Smoke from wood heaters

woodheater smoke

How to operate wood heaters to reduce smoke, and what to do if you are affected by a neighbour's wood smoke.

Wood heaters are a legal form of heating in Darebin. However, when not operated or maintained correctly, they can cause a public health nuisance to surrounding neighbours.

Commonly a resident who operates a wood heater is not aware that the smoke they are creating is causing concern to their neighbours. It is recommended that if you are experiencing concerns from smoke to firstly speak with your neighbour regarding their wood heater to achieve an outcome that best suits all parties.

Reducing the frequency of operation of a wood heater and using alternative forms of heating will significantly reduce the impact a resident has on surrounding neighbours. However it is also important that when a person uses a wood heater they remember the following tips:

  • Ensure a registered plumber installs a wood heater that meets compliance with the Australian Standards.
  • Always use dry, seasoned wood. Unseasoned wood has a higher moisture content that is hard to ignite, slow to burn, produces more smoke and less heat.
  • Prepare for the following wood heater season the year before. Wood should be stored in a dry, covered and well ventilated area for at least 8 months prior to use. Wood should be stored in a criss-cross pattern to allow air circulation to dry the wood.
  • Use a moisture meter to test the moisture content of wood before burning. Wood that is suitable to be used should contain no more than 20% moisture. Moisture meters are commonly available from hardware outlets.
  • Never burn painted or treated wood which can contain lead or arsenic. Treated woods include fence palings and manufactured timber like chipboard and MDF.
  • Always ensure your wood heater burns brightly and is not allowed to smoke or smoulder. Firelighters should be used in preference to paper when starting a wood heater and it should be allowed to burn at a high rate for 20 minutes before adding more fuel.
  • Never overload your wood heater by placing too much wood in the fire and ensure the firebox is stacked in a way where air can circulate.
  • Regularly clean the firebox to remove ash and ensure your flue is cleaned at least once per year. Flue cleaning kits are commonly available from wood heater or hardware outlets.
  • Try to ensure that the tip of your flue is above the neighbours roof line and try to not use a wood heater on calm days.

Smoke from wood heaters (even those operated correctly) can be harmful to both your own health and that of your neighbours. Wood heaters are also a contributor to environmental air pollution.

Should talks with neighbours not succeed and smoke is still causing issues to your health, you can maintain a 14 day Wood Heater Log(PDF, 309KB) and submit it to Council for further investigation.

Section 26 of Council’s General Local Law 2015(PDF, 358KB) states it is an offence to burn materials or substances in a wood heater that could be dangerous to health or offensive. this includes recycled timber that may contain chemicals.

More information on wood smoke is available on the Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) website.