Wood heater owners know the enjoyable heat and warmth that comes from standing in front of a log fire. Approximately 30% of Tasmanian homes1 have wood heaters and many people develop a lifetime habit of warming their homes by watching their parents or older family members set and light the fire.
While keeping warm in winter is important for our health, there is another side to wood fires that isn't healthy. Wood smoke has similar health impacts to cigarette smoke. Very small particles of smoke can bypass the body's defence system, enter the bloodstream, and cause people with existing heart and lung conditions like asthma to become very sick, requiring a visit to the doctor or hospital. Scientific research has shown that up to 65 Tasmanians prematurely die due to wood heater smoke every year.1
The good news is that science shows us that you can burn wood and operate a wood heater in a way that reduces smoke by up to ninety percent.
Burn Brighter This Winter, a community awareness campaign, spreads this message by providing simple tips on how to burn wood and reduce smoke. Very importantly, keep the
air intake open for 20 minutes when adding wood to the fire before going to bed: gives a much better burn, makes little difference to how long wood burns overnight, and reduces smoke by up to 90% benefiting the health of your family and neighbours.
Over the last two years, a
Burn Brighter Facebook video spreading this message has targeted and reached households in towns which
EPA monitoring has shown to have the worst air quality over the most nights in winter. Facebook statistics show that the video is increasing in popularity, with Councils, wood heater sellers and Neighbourhood Houses sharing it with their networks.
Not surprisingly, wintertime sees an increase in wood heater
smoke complaints to Councils. Common situations include a neighbour's chimney smoke entering a kitchen window or blowing across laundry drying on the washing line. In these instances, Council is often called to provide information and education to the home creating the nuisance smoke. Burn Brighter also supports Councils to deal with smoke complaints by providing
communications for letterboxing.
Next winter, remember to help your neighbours, by
checking your chimney, and if it's producing too much smoke, change the operation of your wood heater by opening the air vent for 20 minutes. The heat generated by this one simple step will burn off the smoke. You can also share the Burn Brighter Facebook video and tiles with your friends and family, and if you are experiencing problems with your neighbour's smoky chimney, have a polite chat to your neighbour first, before contacting the Council.
Learn more at
Burn Brighter This Winter
1 Borchers-Arriagada, N, Palmer, A, Bowman, D, Williamson, G, Johnston, F, 2020 “Health Impacts of Ambient Biomass Smoke in Tasmania, Australia",
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17(9): 3264