Smoke from chimneys can be a nuisance to neighbours. It can also impact people’s health.
If you own a wood heater, it is your responsibility to ensure it works properly. You should only burn dry, seasoned firewood.
An excessively smoking wood heater causes air pollution. This contains fine particles that can affect people’s lungs. It can be particularly dangerous to the very young, the elderly and people who have existing respiratory problems.
Find out more about your responsibilities or how to report air quality issues to us.
Report issues with air quality caused by smoke from chimneys to us using Report it online.
We will investigate if issues between neighbours cannot be resolved.
If the smoke is a nuisance, we may issue a notice, detailing the nuisance and giving a timeframe for problems to be rectified. We may issue a fine for non-compliance.
When investigating a smoke complaint, we consider:
- the amount of smoke being emitted
- the duration and rate of emission and the smokes characteristics and qualities
- the sensitivity of the environment into which the smoke is being emitted and the impact that it has had or may have
- views of any other neighbours or complainants
- other relevant criteria.
Be a good neighbour
Take the time to talk to neighbours and find out their concerns. In many cases an agreement can be reached that satisfies everyone’s needs. If you own a wood heater, make a habit of checking the chimney for excessive smoke.
Fires or wood heaters in residential areas, close to other homes, may be more likely to cause a nuisance.
If you decide to get a wood heater, you should:
- Consider the potential impacts on your neighbours.
- Ensure that it is the correct size. A heater too large for a home will need to be turned down, reducing its efficiency and causing excessive smoke.
- Make sure that the heater is constructed and installed correctly and meets the Australian Standards (AS4013 and AS2918).
- Consider other heating alternatives such as gas heaters, which are clean burning, cost effective and less polluting.
By having a properly insulated house, the need for heating will be reduced.
- Ensure that ceiling insulation is in place.
- Block draughts.
- Close doors.
- Keep curtains drawn.
Choose your firewood carefully
The dryness of firewood makes all the difference to the amount of smoke emitted from a chimney. Wet or green wood causes excessive smoke and doesn't generate as much heat.
- Dry wood is generally lighter in colour and should make a hollow cracking sound when banged together.
- Wet or green wood is heavier and usually darker in colour.
Do not use wood products such as chipboard, as they contain formaldehyde, or treated or painted timber, as the smoke from these products is hazardous to the health of others.
Burn the fire brightly
Start with dry kindling and fully open the air controls. Do not use oil or fuel soaked rags.
Once the fire is well established, gradually add larger wood pieces, making sure not to choke the fire by overloading it with logs.
An efficient fire should have bright swirling flames and red glowing embers with little or no smoke coming from the chimney.
Keep air controls open at night
Avoid shutting down the air controls (damper) overnight as this also causes excessive smoke.
Let the fire burn out completely overnight – an insulated house should hold enough heat to keep your house warm until morning.
Check your chimney
All wood heaters tend to smoke when first lit. However, the smoke should not last for more than 15 minutes.
Regularly check the chimney, and if it is smoking too much, reduce the fuel load and open the airflows.
Clean and maintain your chimney
Clean and maintain your chimney and wood heater regularly, especially at the beginning and end of winter. Regularly check the glass door for cracks and door ropes and seals for deterioration. Check the firebox for rust and lubricate the air-slide control with high temperature grease.