Good to Know July 15, 2019

Wood Stoves in Lake Tahoe


Wood smoke from inefficient wood-burning appliances is a substantial source of air pollution in the Lake Tahoe Region. The smoke emitted from incomplete wood combustion contains fine particulate matter, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon monoxide and toxic air pollutants. Atmospheric inversions occur regularly in the wintertime, which prevent smoke from leaving the Basin. These inversion layers trap smoke close to the ground and Lake surface resulting in elevated pollution levels, poor visibility and declined lake clarity.

According to the EPA, open fireplaces emit an average of 28 lbs of fine particles per one million BTU of heat output and un-certified wood-stoves emit 4.6 lbs. These wood-burning appliances can be a long-term, persistent contributor to air pollution and pose serious public health threats (e.g. asthma). Nitrogen deposited into the lake from smoke feeds harmful algae growth and contributes to declines in Lake Tahoe’s water clarity.

stove emissions


Newer, efficient, EPA-certified woodstoves burn one-third less wood and can result in particular matter emission reductions equivalent to removing five diesel buses from the roads. EPA compliant wood stoves emit significantly less particulates (1.4 lbs) by incorporating multiple burn chambers, air flow control, additional fire brick and, in some models, catalytic converters. Upgrading to a gas stove can further reduce negative impacts to air and water quality.

What can I do?

Replacing older wood-burning appliances with more efficient heating appliances can significantly improve Lake Tahoe’s air and water quality. These higher-efficiency appliances save money from reduced fuel needs, contribute to healthier indoor air quality, and reduce the risk of home fires.  TRPA has partnered with local agencies to offer rebates ranging from $400 to $1,400 for the replacement of older woodstoves and fireplace inserts.

Contact your local office of air quality prior to any purchase or installation to find out if you are eligibleClick to show

When am I required to remove a non-compliant wood heater?

For sale and transfer of private property, TRPA enacted a Wood Heater Retrofit Program similar to those adopted by agencies in such cities as Mammoth Lakes, Telluride, Aspen, and Reno. TRPA’s program has been in effect since 1993 and is designed to reduce the amount of smoke and other harmful emissions from older, less efficient wood stoves and fireplaces.

The program requires that all existing wood heaters, excluding legally-existing open fireplaces, comply with emission standards prior to any sale, transfer, or conveyance of any building. These standards can be found in subsection 65.1.4 of the TRPA Code of Ordinances. To comply, a statement from the seller is submitted to TRPA stating that either the property does not contain any wood heaters or that all wood heaters meet TRPA emission standards.