Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) urges the public to consider the implications of older or incorrectly used wood burners on community respiratory health this winter.
Studies show that air pollution from wood burners is putting additional strain on the 700,000 New Zealanders who live with a respiratory disease in New Zealand.
"We know that ongoing exposure to smoke from residential wood-burning fires is harmful and can be associated with increased respiratory symptoms and hospitalisations in both children and adults," says Letitia Harding, Chief Executive, ARFNZ.
New Zealand’s National Environmental Standards for Air Quality stipulate strict regulations for how much pollution can be emitted per kilogram of wood burned.
Dr Guy Coulson, Urban Air Quality Scientist at NIWA says, "The amount of pollution emitted from these burners is measured under lab conditions. However, our research shows that in the home environment, most wood burners actually emit around three times the lab value, and some emit even more.
"The biggest source of pollution variability is related to how these burners are operated, making it essential that people use them correctly and keep them well maintained to reduce emissions."
New wood burners are able to meet even more stringent lab testing and return lower emissions than current standards and have been mandated by local government in some areas for future building consent requirements. "While these might be a good option, they’re not a magic bullet," says Guy, "These newer burners haven’t been tested in real life yet so may in fact emit more pollutants than lab tests suggest.
"Switching from wood burning to electric heating is one way to cut pollution" says Guy. However, it’s not always a straightforward decision. "We appreciate that for people with access to free or inexpensive wood, heating costs can rise when making this change."
"The best thing New Zealander’s can do for fellow Kiwis living with respiratory conditions is to ensure their heating sources have low, or even better, zero emissions. And if people do use wood burners, they should ensure that they maintain them and use them correctly," says Letitia.
"If you’re considering a new heating source for your home and whānau, consider other forms of heating that may be more friendly to the air that we are all breathing."
For tips on improving your smoke-free burning technique, including a step-by-step guide, visit www.warmercheaper.co.nz, or for information about alternative forms of heating including pros and cons of each visit www.energywise.govt.nz.
Warmer Kiwi Homes grants are available to replace a non-complaint wood burner with a heat pump or compliant wood burner. Grants cover 90% of the cost (maximum grant $3,000) and are for lower-income homeowners. Visit www.warmerkiwihomes.govt.nz.