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Bay Area Residents Speak Out to Keep Their Fireplaces

October 7, 2015

FireplaceWhen it comes to ambiance in a home, a fireplace is often at the top of the list. The hearth was long the center of a home; now it provides a gathering place on cold winter nights and adds charm as a unique feature within a house. But there can be a darker side to the open, wood-burning fireplace. If they are not kept clean and in good repair, excessive smoke can result, turning a home into a health hazard. These types of fireplaces are also not as energy efficient as other options, such as a wood stove or gas fireplace insert. It was with these two concerns in mind that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) first put forth a proposal to ban open fireplaces in homes, requiring owners to replace or seal up their fireplaces. This proposal was met with great opposition, and the District has listened.

In a series of public hearings, homeowners and Realtors® from across the nine counties serviced by the BAAQMD made their concerns be known. The result is that the proposal is being amended drastically. The overlying concern centers on cost. It was estimated that to replace an open fireplace with a cleaner option would cost up to $3,000 per homeowner, perhaps even more depending on the specifications. The other option to seal up the space would be just as cost prohibitive. To require homeowners to take on this expense was asking too much and not realistic in the end. The proposed amendments offer a great solution to address the health and safety concerns cited by the BAAQMD, and will even benefit those homeowners who do opt to replace or seal their fireplace.

The first concern is having a healthy living environment for families. To address this, a new standard statement highlighting the health hazards of too much smoke exposure will now be a standard inclusion in disclosure statements for any homes that are sold or rented. By providing this information, new residents in a home will have the knowledge needed to determine if sealing or replacing a fireplace is something to pursue. Keeping an open fireplace working properly will also be encouraged. There is also going to be a $3 million fund set aside to provide those owners who do replace or seal their fireplaces with rebates and subsidies. The details are being worked out as part of proposed amendments, and more information will be forthcoming. In the meantime the BAAQDM is seeking further public input on the changes to the proposal. You can add in your opinion online at the district website. The amendments will be voted on at a meeting on October 21st, and the last day to comment is October 19th.

Some options that you can look into if you do decide to upgrade your home hearth include converting to a gas fireplace or device, a wood or pellet stove, or even an electric fueled unit. These cleaner options not only help towards having a healthier home, but they help the environment as well, always a plus wherever you live. You can even potentially save money in getting a more efficient method of heating your home. You can also seal up the space entirely. Whatever you decide to do, I suggest waiting to make a move until we learn what incentives get approved. Help with covering the cost is a boon to any expenditure in your home. Accessing incentives for upgrades to your home can also add value, and as with any program that offers an owner cash back, there have to be protocols met and certification provided to qualify. That makes a great selling point for potential buyers to know upgrades have been done well and correctly.

While there are many pluses to updating, there are many who simply truly enjoy the look and feel of an open wood-burning fireplace. If you live in an older home with one, you can keep it. But take note, another part of the proposed amendments includes banning them in any new construction going forward. New homes will be required to have a cleaner, more efficient device, if any at all. No matter if you keep your fireplace or not, the BAAQMD heard what our community had to say, and the resulting amendments look to be in favor of helping homeowners rather than hindering, and that is great news. When you are ready to sell or buy a home, me and my team are ready to help you through the entire process. Our goal is to make your experience both easy and pleasurable. Contact us today at (925) 634-7820, or by email at

Photo By Ernst Vikne (Watching the fireplace) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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