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Wood Heaters and Smoke

Smoke from a wood heater (Image courtesy Department of Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts)

Burning wood in an open fireplace or wood heater is a traditional method of heating living spaces. Unlike other methods of heating a living space such as electric and gas heating, care must be taken to ensure that your open fireplace or wood heater is operated correctly in order to avoid it producing excessive amounts of smoke, which can have a negative impact on your neighbours and the environment.

Thinking of getting a wood heater or open fireplace installed in your home?

If you are considering installing a wood heater or open fireplace in your home, you should ensure that:

  • You purchase a wood heater that is certified to Australian Standards (AS) 4013 and 4012
  • Your heater or fireplace is installed by a licensed person in accordance with the Building Act 1993
  • You are able to achieve the correct flue height relative to the buildings surrounding you

To find out how to choose a suitable wood heater for your home, visit the EPA Victoria wood heaters page.

Tips to avoid excessive smoke emissions and maintain your wood heater

In order to achieve the best performance from your wood heater or open fireplace by producing efficient heat with a minimal amount of smoke, you should:

  • Have your heater professionally checked and cleaned prior to using it e.g. before Autumn begins
  • Use the right type of timber - always burn dry, well-seasoned wood. As a general rule, do not burn any old or waste timber such as old building and fence materials, offcuts from building construction or railway sleepers. Such timbers will have either been treated with a preservative agent or may have been contaminated by chemical substances.
  • Understand how to operate your wood heater or open fireplace correctly. For tips on efficient lighting and burning of firewood, go to EPA Victoria's website or download hot tips for cleaner wood heating
  • Once you have started your fire, go outside occasionally and check the chimney for smoke – if there is excessive smoke, then something is wrong with your heater/fireplace or the way in which you are using it.

What to do about excessive wood heater smoke emissions

If you are concerned about the amount of smoke produced by your neighbour’s wood heater, the first step is to talk to your neighbour as they may not be aware that there is an issue.

If you are experiencing difficulty resolving the issue, another option is to contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria, who offer free mediation services that may assist.

If you are unable to resolve the issue in relation to the amount of smoke produced by your neighbour’s wood heater, contact Knox Council’s Health Services Unit on 9298 8000 to discuss your concerns.

Image courtesy of the Department of Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts

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