Proposal Requiring Homeowners to Replace Wood Burning Fireplaces

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQM) has offered up an extremely controversial proposal that would require homeowners to replace wood burning fireplaces prior to selling their house.

The mission of the Bay Area Air Quality District is to ‘protect and improve public health, air quality and the global climate, including providing a healthy breathing environment for every Bay Area resident’. One of their key strategic goals is to ‘reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities due to air pollution’. In an effort to achieve this goal, they are seriously considering the elimination of all wood burning stoves and fireplaces.

According to the organization, smoke from wood burning units is the biggest offender of winter air pollution, frequently resulting in the issuing of Spare The Air days. During these periods, it is illegal for Bay Area residents to burn woodWood smoke is very detrimental to people’s health, indoors and outside the home. So the air district is looking to get input as to how we can further tighten down the rules,” states Air District Board member, Mark Ross.

Local Real Estate Associations are up in arms about the potential ordinance, claiming that, although they agree with the need to minimize and reduce air pollution, it would negatively impact the real estate industry by requiring sellers to spend up to $6,000 for an energy efficient gas unit that produces significantly less air pollution.

The available options are twofold. The first is retrofitting the existing open wood-burning fireplace to function on gas by installing a gas line and adding a faux log set. The second, more costly option is to purchase a new gas fireplace stove or insert, which still involves putting a gas line in place. The cost could be somewhere in the vicinity of hundreds to several thousands of dollars.

Replacement of wood stoves for gas units will positively impact energy efficiency as gas options rate in the high 70s to low 80s with regard to efficiency while wood burning stoves and open fireplaces offer less effectiveness, coming in at about a 5 on the efficiency scale.

Many real estate agents, brokers and their associated organizations are sure to speak up against the proposed initiative in the hopes that they can stave off a mandatory ruling, saving homeowners in Los Altos and cities around the Bay Area from having to make costly replacements before they sell.

The Air Quality District will begin hosting a number of public workshops on the issue with a decision expected by the end of 2015.