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Woodburners

Woodburners

We’ll help you find the right model for your needs.

Choosing the right woodburner depends on your house and whether you want a wetback. Getting the best performance depends on the size and type of wood you burn. Find out what to look for and compare models.

Compare woodburners

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Choosing a woodburner

It can feel daunting when you first look at our database. Use these tips to narrow down your choices and hone in on your ideal model.

  • Clean-air check: If you live on a property smaller than 2 hectares then you need to install a woodburner that meets National Environmental Standards (NES). Models that meet these standards are also known as clean air or urban models. Most woodburners in our database are NES-compliant, meaning they have emissions of 1.5g/kg or lower and an efficiency of at least 65%. However, depending on where you live, NES compliance might not be enough. If you live in some parts the Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, Canterbury or Central Otago then the rules about emissions can be much stricter.

    Ultra-low emission burners (ULEBs) are a new technology designed for installation in areas where older burners are outlawed. These burners meet stringent standards and are able to be installed in clean-air zones where all other fires are prohibited. They’re also highly efficient.

    “Rural” models only allowed on sections larger than two hectares are also available. They generally offer better overnight-burn capability than urban models, ideal for farmers keen for their fire to still be blasting when they wake up early in the morning. The trade-off is higher emissions and lower efficiency.
  • Size it properly. Working out the heating capacity (kW) required for your home is critical. Woodburners lack the fine control of a heat pump – too small and it won’t be able to keep your home at a healthy temperature, too large and you risk turning your home into an uninhabitable oven. As a rough guide, models under 10kW are best suited for smaller, well-insulated spaces, while large and/or poorly insulated spaces need more than 10kW. For a more accurate gauge on the ideal output for the area you want to heat, use our calculator.

  • Freestander or insert? If you have an existing open fireplace you can opt for an insert woodburner that fits inside the old fire cavity. Freestanding models are the best option for newer households, and can now be placed closer to walls with smaller clearances than older freestanders.

  • Radiant or convector? Radiant fires offer an intense, toasty heating effect, ideal if you’ve got high ceilings or poor insulation. Convector fires produce a softer, ambient heat through a cyclic convection effect. They heat more evenly but are better for homes with good insulation and low ceilings. Many models are “radiant and convection”, combining both heating modes.

  • Emissions and efficiency. Models with high efficiency give more bang for your buck, extracting more useful heat from each log. Choosing a model with low emissions means less risk of your chimney producing smoke that causes respiratory issues and stinks up your street. Our emissions and efficiency scores give an indication of the relative performance of each woodburner – a score above 7.0 indicates above-average performance.

  • Price: Woodburners range in price from $1000 to more than $5000. You should also factor in the cost of installation and building consents (usually several hundred dollars more). While ULEBs are the most expensive burners, their greater efficiency means you’ll spend less on firewood.

  • Aesthetics: Finally, consider how the woodburner looks. Some have much bigger windows than others, which can enhance your living area’s ambience, while others have a variety of coloured panels. Some ultra-low emission burners even have a USB charging port. Insert woodburners have varying fascia mimicking the detailing of old fireplaces.

How woodburners work

It’s a 2-stage process. First, if the wood is hot enough, the combustible creosotes and resins will evaporate out of the timber and will be burnt as gases (if these gases are not burnt completely the result is smoke).

The evaporation of the gases turns the wood to charcoal, which then burns easily and cleanly – and produces most of the heat.

To burn as cleanly as possible, the fire needs to be as hot as possible. It also needs the right amount of air to support the combustion. Too much air cools the fire and smoke is produced. Not enough air has the same effect.

Modern woodburners burn efficiently because the firebox is lined with firebrick material, making a hotter fire. The combustion air is carefully admitted to give the most complete combustion possible. The resulting efficiency (conversion of the fuel energy into heat in the room) is around 65%.

Contrast this to the traditional open fire, which admits far too much air, cooling the fire and giving an efficiency of 15-20%. Some even have negative efficiency – they draw cool air into the house, warm it and send it up the chimney!

Heat output

The amount of heat a woodburner produces depends on the type and quantity of wood, how big and dry the pieces are, and how often the fire is refuelled.

This means it's trickier to state a definitive heat output for woodburners than for other types of heater, because different testing methods will give different heat outputs – even for the same woodburner.

To be sold in urban areas, all woodburners must meet the NES (national environmental standard) for emissions and efficiency using the AS/NZS 4012/4013 test method, or meet the new CM1 standard. The NES test involves running the woodburner until it has a glowing ember bed. Then a precise amount of kiln-dried and knot-free pine is placed into the firebox, and the heat output is measured until the wood burns back down to an ember bed.

We use the NES results for scoring the heat output of woodburners because it gives a consistent and repeatable result for comparing models. But it often understates what you could achieve in your home – sometimes by 30% or more. This is especially pronounced with larger woodburners as they aren’t allowed enough time to fully heat up.

For some models, our database also shows the results of the New Zealand Home Heating Association (NZHHA) test method. This refuels the woodburner every 20 minutes, so the heat output will be higher. These results reflect the maximum you could achieve in your home. When buying a larger woodburner (greater than 10kW) that you’d like to keep on all day, we recommend consulting the NZHHA results if they’re available.

Tip: Keep the woodburner refuelled often and use dry firewood of the right size (110mm diameter or less). Control the heat output by adjusting the amount of wood that’s burning rather than by using the air control.

Emissions and efficiency

If your land area is less than 2 hectares, any woodburner you install must comply with the National Environmental Standards (NES).

The NES sets standards for emissions and efficiency. The emissions figure is the number of grams of smoke particles for every kilogram of dry wood burnt. The NES requires that this be less than 1.5g/kg. If you live in Canterbury or Nelson the rules are even tougher.

The efficiency figure is the percentage of the theoretical maximum heat contained in the firewood that the burner delivers to the room. The NES requires this to be 65% or greater for woodburners in urban areas.

Learn more about woodburner emissions.

Strict rules and regulations

Here’s an overview of the woodburner rules and regulations for regional councils with stricter limits than the National Environmental Standards (NES).

Restricted areas General rules Emission limits for new burners Current phase-outs (upcoming bans) More information
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council
Airzone 1: urban areas of Hastings, Flaxmere, Havelock North and Napier All woodburners installed before 31 August 2005 now prohibited. Open fires prohibited on properites less than 2 hectares. Hastings-only, properties smaller than 2ha: 1.0g/kg for all freestanding woodburners and non-wetback inserts. 1.5g/kg (national NES standard) for wetback insert burners. 1.5g/kg for all other areas. Hastings Zone 1 Properties larger than two hectares: 1.5k/kg Non-compliant woodburners installed after September 2005 (which exceed NES emission limit of 1.5g/kg) are prohibited from January 2018 (Hastings) and January 2020 (Napier). Any non-compliant woodburner / fre is prohibited from use on properties less than 2 hectares when property transfers to new owner. Download PDF
Airzone 2: outlying suburbs of Hastings, Flaxmere, Havelock North and Napier - 1.5g/kg (national NES standard) for any size property/ None -
Bay of Plenty Regional Council
Rotorua urban area 1. Only NES-approved (clean-air) woodburners and pellet fires can be installed in Rotorua.
2. Cannot sell a property in Rotrua with non-NES compliant woodburners (vendor must remove)
3. All open fires prohibited.
1.5g/kg (national NES standard) for any size property/ None Visit website
Nelson City Council
Airshed A - Nelson South If you have an existing consented woodburner / solid-fuel burner, you can carry on using it or replace it with an NES-approved woodburner. But if your existing burner was installed prior to 2000 it can no longer be used. If you are building a new home or do not currently have an open fire or enclosed woodburner, only ultra-low emission pellet burners allowed. None Visit website
Airshed B1 - Tahunanui If you have an existing consented woodburner / solid-fuel burner, you can carry on using it or replace it with an NES-approved woodburner. But if your existing burner was installed prior to 2000 it can no longer be used. If you are building a new home or do not currently have an open fire or enclosed woodburner, only ultra-low emission pellet burners allowed. None -
Airshed B2 - Stoke If you have an existing consented woodburner / solid-fuel burner, you can carry on using it or replace it replace it with an NES-approved woodburner. But if your existing burner was installed prior to 1995 it can no longer be used. If you don’t have an existing solid fuel burner (or it has been phased out as outlined above) you can install an ultra-low emission woodburner or pellet burner. None -
Airshed C - Nelson City No phase-outs have occurred, but an existing burner can only be replaced with an NES-approved burner. If you don’t have an existing solid fuel burner you can install an ultra-low emission woodburner or pellet burner. None -
Enviornment Canterbury
Christchurch Clean Air Zone - 1. Ultra-low emission burners allowed in all homes (including new-builds).

2. Installation of low-emission burners (less than 1g/kg) prohibited on sites less than 2 hectares.

3. Use of low-emission burners allowed for up to 20 years or until January 2019, whichever is later.

4. Use of open fires and older style burners prohibited on sites less than 2 hectares.

5. For properties larger than 2 hectares, low-emission and ultra-low emission burners can be installed into all homes. Older style burners can be used.
On sites less than 2 hectares:

1. Use of existing low-emission (1g/kg or lower) burners is allowed for up to 20 years or until 1 January 2019, whichever is later.

2. Low emission burners can be installed before 31 October 2017 as long as they're replacing an existing enclosed woodburner.

3. Low Emission burners can be installed up until 1 Jan 2019 as long as they are replacing a Low Emission burner that is not yet 20 years old. After this date they can only be replaced with Ultra Low Emission models.
Visit website
Waimate Clean Air Zone - 1. Ultra-low emission and Low Emission burners allowed in all homes (including new-builds).

2. Use of open fires prohibited.
On sites less than 2 hectares older style burners need to be upgraded by January 2020 (or if you sell property before this date). Visit website
Geraldine Clean Air Zone - 1. Ultra-low emission and Low Emission burners allowed in all homes (including new-builds).

2. Use of open fires prohibited.
On sites less than 2 hectares older style burners need to be upgraded by January 2020 (or if you sell property before this date). -
Timaru Clean Air Zone - 1. Ultra-low emission burners allowed in all homes (including new-builds).

2. Installation of low-emission burners (less than 1g/kg) prohibited in new-builds.

3. Open fires prohibited.

4. Older Style burners over 15 years must be upgraded. But if you're experincing hardship or aren't in a posistion to upgrade your burner, you can register with ECAN and continue using it during winter 2017.

5. On properties larger than 2 hectares, low- and ultra-low emission burners can be installed into all homes, including new-builds. Older burners can be used but not installed.
On sites less than 2 hectares:

1. Use of existing low-emission (1g/kg or lower) burners is allowed for up to 15 years or until 1 January 2019, whichever is later.

2. Low emission burners can be installed before 31 October 2017 as long as they're replacing an existing woodburner or open fire.

3. Low Emission burners can be installed up until 1 Jan 2019 as long as they are replacing an older style that is less than 15 years old or Low Emission woodburner. After this date they can only be replaced with Ultra Low Emission models.
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Ashburton Clean Air Zone - 1. Ultra-low emission burners allowed in all homes (including new-builds).

2. Installation of low-emission burners (less than 1g/kg) prohibited in new-builds.

3. Open fires prohibited on sites less than 2 hectares.

4. On properties larger than 2 hectares, low- and ultra-low emission burners can be installed into all homes, including new-builds. Older burners can be used but not installed.
1. Use of existing low-emission (1g/kg or lower) burners is allowed for up to 20 years or until 1 January 2019, whichever is later.

2. Low emission burners can be installed before 31 October 2017 as long as they're replacing an existing enclosed woodburner.

3. Low Emission burners can be installed up until 1 Jan 2019 as long as they are replacing an older style that is less than 15 years old or Low Emission woodbuner. After this date they can only be replaced with Ultra Low Emission models.
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Rangiora Clean Air Zone - 1. Ultra-low emission burners allowed in all homes (including new-builds).

2. Installation of low-emission burners (less than 1g/kg) prohibited in new-builds.

3. Open fires prohibited on sites less than 2 hectares.

4. On properties larger than 2 hectares, low- and ultra-low emission burners can be installed into all homes, including new-builds. Older burners can be used but not installed.
1. Use of existing low-emission (1g/kg or lower) burners is allowed for up to 20 years or until 1 January 2019, whichever is later.

2. Low emission burners can be installed before 31 October 2017 as long as they're replacing an existing enclosed woodburner.

3. Low Emission burners can be installed up until 1 Jan 2019 as long as they are replacing an older style that is less than 15 years old or Low Emission woodburner. After this date they can only be replaced with Ultra Low Emission models.
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Kaiapoi Clean Air Zone - 1. Ultra-low emission burners allowed in all homes (including new-builds).

2. Installation of low-emission burners (less than 1g/kg) prohibited in new-builds.

3. Open fires prohibited on sites less than 2 hectares.

4. On properties larger than 2 hectares, low- and ultra-low emission burners can be installed into all homes, including new-builds. Older burners can be used but not installed.
1. Use of existing low-emission (1g/kg or lower) burners is allowed for up to 20 years or until 1 January 2019, whichever is later.

2. Low emission burners can be installed before 31 October 2017 as long as they're replacing an existing enclosed woodburner.

3. Low Emission burners can be installed up until 1 Jan 2019 as long as they are replacing an older style that is less than 15 years old or Low Emission woodburner. After this date they can only be replaced with Ultra Low Emission models.
-
Otago Regional Council
Air Zone 1 towns of Alexandra, Cromwell, Clyde and Arrowtown as well as Air Zone 2 town of Milton - Only woodburners with an emission rating of 0.7g/kg or lower permitted to be installed. Burners installed before 14 April 2007 in Alexandra, Arrowtown or Cromwell or 1 April 2009 in Clyde with emissions less than 1.5g/kg are permitted to be used. - Visit website

What size woodburner?

Calculate the right size woodburner for the area you want to heat. Measure the floor and ceiling areas in square meters (length times width in metres). Usually the ceiling area is the same as the floor. Measure the wall and window areas in square meters (height times width in metres). Enter the areas you have measured into the calculator below.

Measuring guide

Red = external wall
Blue = internal wall
A x B = area of wall
C x D = area of window
E x F = area of ceiling to unheated/heated room above
G x H = area of ceiling to un-insulated roof

Wetbacks and heat transfer systems

Woodburners for urban areas have to comply with National Environmental Standards (NES), which means they must have a minimum "space-heating efficiency" of 65 percent.

"Space-heating efficiency" is the efficiency of converting the wood's heat energy into space (air) heat. The water heating from the wetback isn't included in the efficiency calculation – so when some of the wood's energy is going into water heating it means that relatively less is going into space heating.

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What’s the cheapest way to heat your home and water?

We’ve analysed the latest fuel cost data, including the costs of running a woodburner and buying firewood.

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