11 Jun 2018

Timaru resident's firewood spend doubles with new burner

8:50 am on 11 June 2018

Firewood is in short supply in Timaru as it faces its first winter with only new burners allowed in the city.

Wood burner

Photo: 123RF

The council banned burners older than 15-years-old last year in a bid to tackle air pollution, a move that sparked outrage in the community.

Timaru resident Helen Henderson got a big shock after she installed a $7000 new low-emission burner in her home last October.

"We found that we are using a lot more wood," she said.

"The difference between the low emission burner compared to what we previously had is that you can't shut off the air supply, as it burns more wood more rapidly."

Last winter, with her old burner she spent $400 on firewood, this year she expected to spend $800.

Ms Henderson said her new fire easily burnt through twice as much wood as her old burner.

Ms Henderson said it seemed to get harder and harder to source dry wood - an essential ingredient to a warm, non-smokey fire.

She said this was creating a perfect storm.

"I don't think it is impacting people at this point in time, but in time and as the winter goes on and it continues to be cold, it will impact people.

"We are sort of in a catch 22 because we all want clean air but we know how cold it gets in Timaru in the winter."

Point Lumber usually sold both dry firewood and unseasoned firewood.

But sales manager Phillip Burns said the company ran out of dry firewood more than a month ago because of demand from overseas for wood products, such as chip board.

"We've got no dry firewood left ... we've only got next year's firewood here now," he said.

And Mr Burns said wet wood, which was all he had left, was not an ideal fuel for log burners.

"Your fire will go out because it's got to be dry ... if you use dry wood it will smoke more and you will have trouble burning it."

Other Timaru firewood sellers RNZ spoke to said their stocks were running low, or they were deliberately not advertising their business so they did not run out.

The Canterbury Regional Council's Timaru operations manager, Judith Earl-Goulet, said she was aware of concerns about low emission fire places burning through wood faster than their older counterparts.

But she said it was how people use their burner, rather than the burner itself, that dictated wood consumption.

"There's been mixed feelings about that," said Ms Earl-Goulet.

"If you're trying to run it all the time then I think that is where some people find they go through more word versus actual heat output."

The advice is if you want dry firewood for next year, order it now.

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