Improving Wood Heater Use

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Use your wood heater properly to save money and reduce emissions

A new step-by-step guide to reduce smoke from your wood heater has been created as part of the Burn Brighter This Winter​ project.

  A step-by-step guide to home heating and a healthy community (2Mb)​

The amount of smoke a fire makes depends on how much oxygen is available, how hot the fire is, how green (or seasoned) the wood is and whether you have just started the fire or whether it is established. The following video shows that it is possible to burn wood in your wood heater and reduce smoke by 90%.

Burn Brighter this Winter: How to Reduce Smoke, Save Money and Save Lives​ (Approx 3.5 minutes)​​

A good fire needs good wood!

Remember to:

  • burn dry, seasoned, untreated wood
  • stack wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area.

Green wood is much harder to burn than dry wood and it produces more wood smoke for a longer time. It also produces much less useable heat and clogs up your heater flue with creosote.

When starting the fire

  • use small, dry kindling to get the fire going quickly
  • use smaller logs instead of large logs
  • place a sheet of newspaper above your fire before you light it to create a good draft
  • burn on high airflow for 30 minutes after lighting.

When the fire is burning well

  • place the wood end-on into the firebox rather than sideways
  • leave a minimum 2 cm gap between pieces of wood
  • leave a gap between the wood and the window
  • reload regularly to ensure rapid ignition of the new fuel, but do not overfill the heater
  • burn on high airflow for 20-25 minutes after adding wood to the fire
  • keep the fire burning brightly so it doesn't smoulder
  • never choke the fire.

A well-maintained modern heater should not produce any visible smoke when the fire is burning well

  • Go outside and check the chimney occasionally for smoke emissions.
  • If you can see smoke, adjust your fire for better burning.

To keep your house warm overnight

  • Closing off all air to a fire produces very little heat and a lot of smoke.
  • Only turn down the air supply when you have a hot bed of charcoal.

At least half an hour before you go to bed

  • reload your heater with good-quality wood
  • run it on high for 25 minutes
  • turn the heater down but ensure that a visible flame is maintained
  • never shut the airflow right down
  • let the fire burn itself out overnight.

Turning the air supply right down does not gain you any advantage, because the wood will only smoulder, creating little heat and a large amount of wood smoke. A smouldering fire can also contaminate your rainwater tank.

  • Next morning light a fresh fire in the warm firebox.

Keep your heater in good condition

  • Make sure your heater flue and cowl are in good working order and free from creosote build-up. The best way to do this is to have your flue swept annually. Some insurance policies require regular cleaning of the flue.

Choose the right heater!

When buying a new wood heater, ensure that it has a compliance plate on the back showing that it meets the current Australian w​ood he​ater standards. Choose one that best suits your circumstances, particularly the size of your house.

Modern wood heaters have been designed to burn a hot fire to ensure complete combustion of your wood over the full heating cycle. The size of your heater, therefore, needs to be matched to the space you want to heat. Your heater needs to be large enough to meet your needs, but not so large that it burns inefficiently for most of the time, generating excessive smoke.

  • Don't buy too large a heater.
  • Obtain good advice before you buy.

Report smoking wood heaters

Encourage your neighbours to improve their wood heater operation and reduce woodsmoke.

See: How to deal with a smoky wood he​​ater in your neighbourhood

Monitoring, science and health i​mpacts​​

Understand the information and decision-making behind the public awareness campaign, Burn Brighter This Winter. Suitable for secondary and tertiary level students, the following videos provide in-depth information on the health impacts of smoke, the science behind operating wood heaters correctly to create less smoke and how the EPA has responded with smoke monitoring activities and data management.​

The science of burning wood to reduce smoke from wood heaters​​

The videos below can be viewed here or on ​YouTube. 

Burn Brighter This W​inter Part 1 of 5 – Why do wood heaters smoke? (Approx. 8 minutes)

Burn Brighter Th​​​is Winter Part 2 of 5 - Smoke is wasted fuel. (Approx 2 minutes)

Burn Brighter This Winter Part 3 of 5 – How to operate a wood heater more efficiently. (Appr​ox 5​ minutes)

B​urn Brighter This Winter Part 4 of 5 – How to burn wood overnight and reduce smoke. (Approx 1.5 minutes)


Burn Brighte​​​r This Winter Part 5 of 5 – Maintaining a wood heater. (Approx. 2 minutes)

Health impacts and monitoring smoke levels​​​​​

​Video presentation by Dr Fay Johnston, GP and Senior Researcher Menzies Research Institute on the health impacts of wood smoke. (Approx 10 mins)​​​​​​​

Video presentation by Dr John Innis, Senior Environmental Officer, Air, EPA on the Tasmanian wood smoke experience and air quality monitoring around the state. (Approx. 30 mins)

Video presentation by Pr​ofessor John Todd, Academic and Consultant with 30 years' experience in wood heater research; on why wood heaters smoke ​and how to operate a wood heater more efficiently. (Approx. 30 mins)