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Better Home Heating Habits Will Help Air Quality

Media Release Date 5 May 2008

Better Home Heating Habits Will Help Air Quality


Home heating is no longer on the back burner for residents in Hastings and Napier. By September Hawke's Bay Regional Council will be considering approaches to improve winter air quality.

No decisions have been made, but recent media reports have made some people feel uncertain about their existing heating systems.

“The Regional Council has no proposal to require the replacement of recently installed burners which comply with the current national wood burner standards – and such a proposal would require wide public consultation anyway, where people would most likely object to any reinvestment of that size,” said Eileen von Dadelszen, Chairman of the Environmental Management Committee.

“People with strong opinions on this, however, should contact their Councillors or make a submission, so that Council is aware of the cost implications of any policy we might consider in the future.”

She says that Council has to consider economic and social impacts of decisions as well as the environmental benefits, but is required by Central Government direction to achieve a major reduction in smoke and dust which cause respiratory problems by 2013.

The National Environmental Standard (NES) requires new burners to meet a target of no more than 1.5g of PM10 (smoke and dust) per kilogram of wood burned. They also cannot be installed unless they are given building consents from the Napier City or Hastings District Councils.

However, both older wood burners and the new NES-compliant wood burners can still produce lots of smoke if they are not operated properly. By making changes to home heating habits, even with older wood burners, people can make a difference to the amount of smoke produced by a fire.

Key steps to having a better fire which creates more heat and is healthier for the family and the community –

1. Burn only dry wood - buy early and store in a dry place.
2.
3. Always burn with a clean visible fire, hot and quickly, using smaller pieces of wood – the heat is in the flame
4.
5. Don’t dampen down fires overnight - this produces unhealthy smoke buildup and you’ll need to clean your chimney more often
6.
7. Never use coloured or painted treated timber offcuts as the chemicals can be toxic and corrosive to your burner.
8.
When starting the fire, get it burning hot quickly, using plenty of small kindling. Once started, it is best to use moderate size pieces rather than huge ‘logs’, so have your wood split small enough.

Damp wood produces a smoky fire and also produces far less heat, which is more expensive because you end up burning more wood for the same heat output. It’s these tiny smoke particles –known as PM10 – that create the brown smog that settles in an inversion layer over Hastings and Napier on cold, still days. PM10 is a contributor to respiratory problems like asthma.

Treated timber offcuts should never be used for burning and any offers of free treated offcuts should be rejected. A green or pink tinge to timber is a clear indication that it has been chemically treated.

“Treated timber is a real hazard. When it’s burned it releases the toxic chemicals used for building preservation purposes. It is a health risk, will damage your wood burner and leave toxic residue in the ash, on chimneys and on your rooftop. Toxic vapours can be released into your house even if all visible smoke is directed up the chimney. Council is talking to the main timber suppliers in the region now so they can remind customers never to burn this timber.”

Hawke's Bay Regional Council is faced with reducing air pollution in Hastings and Napier by 2013 and has set a September target for a policy decision.

If people like a wood fire, they should consider all the options - pellet burners are a similar cost to wood burners, and NES compliant burners are suitable but people still must operate these at maximum efficiency. New burners require building consents from local councils which can also advise on compliance. Electrical heat pumps are the most efficient heaters.


ENDS

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