Maricopa County Offering Fireplace Retrofits
Woodburning fireplaces contribute approximately 6% of the particulate air pollution to the skies above the Phoenix metro. The microscopic particles in residential fireplace smoke add to the layer of brown smog visible on many winter mornings in the Valley.
In the mid 1990s, the Phoenix smog problem became pronounced enough that the federal government and the Arizona state legislature intervened. As a result, it is now no longer possible to purchase a brand new home inside Maricopa County with a woodburning fireplace. Homebuyers desiring a woodburning fireplace must purchase homes built prior to a January 1, 1999 ban to get this feature.
Today, Maricopa County has a program to further incentivize homeowners with woodburning fireplaces to burn cleaner fires. The objective of the program is to reduce airborne particulates in the Valley and create cleaner air.
The Maricopa County Fireplace Retrofit Program (MCFRP) provides one of two options. The first is a $2,000 voucher to install a natural gas fireplace log set where there is currently a woodburning fireplace. Natural gas fireplaces burn 99% cleaner than the woodburning alternative. The home must already be plumbed for natural gas.
The second option provides, at no cost to the homeowner, a HearthCat air pollution reduction fireplace insert and the labor to install the unit.
The HearthCat is a passive catalytic collection device that provides a second combustion surface for particulates. According to the MCFRP website, it reduces fireplace particulates by 70% or more. The HearthCat is installed in a hidden portion of the flue. It does not require maintenance or a power source. The device is easily retrofitted to existing masonry fireplaces.
Not all homes in Maricopa County are eligible for the retrofit program. Only homeowners within a defined rectangular area to the immediate north and west of downtown Phoenix may participate. Part of Glendale and portions of the Phoenix urban villages of Alhambra, Estrella, Maryvale, Laveen, South Mountain, Encanto and Camelback East fall into the program area.
The program’s geographic boundaries are 59th Avenue to 16th Street and Northern Avenue to Baseline Road. This zone was prioritized based on data collected from local air quality monitoring stations. No plans have been announced to expand this area.
Only contractors pre-selected by Maricopa County are eligible to complete the work. If you are renting, you must have the signature of the property owner of record on the program application.
Outdoor fireplaces, chimineas and fire pits do not qualify under the program guidelines and are not affected by the 1999 woodburning fireplace ban in Maricopa County.
If you live within the boundary and would like to apply for the program, visit the website of the Maricopa County Fireplace Retrofit Program.
For me, there’s nothing better than curling up in my favorite blanket on a cloudy or rainy day and just knit. Especially in front of the fireplace. – Magdalena Neuner, German biathlete and two-time Olympic gold medalist