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Under what conditions is it ok for fire to smell outside?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Bster13, Apr 28, 2013.

  1. Bster13

    Bster13 Minister of Fire

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    I was a little disappointed this evening when I lit my 2nd ever fire in my new BK Princess Insert. Not for how it was performing inside, but outside you could definitely smell the smoke/fire even though the cat was well into the active zone (the air was turned 95% down, the blower was on low, was just letting the stove output a little throughout the night).

    Maybe it was due to poor draft? Still night? The temps were/are 50F. Is this normal for a 18F chimney on a still, relatively warn evening? It's not like this was the beginning of the fire when the stove was in bypass mode. Is this normal? I don't want to piss off the neighbors. I thought when burning in active mode you should hardly tell there is a fire in my house, right?

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Low pressure can let the smoke drift down instead of up. If you are downwind and atmospherics are right you may smell smoke. Your stove burns cleaner but not perfectly.
  3. gzecc

    gzecc Minister of Fire

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    What is your moisture content of your wood?
  4. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, you can't get it all.

    When the cat is really hot in my stove, it is kinda stinky. It doesn't smell like wood smoke at all.
  5. Bster13

    Bster13 Minister of Fire

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    Wood is labeled as "dry" from a coworker. He's a wood nut, but not Hearth.com wood nut in terms of having X # of years dry stuff. Certainly felt, sounded, acted like dry wood but not sure how old it is. Older than my 5mo old stuff for sure, haha.

    BTW, no smell this morning,

    Last night @ 9:46pm (creosoted up front door was from me trying to burn green wood on previous wood fire attempt and dampening it down because I got the new stove and couldn't help it.)

    30vbomr.jpg


    When I went to bed, bimetal thermostat was turned down 95% of the way.


    7:40am (no smell outside, I checked) and still giving off heat, 71F in stove room, was coming close to dropping out of active zone so adjust the bimetal thermostat to give it more air:

    2i690.jpg
  6. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    What did it smell like? You will always get some type of smell from your stove. When you're burning clean you will get a smell that reminds me of the smell from a coal stove. When you're not burning as cleanly you'll get the smell of wood smoke. Of course the wind direction and atmospheric conditions will affect the direction the exhaust takes as it leaves the stack, so you might not smell anything despite a smoky fire, whereas at another time you might get that coal stove smell even though you're burning as cleanly as possible.
  7. Bster13

    Bster13 Minister of Fire

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    Smelled like wood smoke at a campfire (I think I recall), but then again I don't know what smoke from coal smells like.
  8. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    I've found that I can't some woods to burn in a "clean" smelling way no matter what I do. Fir has been a bane of mine in this regard - it burns with a good heat output, but I can always smell it outside even when the secondaries are lighting off really well and/or when I mix it in with hardwoods.
  9. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    So you have a stove that pulls nearly all of the heat out of the exhaust and cleans almost all the junk out of it as well. You can't see any smoke which is all you need to know as far as clean burning. So what is happening is that the cool fumes are not hot enough to rise up violently and mix with atmostpheric air. These dense fume sink to ground level on a calm and warm night and even throughout the winter when the conditions are just right. I got it with my hearthstone less frequently but still smelled the exhaust on occasion.

    Compare this to a modern ultra low emissions vehicle like a gasoline car. On that cold morning when the exhaust is visible you can stand in the exhaust and smell it. Smelly exhaust does not indicate poor burning or pollution, it only indicates that there is exhaust present at the same place your nose is.

    What did you expect it to smell like? Certainly it would not be odorless.
    Bster13 likes this.
  10. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    You're burning wood it's gonna smell some. It will probably improve some as your wood supply improves I have a 30' chimney and under some weather conditions it will push the smoke right down to the ground on start up. The chimney is on the east side of my house the garage is on the west, sometimes if the weather is right the smell will follow the roof line and end up in the garage. Other times I have no idea that I'm burning wood.

    Starting out can be overwhelming I've been there. Try not to over think things, we're burning wood not splitting an atom. :)
  11. Dave A.

    Dave A. Minister of Fire

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    Am new to this myself (2nd season) and not with a BK or cat. I accept that the chimney outside will smell and smoke at start up. But after that, if it does, then I will increase the air until the smell goes away -- and can't recall ever where more than a slight adjustment was necessary.
  12. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    Are you sure it wasn't a neighbor burning dirty? Often I will go outside and catch a whiff of wood smoke, curse my stove for a second, then realize I'm upwind of my flue and it must be coming from somewhere else. A relatively warm/still night can 'trap' smoke/smells near the ground, so someone far away could be causing the smell.
  13. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I kinda like the BK's low burn, no smoke, cat flavored smell. It is unique to a cold clean burner and tells me that I'm getting the longest clean burn possible. If it stunk like a camp fire or slash burn then I'd know I was wasting energy.

    I'm going in and out of my house to the shop since I don't have a bathroom out there yet and I drink lots of coffee. The wind is blowing the aroma towards my travel path from the fire I lit 17 hours ago. Yes, I can smell it but I can't see it. I don't think anybody would find it offensive. Burning wet bark, trash, railroad ties, plastic, foam, oil, etc. with visible heavy smoke is offensive. Yes, I've done each of these for the sake of experimentation only.
  14. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    I can also smell exhaust from my car and it has a catalyst too.
  15. gzecc

    gzecc Minister of Fire

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    I would bet its < 2 year seasoned correctly oak. Probably not dry enough for optimum burns.
  16. bag of hammers

    bag of hammers Minister of Fire

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    That seems to be the case for me too - under the north facing valley, when I walk up to the back entrance - on those damp days when the air is "heavy" that seems to be the 'sweet spot" - I know the stove is running even though there isn't even a hint of visible smoke.

    Thanks for that sanity check too - I also notice that effect (although I've often wondered if it could just be my imagination) - e.g. the wood smoke smell does seem a bit stronger when I burn up yellow birch uglies with a lot of that thick bark, vs maple splits.

    None of this bothers me, just interesting how the whole system behaves....
  17. Oldhippie

    Oldhippie Minister of Fire

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    I New England the smell of wood smoke in the cold weather is a part of the beauty of New England, just like white steepled churches and little town commons with general stores and we enjoy the smell.

    But in the Spring when it's 50' out we generally declare the war over and stop burning. :)
  18. DanCorcoran

    DanCorcoran Minister of Fire

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    I don't know what burning coal smells like, but when my stove is up to speed it doesn't smell at all like wood smoke. Honestly, the smell is not all that strong, but I really don't like the odor. Kind of stinky.
  19. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    unless it's a 0.0 grams per hour stove it will provide some particles for your nose olfactory receptors to detect

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