Libby MT | Successful Woodstove Changeouts | HPBA

Libby, Montana

The Concern

Libby is located in the remote northwest corner of Montana in a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by steep mountains. This is ideal topography for temperature inversions that can cause smoke from woodstoves to get trapped close to the ground and create potential adverse health effects. With a significant portion of Libby’s residents relying on woodstoves for heating, the entire valley could become enshrouded in smoke during the cold winter months.



Libby’s population includes a number of people who live on fixed or low incomes. HPBA, through its member companies, donated approximately $1 million in stoves, chimneys, and cash for installation to help the most in-need families in Libby to replace their old woodstoves. The U.S. EPA provided the community with a $100,000 grant to assist this first phase of the program. Later, a $1 million congressional earmark provided purchase incentives to the remaining families in the community.

The energy efficiency gains of new stoves also motivated many residents to participate. To help raise community awareness, campaign organizers held a kick-off news conference that generated widespread media coverage, followed by a woodstove fair that gave citizens a first-hand glimpse at their options.

The Solution

Two-Pronged Approach
The first phase of Libby’s woodstove changeout campaign in 2005 targeted low-income households and provided them with the opportunity to secure EPA-certified appliances at no cost. Lincoln County identified households eligible for various types of public assistance, pre-screened them for eligibility, and then notified them with a letter whether or not they were eligible for the program. In some cases, the county provided letters and postage to the agencies that held the lists of eligible households, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The county also worked with HPBA to conduct a variety of community and media outreach activities to build awareness and to hold a series of woodstove changeout fairs that provided eligible residents with the opportunity to register and sign up for free stoves. Landlords were asked to provide a $500 co-pay if their renter qualified for a replacement stove.

In 2006, Phase Two of the campaign focused on households, landlords and businesses that did not qualify under the Phase One guidelines. Phase Two participants were required to contribute a substantial co-pay. A variety of discounts and other incentives were available to Phase Two participants from appliance dealers and manufacturers. As with Phase One, Lincoln County worked with HPBA to hold woodstove changeout fairs and to conduct various outreach activities to build awareness among potential participants in Libby.

Results and Lessons Learned
  • When Libby’s wood stove changeout began, organizers set a goal of replacing 1200 stoves, and the community is halfway there as the program nears its midpoint.
  • In Phase One, wood stove changeouts occurred in the homes of 150 low income families and to date, more than 600 Phase Two applications have been received.
  • Other communities with environmental and geographic issues similar to those in Libby can look to this program as a model they can replicate.
  • The $1 million congressional earmark that Libby’s program received shows there is potential to receive federal funding with the help of a champion on Capitol Hill.