Idaho found that almost 33 percent of the homes where EPA-certified stoves replaced older models showed increases in indoor particulate matter.73 A study prepared for the EPA showed that after extended use, actual emissions were over three times greater than the certified values.74

    The consistency and reproducibility of wood-heater emissions testing is very poor. Many relatively small, uncontrollable variables that are inherent in the wood combustion process, such as type of wood, substrate configuration and moisture content, can combine to significantly affect the outcome of any given test.75 The emissions from modern combustion appliances for wood logs may increase 10-fold if they are not operated appropriately.76

    2. Wood stoves generate a large amount of emissions when they are started up, but these emissions are not “counted” in the EPA testing procedure. Testing does not begin until the stove has begun to burn “cleanly.”

    3. EPA wood stoves have never been shown to reduce the amount of the most deadly components of wood smoke, including dioxins, furans, and PAHs. Some studies have shown that EPA stoves emit even more of these highly toxic compounds.77,78,79

    4. In-home performance is too dependent on the operator—airflow and fuel choice radically affect the actual emissions. A stove poorly operated or maintained can emit ten times more pollution than lab testing indicates. John Gulland, manager of the “pro-wood” Wood Heat Organization, puts it this way: “People who don’t care about the impacts of their actions on neighbors and are content to remain ignorant of good wood-burning practice will make a lot of smoke, regardless of the emissions rating of the appliance they choose.”80

    5. Typical wood-stove operation employs “dampering down” at bedtime or during temperate weather. Since oxygen is a necessary component of combustion, this can create much higher levels of pollutants.

    6. The performance of wood-heating devices equipped with catalytic components degrades over time—if poorly maintained, in as little as two years.98 Structurally, wood heaters also degrade with use, and emission factors increase. The negative consequences of degraded catalytic components, which can include dramatically increased emissions, occur outside the end-user’s home. Thus, there is no reason to think that owners will replace the degraded catalytic components or expend the effort and money to maintain them properly.81

    7. Even if wood stoves and their pollution control devices did not degrade over time and if they were all operated the way they are tested in the lab, they are still hundreds of times dirtier than a natural gas furnace in emitting particulate pollution and even more so in emitting hazardous air pollutants (dioxins, furans, PAHs and heavy metals).

    8. Exempting supposedly “cleaner” stoves from any wood-burning ban would only make sense if combined with emissions verification by actual testing in the field on a regular basis, just like how cars are tested. That would be difficult, impractical and costly but is likely to produce greater pollution reductions than the current vehicle emissions program. Emissions checks could be paid for by a licensing fee like the one required for automobiles.

    Lack of natural gas service is no longer an excuse to have to burn wood. From a report from Families for Clean Air99:

    “The reliance on wood burning for home heating in these areas is rationalized on the basis that the cost of electric heat or propane is too expensive. This rationale has even held sway with air quality regulators, who have exempted areas not serviced with natural gas from wood burning restrictions on days when the air quality is poor or predicted to be poor.

    “But now, thanks to advances in technology, heating a home with an electric split ductless heat pump is cheaper than heating with natural gas. Split ductless heat pumps are extremely efficient because they move heat from one place to another rather than generating heat from energy. Installation does not require ductwork, which can be expensive and difficult to put in. In fact, the cost to purchase and install a split ductless unit is comparable to the purchase and installation of a wood stove. Note that these split ductless heat pump units can cool as well as heat.

  2. Trouble September 10, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

    Am I allowed to suggest using dynamite Ken?

    • Russ Monroe September 11, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

      Inappropriate Trouble, but funny.
      Certainly much more appropriate though, than Dr. Moench’s blatant heat pump sales pitch.
      How about: new construction and remodels have to be built more energy efficient! Oh, that’s right, if we built better buildings, we wouldn’t need to burn wood OR buy energy consuming heat pumps.

      • Trouble September 13, 2015 at 8:53 am #

        I agree Russ.

      • Trouble September 14, 2015 at 5:14 am #

        I agree Russ, I probably shouldn’t joke around like that.
        I think the doctor makes a few good points, but I believe better insulated houses is probably the best way to protect against the weather and outside smoke.

        • Russ Monroe September 14, 2015 at 9:11 am #

          I don’t have a problem with your sarcasm Trouble. I enjoy it.
          You might have noted that you are, generally, the only pseudonym posting here that I respond to. You do not abuse the “anonymity” as a shield to snipe at others.
          A major issue that the sales pitch below ignores is: trees still grow. Living in a forest requires continuous maintenance of fire perimeters for safety. Where we live that means cords of willow, birch, and black locust have to be removed every growing season, or the wilderness reclaims the space. If everyone in Mammoth stopped burning wood, the land fill would be full in a single year. Somehow life is never as simple as it sounds in a sales pitch.

  3. DESCO September 10, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    Speaking of smoke. Is there anyplace to find the air quality In Bishop on these dark days?
    All I know is my chest hurts when I’m mowing the lawn

    • John September 12, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

      Palmdale, but than you’d need a bullet proof vest.

  4. BobK September 10, 2015 at 10:02 am #

    You get irritated pretty easily anyway, don’t you Ken?

  5. Ken Warner September 10, 2015 at 1:20 am #

    Is their ever going to be a way to force reluctant property owners to replace their old stoves with new? There are a lot of property owners in the Getto that haven’t taken advantage of this very meaningful program.

    I live right next door to one and at times the smoke from the adjacent unit can ge very irritating.

    • sugar magnolia September 10, 2015 at 7:34 am #

      you probably know this Ken, but when a property changes ownership, the new owner is required to replace any non-EPA stoves within a certain period of time. In my experience, ToML is enforcing that.

      Of course, any cash cows that haven’t changed hands in a long time have no such requirement. Why sell if you can get $1500/month for a piece of crap 2/1 A frame that you paid $75K for and haven’t done any repairs on in decades!

    • John September 10, 2015 at 11:44 am #

      I don’t think anyone should force anyone to do anything with their property unless it’s a fire hazard.

      When I’m pushed, I push back.


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