Although every new wood stove sold in the United States has to meet tough emissions regulations, that doesn't help get rid of old, polluting ones.

To improve overall air quality, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the wood-stove industry, and some cities with severe air-quality problems have devised financial-incentive programs to encourage people to trade in their old stoves for cleaner-burning varieties.

When the city of Crested Butte, Colo., found that 74 percent of its airborne particulates came from burning wood, it staged one of the most successful "trade-out" programs to date, according to the Hearth Products Association. The city set up a wood-stove shop in the Post Office parking lot, selling EPA-certified, clean-burning wood stoves and taking old stoves in trade. Then the town instituted a $30-per-month automatic fine for people who didn't trade in their old, polluting wood stoves.

The city sold 191 certified wood stoves that were measured to be 67 percent cleaner than conventional designs and replaced 281 conventional models.

Studying the results of its trade-out program, the city found 40 percent fewer particulates in the air, and visibility improved 59 percent.

Similar trade-out programs have been held in Olympia and Seattle, Wash., and in Grants Pass, Eugene, and Medford, Ore.

John Kowalczyk, manager of air planning for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, says his state has tried the carrot approach, rather than the stick. The state has offered subsidies to get people to take their conventional wood stoves out. And in some small communities a no-interest loan program has been set up on a pilot basis. "Low-income grants are a critical part of a successful change-out program," he says.

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