Haywood County has been chosen as a pilot community for a program that underwrites the cost of replacing old wood burning stoves in people’s homes.

Homeowners in Haywood County who use wood stoves to heat their homes can get a subsidy to cover the cost of replacing old stoves with a new, more-efficient, cleaner-burning version — or changing over completely to a non-wood heat source.

The Clean Sweep: The Fireplace Shop in Waynesville was selected as a regional vendor for the Wood Stove Exchange Program. The program launched just two months ago, but The Clean Sweep has already replaced 15 wood stoves. Brothers Patrick and Alex Tinsley, co-owners of The Clean Sweep, are sure they’re just getting started. They wager the closer to winter it gets, the higher the demand for the program will be.

The Tinsley brothers can see why Haywood was chosen as a pilot for the program roll-out. Winters are colder here and backyard woodpiles are plentiful, making woodstoves an economical and prevalent heat source in the mountains.

“Woodstoves allow you to heat a living space without having to heat the entire envelope of your home,” Alex Tinsley said.

He also believes that heating with wood is an important part of the culture in Haywood County.

“I believe that people find strength in providing for their family, and wood stoves give the opportunity to do just that,” he said.

The Tinsleys stand by how easy the Wood Stove Changeout Program is for the homeowner.

“The biggest downside for the customer is we’ll be in their house for the afternoon,” Alex Tinsley said.

Why change out your wood stove?

The Wood Stove Changeout Program is primarily funded by the American Lung Association, with logistical support from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and additional grant funding from Duke Energy.

Haywood is one of five mountain counties chosen for the pilot roll-out of the program, along with Jackson, Swain, Graham and Cherokee.

“Being in Western North Carolina, we’re really aware that heating with wood may be, for many people, the most economical, sustainable and efficient way to heat their homes,” said Keith Bamberger, communication officer with N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

The premise behind the program is the health, safety and environmental concerns that come with the use of old woodstoves.

“Particle pollutants made of soot are microscopic,” explained Janice Nolan, assistant to the vice president of the ALA. “They are so small they can lodge themselves deep into the lungs, and can trigger to asthma, heart attacks, strokes, and can cause lung cancer, and unfortunately shorten life.”

According to Alex Tinsley , new wood stoves burn cleaner by design. They ensure consistent air flow so the wood burns completely, which avoids most of the soot and toxins that the wood puts out.

The program also aims to improve overall air quality in the region.

“Replacing one old wood stove is equivalent to removing five diesel trucks off of the road,” Bamberger said.

How the program works

Homeowners who use an older wood stove as their primary heat source simply apply to the program online though the American Lung Association website, www.lung.org.

If approved, a voucher comes in the mail to go toward the cost of a new heat source through a certified vendor. Take the voucher to a vendor, and pick your new model. The vendor subtracts the amount of the voucher — $750 if replacing an old wood stove with a new one — from the total cost.

People can also opt to have their wood stove replaced with another heat source, with vouchers of varying amounts ranging from $4,000 to $10,000.

One participant of the program, Philip Haigler of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was amazed at how easy and user friendly the process was.

“I got the application and done the paperwork, which was painless, I mean it was simple to do,” Haigler said. “I sent it back in and within a week, or maybe two, we had out voucher.”

There are only a limited number of vouchers available.

If you don’t have internet access to apply online, call the American Lung Association at 800-586-4872.

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