In winter Arrowtown has some of the most polluted air in New Zealand, thanks to the popularity of solid-fuel home heating. Air monitoring shows that the national standards for pollution are regularly exceeded.
We are working alongside NIWA, ORC and the Cosy Homes trust to clear the air in Arrowtown. Under ORC regulations you are not allowed to burn coal in Arrowtown, and woodburners must comply with tight rules about emission discharge and efficiency. But the pollution still remains.
One big contributor to the problem is residents burning firewood that has too much moisture in it. Firewood needs to be seasoned for at least a year, and stored under cover with air circulating around it. Be aware that sometimes wood that is sold as 'dry' or 'seasoned' is nothing of the sort – especially when you're buying towards the end of winter.
The question is, how can you tell if wood is dry enough to burn efficiently? One way to test it is to knock two larger pieces together. The sound will be a dull thunk if the wood is too damp to burn. Or you can test it with a moisture meter to make sure the water content is less than 25%. If you don't already have a meter, you can borrow one from us. The meters are held at the APBA office in Arrow Lane, in a cabin across the lane from The Chop Shop, just a bit further down. The office is open 9am to 2pm, Monday to Thursday. A refundable bond of $20 is required.
If you rely on a woodburner for heat, another thing you can do is to use it as efficiently as possible. Use only dry firewood, obviously. Use plenty of paper and super dry softwood kindling when you're building your fire, but leave space at the top of the fire box to allow flames to develop and burn off the gases released. Before using the low burn setting, ensure the fire has been on high setting for long enough that the wood is burning well and the burner has reached full temperature.