Ammonium Nitrate Chemistry

Wood Fired Heaters Threaten Australia's Clean Air

Winter finally came to Melbourne today, bringing with it the smell of wood-fired heaters.  And as lovely as it is to curl up in front of a fireplace on a cold night, I'm here to remind everyone that they are absolutely atrocious for air quality.  Sorry about that.

A recent story in The Examiner highlighted how wood-fired heaters are negatively impacting upon Tasmania's air quality.  Wood smoke is also the biggest contributor to wintertime air pollution in Sydney.  The top tips for operating your fireplace from EPA Tasmania were to make sure you use dry wood and to get the fire burning hot by leaving the flue fully open for 20 minutes whenever adding new wood, and never let the fire smolder over night.  Further tips are available from EPA Victoria and the Department of Environment and Energy.

Operating your fireplace efficiently is important, but even when working correctly wood-fired heaters are bad for air quality, both inside and outside the home.  Australia needs to end its love affair with wood-fired heating and start heating its buildings properly.  Natural gas and electric heaters are far better options, and in any case good insulation is important and will always be an environmentally sound investment.  And if you still want a crackling flame as a centerpiece of your home, consider a pellet stove: these heaters burn compressed pellets of sawdust and biomass fed from a hopper in a constant flame.


  1. In the southeast of the US from east Texas to Florida and to Virginia there is a hapidly growing industry to clear cut forests, manufacture wood pellets and ship the wood pellets to Europe, mainly to the UK, to be burned in electric power generating stations. This is being driven by (1) false science stating that this is "green" renewable energy, (2) bogus emission accounting that allows power companies to report zero emissions for all their reliance on wood pellets, and (3) huge government subsidies in the UK being paid to power companies to burn wood pellets.

    Here in North Carolina most all of the wood pellets are being manufactured from hardwood forests, including some old growth ones and ones in wetlands. These hardwood forests are very slow to regenerate and the loss of biodiversity by this clear-cut logging is massive. Our Facebook page includes many papers by climate change scientists, air quality specialists and naturalists.


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