San Francisco Bay Area bans wood-burning devices in all new home construction

Dive Brief:

  • The Bay Area Air Quality Management District in San Francisco has passed the nation’s first ban on wood-burning devices for all new home construction.
  • The new rules mandate that existing homes with chimneys and remodels that cost $15,000 or more must be replaced with a device that meets EPA standards, or a gas or electric device. The area’s air board has pledged up to $3 million in rebates to help cover some of the cost of replacing wood-burning devices for people who use them to heat their homes.
  • Sellers of existing homes with a wood-burning fireplace will also be required to disclose to buyers the health risks associated with wood smoke. The ban affects the seven Bay Area counties and southern parts of Sonoma and Solano counties in California, and it will take effect in the fall of 2016. 

Dive Insight:

The air quality board reports that fine particles that come from wood-burning devices are one of the most significant health threats to Bay Area residents during the winter. 

Builders and remodelers are already banned from installing open-hearth wood-burning fireplaces in homes, as the devices don’t have the proper pollution controls to capture smoke particles, according to air district officials. These new rules take the next step of prohibiting the installation of any indoor wood-burning, home-heating device.

“We are serious about reducing the health risks associated with our residents’ exposure to wood smoke,” said air district spokeswoman Kristine Roselius. “We are strengthening a rule that has been successful in protecting public health.”

The rule requiring sellers to disclose the health risks of having a wood-burning fireplace replaced a more controversial rule under consideration earlier this year, which would have mandated sellers to replace old wood-burning devices with approved devices out of their own pockets before selling the home. That proposal was strongly opposed by real estate and homeowner groups.

Bay Area builders need to take note of the most recent regulations, as this type of ban is new for the industry. The elimination of the proposal requiring homeowners to pay for replacement devices was welcome news for real estate agents looking to move area homes fast, with no obstacles delaying the buying process.

Recommended Reading

NBC Bay Area:
Bay Area 1st in Nation to Ban Wood-Burning Devices in New Construction Starting Fall 2016

Contra Costa Times:
Bay Area first: Wood-burning heating devices to be banned in new homes

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