Incentives available for Tacoma, Pierce County energy-efficient home upgrades

Residents in portions of Tacoma and Pierce County could be eligible for up to $8,000 in incentives and rebates to upgrade to energy-efficient heating devices and weatherize their homes.

Last week, a consortium of public agencies and utility partners launched the Tacoma-Pierce County Neighborhood Energy Efficiency and Wood Smoke Reduction Program. The focus is to offer financial incentives to replace old wood stoves and wood-burning fireplace inserts that spew unhealthy particulates into the air.

The program will run through March 30, 2011, unless funds run out sooner.

“Our goal is clean air and warm homes,” said Craig Kenworthy, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, one of the program’s lead partners. “This program can help residents heat their homes more efficiently and with less pollution, for cleaner, healthier air in their homes and throughout their neighborhoods.”

The program seeks to reduce fine particle pollution such as soot and smoke in the Tacoma-Pierce County area. Smoke from wood fires is a leading cause of fine particle pollution in this area during winter months when people tend to light more fires at home.

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated portions of Tacoma and Pierce County as a “nonattainment” area for fine particle pollution, which means that pollution levels pose a health concern and exceed national air quality standards.

“This program directly affects our goal of building and sustaining livable communities,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “This program provides an opportunity to help clean our air so we can keep showing people that Pierce County is an amazing place to live, work and play.”

Insulation measures will be evaluated in pre-1988 homes and, if necessary, brought up to current standards. Program participants may also take advantage of water heater and/or window replacement with any remaining individual incentives. Many of the program’s energy efficiency improvements are also eligible for partnering utility rebates and the federal energy tax credit.

Participation in the Neighborhood Energy Efficiency and Wood Smoke Reduction Program is limited to residents who live in seven ZIP codes in part of Tacoma and surrounding unincorporated Pierce County communities. These are 98404, 98408, 98409, 98444, 98445, 98446 and 98373 outside the City of Puyallup. Other restrictions apply. For eligibility requirements and details on how to participate, visit .

These seven ZIP codes are most impacted by the elevated pollution levels measured at the South L Street air-quality monitor in Tacoma. This monitor has measured 24-hour pollution levels in violation of federal air quality standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

The program offers up to $5,500 for general income households and up to $8,000 for income-qualified households to both weatherize older homes and replace old wood stoves. In a change from past wood stove replacement programs, this year’s program does not allow for a wood or pellet replacement, in order to maximize the pollution reductions. Instead, participants can opt for a natural gas stove or fireplace insert, natural gas furnace, ductless electric heat pump or whole-house electric heat pump. Additionally, homes built before 1988 must have their insulation evaluated and, if necessary, brought up to current standards.

For quickest response and processing, interested home owners and renters can apply online or, if they do not have Internet access, call customer support coordinator Kathy Ross at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department at (253) 798-7369. Translation services are available for those with limited English.

Funding for this program comes from $490,000 in Washington Department of Ecology grant money awarded to Puget Sound Clean Air Agency as designated from the Washington State Legislature, and approximately $1.2 million in energy-efficiency block grants awarded to the City of Tacoma and Pierce County from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as program administration provided by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. The program is also supported by Tacoma Power and Puget Sound Energy, which provide additional rebates on heating and insulation measures, as well as Elmhurst Mutual Power & Light and Parkland Light & Water.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is an air quality management agency serving King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Created as a result of the 1967 Washington Clean Air Act, the agency protects public health and improves air quality by adopting and enforcing air quality regulations, educating individuals and businesses about clean-air choices and sponsoring voluntary initiatives to improve air quality.