Nfld. & Labrador

Help rid N.L. of old, inefficient wood stoves, group asks province

A few people in the fireplace industry want the government to help set up a rebate program for more environmentally friendly woodstoves.

Swap-out program would see old stoves recycled, and a rebate for new ones

Peter Parsons is leading the push for the province to establish a wood stove change-out program. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

There's nothing like the warmth of a wood stove in the depths of a Newfoundland and Labrador winter, but a group of advocates say a little government money could go a long way to getting more people using more efficient, environmentally friendly models.

A wood stove change-out program is simple, said Peter Parsons, who owns the fireplace and stove store The Tin Man in Corner Brook. People bring in their old stoves to be recycled, buy a new efficient one, and receive a government rebate for doing so.

"Older wood stoves, they don't have any systems put in place," he said, adding that particulate matter and emissions can contribute to greenhouse gases. 

The difference in emissions between older stoves, and ones made after 2015, when American regulations caused the  industry to take strides in efficiency, is startling. Old models expel anywhere from 60 to 120 grams per hour of particulate matter — the various pollutants, like fine bits of ash, created when firewood burns — into the atmosphere, said Parsons. 

2015 models? 4.5 grams an hour, with the newest versions creating 2.5 grams per hour.

"You don't even see smoke coming from our [new] stoves," he told CBC.

"One of the biggest changes that we see with customers is, the first thing they tell me is, 'There's no smoke. Why is there no smoke coming from my chimney?'"

While the actual number of stoves out there is hard to discern — Newfoundland and Labrador's data gets lumped into regional statistics that tally more than 143,000 stoves in Atlantic Canada — Parsons said one trend is clear.

"The stoves right now currently stay in circulation," he said, adding even customers who come in to buy a new model rarely rid themselves of their old ones, choosing to sell them secondhand or use in a shed or cabin.

Similar programs, other provinces

Parsons' idea is not original: other provinces have experimented with change-out programs to varying degrees of success.

British Columbia's is the most established, with a program managed by both provincial and municipal governments in partnership with community groups, the B.C. Lung association, stove dealers and others. Last year, for instance, Kamloops offered up to $1,600 through the program.

More than 7,000 old B.C. stoves have been replaced by new ones since the program began in 2008, according to B.C provincial government statistics.

Further east, New Brunswick's Lung Association ran a limited time exchange program in 2015, while Nova Scotia has implemented one that now offers $500 rebates in a program partly funded by a federal government pot of money designated towards low carbon efforts.

Newfoundland and Labrador has been allocated a chunk of similar federal funds, to the tune of $44-million, Parsons pointed out, some of which he'd like to see go towards stove rebates.

And as someone who could clearly gain financially from change outs, he's willing to put his own money where his mouth is and add in a dealership rebate, something done elsewhere in the country. But not without the province on board.

"When I've spoken to other provinces, what they usually rely on is, they rely on the government to step in first," he said.

All wood stove manufacturers have to comply with Environmental Protection Agency emission standards, although those standards aren't enforced at the individual level in N.L. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

Muffled by Muskrat?

Parsons has asked the government to step in, and his isn't a solo crusade: the provincial chapter of the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association of Canada is part of the push. Together in 2018 they made their case to then-Environment Minister Eddie Joyce and other government officials.

Since then, it's been silence.

"We haven't had a whole lot of traction with government at this time," said Kim Davis, who leads the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the HPBA.

"I don't know if it's being snuffed by Muskrat Falls or not," said Parsons.

"Maybe they don't want us to burn wood. Maybe they want us to consume power to justify Muskrat Falls' existence."

Maybe they don't want us to burn wood. Maybe they want us to consume power to justify Muskrat Falls' existence.- Peter Parsons

In January, the province did announce an expansion of its home energy savings program, with $8.75-million to be spent helping low-income households with retrofits that could include wood stoves. That program was in part funded by the $44-million in federal money Parsons has been eyeing for his change out idea.

In an email to the CBC, the Department of Natural Resources did not commit to a province wide program, and said that putting in high-efficiency wood stoves in low-income households under the home energy savings program would be "rare."

"Although the province doesn't have a wood stove rebate program, the Department of Natural Resources is currently working with Indigenous organizations and various levels of government to increase the use of high-efficiency stoves," the email said, pointing out that the Nunatsiavut Government has rolled out such a program, and the province is eyeing ideas that involve communities that are powered by diesel generation. 

Better burn, less wood

Despite the tepid response, Parsons and Davis said they are still trying to push their idea forward.

"With all of the hype regarding electricity costs, and the heating costs in Newfoundland, we thought this might be a good opportunity to promote the availability of such clean-burning appliances that are on the market, that people might not be aware of," said Davis.

They both hope the economic argument may sway public favour for a program as much as the environmental benefits: newer models burn far less wood than their almost-antique counterparts, using perhaps two to three cords per wood a year, compared to 10 or more.

"The new stoves now, we have stoves that can burn up to 40 hours on a single load of wood," said Parsons.

"My grandfather would've loaded up his stove about 10 times in that same [time frame]."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Lindsay Bird

CBC News

Lindsay Bird is a journalist with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, based in Corner Brook.

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