Too much smoke could spell chimney troubles

8 May, 2013Posted in: Environment

As the cooler weather sets in, Wingecarribee Shire Council is reminding residents to check their wood heaters are working correctly before they light up.

“Faulty and incorrectly used wood fire heaters are a major contributor to winter air pollution in regional centres,” said Wingecarribee Shire Council’s Environment and Sustainability Manager, Barry Arthur.

“It’s the reason why laws were introduced in New South Wales to address problems of excessive smoke from wood heaters.”

New South Wales legislation give councils the power to issue notices to stop excessively smoky chimneys.

“We’re encouraging all residents with wood heaters to check their chimneys,” Mr Arthur said. “If your chimney has obvious smoke it could mean it’s not operating as efficiently as it could be.”

“Apart from causing immediate air pollution, excessive woodsmoke can harm the environment, affect your health and annoy your neighbours.”

Some simple steps to reduce woodsmoke include:

  • Don’t let your heater smolder overnight – keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame.
  • Burn only dry, aged hardwood in your wood heater. Unseasoned wood contains moisture, which causes a fire to smoke. 
  • Store your wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area. Freshly cut wood needs to be stored for at least eight to twelve months.
  • Never burn rubbish, driftwood or painted or treated wood. Apart from causing excessive smoke they can also produce toxic gases.
  • When lighting a cold heater, use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly.
  • Use several small logs rather than one large log and stack them loosely in your heater so air can circulate around them. Don’t cram the firebox full. 
  • Keep the flame lively and bright. Your fire should only smoke when you first light it and when you add extra fuel. Open the air controls fully for five minutes before and 15 to 20 minutes after reloading the heater.
  • 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.
  • Have the chimney cleaned every year to prevent creosote build-up.
  • If you are buying a wood heater, make sure it has a compliance plate showing it meets the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 4013:1999).

“It’s the responsibility of all owners to ensure their wood heaters are working correctly and they’re doing their bit to minimise the harmful effects of smoke pollution on the environment and their neighbours,” Mr Arthur added.

For more information on using your wood heater contact Council’s Environment and Sustainability Manager on phone 4868 0888 or visit or