Smoke smell every night and we aren't burning!

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DPurvis

New Member
Mar 25, 2014
49
Leslie, MI
So we just installed an Englander 30-NC this spring. We had temps low enough to burn 5-6 days. After the temps warmed up enough, we cleaned out the stove and "shut it down" for the summer. I.E. Cleaned the glass, shoveled out all the ash and vacuumed the inside of the stove clean.

Now even though we haven't had a fire in the stove in several months, we still get a strong smoke smell almost every night. (Guessing it has to do with the atmospheric pressure changing?) In an attempt to stop the smoke smell, we have tried everything we can think of.
  • Flue damper is fully closed
  • Air intake damper on stove is fully closed
  • Blocked off main 3" air intake.
  • Blocked off square "doghouse"? air intake
  • Blocked off 2 additional air intakes (I think they are air intakes) in each corner of the stove
  • Performed dollar bill test on door gasket
  • Performed candle flame test all along the flue to check for drafts
We are going crazy trying to figure this out! I don't want the house to smell like smoke all summer long. Any ideas how to fix this? Longer chimney pipe? Outside air kit? Help!
 

Grisu

Minister of Fire
Nov 1, 2010
4,121
Chittenden, VT
It cannot be your neighbors burning in a firepit or fireplace? That's what we found out after being puzzled as you are for a few nights as to where the smoke smell is coming from. Of course, they stink up the whole neighborhood more than I do when burning all winter.

If that's not the case, you may have the problem of severe downdraft. Some people here light a candle in their stove to reverse the flow. Have you tried that?
 

Jags

Moderate Moderator
Staff member
Aug 2, 2006
18,164
Northern IL
Stuff insulation into the exhaust pipe. Leave a note in the stove so that you don't forget it upon startup of the next season.

Note: I noticed that you did not list "clean the stack". It is possible/probable that you are getting the creosote smell from your stack.

ETA: As a new wood burner - if you haven't had a sweep done, you need to. It is often a very telling task that gives you a good idea of how well you were burning (depending on the results of the sweep)
 

DPurvis

New Member
Mar 25, 2014
49
Leslie, MI
I have not tried to burn a candle in the stove. That is on the list to try some night when the smell is strong. Definitely not from a neighbor burning.

I like the idea of stuffing insulation into the flue. Will give that a try also.

We will be cleaning the chimney before winter, just need to borrow the tools from my father-in-law.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
85,067
South Puget Sound, WA
Sounds like it might be negative pressure. Is the stove in the basement or a lower portion of the house?
 

prezes13

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2014
928
Connecticut
Sounds like it might be negative pressure. Is the stove in the basement or a lower portion of the house?
That used to happen to me too. On hot days every window closed ac blasting and I would get a whiff of a smoke. If your house is air tight it may be a negative pressure. It was happening before I put an insert in. Now since I got my insert installed I don't recall it happen again.
 

BrotherBart

Modestorator
Staff member
Sounds like negative pressure pulling the smell in from your chimney.Is your fireplace lined top to bottom..?
It is a free standing stove with pipe chimney up through the roof.

 

TradEddie

Minister of Fire
Jan 24, 2012
900
SE PA
Sounds like it might be negative pressure. Is the stove in the basement or a lower portion of the house?
I used to have that downdraft problem too. Worst on thundery days. Stuff a large rag up the flue, and leave a large note in the firebox.
In the end I modified my air inlet so that I could overrride the factory "closed" position and actually fully close the air supply throughout the summer.

TE
 

stoveguy2esw

Minister of Fire
remember the "draft" which makes the stove work in the winter ? it happens because the air in the flue is warmer than the surrounding air , this creates "lift" in the flue and generates draft (boyles law) in the summer particularly with the AC running , the stove and flue are cooler than the air outside which could cause reversal even in a neutral pressure situation. note also that the house is always under negative pressure though in the colder months the standby or active draw of the flue would be enough to prevent cool chimney inversion.

as for blocking the primary note the "camera box" ( the square box with the round pipe that looks like an old camera) which makes up the primary intake opening) is not a sealed box, the seams are not welded out so just blocking the round opening will not cut it off completely. also above the camera box is a rectangular opening which supplies the secondary manifold, you would want to locate and obstruct it as well.

also a lot of folks put a box of baking soda in the firebox in the off season to desiccate as well as cut down on firebox odors.

hope this helps ya
 

bobdog2o02

Minister of Fire
Mar 25, 2014
845
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Is this home new to you? I have been in the trades for my entire life and have found some houses just smell like smoke..... Dont know why, my guess is asphaltic mastic on insulation and rooding systems permeating the home. If you've been here for years then please ignore this.
 

BrotherBart

Modestorator
Staff member
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bobdog2o02

Minister of Fire
Mar 25, 2014
845
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
oops, side shields fooled me.
 

BrotherBart

Modestorator
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DPurvis

New Member
Mar 25, 2014
49
Leslie, MI
Thanks for all the ideas everyone. I think the most effective will be to just shove something into the flue pipe and leave a big note.

stoveguy2esw - Totally missed the fact that the main air intake "camera box" is not fully sealed. This is likely where the smell was coming from as it is the only thing I didn't seal up completely. Also, I like the baking soda idea.
 

Charles1981

Minister of Fire
Feb 19, 2013
762
Michigan
I shove insulation in mine and put aluminum foil over the pipe before replacing the cap.

I have a 26 foot chimney, and when the conditions are right it down drafts hard and gets quite stinky. And no amount of sweeping will stop the stink...not a problem in winter :)
 

rustynut

Feeling the Heat
Jan 5, 2008
373
mid mich
DP,
I have an o/s air intake on my stove and I feel that that allows a balanced pressure no matter what the temp.
IMO this wont allow a downdraft to push into your living space and I have not experienced this problem.
Open on both ends...... good luck
 
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