Wood Burning Heaters In Lane Cove

While wood stoves and fireplaces can provide comforting warmth and a cosy ambience during winter months, they also pose serious health and safety risks that should not be underestimated. The Lane Cove Council last year introduced new sustainability provisions into the Lane Cove Development Plan, which provides that wood-burning fires and gas appliances are no longer permitted in development applications for new homes or renovations.

Smoke Pollution

According to the NSW Environment Protection Agency:

“During winter, smoke from domestic woodheaters causes substantial amounts of air pollution. Pollutants in the smoke include:

  • gases such as carbon monoxide
  • organic compounds, including air toxics
  • fine particles, formed when unburnt gases cool as they go up the chimney;  in the air, these can be seen as white smoke.”

The NSW EPA is asking local councils to promote the video below.

 

Do Wood Burning Heaters Create Health Issues?

In 2020 The Conversation reported the Victorian Branch of the Australian Medical Association has endorsed a local buy back or subsidy scheme to encourage wood fire heater users to switch to a more environmentally friendly heating source.

The article states:

“Based on NSW guidelines, burning 10 kilograms of wood (an average day) in a modern, low-emitting wood heater can produce around 15 grams of “particulate matter”.

This is composed of tiny particles which can penetrate the respiratory system, potentially causing lung and heart diseases. It is one of the most dangerous components of smoke, and a carrier for many of its cancer-causing chemicals.

By contrast, a truck travelling on congested urban roads can produce just 0.03 grams of particulate matter per kilometre travelled. A truck would, therefore, have to travel 500km in heavy traffic – roughly the distance from Melbourne to Mildura – to produce the same particulate matter emissions as one average day of using a wood heater.

So a wood-fired heater is like having a truck idling in your living room all day (albeit with the bulk of the emissions escaping via the chimney).”

In November 2023, an article in the Medical Journal of Australia found:

“The estimated annual number of deaths in the ACT attributable to wood heater PM2.5 pollution is similar to that attributed to the extreme smoke of the 2019–20 Black Summer bushfires. The number of wood heaters should be reduced by banning new installations and phasing out existing units in urban and suburban areas.”

In August 2023, a US Study found a study of 50,000 women found that increasing frequency of wood-burning indoor fireplace/stove usage was associated with incident lung cancer, even among never smokers.

Both the medical profession and environmentalists urge the avoidance of open fireplaces. They are advocating for open fireplaces to be replaced with closed woodstoves or, ideally, completely replace wood-burning equipment.

Are Wood Heaters Permitted in Lane Cove?

As mentioned above the new Lane Cove Council Development Control Plan prohibits wood burning stoves on development applications for a new build or renovation.

 

In a nutshell, existing wood heaters are permitted. However, they must be used correctly. If you use your wood heater correctly, it will save you money, and your neighbours won’t get upset.

 

Make Sure Your Wood Heater is Working Correctly

The most important thing is to make sure your wood heater is working correctly. The EPA list of Do’s and Don’t’s for a wood-burning heater are listed below:

 Do  Don’t
Check your heater complies with the Australian Standard for pollution emissions (AS 4013:1999) Don’t use old inefficient heaters that don’t comply with pollution standards.
Don’t use open fires.
Burn only, dry seasoned hardwood Don’t burn coal, coke or moist wood.
Check your wood is dry by tapping it with a coin. You should hear a loud, hollow sound. Don’t burn rubbish or painted or treated wood.
Use a number of small logs in your heater Don’t burn just one log
Store freshly cut wood for eight to twelve months before use Don’t use greenwood
Store wood undercover in a dry ventilated area Don’t store your wood where it is exposed to water or moisture.
Be aware of the source of your wood. Don’t harvest wood in a way that threatens vegetation and animal habitats.
Ask your wood seller to verify whether wood for immediate use is aged and dry.
Stack wood loosely in your firebox, so plenty of air circulates around it. Don’t pack wood too tightly in the firebox.
Keep the flame lively and bright. Don’t let your fire smoulder.
Open the air controls fully for 5 minutes before and 15 to 20 minutes after loading the heater. Don’t keep the vent closed when you add fuel.
Keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame or let it go out overnight. Don’t dampen down your fire or let it smoulder overnight.
Rely on your home’s insulation to hold in enough heat for the night Don’t allow creosote to build up in the flue, increasing the risk of a chimney fire.
Check your chimney regularly to see how well your fire is burning.  If it is smoky, increase the air supply.
Clean the wood heater flue and baffle regularly

 

The old adage of where there is smoke, there is fire is valid with the wood heater.

Image Source: Lane Cove Council

The first two pictures on the right are examples of excessive smoke and are deemed unacceptable. The last picture shows an acceptable level of smoke.

Several tools are available to help you use your wood heater correctly, minimise harmful wood smoke pollution, and save money. The Australian Home Heating Association (AHHA) has some useful tips on its website here.

One of ITC’s sponsors Xchange Air can also assist you with getting the most benefit out of a log burning fire.