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Is the ASH CAN a Carbon Monoxide hazard?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Gooserider, Jan 5, 2007.

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  1. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    (since most posts there have a high
    e of hot air in them.... ;-P )

    Seriously, I have a covered "garbage can" style ash bucket (thin black steel, ~5 gallon capacity) that I use to hold the ashes that I shovel out of the stove. The lid fits fairly snug, but is by no means air tight.

    While I try hard to keep them in the stove where they will give the most heat, I can hardly avoid getting some hot embers and burning charcoal bits along with the ashes as I do my daily shoveling. I tend to leave the can sitting on the hearth, with the lid on it, until I get it full enough to justify taking it out to my big ash barrels outside. Typically this takes a few days. I've never seen any visible smoke coming out of the can other than while I'm actually shoveling stuff into it. The can stays hot for quite a while, but it is hard to tell how much of that is from the coals inside it, and how much is because it's sitting next to a hot stove...
    Since the lid is snug, I don't think there's much air getting into the bucket, but there might be some.

    I was wondering, is there likely to be a significant (as in enough to be a cause for concern) amount of carbon monoxide or other combustion gasses emitted by the coals in the bucket?

    Gooserider

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  2. Roospike

    Roospike New Member

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    I take my ashes out of the house as soon as i pull the ash pan and never store ashes in the home. My thoughts are what ELKs saying is , "better safe then sorry"

    ALSO

    Yes , there is a lot of Carbon Monoxide in the "ash can" %-P and it tends to get very deep in ash.
  3. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    Before the pellet stove, I heated a former shop with a wood stove. I was always concerned about fire. Had/have two paint safes, use three different sealed solvent cans (air tight). Six oversized fire extinguishers. I, also had one flammable disposel can. Used the can, most commonly used for rags to hold the hot ashes. Because it is sealed anything burning runs out of oxygen in minutes. Check the can at the end of the day, it was always cold and took the cold ashes to the dumpster, usually in a metal container, with a little water. Mine was red, but you could take one and repaint it to your decore. They are expensive new, but if you check around with paint stores and auctions, anyone using flammable solvents in industry has them, when they won't pass inspection, you get a chance to get a really good ash can.
  4. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Good thought on the rag bucket as ash can, Uncle, but not quite on point. I keep the can sitting on the hearth next to the stove, and figure it's no more likely to set something on fire than the stove itself is. It could get knocked over, but that would be difficult where it's at....

    Hasn't gotten me yet, so I might not worry about it. If there's no little or no air getting into the can, there can't be that much CO being produced since there isn't any oxygen present.

    Gooserider
  5. kevinmoelk

    kevinmoelk New Member

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    Goose, I do the same thing you do. I just keep the ash bucket on the hearth for convenience. I would think that any little amount of CO coming out would not be significant enough to cause any harm. As long as your CO alarm is not going off I wouldn't worry about it. Also, if you have a ceiling fan or other fan in the room, that would logically help to mix the CO with the room air.

    -Kevin
  6. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    My mistake. I didn't explain the cans are air tight. Any gases that might, and that's a big might be generated are contained in the can. As it cools and the gases condense they really don't pressurize much. Of course, this assumes that you are not loading it with burning embers.
  7. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    few weeks ago I stopped burning in the evening friday and saturday there was nothing in the stove but ashes. I pulled the stove to start working on a blockoff plate. Within an hour my CO2 alarm went off. I threw open all my windows and moved the co2 sensor outside.

    I wouldn't store the ashes inside......But equal to the co2 danger, I think is the fire danger. I put all my ashes in a metal can with lid outside. after a couple weeks of burning I dump that can into an old burn barrell and let that sit for several weeks before disposing of the ashes.
  8. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    I agree that better safe than sorry is best. I empty ashes into a large ceramic coated pot, then take them outside and place them on the front walk which is paved with bluestone. CO2 is ony one hazzard, My bigger fear is that ashes would get knocked over by a kid and burn the house down or something like that. Ashes in my book belong outside.

    That said, I tried this experiment once. I put the ashes fresh from the stove on the concrete floor in the basement very near an outlet. I plugged in the CO2 detector next to it and sat down to watch TV near by where I could keep an eye on things. After a 1/2 hour show I pushed the peak level display on the monitor. Result... 0. I was surprised.

    Now this does not advocate keeping ashes inside, and for what ever reason my results may not be typical.
  9. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    not as I could find. and it talks also. so it's a super loud buzzer then a super loud voice saying to evacuate the area.....carbon monoxide has been detected.....blah blah blah. Anyway. I took it to fresh air and it shut up pretty quickly.
    at least I know it works.
  10. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    My long term ash storage I've discussed elsewhere, basically it's a couple of 20 gallon garbage cans (w/ lids) that I rotate, emptying one as the other gets full. Those cans are stored outside in a reasonably safe spot.

    To me the issue is that the amount I scoop out of the stove on a day to day basis is only a couple shovelfulls, and it hardly seems enough to make a special trip outside to dump them from the fireproof ash bucket into the fireproof garbage can. I don't leave them sitting on the floor, they are on the brick hearth next to the stove, so they pose approximately the same hazard level as the stove itself. The only potential safety hazard that I don't have a solid feel for is if the embers in the can (not very many, or very big) are likely to put out enough Carbon Monoxide to be a health hazard. (Carbon DIoxide is not an issue).

    So far the conclusions seem mixed.

    Gooserider
  11. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I would be willing to bet that one burner on a gas range frying a couple of eggs puts out hundreds of times more CO than any covered bucket of ashes from a wood stove.
  12. Gunner

    Gunner New Member

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    I would have to disagree with that. CO detectors are designed to alarm around 30ppm. Was using all of my 5 gas burners on the stove plus the oven and the two week old CO detector 15 ft away never alarmed.
  13. Andre B.

    Andre B. New Member

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    As long as the gas flame is burning blue there should be very little CO.

    Edit::
    If the oil in the pan gets hot enough you could get a bunch from that.
  14. Gunner

    Gunner New Member

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    Just for the hell of it, I put my detector with digital display up into the range hood and turned on my 33,000 btu burner, after a few minutes it was still reading zero.

    I see no advantage to leaving ashes in the house. I think the risk of CO poisoning is very low, but still why not just take them outside.
  15. berlin

    berlin New Member

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    anyone who thinks they're going to get CO poisoning from ash doesn't even begain to understand basic concepts of combustion; and i question whether or not they should be owning a woodstove.
  16. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    True indeed. Imagine what a few 24,000 btu burners on a Viking or Garland range are putting out. I would never fire one of those puppies up without an exhaust fan running.
  17. Martin Strand III

    Martin Strand III New Member

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    Hot ashes in a GALVANIZED can is trouble. The zinc fumes given off are poisonous.

    Be careful out there. Keep your ash can clean.

    Aye,
    Marty
  18. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    As a data point, I just did a bit of an experiment as part of a larger one... An hour or so after I had shoveled some of the ash out of the stove, with a fairly typical amount of embers mixed in, I sifted what was in the bucket with a metal colander to seperate the ash from the largish lumps of charcoal.

    The larger experiment is to try doing some meat smoking using the charcoal left in the stove as fuel, the smaller one was to see if, after a couple hours of being in the ash bucket with the lid on it, there were any coals left that I could maybe use to get the smoker going.

    The ashes were still warm, but I only found ONE visible ember, and that was a tiny one. I did have a reasonable amount of charcoal though. So it seems that being in the bucket causes the embers to go out pretty quickly, thus I don't think they would have enough TIME to put out much Carbon Monoxide.

    Gooserider
  19. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I am NOT worried about getting CO poisoning from the ASH, Berlin, nor am I worried about it very much from normal wood stove combustion where there is a reasonable draft up the stack to remove any unburned combustion gasses.

    My concern is about the situation of having BURNING EMBERS or *LIT* CHARCOAL in an ash bucket that has a lid to limit the oxygen supply, and is NOT vented to the outside.... This seems like a potential situation for incomplete combustion which can potentially produce CO, and I wanted to know how much. It's starting to look like the answer is not very much....


    As a side note for those experimenting with gas stoves - The NORMAL combustion byproducts of burning NG or propane are water vapor and Carbon DIoxide, which is a relatively harmless gas - it's the same stuff you normally exhale, and except in extreme concentrations won't do you any harm at all. (You actually need a certain percentage to trigger your breathing reflex)
    Carbon MONoxide is a toxic gas that ONLY forms when there isn't enough oxygen to support complete combustion. Since your gas stove burns it's gas in free air, there is always going to be enough oxygen present for complete combustion, so you will never get significant amounts of carbon monoxide. The only potential hazard is that if the room is sealed, you could deplete the oxygen to the point where there isn't enough for safe breathing, but that is very unlikely....

    Your Carbon MONoxide detector does not detect Carbon DIoxide, at least not unless it's broken.

    Gooserider
  20. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Horse Biomass! CO is produced by any fossel fuel burning appliance. And yes, natural gas was once a dinosaur too. How much is the only difference. Wanna try turning on all of the burners and the oven and sacking out for the night? Didn't think so.
  21. stoveguy2esw

    stoveguy2esw Minister of Fire

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    just a question about gas combustion (ng) if gas burns without giving off CO, then why is there a need for vented gas stoves?, now i know that vent free units shut down before room o2 levels drop to 19 % o2 , these units being 99% efficient literally do not put off any harmful gasses (at least as long as confined space is met and they get ample o2 for this process, but what about vented heaters, which can be signifigantly below 99% efficient? are they vented due to CO production or for some other reason? im just curious as for the ash can , mine leaves the house as soon as i empty the stove, and does not return until i need it again, im more concerned of fire than CO as embers can stay active for a while and the dog or my kid chasing it could easily knock the thing over.
  22. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Really doesn't fit the subject but in a way it does. My dad said that up until he left home he and his brothers' room was heated in the winter by his dad filling a bucket with coals from the fireplace and bringing it into their room for the night.

    He was still sharp as a tack until he fell and busted his head and died at 83 so I don't think CO did any damage. In fact the whole bunch lived long lives.
  23. berlin

    berlin New Member

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    "zinc fumes given off are poisonous"

    not as much as people seem to think. worst case you feel like you have a bad flu and will get over it in a couple of days. that level of poisoning is not possible even if you had ash hot enough to completely burn off all the zinc on an ash can, unless you were standing over it directly inhaling fumes from said can; basically it's not going to happen and dont' worry about it.
  24. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Technically correct, BB, I should have said that Carbon MONoxide is only produced in trace amounts by a gas cookstove in normal operation - ditto for most other fuel appliances where there is more air supplied than strictly needed for combustion. The exception are things like our woodstoves, engines, and other such things where the supply of air is restricted enough that the oxygen is not sufficient to combine with every carbon atom properly, producing carbon monoxide, itself a somewhat flammable, non-stable gas.

    The problem with the oven and burners going that you mention would be more a problem of oxygen depletion than of carbon monoxide poisoning - not to mention that the areas around the cookstove aren't designed for that sort of use and you may have problems with nearby combustibles combusting.
  25. Roospike

    Roospike New Member

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    I have heard about the coal thing up in the room ...........

    What about them coal keepers thingies that looked like a campfire popcorn popper that they filled with hot coal and put under the covers in the bed ......... Hummmm
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