Please advise! Neighbours wood smoke blowing into my home

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Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,563
Southeast CT
You might talk with him about the problem and offer to pay for a new , much more efficient stove for him. Cheaper than moving. He’s probably not using dry wood so doing this might only result in a mild decrease in smoke.

Is the smoke constant during the winter? If it’s only sporadic throughout the day, that would reflect an expected experience with a neighbor that close that burns wood and perhaps not much could be done to improve. If it’s near-constant, that would reflect bad burning habits and/ or a very old inefficient stove.
It’s easy to say that a home buyer should do research, but seriously, who in their right mind would ask potential neighbors for every possible thing that they might do that could make buying the home an issue? Thick smoke may not have been present when looking at the home.
I’m not familiar with readings from air monitors but it sounds like you get quite a whiff of smoke.
 
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ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,091
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
Unfortunately it's totally dependent on what your municipality has for regulations. By my understanding most places in NS are fairly lax as far as wood stoves go, especially considering how many people heat with them there.

Otherwise there's not much you can do, the best is to somehow work out a deal with that neighbor to limit smoke output. Next to that I'd be looking at air purifiers within the house, if that's not effective I'd be installing a positive pressure (supply only) ventilation system with a high MERV rated HEPA filter on the inlet. There's no way I'd be giving money to my neighbor to correct his issue, I'd be installing a ventilation system like those described above with that money.

I'm also in a tight neighborhood like you, my neighbors are roughly 12 feet away on either side. and as such I'm quite diligent in minimizing smoke output. I must be doing something right, we have a group Facebook page with complaints about everything, yet wood smoke has never come up. Part of what helps me is my house is the tallest on the street, and my chimney is also the tallest point on the street, 90% of the time my flue gases never reach ground level anyway. But we also have little regulation and no enforcement of air quality, many of my neighbors have open firepits in their back yards, my stove emissions are negligible compared to a dozen houses having backyard fires on a friday night.
 
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mar13

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2018
452
California redwood coast
Unfortunately it's totally dependent on what your municipality has for regulations. By my understanding most places in NS are fairly lax as far as wood stoves go, especially considering how many people heat with them there.

Otherwise there's not much you can do, the best is to somehow work out a deal with that neighbor to limit smoke output. Next to that I'd be looking at air purifiers within the house, if that's not effective I'd be installing a positive pressure (supply only) ventilation system with a high MERV rated HEPA filter on the inlet. There's no way I'd be giving money to my neighbor to correct his issue, I'd be installing a ventilation system like those described above with that money.

I'm also in a tight neighborhood like you, my neighbors are roughly 12 feet away on either side. and as such I'm quite diligent in minimizing smoke output. I must be doing something right, we have a group Facebook page with complaints about everything, yet wood smoke has never come up. Part of what helps me is my house is the tallest on the street, and my chimney is also the tallest point on the street, 90% of the time my flue gases never reach ground level anyway. But we also have little regulation and no enforcement of air quality, many of my neighbors have open firepits in their back yards, my stove emissions are negligible compared to a dozen houses having backyard fires on a friday night.
I've seen your video of a fire start (https://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/top-down-burn-not-the-best.184638/post-2478411), so I doubt to you ever show more than a minute or so of smoke.
 
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Poindexter

Minister of Fire
Jun 28, 2014
2,382
Fairbanks, Alaska
I would probably offer him a cord of dry seasoned wood to try - in exchange for him getting his chimney professionally swept and inspected first. I am very reluctant to offer clean dry wood to folks who probably have a bunch of creosote buildup to go with their other problems.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,421
Colorado
Now that would be a diplomatic way of handling it but the people already spoke to him and I guess they got no response, The problem is it blowing in their window and would affect their health in time..He could correct it or let them know that he will work on it by maybe raising his smoke stack or something "whatever" it would take to at go halfway with them but they got no answer from him nor no suggestion of trying to help them out with this issue. I have been in that situation as well only with car painting and spraying to where all the smell went into my house from the bedroom window. I thought just a one time thing and let it go but then they started bringing more cars to paint into their yard and that's when I draw the line (my neighbors on the other side) and went over there and was raising my finger pointing at the young one spraying and looking at his parents saying ; " I will not have this because this paint is coming in my bedroom window and I will not have this,,,and I left,,,,,"I never saw another car being painted from that day forward.. Now this neighbor on the other side is a piece of work and I tried really hard to get along with him and one day a electrical wire blew down from his garage and landed in his yard hanging there and I did not know if that was live wire or not just saw it hanging there with grass two feet in height all around it because of a lack of mowing on his part. I thought maybe he did not know so I nicely went over to inform him (nicely) that a house wire was blown down in his yard and thought he would want to know about it. He responded "Yea Yea Yea....I waited five days and did not know whether that was a live wire or not because all he told me was "Yea Yea Yea...and everyday and night I worried that the dry grass would catch on fire so one day I said to myself "I ain't putting up with this no more" and I called the fire department and told them it most likely was not a emergency but I did not know but there is a electrical wire hanging in his high grass and I called the electrical company and they told me if it was in his yard they could not do anything about it...The fire department took notes and listen to me (five blocks away) and within two or three minutes they arrived at his house with two great big fire trucks knocking on his back door and I saw him out there talking to them and that hanging wire was gone the next day.. So sometimes even being nice to people it just does not work especially with city living in close quarters with people. Maybe he is a nice old guy and will fix the problem but sometimes to protect your own rights you need to make it known how you feel about the situation...Heck maybe the people that sold the house left for that very same reason.. Sorry about ranting and raving here but this really hit a sore spot with me especially with smoke coming into their window and could very well affect their children"s lungs as well.. That's my opinion...clancey
 

savageactor7

Minister of Fire
Jan 25, 2008
3,751
CNY
One of the many things I'm thankful for with our stove...no smoke, burns clean.

While I'm sympathetic to an established wood burner the smoke is a valid complaint. Your neighbor has to update his stove.
 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Have you tried HEPA filters in your home? Assuming you get nowhere with your neighbor, you can always work to improve the air quality in your home.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,791
South Puget Sound, WA
Have you tried HEPA filters in your home? Assuming you get nowhere with your neighbor, you can always work to improve the air quality in your home.
I was leaning toward that option. And perhaps adding a HEPA-filtered HRV with intake on the opposite side of the house, set to positively pressurize the house.
 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Positive pressure could make a huge difference! Excellent idea!
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,496
Northern NH
The was my approach, deal with air leaks into the house, then positively pressurize to house from the downwind side of the house.
 
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clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,421
Colorado
That might be the solution for the person and how would all of that work? What would a person need do on something like that besides plugging up the air leaks in the house by insulating it better and caulking I imagine but what else would they have to do? What would they have to invest in to solve that problem if the person whose burning the wood burner would not work with them about the smoke coming into their house with the air currents and wind activity?...Just curious in case I might need this knowledge someday for myself. Thanks clancey..
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,496
Northern NH
As mentioned above, have a blower door test done. That pulls a vacuum on a house and leaks are easy to find using a smoke wand. If there is a fireplace or a chimney, that is notorious place for significant air leakage. If the house is too tight it can be as bad as bringing in smoke from the neighbor so an air to air heat exchanger should be installed with the outdoor air being brought in low to the ground on the opposite side of the house from the neighbors chimney. The air to air heat exchanger can be balanced to make the house slightly positive pressure from outdoors which will keep smoke from being drawn in by natural draft. A HEPA filter and duct booster fan may need to be installed on the outdoor air intake to filter the smoke out. Most new homes built to various energy codes have low air inleakage and may already need or have an air to air heat exchanger. Obviously an expensive fix although sealing up the home could reduce its energy use substantially depending on how leaky it is. In the US many utilities offer the air sealing and leak fixing at a reduced cost.

BTW, Many stoves are sized for the maximum winter load. During spring and fall when its warmer, they are vastly oversized. The temptation is to crank the air way down and let the stove smolder for hours at a time so the owner can avoid having to start an old stove. This can be the time when the emissions are far worse. The new EPA stoves do not have provisions to crank the air down as far although some owners figure a way to defeat the design approaches used to keep adequate air to the fire. Combine that with marginally dry wood and any stove can put out far more emissions than it was designed to. People tend to buy larger stoves to handle that handful of cold nights and then wish they had a smaller stove. Stoves are mostly radiant space heaters, trying to heat an entire house with a stove can be very frustrating and there are many threads on folks battling the fundamentals. Therefore they oversize to heat the house and the end up just overheating the room the stove is installed with stove that is too large. Many of the small Nordic stoves were designed to heat rooms quickly and then go out, they were not intended for overnight burns and if someone tries to do it, they end with copious amounts of creosote.
 
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mar13

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2018
452
California redwood coast
Thanks for the reply

I have spoken to him and the reply was “nothing you can do about that”. There’s definitely visible smoke most of the time during their burning. They also burn during 5c-8c temps on the reg. He’s a of an older gentleman
How elderly? Time eventually solves problems, but just a matter of how many years.

I vote for the high end air purifier system. At the least, you've improved your house quality regardless of neighbor.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,421
Colorado
Very very educational Peakbagger thank you and for just my wood stove it will be only for emergencies and I do not intend to use it during the summer months if at all...I do worry about creosote buildup and what you wrote sure makes a lot of sense.. If I was going to use a stove for just a warm up and burn it any time then I will get the bari because it would give you beautiful ambiance as well and sit it inside the corner of my living room and spin it around at will---lol Love that little stove.. Thanks for your great wealth of information...clancey
 

rosem

Member
Aug 27, 2019
127
Northern Michigan
So it's going to be an issue no matter what. Unless he's burning it wide open with it only 1/3 full. But on reload you're still going to get smoke.

I personally would not be burning wood if I had a nearby neighbor downwind. I notice the air quality outside when I have the stove choked down even a little and we're in the middle of nowhere.

If you have small children it could really be a problem. I would get as much data as you can (PM2.5 monitor) and collect it over the rest of the season and 1) talk with him about your findings, 2) if that doesn't work then if there is any legal action you can take 3) if there isn't just move, because it's not worth dealing with that in my opinion.