If there was ever a textbook candidate for a wood stove changeout program, it is the community of Libby, Montana, both in terms of geography and demographics. Libby is located in the remote northwest corner of Montana in a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by steep mountains. This is ideal topography for temperature inversions that can cause smoke from wood stoves to get trapped close to the ground and create potential adverse health effects. A significant portion of Libby’s residents rely on wood stoves for heating, and during the cold winter months, the entire valley can become enshrouded in smoke.
Libby’s population also includes a number of people who live on fixed or low incomes. HPBA through its member companies donated approximately $1 million in stoves, chimney venting, and cash for installation to help the most needy families in Libby replace their old wood stoves. The U.S. EPA provided the community with a $100,000 grant to assist this first phase of the program. Later, a congressional earmark provided purchase incentives to the other families in the community.
The energy-efficiency gains of new stoves also motivated many homeowners to participate. To help raise community awareness, campaign organizers held a kick-off news conference that generated widespread media coverage, followed by a wood stove fair that gave citizens a look at their options.