B.C. Air Quality

Provincial Wood Stove Exchange Program: Qs and As for Provincial Wood Stove Exchange Program Coordinators



smoke from a house chimney with an old wood stove

What's the story with retailer registration fees?

Retailer registration fees were suggested in the Skeena wood stove exchange program as a means of getting retailer partners to commit to the program and contribute to the collective advertising/promotion budget, as it directly benefits retailers through increased exposure (and sales!). In the Skeena program, we requested $200 per retailer. Other programs have requested less or have not required any registration fee.

Registration fees and amounts are ultimately up to the coordinator and local exchange committee. In Washington state's Spokane wood stove exchange program, Lisa Woodard (program coordinator) found it very effective to have a sliding scale of marketing sponsorship, raising over $10,500 for the marketing campaign:

  • Gold was $2000 for television airtime;
  • Silver was $700 for radio airtime; and
  • Bronze was $500 for newspaper ads.


How does the favourable financing work?

In the Skeena program, we asked our regional credit unions to partner with us and to offer favourable financing to program participants. Both the Bulkley Valley Credit Union and Northern Savings Credit Union were proud to team up with a good local cause and offered to extend their pre-existing "green renovation financing" option to wood stove exchange clients.

This loan package consists of up to $5000 at prime, payable over three years. Interested customers would have to apply for the loan and prove eligibility by being part of the local exchange program. Surprisingly, we have had very little interest so far in these great loans, and need to find a better way to promote them.

There is no reason why major banks cannot be approached and asked to partner in a similar manner.


Are retailers from outside the community program boundaries able to take part?

Starting this year, all manufacturers and distributors have agreed to participate and have let their retailers know that they will be eligible for the March/April in-store discount. This means that during March and April, any retailer in B.C. could offer $150 discounts or greater to customers who wanted to participate in the Provincial Wood Stove Exchange Program. However, only residents of participating-community exchange programs would qualify for the local program’s additional grants and incentives.


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What should retailers receive from community coordinators?

One of the community coordinator’s key roles is to develop solid relationships with local program partners, and retailers are key partners in each exchange program. Depending on their level of past experience and awareness, local retailers may need a visit from coordinators to discuss the goals, details and responsibilities of the community exchange program. Coordinators should distribute Program Guidelines and Registration prior to the community launch to get all the local retailers on board.

In the Skeena program, retailers also received regular updates, invitations to Burn it Smart workshops, notification of training opportunities offered by the Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) Program, and a range of promotional materials (e.g., window posters, handouts, hangers for floor displays and, of course, program vouchers and tracking forms). Retailers should also be consulted during and following the March/April exchange and asked for feedback on how the program may be improved.


How does the voucher system work?

In the Skeena program, we designed our vouchers to be used as a commitment tool (by signing a burn-smart pledge) and as a tracking system (using the voucher numbers and getting customer information on the front). Furthermore, we included a checklist to verify that individuals: 1. had a non-EPA old stove in use; 2. had a CSA-/EPA-certified or clean appliance installed; and 3. had proof that the old unit was decommissioned.

We distributed vouchers to participating retailers before the community launch and had retail partners hand out vouchers to customers at the time of sale. We made customers responsible for completing and returning vouchers and, if installing the wood stove themselves, required that they also include photos of the old stove in use and the new stove installed. If the wood stove was professionally installed, then we only required a retailer signature to verify.

Voucher Lessons Learned:

  1. Include an expiration date! This will encourage customers to complete the process in a timely fashion. If they decide not to fulfill the program requirements, we can just reissue the voucher after the date of expiration.
  2. Have a good tracking system in place to know to whom vouchers are issued, and to be able to follow up and remind customers as the expiration date approaches. We developed a simple tracking form after the first season.

The Cariboo wood stove exchange program avoided the tracking issue by keeping voucher numbers and distribution of those numbers to customers central. Customers would phone the exchange hotline, provide their contact details and then be given a voucher number to use at the participating retailer. Retailers would call the hotline to confirm the voucher number and customer name to issue rebates.


How can our community exchange program adapt promotional materials from other programs for our use?

If you have a design-savvy individual, you can do wonders by copying pages and then pasting new information over unwanted words or sections. If you require considerable changes, or want the look of a professional graphic designer, you can do whatever your budget will permit.


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Why is the industry discount valid from March to April only?

In order for the industry to agree to participate in exchange programs, they required that the discounts be limited to March only, and this was later extended to April. The industry has several valid reasons for this timing:

  • The end of winter is part of the "slow" season when retailers would be readily willing to discount anyway, and at least with the program they could share a better discount with their suppliers instead of taking the full hit themselves.
  • It is when the big industry convention is on and the manufacturers are introducing new models, and there may be an opportunity to sell off "old" stock.
  • It generates some extra sales in the so-called "off season" that the retailer may not normally get without the incentive.
  • Retailers and installers are better able to handle the volume of customers resulting from the exchange program in this slower time.
  • There is more time to devote to the "education" portion like Burn it Smart programs.
  • Note that some retailers are providing discounts during other times on their own initiative.


If a community doesn't have a WETT-certified installer in town, what can homeowners do to install stoves?

It would be ideal if there were certified tradesmen in every town, as there is with plumbers, electricians, gas fitters, etc., but unfortunately that is not the case. Also, the requirements for inspections vary from town to town. In several cases, the insurance companies are the only real enforcement we have to ensure that newly installed stoves are CSA-/EPA-certified, as they naturally want to reduce their risk and are beginning to realize that clean-burning stoves are indeed safer.

Unfortunately, most of the insurance companies do not understand what/who WETT is and frequently tell their clients that they must get their stoves “WETT certified.” The best way around it is that local municipal bylaws and/or building codes should require a permit to install a stove. Where that is the case, it is the home owner's responsibility (and therefore choice) to take out the permit. A permit will lead to inspection, and that should be sufficient to satisfy the insurance companies (and meet the criteria of programs like ours).

It still comes down to education. Some home owners will not take out a permit because they are afraid that the subsequent inspection will show up the bathroom renovation or addition they did without a permit. They do not realize that if they pull a permit to install a stove, the only thing the inspector can inspect is that stove installation. If he happens to see a problem with plumbing or electrical, he can point it out, but he is not there to “inspect” that item.


Are homeowners legally allowed to install non-EPA certified stoves?

Homeowners can install stoves by themselves, but each municipality or regional district has its own bylaw and building code for installations.


Should only WETT-certified installers be allowed to carry out the Burn it Smart workshops?

We worry about the quality of a presentation, so the presenter has to be qualified and certified (preferably, someone from industry like WETT technicians). In the future, it is suggested that all coordinators should be able to do the workshop with knowledge of air quality and safety issues. Zigi Gadomski (from WETT BC) leads the trainers. However, if coordinators can step up and do the workshops for their local communities on various occasions, it would be more effective than inviting Zigi to do a workshop once or twice a year.


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How can we partner with insurance companies?

Because low-emission wood stoves also tend to be safe appliances, there is an opportunity for community program administrators to partner with local insurance companies during the implementation of wood stove exchange programs. Participating insurance companies could help promote the program or offer preferred rates to policy holders who use CSA-/EPA-certified wood stoves and have their installations inspected.

When inviting insurance companies to partner on a wood stove exchange program, community program administrators may wish to raise the following points:

  1. wood stove exchange programs encourage the public to upgrade to cleaner-burning appliances, which are acknowledged to be safer, since they reduce the risk of chimney fire; and

  2. wood stove exchange programs promote the services of retailers, technicians and chimney sweeps certified under the Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) Program, which the insurance industry has encouraged for years.


What websites have information on the program? What are the contents of each website?

Four major websites are available. Below is a summary of what each website offers.

HPBAC (Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association of Canada)
The purpose of the organization is to educate the consumer, promote the wise use of energy, act as a national voice, and provide future directions. The website has information on:

    • Burn it Smart workshops;
    • wood stove exchange programs;
    • wood stove exchange program guidelines; and
    • WETT course schedule.

WETBC (Wood Energy Technicians of British Columbia)
WETBC is a provincial governing body of the Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) Program in British Columbia. The purpose of the program is to promote knowledge of, and adherence to, the safety regulations governing residential wood-burning systems among those who provide professional services to the public. The website has information on:

    • ethics, a service manual, schedules, consumer information, as well as a course description for WETT technicians;
    • Burn it Smart workshops;
    • wood stove exchange programs; and
    • wood stove exchange program guidelines.

The Provincial Wood Stove Exchange Program (this website).

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