Remember the basics to burn smoke-free this winter

Using a modern wood burner is a great start to improving air quality, but it’s equally important not to forget the basics to burn smoke-free – good wood and good fire lighting technique.

Mark Bourassa is one of our better burning advisors, and he stresses the importance of getting the basics right if you choose to burn wood as a heat source.

How do you light your fire?

An upside-down fire-lighting technique can save time and reduce air pollution.

The upside-down technique – also known as ‘top down’ or ‘Swiss style’ – is gaining in popularity and the team gets plenty of feedback that it’s working well for people.

“If you want a fire that gets going quickly, saving on time and excess smoke, then we’d recommend trying this technique, which uses larger pieces of wood at the bottom and kindling on top. You can walk away with confidence that your fire will be getting off to a good start and heating up fast,” says Mark.

If you prefer the traditional bottom-up approach, you can still get your fire going quickly and efficiently by using a good amount of dry kindling.

Resist the overnight smoulder

Adding a log to your wood burner and turning down the airflow to slowly burn through the night is not only a big cause of air pollution but also an inefficient way to heat your home.

“If your wood burner is working well, and your house is well-insulated, then you shouldn’t need to leave wood smouldering overnight at a low temperature as this causes excess smoke,” says Mark.

He suggests getting your fire burning hot and smoke-free before going to bed but to accept and plan for it to burn out.

“Resist the habit of ‘keeping the fire burning’ overnight. If you feel your house is getting too cold overnight, then you may have an issue with insulation and draughts.”

Is your wood ‘good’?

It may sound simple, but having good wood is key to running an efficient fire that burns clean.

“If a chimney is smoking badly, it’s often the fuel that’s the problem,” said Mark.

“It’s important to ensure the wood you’re using is dry and seasoned. Wet wood will simply not burn hot enough to heat your home well and will also smoke out your neighbours.”

Mark advises using a Trusted Good Wood Merchant to source wood and stocking up at least a season ahead. 

If you're unsure if your wood is dry enough to burn, call us on 0800 329 276 and we can arrange to test the moisture content of wood for you. 

Support is available

If you need to upgrade from an older-style wood burner, our better burning advisors are happy to talk through different financial options available for households.

Subsidies ranging from $500 to $5000 are available for low-income households who meet certain criteria.

In addition, the Healthier Homes Canterbury scheme means eligible ratepayers can apply for a rates advance of up to $6,000 to help purchase home heating, insulation and ventilation.

Head to for tools to help you burn smoke-free, including demonstration videos and a step-by-step guide, along with a list of Trusted Good Wood Merchants.

You can also get in touch with us for personalised help and support by calling 0800 329 276