Tighter emission rules on wood heaters aiming to cut pollution health risks

CLEANER CHOICE: Tilston's manager Paul Kingham with new wood heaters that have to meet stricter emission standards. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
CLEANER CHOICE: Tilston's manager Paul Kingham with new wood heaters that have to meet stricter emission standards. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

New regulations are in place to restrict pollution from wood heaters – but the Environment Protection Agency [EPA] says the hard part is to get people to upgrade their existing units.

EPA director of regulatory reforms and advice David Fowler said all wood heaters sold after November 2016 were more efficient and had stricter controls on particle emissions.

Even stricter controls will be introduced on heaters sold from 2019.

Mr Fowler said all wood heaters emitted particles potentially dangerous to the health of asthma sufferers, the elderly and children.

“Wood heaters can be an efficient and cost-effective heating source if used correctly,” he said.

However, he said, a poorly operated heater can create smoke and particles.

Mr Fowler said that while the new range of heaters were cleaner than before existing owners had to be convinced to spend money on upgrading their old wood heaters which were potentially more harmful to health and the environment.

“The existing fleet of wood heaters is significant.

“People hang on to their heaters for many, many years.”

Mr Fowler said that without any government incentives to upgrade, people needed to be aware of the health risks.

“It might be cheaper but it does have an impact on your family, particularly if someone does have [a pre-existing condition].”

Manager of Tilston’s Building Exhibition Centre, Paul Kingham, said wood heaters were popular sellers in his Orange store.

“I think people are getting away from the mainstream because gas and electricity are become more expensive,’ he said.

“Wood heaters are more efficient now.”

Orange City Council spokesman Nick Redmond said staff were looking for excess smoke most mornings and responded to complaints from residents.

“There are mixed signals at present,” he said.

“For this time of year, there’s been less complaints than usual and that could mean the community is learning to operate their wood fires better.

“But, in the lower valleys of Orange, the large amount of smoke that can still be seen is a concern on health grounds.”

Council’s environmental sustainability committee chairman Neil Jones said cleaner wood heaters were a step in the right direction.