It's out with the old and in with the new when it comes to wood burners in Rotorua and heating companies have been busy replacing outdated ones. Zoe Hunter finds out just how busy some companies have been since the new rule came in.
New rules banning the use of old wood burners have Rotorua heating companies feeling the heat of a last-minute rush.
Old wood burners, multi-fuel burners and coal burners became illegal in Rotorua on January 31, while chip heaters, coal ranges, cookers and Marshall heaters were phased out at the end of 2018.
Any wood burners installed before September 1, 2005, and all multi-fuel burners and coal burners can no longer be used in the Rotorua Airshed - a geographical area spanning from Kawaha Point to Pukehangi and across to Lynmore and Hannahs Bay.
Now, Rotorua heating companies are busy trying to keep up with demand as residents adhere to the new rules, with some companies concerned not all may be installed by winter.
The Rotorua Lakes Council data showed more than 70 building consents were issued for replacing or installing more modern and compliant wood burners last month.
Rotorua Heating Solutions owner Lea-Ann Hanson said the company still had about 100 wood burners waiting to be installed.
"We haven't stopped since last winter," she said. "It has been steady [since 2018] but has increased in the last three weeks."
Hanson said the reason was "most definitely" because of the new law and the company had employed three extra staff since last year to help cater for the demand.
Staff were installing as many wood burners as they could each day but Hanson worried there would still be more to install come wintertime.
Manager of The Fireman in Rotorua, Kay Richards, said the company was also trying to keep up with demand before the cooler months settled in.
"It is our busiest January and February we have had since we opened our store in 2012.
"To put it in perspective, I have got nearly 30 jobs on the go ahead of time and we are booked out until the end of April."
Richards said orders had been consistent since the rules were changed.
"But late last year people started to come in with their letters from the council saying they have to get their fireplace sorted," she said.
"Everyone who has dragged their feet in replacing their wood burners now have to."
The majority of customers, she said, were elderly retirees coming in to replace or upgrade the burner they had had in their home for 30 to 40 years.
Age Concern Rotorua manager Rory O'Rourke said initially there were a number of members concerned with the legislation, as many had open fires while others relied on coal burners for heating and cooking.
However, O'Rourke said as the legislation and opportunities for subsidies became more widely known, members embraced the new cleaner and more easy-to-use heating options.
"The new legislation also had health benefits as a number of the elderly had respiratory issues exacerbated by poor air quality."
Rotorua Property Investors Association president Debbie Van Den Broek said landlords were having to replace any non-consented fireplaces and many were looking at swapping to heat pumps.
However, Van Den Broek found it was cheaper to replace an old fireplace with a new one.
"There may be an additional cost upfront but it is worth it in the long run," she said.
"Plus, the new fireplaces use a lot less wood and put out a lot more heat."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council's senior regulatory project officer Marion Henton said solid fuel burner rules were developed to address Rotorua's winter air quality issues.
"During the colder months, when people use their fires, the poor air quality affects the health of the community and also regularly exceeds the safe and acceptable level for breathable air set by the Ministry for the Environment," she said.
"Smoke emitted by Rotorua wood burners is compounded due to the city being located within a caldera. A temperature inversion layer forms over the city that traps the smoke on still, cold nights."
Henton said solid fuel burner regulations targeted the older style burners, which had a different design standard to what was currently made and emit more smoke.
"Replacing old burners with new cleaner technology will reduce smoke, but it won't eliminate it completely," she said.
"So it is important for anyone using a wood burner to be considerate of their neighbours and only burn dry, seasoned firewood."
Henton acknowledged homeowners who had already changed to cleaner heating.
"Wintertime smoke pollution is a whole of the community health issue and the majority of fire owners have already done their bit towards cleaning Rotorua's air by replacing their burners," she said.
"Rotorua should notice a difference in winter."
Out with the old, in with the new
- Bay of Plenty Regional Council has been working with homeowners to replace their old fireplaces with alternative heating and/or insulation since 2008.
- Help is still available to eligible homeowners and in some cases, this replacement heating and insulation is free.
- The regional council also offers a free solid fuel burner removal service for owner-occupiers.
- Those with old solid fuel burners are encouraged to phone the regional council to discuss their options before they remove or purchase a replacement fire.
Source: Bay of Plenty Regional Council