With winter less than a month away, Shoalhaven residents are being asked to help improve winter air quality by checking they are using wood heaters correctly.
"As temperatures drop and winter sets in, the incorrect use of wood fire heaters can seriously affect our air quality," Shoalhaven City Council Mayor, Amanda Findley said.
“Wood heating is a really popular and sustainable way to heat our homes, like you I love sitting by the fire in winter. Even though we have great air quality in Australia many more people suffer from respiratory diseases and we must consider them when using wood as a heating source.
"On colder weekends, wood smoke particles from inefficient heaters float in the air and can be seen as a smoke haze that sometimes sits over built-up areas. Not only is this sort of pollution unattractive, it is also bad for our health.
"Wood smoke 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 wood smoke pollution this winter by using aged dry wood and running our heaters properly.
"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 environment.”
Ten simple steps to reduce wood smoke pollution are:
1. Don't let your heater smoulder overnight – keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame.
2. Burn only dry, aged hardwood in your wood heater. Unseasoned wood has lots of moisture, which causes a fire to smoke.
3. Store your wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area. Freshly cut wood needs to be stored for at least eight to twelve months.
4. Never burn rubbish, driftwood or painted or treated wood. These are sure to pollute the air and can produce poisonous gases.
5. When lighting a cold heater, use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly.
6. 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.
7. 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 five minutes before and 15 to 20 minutes after reloading the heater.
8. 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.
9. Have the chimney cleaned every year to prevent creosote build-up.
10. If you are buying a wood heater, make sure it has a compliance plate showing it meets the Australian Standard.