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Government gives firewood a big tick

In June 2014 the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) was revised to set a lower greenhouse gas emission rating for residential wood-fire heating.

The change is good news for anyone who has considered installing a wood-burning heater in their home, but has been put off by concerns about  any perceived environmental implications.  It is also good news for the Australian wood heating sector, which has struggled to get Australian governments to actively promote the proven environmental benefits of firewood.

The Firewood Association of Australia (FAA) called for an improved rating for wood heaters in the BASIX system following the publication of research conducted by the CSIRO in 2003 and 2012, which found that firewood produced less greenhouse gas than all other domestic heating options.  The CSIRO findings are supported by accepted national and international protocols for assessing greenhouse gas emissions from biomass.

Prior to the change, wood heaters achieved the same rating as a 4-star fixed flue natural gas burning appliance in the BASIX rating system.  With their new improved rating, wood burning fireplaces achieve a much better energy “score” than any other selectable heating option in the system including 5-star natural gas heaters, 6-star reverse cycle air conditioners and ground source heat pumps.  Because the BASIX system provides a measure of both efficiency and greenhouse emissions, this new rating confirms that wood heating is not just good for the environment but is also the best way to minimise winter heating costs.  The unbeatable radiant heat, comfort, cheeriness and inherent feel-good factor of having a real wood fire in your living room are just the added benefits.

Since its introduction in 2004, builders and new home buyers in NSW have become accustomed to modifying their house designs and appliance choices in order to achieve the specific energy, thermal efficiency and water use targets set by BASIX.  In many cases the only way for home owners to achieve the required energy target “score” has been to install a costly and unsightly roof mounted photovoltaic solar panel array.  Now, by simply selecting “wood heating” as an option within the BASIX rating tool, a much higher energy “score” is achieved which can be sufficient to meet the required target without having to resort to other more expensive, undesirable or unattractive options.

Homeowners, builders and architects should be aware that all domestic wood heaters need to be installed in accordance with Local and State government legislative requirements as well as the Australian Standard AS/NZS 2918.  Even if it is not a legal requirement in your area, for fire safety reasons it is strongly recommended that wood heaters only be installed by a licenced professional installer.

Wood fires – not just the cheapest and most appealing way to heat your home in winter, but the best way to contribute to a sustainable future for our planet.


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