Smoky Wood Heaters

Wood fire

All slow combustion wood heaters emit smoke when they are first lit or fuel is added. However, they should not emit excessive smoke for long periods of time if they are operated correctly and are well maintained.

Section 135A of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 defines ‘excessive smoke’ as the emission of a visible plume of smoke from a chimney for a continuous period of not less than 10 minutes, including a period of not less than 30 seconds when the plume extends at least 10 metres from the point at which the smoke is emitted from the chimney.

Where it appears to an authorised officer that excessive smoke is being emitted from a chimney on residential premises, the officer may serve a smoke abatement notice directing the occupier of the premises to cease the emission of excessive smoke within 21 days.

A smoke abatement notice remains in force for 6 months, and failure to comply with the notice is an offence.

Tips for Better Wood Heater Operation

  • Always burn dry seasoned wood as fuel - unseasoned wood contains a lot of moisture and is more likely to smoke
  • To season wood yourself, stack it in a dry, well ventilated area for at least 8 to 12 months
  • When lighting a cold heater, always use sufficient kindling to establish a good fire quickly
  • Use small logs - three or four small logs will burn more efficiently than one large log, producing more heat and less smoke
  • Stack the wood loosely in the firebox so that plenty of air can circulate around it - your fire will burn more efficiently and produce less smoke
  • Keep the fire burning brightly so that it burns with less smoke
  • Never burn painted or treated timber as this can produce poisonous fumes
  • Make sure your fire only smokes for a short time when you first light it or when you add extra fuel - you can help keep this to a minimum by opening the air intake fully for 15 to 20 minutes whenever you reload your fire
  • Open up the damper and let the fire go out at the end of the evening, instead of reloading it and closing the damper - when the damper is closed the fire is starved of oxygen creating more smoke
  • Regularly check your chimney - if there is smoke your fire needs attention. Adjust the fuel load and increase the air settings.