What can you do?
Rotorua's air quality is a community problem and we all need to take action to help clean it up. There are several ways you can make a difference.
1. Choose Clean Heating
Being warm is just as important as breathing clean air. We do not want to sacrifice one for the other. Wood burners, multi burners and open fires that do not meet the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality should be replaced as they are producing higher levels of pollution as compared to approved clean heat appliances.
There are several heating options that produce less pollution:
Heat pumps are a great way to heat your home and do not produce any of the harmful PM10 particulates in the air. And heat pumps are still one of the cheapest heating options available. They provide a clean and easy way to heat your home.
Pellet burners are one of the most environmentally friendly ways of heating your home. Pellet burners burn compressed wood pellets in a purpose built fire. Whilst they look like a conventional wood burner the pellets, which are sold in 15kg bags, are loaded into a hopper at the back of the unit and are fed into the fire by an automated feed system.
By adjusting the amount of pellets fed into the fire it provides control over the amount of heat produced.
Pellet fires also produce a fraction of the amount of particulates released into the air, compared to non-compliant wood burners.
Ultra Low Emission Wood Burners
Ultra low emission wood burners are the latest option for clean, efficient, responsible wood burning. They are started slightly differently to the traditional wood burners that New Zealanders are familiar with.
They are all freestanding, downdraft burners.
When ultra-low emission burners are put into 'downdraft mode' this allows the gases and particles from the fire to re-combust. This is a key design feature to reduce emissions.
All of the ultra-low emission burners are slightly different. For example:
- Some are fully automated
- Some require the operator to push in a lever 15 minutes after lighting to put it into downdraft mode
- Some require the door of the fire to be left slightly ajar for 15-20 minutes (it goes into downdraft mode once the door is closed)
- Some require an electric fan
- They vary in weight
- Their warranties vary
Please click on link to view a demonstration https://youtu.be/dJf9DNEq-pE
Wood burners are a common form of heating in New Zealand. Ministry for the Environment has an approved list of wood burners that are more efficient and produce less air pollution than wood burners in the past.
Regardless of the wood burners age, how the wood burner is operated effects whether it is a source of clean heat. Wood used must be dry, seasoned wood otherwise a smoky fire producing high levels of pollution is the result. How the fire is built also determines the amount of heat produced in the fire.
Get Firewood Early - Dry wood creates less pollution
Flued Gas Fires
Natural gas and LPG is clean-burning for pollutants. Make sure if you use gas heating that it is flued.
2. Only burn dry wood
If you have a wood burner, open fire or multi burner only burn dry seasoned wood. Unseasoned wood that has not had time to dry out does not produce as much heat and causes smoky fires, causing more pollution. To ensure your wood is dry you should:
Get your wood in summer to ensure it is dry. Wood can take 6-12 months to dry.
Stack it well. By splitting wood to a maximum thickness of 15 cm and stacking the wood properly, your wood will dry faster. Stack wood loosely to let air flow through the pile. Wood should also be stacked off the ground.
Your wood needs to be covered to protect it from the elements. Never burn treated or painted wood, driftwood or household rubbish. These products release toxic substances into the air when they burn.
3. Burn efficient fires
Here are some tips to keep your fire burning efficiently so you get the best value from your firewood and reduce the amount of smoke produced.
- Start the fire with paper, dry kindling or an approved commercially available fire lighter
- Burn fires bright and hot. A smoldering fire creates more smoke and less heat
- Regularly remove ashes from the burner or fireplace
- After starting the fire leave the air controls open for at least 30 minutes as this helps build up a good high temperature which makes wood burn well. Do this each time you add more wood.
- Don't bank up the fire overnight
- Don't put a full load of wood into a wood burner when there are only a few glowing coals as it causes excessive smoke for long periods
4. Insulate your home
Without insulation you will lose 42% of your heat through the ceiling, 24% though the walls and 10% through the floor. Underfloor insulation will also help stop moisture getting into your home.
If you get the design and insulation right for your house you won't need as much heating and you can think about installing a smaller more efficient heating system.
Subsidies are available to help with the cost of insulation. For more information, go to the WISE - Better Homes website.