Wood Heater Replacement Program

Wood Heater Replacement Program

The ACT Government continues its efforts to further improve Canberra’s air quality with the launch of the wood heater replacement program for 2014.

Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell, encouraged the Canberra community to use the program – a partnership between the ACT Government and ActewAGL – to help them replace their wood heaters with new mains-supplied natural gas heating.

“There are great incentives for Canberrans to make the change, with an $800 rebate for replacing wood heaters with ducted gas systems and a $600 rebate for replacing them with new flued gas installations,” Mr Corbell said.

“This program is an important way individual households can help to protect our environment and our health. Although it’s still summer, making the change now to a more efficient  natural gas heating system will help people prepare for winter.”

More than 1000 wood heaters have been replaced with cleaner heating alternatives since the program was launched in 2004.

“Despite this positive trend, we continue to have a winter particle pollution problem due to emissions from wood heaters used for home heating.

“Fine particulate matter in smoke can be very damaging and is is detrimental to our health and our air quality. The ACT’s air quality is among the best in the country, with wood smoke levels steadily declining as a result of programs such as the Wood Heater Replacement program. Despite this we continue to have a winter particle pollution problem due to emissions from wood heaters, particularly in Tuggeranong Valley.

“I encourage Canberrans with wood heaters to take advantage of this offer, which runs from 1 March to 31 December, to help improve our air quality.”

Clik on the link to download an application form – 2014 Wood Heater Replacement Program Application Form



  1. Meg Blackman

    I believe this replacement program to be disingenuous. What with the anticipated tripling of gas costs through globalisation, wood heaters are looking like a wise investment these days. The rebate offered is not very large considering how much one year’s heating actually costs in Canberra.
    If you burn wood efficiently (as new wood heaters do) and use sustainable, seasoned wood (as most do), there are minimal particulates and this form of heating has lower emissions than gas and electricity. If you don’t believe this, google it. Personally I can vouch that my new wood heater is the best heater I have ever had, I have been the warmest I have ever been – it heats my entire house – and I am pleased to be ‘off the grid’.

    1. TCC Webmaster

      Thanks Meg for your comment.
      The Tuggeranong Community Council supports the ACT Government in its efforts to reduce residential wood smoke pollution in Canberra, particularly in the Tuggeranong Valley, through education and the Wood Heater Buyback Scheme.
      According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics less than 3% of Canberra households burn wood for domestic heating. Meanwhile, the Federal Environment Department reports that residential wood burning is responsible for 71% of our particle air pollution while cars are responsible for less than 10%. This is borne out by ACT Environment’s own figures that show particle air pollution increases threefold in the Tuggeranong Valley in the cooler months of the year as people fire up their wood heaters.
      In July 2014 the ACT Government released a report from the Environmental Protection Agency that showed the ACT breached the National Air Quality Standard on six days the previous year. Domestic wood heaters were responsible for four of those breaches and bush fire burn offs were responsible for two. Therefore the evidence shows, the small number of Canberra households that use wood heaters are responsible for the vast majority of our air pollution.
      While it may be claimed wood heaters are environmentally friendly (and new research now shows they can actually contribute to global warming) mountains of evidence proves wood heaters are not “people friendly.” Environmental health experts agree residential wood smoke contains many of the same cancer causing chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Most Australian government health and environment agencies post health warnings on their websites to this effect along with advice on how to use wood heaters properly. Unfortunately most people don’t use them properly as found in a study in Launceston Tasmania despite the fact a concerted education program had been undertaken over a number of years in that city. The ACT Government also recognises residential wood smoke is a major environmental health issue and is supported in this view by reputable health groups such as Asthma Australia, the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Lung Foundation just to mention few. There is also a mountain of evidence on the health impact of residential wood smoke available on the web.
      One of the problems with wood heaters sold in Australia is they only have to comply to an emissions standard that was introduced in the 1990s. It has never been updated and since then places like New Zealand have tightened their emissions standards. This has led to the introduction of much cleaner and more efficient wood heaters in that country. Quite simply, many wood heaters sold on the Australian market today could be considered too polluting to be installed in a home in New Zealand and many European countries where emissions standards are now some of the toughest in the world. The TCC does not want wood heaters banned. It only wants to see the introduction of a tougher emissions standard, the phasing out of old, dirty and polluting wood heaters as is happening under the buyback scheme and the introduction of cleaner more efficient units. We want wood heaters that are cleaner for the environment, healthier for our neighbourhoods and cheaper to run.
      As for the cost of heating your home, studies have shown that it is still cheaper to heat your home with some of the latest thermostatically controlled electric heat pumps. While gas and electricity prices increase, so is the cost of wood. The major source of Canberra’s fire wood is south western NSW and this area, like many others, is slowly running out. That is why firewood collectors are regularly petitioning the NSW Government to open up our national parks and reserves (including one north of Canberra) for the collection of firewood. This action is staunchly opposed by conservationists who are concerned the collection of firewood in national parks and reserves will result in the loss of native wildlife habitats, especially for small marsuplials. The shortage of fire wood is reflected in annual firewood price increases in Canberra and which are consistently some of the highest in Australia. It was felt hardest in Deniliquin, the centre of the firewood catchment area, where the cost of firewood jumped from $80 for two tonnes to $380. (Little is it known that we actually burn more wood in our wood heaters than we chip and export to Japan)
      I hope you enjoy your wood heater, but I also ask that you consider our neighbourhood amenity, your neighbours, their right to clean fresh air and their health when you light up.

  2. Carol

    I’m sorry Meg, but wood heaters cannot possibly be considered a ”wise investment” considering the health hazardous emissions produced by wood heaters new or otherwise. This is a particular problem in urban areas where there is a combined effect of emissions from many wood heaters. There is no known safe level of exposure to domestic wood heating emissions.
    Wood heaters should be banned in all urban areas in Australia until wood heater manufacturers are prepared to guarantee zero emissions irrespective of the many factors associated with individual operator use.

  3. Ernest Grolimund

    Good comments. Discussion needed. The U.S. EPA estimated stove particulate concentrations by computer modeling developed for power plants and got illegal pollution at houses next to burners. 80 mcg/m3, pm2.5, 24 hr ave, whole house heating. The safe dose for wood smoke pm2.5 is exceeded by even pellet stoves and the average pm2.5 in cities is around twice the base level from a meager monitoring system by many methods that check. Even the background pm2.5 is about 50 mcg/m3 with 25 mcg/m3 from wood smoke pm2.5. The background wood smoke pm2.5 dose is about 500 (mcg/m3), hr and the safe dose is 180 (mcg/m3),hr. This is before adding in the 500 (mcg/m3),hr dose from a pellet stove after creosote has raised emissions 3 fold. In the USA, English common law was adopted which states that “safety is the supreme law” and threats to life, health and safety must be stopped and prevented as explained in essential health services policy. The intent of the clean air act must be met which says that pollution and it’s injuries must be avoided anywhere like at houses where the pollution is greater than at the official monitors.

    There is no safe level of tobacco smoke and wood smoke you see or smell or detect by scientific means. The best science is the new safe dose for wood smoke pm2.5 and the toxic equivalent of oil and gas pm2.5 and wood smoke pm2.5 and 180 air toxics. But no government department is doing this now. Europe seems to have made a breakthrough on this by developing outdoor wood boilers with electrostatic precipitators and computer controlled air fuel ratio to get emission factors down to the level of oil furnaces generally regarded as safe.

    Progressive cities like London had to ban burning of soft coal and wood to solve their air pollution problems. To really address all the air pollution and climate problems though we must tap into free energy from sunlight passing through our windows and weatherize and insulate more and convert to heat pumps as much as we can with oil and gas as backup fuels.

  4. There is no way that this is a ‘wise investment’. It is, of course, a great way to make enemies of your neighbors and to cause significant health problems for yourself and others. Recently, the World Health Organization added wood smoke to the list of cancer-causing agents.
    So, please think this over carefully. It is not a good idea at all.

  5. Meg, the most health-hazardous air pollutant is PM2.5 (tiny particles less than 2.5 millionth of a metre in diameter) that cause 10 to 20 times as many premature deaths as the next worst pollutant (ozone).
    PM2.5 penetrate the deepest recesses of our lungs. As well as causing lung disease, PM2.5 can enter the bloodstream and transport the toxins in air pollution all round the body, causing inflammation, heart disease, cancers, dementia, genetic damage in babies, increased risk of childhood asthma, autism, reduced IQ when children start school and attention problems.
    Even when wood heater appears to be emitting no visible smoke, it is still emitting PM2.5. The average brand new wood heater in Canberra emits as much PM2.5 pollution per year as 2,000 passenger cars. Although you, Meg, might call this “minimal” many people, including health experts such as the NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant says that wood heaters are so detrimental to health she supports banning and phasing them out in built-up urban areas http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/states-top-doctor-says-we-should-consider-banning-wood-fire-heaters-20140705-zsx92.html
    Please watch this excellent overview of the health and environmental hazards of wood smoke pollution by Dr. Brian Moench, M.D., President of Utah Physician’s for a Healthy Environment http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-vQLOKbdMw

  6. Unfortunately, the new supposedly low emission wood stoves have a poor record in terms of reducing emissions. The classic example in this regard is the expensive change-out program in Libby, Montana, U.S.A. All the wood stoves were replaced with the latest advanced technology designs but air quality standards are still being exceeded and you would definitely not want to live there.

  7. Dom

    The program is a total joke. Used wood heaters/slow combustion/ etc. are being sold openly on sites such as allclassifieds and gumtree and people are installing them in their garages and homes, so it is obvious the program is not working. There is no regulatory action taken with regards to what is being burned in these fireplaces, ‘people’ have openly told me that they burn their garbage, including piles of cigarette butts in their fireplace (I don’t need to be a Dr to determine that this is toxic) and discussing. I wonder how many are burning treated timber in their fireplaces???? I can’t see why the majority of the community has to suffer health effects, dry their clothes indoors and refrain from walking outside in winter so that a minority can enjoy the their disgusting fireplaces. They should be totally banned.

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