Silverthorne: Cleaner chimneys on the horizon? |

Silverthorne: Cleaner chimneys on the horizon?

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Summit Daily/Mark Fox

With winter comes the comfort and smells of hot chocolate, apple cider, delectable holiday treats – and wood fires.

This winter may also mean the chance for Silverthorne residents to install or upgrade wood stoves.

From the mid-1990s until two years ago, solid fuel-burning devices were banned in Silverthorne due to pollution problems in the valley. But since 2008, there has been a steady reintroduction of permissible devices each year – first masonry heaters, then pellet stoves. Now, wood stoves are being brought to the town council table for consideration.

Town council members will review the terms of the revised ordinance – including how many wood stoves will be allowed in each home – at their Dec. 7 work session prior to considering it for adoption at the Dec. 8 regular meeting.

The time is right for wood stoves, said Frisco resident and business owner Dave Van Duinen. He reopened his doors in early November to wood-stove retail after abiding by a five-year no-compete contract with the buyer of his former business. He and his wife currently operate under Vista Stone, but will soon create a new name and label for the new business branch. They have other Summit County competition in Frisco and Breckenridge, he said, as well as service technicians across the county. If the Silverthorne market opens up, theirs and other businesses could grow.

“We grow our trees a third faster than we are consuming them,” Van Duinen said, adding that Colorado has protected trees for recreational purposes rather than industrial purposes in recent years. He suggested that careful management and selective harvesting for purposes such as the commercial sale of firewood, timber and other uses could mean healthier forests.

And in the days of millions of tons of beetle-killed wood available but with few end-uses, perhaps wood stoves are one of many answers agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service seek, Van Duinen said.

Silverthorne officials plan to adopt the strictest standards in place for wood-burning stoves, and they plan to continue to enforce the ban on fireplaces, Silverthorne planning director Mark Leidal said. The state of Washington has reined in the wood-stove standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency in the early 1990s, and those are the regulations the town plans to adopt.

“We look at each (case) individually,” he said. “Do we want to allow it and what regulations are going to be in place?”

According to Washington’s Department of Ecology, catalytic stoves should emit less than 2.5 grams of fine particle per hour. The EPA currently requires 4.1 grams per hour. For non-catalytic stoves, Washington’s standards require 4.5 grams per hour versus 7.5 grams per hour under EPA regulations.

“These are tremendously lower than what we see with the standard fireplaces out there,” Leidal said.

He added that more than 500 stoves – and the list is growing – meet the standards.

“It should not be a burden to anyone wanting to install a wood stove,” he said, which Van Duinen confirmed. He added that manufacturers provide affordable options that meet the regulations.

Van Duinen said such emission limits mean very little pollution coming from the chimney. He would rather see wood used to heat homes rather than the alternative: the forest service’s “uncontrolled burn of our most renewable resource.”

“The solid fuel industry is the solution, not the problem,” he said.

It seems federal legislators view wood stoves as a tool in the “green” technology toolbelt, too. A federal incentive that expires at the end of 2010 provides a 30 percent tax credit for qualified, newly-installed biomass stoves – up to $1,500. According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, it encourages homeowners to invest in appliances that improve their residence’s energy efficiency.

Van Duinen acknowledged that limited resources both in the forest and in the pocketbook means not everyone can have a wood stove in their home.

“Natural gas is still our cheapest, cleanest, most efficient fuel,” he said, though he added, “(it) is a non-renewable fossil fuel.”

To Leidal, there aren’t many cons to allowing wood stoves in the valley – as long as they meet the strict particulate standards.

“Technology has changed such that we won’t see the pollution we saw decades ago,” he said.

SDN reporter Janice Kurbjun can be contacted at (970) 668-4630 or at

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