Is your wood burner polluting the atmosphere?

New Zealanders love their wood burners, but these popular home heaters are also suspected to be major contributors to winter urban air pollution. NIWA scientists are working to accurately assess the emissions from wood burners, and also understand more about how users’ behaviour may affect emissions.

Project leader Jeff Bluett explains how the real-life emissions research was carried out last winter:

“Over the winter of 2009 we installed monitoring equipment at six Christchurch houses, and monitored emissions for a month at each location. We collaborated with CSIRO, Australia, and were extremely fortunate to be able to borrow the monitoring equipment developed by CSIRO scientists. 

“We attached sample lines to flues and monitored emissions every night. We also had instruments continuously recording parameters inside the house, including temperature and relative humidity, when fires were lit, how long the room stayed warm and so on. We analysed fuel samples, and had automatic sensors weighing people’s log baskets. We gained a good deal of information about what fuel people used and how much wood was burned each night.”

Sample lines run from the flue to the monitoring instruments (in the blue box). (Photo: Jeff Bluett)





“One of our main aims is to prove that we have a robust method of measuring real-life emissions; one that can be implemented anywhere in New Zealand. All regional authorities have a vested interest in quantifying home heating emissions, so we hope to replicate the work in other places.”

Dr Mick Meyer at CSIRO is currently analysing the data gathered in Christchurch. Environment Canterbury also supported the research.


Close-up of the monitoring equipment. (Photo: Jeff Bluett)

Contact: Jeff Bluett

Monitoring real-life emissions from a Christchurch flue. (Photo: Jeff Bluett)
Research subject: Air Quality