smoke alarm and fireplace

auntevieSeptember 8, 2009

I have a gas fireplace in an apartment. However, every time we use it the smoke alarm goes off after about 10-15 minutes. I cant smell or see any smoke. The room is really small and does get warmer but by no means gets hot. The smoke alarm is located across the room on the ceiling and otherwise (I am assuming) is working fine. It drives me crazy not only because we cant use the fireplace but also because I am afraid it could be dangerous. Anyone have any ideas what could be causing this and if it could be dangerous? Thanks!!

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This might be a COMBO smoke/CO alarm. (Carbon Monoxide).

Is the gas fireplace vented to the outside, or is it a ventless type??

If this is a combo alarm, or just a CO alarm - you need to immediately have the fireplace repaired by a qualified individual in order to be able to use it.

If this is just a smoke alarm (smoke alarms are particulate based / fire alarms are heat based - (rapid temperature increase)) - you still have some sort of problem going on.

A ventless fireplace has an low oxygen sensor on it; but you still have to be aware of CO and combustion byproducts. A ventless unit - ALL compbustion byproducts and generated heat are deposited into the room.

A vented unit should have an outside vent; and room air, and combustion air should be totally separate. Combustion air should not be in the room at all, in any way shape or form - with a vented unit. These function somewhat like a small furnace.

Ventless units are supposed to be extremely efficient - which is why they can be 'ventless'. It is a good idea, on ventless - to have a window open slightly when operating.

You DO have a problem with the fireplace - since the 'smoke' alarm is going off when you turn the GAS fireplace on... A wood burning fireplace can have chimney height issues, draft issues, etc, which could cause a smoke alarm to go off - with an actual wood burning fireplace - a smoke alarm going off - would not necessarily be an actual true health safety problem. But would indicate that the chimney has some sort of draft problem. (Plenty of wood burning fireplaces do have draft problems.)

A GAS fireplace does not have these type of problems. And the functioning of this gas fireplace needs to be repaired by a qualified individual asap.

A gas fireplace burner installed into a wood burning fireplace box - could be not burning cleanly - and having particulates going into the room... sort of like a wood burning unit.

If this is a gas fireplace vented unit; and not a ventless or a wood burning converted unit - you could check, and see if a vent is clogged by a birds nest or something. The sealing of these things is not watertight. They work somewhat on the principle of "least resistance". (combustion air is kept separate by pipes; but these pipes are mostly just tight fitted together - they don't have a bunch of sealant. And a burning fire is looking for air to burn...) So if a vent is visibily clogged; your clearing of the vent might easily solve your problem. But if you don't see anything obviously wrong when looking at a vent - get it repaired. (or don't use.)

Mostly - it sounds like this needs some sort of repair, and concerns your saftey and health.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 11:12AM
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CO or Carbon Monoixide by the way - is COLORLESS - you WON'T see it.

And has NO SMELL. You won't SMELL it. It is COMPLETELY INVISIBLE to ALL of your senses.

Your red blood cells will bond to it more easily than oxygen. And it can kill you quite easily. Poison you very slowly.

If your fire alarm is a combo unit (smoke and CO) that is a great saftey feature for you; and again - your fireplace would need work like what I suggested above.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 11:21AM
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I have to laugh, because my smoke detector goes off every time I shower. It's outside my bathroom, and it seems the steam or heat from the bathroom that seeps out into the hallway sets off my smoke detector every time. LOL.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2009 at 4:13PM
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You need to understand the purpose of a smoke alarm. They are to awake you during the night when you are asleep. As such, they need to be placed in the hall just outside each bedroom. You do not need smoke alarms in places that you only use when you are awake. You're setting in your family room enjoying a fire and maybe watching TV. Both are turned off before you go to bed. If the smoke alarms are not hard wired, the one in the room with the fire place needs to be moved.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 4:25PM
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I have to disagree with the purpose of smoke alarms in the previous post. Yes, they are designed to wake you. But do you really want them to go off only when the smoke reaches your bedroom?

If you're in a traditional house, your bedrooms are upstairs. If a fire starts downstairs (fireplace or otherwise) I'd rather be altered to that fire as quickly as possible, not after it's already going so much that the smoke reaches my bedroom upstairs and I have to jump out a window instead of going downstairs.

To the OP-yes, check on the CO. But either way, have the fireplace checked by a chimneysweep to make sure it's venting properly. It could also be putting enough particulates into the air to cause this. It's not right, no matter what.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 1:50PM
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To heimert, the only way what you suggest can work is if all the smoke alarms in the house are hard wired on the same circuit which is the modern method. If smoke is detected anywhere in the house, all the alarms go off at once. Incidentially, the hard wire alarms also have a battery back up.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2009 at 1:59PM
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texasredhead--I have that, but I'm pretty sure I could hear a downstairs smoke alarm from upstairs as well. NOt so shockingly loud, but not something I'd sleep through either.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 3:25PM
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I would not care to take the chance!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 7:19AM
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You might have the wrong type of smoke alarm. there are two types, ionization and photoelectric. I would think you'd want a photelectric here since the normal combustive products of the gas fireplace shouldn't be smokey. An ionization type maybe picking up the invisibles of the combustion process and alarming on that or it could be a CO thing too as other have mentioned.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 1:15PM
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texasredhead, you're the one suggesting not having the smoke alarm in the living room at all. You'd rather take your chances of hearing a non-existent alarm?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 4:37PM
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