Portola, CA Changeout Success Story

The Concern

Portola, CA needed help when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated it and the nearby areas as not meeting the annual air quality standard (PM2.5) in January 2015. Given the lack of natural gas access, and the cost of heating in this small mountain town where many families depended on old woodstoves, a changeout program was the best way to reducing potential health risks from smoke. 

The Solution

To help bring the Portola area back into attainment, the EPA approved a $2.48 million grant as part of the EPA’s Targeted Air Shed Grant Program. The national program’s goal is to improve air quality in areas of the U.S. with the highest levels of pollution. The grant funds cover the cost of the new EPA-certified appliances while the City of Portola is covering the costs of each installation. 

The five year program launched in April 2016 with over 170 applications submitted before the program even began. The incentive structure is divided between two “zones” within the community with a low-income component for those who qualify. Residents living in Zone 1, the more highly-populated City of Portola Sphere of Influence, could qualify for up to $3,500 to replace a non-certified woodstove with an EPA-certified appliance. Or, residents could receive up to $4,500 to replace a non-certified woodstove with a pellet, propane, or kerosene-fueled heater. 

In Zone 2, the surrounding area within the Greater Portola PM2.5 Non-Attainment Area (and outside the City of Portola Sphere of Influence), residents could be eligible for four different types of incentives. Residents replacing a non-certified woodstove with an EPA-certified wood heater could receive up to $1,500 while residents replacing a non-certified woodstove with a pellet, propane or kerosene-fueled heater could receive up to $3,000. Low-income residents could receive up to $3,500 for replacing their older stove with an EPA-certified heater or up to $4,500 for replacing a non-certified stove with a heater fueled by pellets, propane, or kerosene.

Image Source: Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District

Wood Stove Fair

To help raise community awareness, organizers held a series of woodstove fairs to give residents a first-hand look at new EPA-certified products and different heating options eligible for incentives.

Results and Lessons Learned

  • As of May 31, 2017, the program has received 225 applications and has completed about 135 installations. Of the 225 applications, 25 were rejected because the homeowner was located outside of the geographic area of the program or because their stove was already EPA-certified. 
  • Of the 135 appliances installed thus far, 10 were pellet stoves, 2 were propane stoves, and 123 were woodstoves.

The program in the Portola area continues to be successful for a few reasons:

  • A large, secure source of funds provided by EPA’s Targeted Air Shed Grants program.
  • A program kickoff event centered around a woodstove fair, giving the community an opportunity to view first-hand new, EPA-certified appliances as well as information on the value of using dry firewood and home weatherization.
  • Using two different zones to incentivize different populations of the community allowed the program to target areas with different needs in addition to the additional incentives for low-income households (NOTE: low-income qualifying incentives are typical of changeout programs). 

Want to Learn More?

Visit the program's website>