Solid Fuel Heaters and Wood Smoke

Solid wood heaters

Install or replace a solid wood heater

An s68 application must be submitted to Council before the installation or replacement of any solid fuel heater device. This process ensures that heaters are certified under the most recent emission performance criteria and are installed in such a manner to minimise smoke. To apply, complete the form on Council's forms page

What wood should I burn in my wood heater?

For maximum efficiency, always burn small pieces of aged, dry wood. Green or moist wood will cause your wood heater to produce excessive smoke. 

Make sure you store your wood in a dry, sheltered and well-ventilated area. Freshly cut wood needs to be stored for eight to twelve months before burning in your wood heater.

Click here for more information about what wood you should be burning in your wood heater.

Wood smoke and air quality

Why is Armidale so badly affected?

Each year as the cooler months approach, the region sees a large number of households opting to use wood heaters as their primary heat source, resulting in a blanket of smoke covering the city every Winter.

Due to the local topography, much of Armidale is in a valley, so during the cooler months when temperature inversions occur with low wind speeds, wood smoke sets over the city, significantly impacting Armidale's air quality.

The good news is that together we can minimise the impact of wood smoke by making sure wood heaters are operated as efficiently as possible.

Is wood smoke dangerous?

A solid body of scientific evidence has confirmed that wood smoke can have adverse effects on our health.

Similar to tobacco, wood is an organic fuel that emits harmful compounds when burnt.

Particulate matter, especially particles known as PM2.5 which have a diameter of 2.5 micromeres or less, can have harmful effects, especially for children and the elderly.

These particles can potentially get into the lungs which can trigger or worsen respiratory illnesses such as asthma, pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. 

 PM2.5 particles can also enter the bloodstream, which can raise blood pressure and cause inflammation. NSW Health says this can increase overall risks of cardiovascular disease in people with existing heart conditions.

It’s important we share the truth about wood smoke. The more aware people are of the dangers, the more likely they are to act.

Here are some simple steps from NSW Health to minimise the health impacts of wood smoke pollution.

Simple steps to reduce wood smoke pollution

The good news is that together we can reduce the amount of wood smoke produced if we follow some simple steps.

When operated properly, the vast majority of wood heaters will burn without smoking excessively.

Laboratory tests by experts have shown that operating a wood stove properly, burning a hot fire with dry wood, can reduce smoke levels by up to 90%.

Some steps we can all take are:

  • Don’t let your heater smoulder overnight – keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame

  • Burn only dry, aged hardwood in your wood heater. Unseasoned wood has lots of 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. These are sure to pollute the air and can produce poisonous 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 5 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 build-up

What’s being done to fix the problem?

Armidale Regional Council is serious about improving Armidale’s air quality and we believe that with hard work and your help we really can make a difference. 

Council conducts smoke patrols on a regular basis and can issue fines to households whose chimneys emit excessive smoke. 

Want to check the air quality of Armidale yourself?

The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) has installed a dedicated air quality sensor with hourly data available on their website. 

Helpful resources

For further reading, view these helpful resources: