Wood heaters, solid fuel heaters, and flues
It is important to have your wood or solid fuel heater serviced regularly to reduce the risk of unintentional fire. These kinds of heaters and flues should be serviced each year by a registered or licensed Mechanical Services work plumber. This will ensure that your heater and flue system operates efficiently and does not pose a fire or safety hazard.
Reducing fire hazard risk
Regular servicing of a wood or solid fuel heater and its flue system will address two key fire hazard risk areas:
- It will remove any creosote that has accumulated in the heater or flue. Creosote forms when the gases from burning wood condense on their way out of the flue, leaving a tar-like material. The substance can build up quickly and block the flue, leading to inefficient heater operation. Creosote is highly combustible and can catch fire. It is a common source of wood heater-related fires.
- A check of the flue system will help ensure it is free of defects and flammable materials such as grass, small twigs and other debris that may be the result of birds nesting in the flue or surrounding chimney cavity. The intense heat generated in flues when the heater is being used can cause this debris to catch fire.
Outside the house, it is also important to keep combustible materials, such as overhanging tree branches, well clear of flues.
In addition to reducing the fire risk, regular servicing of your heater by a Mechanical Services work plumber will ensure that it operates as efficiently as possible.
Never modify a heater or substitute a component on the appliance. This can result in an unsafe appliance and one that does not conform to Australian standards. For example, do not:
- modify an appliance to burn fuels that it was not designed to burn
- tamper with controls that regulate the air intake of an appliance
- modify an appliance by adding-on components such as catalytic combustor, water jackets or draught regulator.
Wood or solid fuel heaters must meet Australian Standards to be manufactured or sold in Australia. A compliance plate on the appliance or manufacturer’s certificate will show if the appliance has met these standards.
Tips for operating your wood or solid fuel heater
To minimise wood smoke and allow your wood heater to operate at maximum efficiency, you should also note the following:
- follow the manufacturer's instructions for lighting, fuelling and operating the wood heater
- use paper or kindling wood to get the fire started
- only use dry, seasoned wood or the solid fuels recommended by the manufacturer for that unit
- arrange the wood so plenty of air can circulate around all sides
- always leave the air control open for at least 20 minutes after starting or refuelling the fire
- do not overfill the heater or try to burn logs that are too large.
For more information
- Help with finding a registered/licensed plumber who is registered in the class of Mechanical Services work visit the VBA site at Plumbing registration and licensing
- See the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) webpage on Wood burning and air quality.
- The Australian Home Heating Association website provides information on how to choose a wood heater.