By Spencer Hall

While the Village continues to participate in the Province’s Community Wood Smoke Reduction Program to improve local air quality, many Valemount residents hesitate to trade in their woodstoves because doing so would mean losing their main source of heat in the event of a power outage.

In a 2020 home heating and air quality survey put together by the Village, respondents were asked why they burn wood as a source of heat. Of the survey’s 97 respondents, 40 said they still want to be able to heat their homes if the power goes out. 48 also responded that wood is cheaper than other fuel sources.

The crux of why the smoke reduction program isn’t as successful as it could be lies in those two responses. To participate in the program requires a significant amount of money up front and many residents aren’t convinced if they made the switch if they’d still be able to heat their homes should the Village experience a power outage. The program does allow participants to keep their old wood stove to be used in certain situations, but only if a heat pump is installed. It’s also a challenge to find someone locally to install heat pumps.

The survey did show that if financial barriers were removed, many residents would prefer to switch to electric heat sources. Of the 97 respondents, 37 would prefer to change their heat source to an electric heating source, with 17 preferring an electric or gas furnace and 15 preferring to install a heat pump. Nine respondents indicated they’d prefer to have wood as their heat source.

In order to make the Community Wood Smoke Reduction Program effective at improving Valemount’s air quality, these barriers must be addressed.