Geoff Foster says the Coffs Coast has caught fireplace fever as a result of rising electricity prices.
Geoff Foster says the Coffs Coast has caught fireplace fever as a result of rising electricity prices. Trevor Veale

Going retro to beat price hikes

FIREPLACES and woodburning stoves are so old school they are back in fashion.

But it is not just the attraction of vintage objects or retro style but the impact of rising electricity prices on the family budget that is making families eager to cosy up to a woodburning stove.

The result has been a rush on stoves and fireplaces that has seen retailers and installers at full stretch this winter.

The pressure extends to firewood suppliers and at least one major supplier has already put up a ‘no wood left' sign well before the end of winter, while others have long waiting lists and one hardware outlet has firewood from Victoria on sale.

Geoff Foster, of Geoff Foster Fireplaces in Coffs Harbour, said Australia-wide there had been a 40% jump in the number of people ordering woodburning stoves and fireplaces and that was reflected in the local market.

“A lot of people come in wanting a small wood heater so they don't have to put in air conditioning,” Mr Foster said.

“Electricity bills have doubled in the past two years.”

He said some people with existing wood stoves were also adding ‘wetbacks' so they could use their wood stoves for hot water.

He said while the majority of people using wood heating were in country areas, the market in the urban areas of Coffs Harbour had jumped this year, although from a low base.

Mr Foster said the main problems with Coffs Coast firewood supply was that the majority of firewood sellers were casual or weekend operators and that very few of them kept their wood supplies dry.

This can lead to problems with the operation of wood stoves, which need dry wood for maximum efficiency.

“The days of these things chucking out huge plumes of smoke are gone – they burn nice and clean once people get the hang of it,” he said.

He said it was “a crying shame” that the RTA had decided to mulch all the trees felled during construction of the Sapphire to Woolgoolga bypass of the Pacific Highway.

“That would have been 20 to 30 years of firewood,” he said.



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