Wood-Smoke handbook: Woodheaters, firewood and operator practice
John J Todd - Eco-Energy Options
Environment Australia & NSW Environment Protection Authority, 2003
This Handbook has been prepared to assist local government officers, and others, in identifying and dealing with localized wood-smoke nuisance and broad-scale wood-smoke pollution. Local government employees, usually environmental health officers (EHOs), are often faced with complaints about wood-smoke nuisance.
Occasionally, state pollution control agencies also receive complaints relating to wood-smoke. Additionally, certain regions in Australia have unacceptable air quality in winter because of residential use of firewood and authorities are required to deal with this longer-term problem.
The tasks of dealing with complaints and reducing overall smoke levels can be helped through the development of general understanding of firewood properties, wood combustion and heater technology. Controlled combustion heaters (woodheaters) and open fireplaces are the main sources of winter wood-smoke in urban areas. Wood-fuelled cooking stoves and wood-fuelled water heaters also emit wood-smoke but are considered less of a problem because few are used except in isolated rural households.
In the past two years, some regions around Australia have appointed local government employees specifically to deal with wood-smoke problems. The roles of these officers, together with EHOs dealing with wood-smoke, are:
- to identify households with heaters that emit excessive quantities of smoke, provide advice to these households to help them reduce smoke emissions or, if no improvement is achieved, utilize appropriate state and local government regulations (where available) to force the household to reduce emissions to acceptable levels;
- to participate in community education programs aimed at making all users of woodheaters and open fireplaces more conscious of correct operation and smoke minimisation;
- to check firewood supplies to ensure wet wood is not being sold for immediate use;
- to provide advice on ways to reduce heating needs and the range of heating appliances available; and
- in some cases, to conduct monitoring of ambient particulate concentrations in areas where wood-smoke is thought to be a problem.
With these roles in mind, this Handbook provides information covering:
- the combustion properties of wood;
- an understanding of the design and operation of woodheaters;
- the difference between high-performance and substandard woodheaters;
- the chemistry of wood-smoke and its environmental and health impacts;
- Australian Standards for woodheater installation and emissions;
- scientific measurement of ambient wood-smoke;
- observed concentrations of wood-smoke in urban areas;
- the proper operation of woodheaters and the typical causes of excessive smoke;
- how to identify smoky chimneys;
- how to recognise a woodheater that has been tampered with;
- identification of wet wood and testing wood moisture content;
- the burning properties of different types of wood; and
- the range of alternative, cleaner heating technologies available.
This rather ambitious coverage of firewood, woodheater and wood-smoke issues is dealt with at a level that is intended to avoid purely academic issues and concentrate on practical wood combustion that leads to a better understanding of the appliances, their use and the potential harm wood-smoke can cause.