Wood smoke isn't good smoke

Wood smoke pollution affects everyone. Even in small amounts, wood smoke pollutants can be harmful especially to the young, frail or elderly.
Wood smoke pollution affects everyone. Even in small amounts, wood smoke pollutants can be harmful especially to the young, frail or elderly.

If you have an indoor wood burning heater, there are some simple steps you can take before starting it up this winter to help improve air quality.

"As the temperatures drop and winter sets in, doing some simple checks can significantly improve the air quality for you and your neighbours," NSW EPA Chief Environmental Regulator David Fowler said.

"Wood is a natural material, but when it's burned, it produces harmful particle pollution. On cold winter days, wood smoke particles from inefficient heaters can become trapped close to the ground and impact health.

"But we can all help reduce the amount of wood smoke pollution this winter by using aged dry wood and running our heaters properly," Mr Fowler said.

Some simple steps to reduce wood smoke pollution are:

  • Have the chimney cleaned at least once a year, to prevent tar build-up.
  • Don't let your heater smolder overnight - keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame.
  • Open the air controls fully for 5 minutes before and 15 to 20 minutes after loading the heater. Stack wood loosely in your firebox, so plenty of air circulates around it. That way your fire will burn hot and efficiently.
  • Burn only dry, aged hardwood in your wood heater. Green or unseasoned wood contains up to 70% water, which causes smoke, not heat and wastes money.
  • Store freshly cut wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area for at least eight to twelve months.
  • Never burn rubbish, driftwood or painted or treated wood, which can produce toxic gases.
  • When lighting a cold heater, use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly.
  • Check your chimney regularly to see how well your fire is burning. If there is smoke coming from the chimney, increase the air supply to your fire.
  • Save money by making sure your home retains the heat you put into it - insulate ceilings, walls and floors where possible and choose an appropriate heating system for your home.
  • For new wood heaters, make sure they have a compliance plate showing they meet the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 4012:2014 and AS/NZS4013:2014).

"Wood smoke pollution affects everyone. Even in small amounts, wood smoke pollutants can be harmful especially to the young, frail or elderly.

"Wood smoke isn't good smoke. It's the responsibility of all wood heater owners to follow these easy steps and minimise the harmful effects of smoke pollution on families, neighbours and the environment," Mr Fowler said.