Nine Steps to Reduce Winter Air Pollution

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Armidale Regional Council residents are being asked to help improve winter air quality by checking their firewood heaters, chimneys and the quality of the firewood they are collecting.

As we move well into autumn, now is the time to start thinking about your firewood heater, any maintenance on your chimney you need to complete and the collection or purchase of quality dry timber. Temperatures are also starting to drop, and you may be lighting your wood fire heater for the first time this year. The incorrect use of wood fire heaters can seriously affect our air quality.

Before using your wood fire heater, clean your chimney of any build-up of creosote and collect or purchase good quality aged hardwood.

On colder days, woodsmoke particles from inefficient heaters float in the air and can be seen as a smoke haze that sometimes sits over built up areas. This sort of pollution can be bad for our health.

Woodsmoke can cause breathing difficulties, especially for people suffering existing respiratory conditions, such as asthmatics, and for very young children and frail older people. There is also evidence that smoke pollution can cause cardiac problems. 

But we can all help reduce the amount of woodsmoke pollution this winter by using aged dry wood and running our heaters properly.

Some simple steps to reduce woodsmoke pollution are:

  • Don’t let your heater smoulder overnight – keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame.
  • Burn only dry, aged hardwood in your wood heater. Unseasoned wood has lots of moisture, which causes a fire to smoke. 
  • Store your wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area. Freshly cut wood needs to be stored for at least eight to twelve months.
  • Never burn rubbish, driftwood or painted or treated wood. These are sure to pollute the air and can produce poisonous gases.
  • When lighting a cold heater, use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly.
  • Use several small logs, rather than one large log and stack them loosely in your heater, so air can circulate around them. Don’t cram the firebox full. 
  • Keep the flame lively and bright. Your fire should only smoke when you first light it and when you add extra fuel. Open the air controls fully for 5 minutes before and 15 to 20 minutes after reloading the heater.
  • Check your chimney regularly to see how well your fire is burning. If there is smoke coming from the chimney, increase the air supply to your fire.
  • Have the chimney cleaned every year to prevent build-up.

It’s the responsibility of all wood heater owners to follow these easy steps and minimise the harmful effects of smoke pollution on their neighbours and the community.

Council is also looking at implementing real time air quality monitoring devices in Armidale by introducing purple air monitors, with real time results being able to be viewed via the “purple air” website.

For information on how to use your wood heater better, contact Armidale Regional Council on 1300 136 833 or visit or the EPA website at

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