Research aims to help households reduce wood smoke emissions

Published 18 June 2012

chimneyResearchers at the University of New England have secured funding from the NSW Environment Trust to extend their research aimed at reducing wood smoke pollution in Armidale.

The UNE researchers, in collaboration with Armidale Dumaresq Council, hope to involve 200 Armidale households that currently use wood heaters on a regular basis.

“Our aim is to evaluate and compare traditional education (which was previously shown to be effective) with regular feedback about wood smoke emissions,” said UNE’s Professor Don Hine, one of the chief investigators on the project. He said previous studies had shown that providing feedback had been effective in reducing household energy use.

Once the participants have been recruited, they will be randomly assigned to one of four groups. The first group will be given educational materials containing “best practice” advice about firewood purchase and storage and wood heater operation. The second group will be given feedback about their household emissions. The third group will receive both the educational materials and feedback, and the fourth group will receive only general information about wood heaters (but will receive the educational materials at the end of the study).

A team of trained research assistants will monitor the participants’ chimneys for smoke emissions both before and after the intervention trial, and in this way will be able to link changes in emission levels with each respective test condition.

The UNE team emphasised that the study was not about banning wood heaters.  “Although wood smoke pollution is a serious problem in Armidale, it is important to acknowledge that there are benefits associated with wood burning and a substantial proportion of the community is strongly attached to their wood heaters,” Professor Hine said. “We want to see if we can create a win-win situation, where those who choose to use wood heaters can continue to do so, while at the same time reducing overall wood smoke levels in the community to an acceptable level.”

Wood heater users interested in participating in the study should contact the Project Coordinator at UNE on (02) 6773 2546, or e-mail