Smoke from Wood Heaters

Woodfires are a common source of heating for many households within the Mildura Rural City Council area.

Wood smoke pollution can be harmful to people’s health. Wood heater owners have an obligation to reduce smoke from wood heating.

You need to ensure that your wood heater is installed, serviced, and maintained in line with the standard.  If you are buying a wood heater, make sure it has a compliance plate showing it meets the Australian Standard AS/NZA 4013:1999.

Only firewood should be burnt in wood heaters. Section 3.8.1 of Mildura Rural City Council’s Community Local Law No. 2 2017 states it is an offence (carrying 5 penalty units) to burn any offensive materials such as:

  • rubber or plastic.
  • petroleum or oil, other than in a properly constructed and operating heating appliance.
  • paint or receptacle which contains, or which contained paint.
  • food waste, fish or other offensive or noxious matter.
  • other material, which emits dense or offensive smoke.

Correct Operation of Wood Heaters:

Smoke pollution can be greatly reduced by correct wood heater operation. Consider the following when operating a wood heater:

Before Starting Your Fire:

  • Make sure your flue is cleaned as build up can reduce efficiency and cause chimney fires.  
    • Flues should be checked and cleaned annually by a professional. 
  • Selected the right wood. Use dry, seasoned, untreated hardwood to for your heater.
    •  Dryness of wood can be determined by tapping the wood with a coin. Dry wood makes a sharp sound, while damp wood makes a dull sound. Moisture meters from hardware stores can also be used. Moisture should be below 20%.
    • Freshly cut wood should be stored in a dry well-ventilated area for 8-12 months before burning.  
    • Do not burn treated or painted wood. They produce toxic gases when burnt.  

How to Start Your Fire:

  • Leave about 2cm of ash at the base of your wood heater.
  • Place plenty of paper in the fireplace with kindling on top.
  • Place small wood segments above kindling.
  • Place a sheet of paper on top of small wood and kindling to assist with lighting.
  • Light paper at base.

What to Do Once Fire Is Burning:

  • Once the fire is burning larger logs can be added (don’t over pack heater).
  • Fully open air controls for at least 20 minutes, until the fire is burning well.
  • Before adding a new log, ensure air controls have been open fully for 5 minutes and remain open for 20 minutes after adding the new log.
  • Only reduce air flow once a heat bed of charcoal has been created.
  • Never fully close air flow, as this increases smoke production and reduces heat.
  • Never let fire smoulder overnight, this produces a lot of smoke. Let it burn down instead.

More information on wood smoke is available on the Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) website and New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority website.

Assistance for Low Income and Vulnerable Groups to Replace Wood Heaters:

Woodfires are a low-cost heating option but are more hazardous to health than other forms of heating. To reduce emissions, improve safety and thermal comfort the Victoria Government is offering rebates for low-income households or concession card holders. Up to $1000 can be claimed to upgrade or retire old heaters, including woodfire heaters. Please view the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades site for more information.