Reducing Wood Smoke During Winter

Overview

To help you stay extra warm and breathe easy during the cooler weather, it is important to use your wood heater as efficiently as possible and source dry seasoned hardwood, storing it well over the winter months. 

Air pollution from wood heaters is definitely not something to share around the community, especially for kids and people with breathing issues. Responsible wood heater use and maintenance reduces wood smoke.

Reducing Wood Smoke During Winter

Tips To Help Run Your Wood Heater Hotter and Cleaner 

  • Give your wood heater and flue an annual clean. A chimney sweep service can do this for you (reduces smoke and risk of chimney fires). Search chimney cleaners or chimney sweeps on the Internet. The Home Heating Association of Australia has a list of services by location.
  • Keep wood dry by storing it under cover in a shed, garage or even under a tarp at a pinch.
  • Only burn unpainted, untreated hardwood in your heater.
  • Don’t burn rubbish as it could become toxic smoke.
  • Keep your fire burning bright – check out your chimney from time to time. If you see smoke coming from the chimney, open the flue up to allow more air into the firebox.
  • Avoid letting your wood heater smoulder – that creates more smoke going up the chimney. 

How To Operate Your Wood Heater Effectively

  • Use plenty of kindling to get your fire started and heated up quickly with the air intake wide open for maximum air flow around the fire.
  • Add small pieces of wood then gradually build up to larger pieces as the fire becomes more established.
  • Keep enough air circulating to maintain a flame so don’t overload the firebox. Don’t let the fire reduce to a smoulder as this creates more smoke.
  • 5 minutes before putting more fuel on the fire open up the air intake, and then reload the fire and leave the air intake open for another 20 minutes.
  • Chimneys tend to smoke for up to 10 minutes when the fire is first lit, when done correctly and with the right sort of hardwood. If it smokes for longer after startup, or for more than a minute after reloading fuel, there is something wrong with your wood or the operating method and this needs to be corrected.
  • Keep your chimney clean. To reduce the build-up of soot and creosote, burn the fire fast for 1-2 hours every day the fire is lit.

For more information, visit the EPA Woodsmoke website.

Taking Care of Your Firewood 

  • Ensure you get your hardwood from a reputable source. The Firewood Association of Australia Inc. has a list of local suppliers.
  • Keep your firewood in a dry well ventilated area.
  • Fresh cut wood needs to be stored for 8-12 months before it should be used.
  • Check the dryness of your wood by banging two pieces together – wet wood makes a dull sound, dry wood makes a sharp resonant sound.
  • Green or unseasoned wood causes smoke as it has up to 50% water content. Don’t use it in a wood heater.
  • Treated pine wood, painted wood and coal or coke all have toxins that are released into our air when burned. Don’t use them in a wood heater.

Making Sure Your Wood Heater Complies With Australian Standards 

If you are planning to install a wood heater, contact Council to discuss any compliance requirements with our Duty Desk on 02 4868 0888 or email Council on: mail@wsc.nsw.gov.au.

More information can be found at NSW EPA’s Check your Heater Complies with the Standard webpage.

Excessive Smoke from Chimneys - Smoke Abatement Notices

  • Council has an education first approach to managing complaints about, or responding to excessive smoke from household chimneys.
  • In cases where there is a continuing failure to remedy the issue of excessive chimney smoke, Council officers will provide a Smoke Abatement Notice in writing to the resident.
  • The Smoke Abatement Notice gives the resident 21 days to make the necessary improvement, maintenance or repairs after which time no excessive smoke should be emitted from the chimney.
  • Failure to meet the conditions of the Smoke Abatement Notice attracts fines starting from $200.
  • Smoke abatement notices are in place for six months to cover one ‘heating season’.