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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sdello

two thoughts.
1) You should have someone check the draft on the chimney/flue of you fireplace. Quick test would be to light an incense stick (or put a piece of newspaper in the fireplace and light it) and make sure the smoke goes right up the flue and does not waft into the room.

2) as smoke alarms get older they sometimes become more sensitive and "go off" too easily.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 4:33PM
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randy427

Also, try cracking open a window. There has to be air coming into the room to replace what is going up the chimney. For most homes this is not a problem, but newer or smaller apartments can be air-tight enough that air will not leak in fast enough.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 5:05PM
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nivek23

Some smoke alarms also monitor carbondixoide ( bad spelling) which is what a gas stove produces. That might be why you dont see or smell it. It is a killer . You better have it checked out.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 8:33PM
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izzie

If you are a renter I would contact the landlord, maybe you need a new smoke detector and Co2 detector. I wouldn't use fireplace until then and know its safe. My sister had her Co2 detector go off in her home. She called the fire department. They did find slightly evelated C02 around her gas water heater. It was found to be, I think, back venting, where the C02 doesn't go up the flue, some kind of back draft.

Buy/get a new Co2/smoke detector.

It's a very serious thing and can kill you.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 7:58AM
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brickeyee

"Some smoke alarms also monitor carbondixoide ( bad spelling) which is what a gas stove produces."

Some may monitor carbon monoxide, but most do not.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 4:24PM
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macv

The main products of combustion of natural gas are carbon dioxide and water vapor, the same stuff we exhale. CO2 in large concentrations can be an irritant to people but the main risk from a gas burning appliance is that oxygen is removed from the interior of the house and additional ventilation might be needed. If the gas fireplace is of the vent-free type it should be equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor.

A more serious problem occurs if a gas appliance is not vented and there is not enough ventilation in an enclosed space. Because of the lack of oxygen carbon monoxide can form instead of carbon dioxide due to partial combustion of natural gas.

If the gas fireplace is setting off a CO detector it might be that there is not enough ventilation for a ventless unit or the external vent is obstructed. If it is setting off a smoke detector it is possible that the fireplace is not burning cleanly and/or possibly the detector is of the ionic type instead of the photoelectric type which is more tolerant to such conditions and increasingly required near kitchens and bathrooms.

I've only seen infrared absorption CO2 detectors used to activate ventilation equipment because it is more of an indoor air quality issue than a safety issue.

If the gas fireplace is the ventless type, I recommend replacing it with something safer.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 12:44PM
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newhomeowner-2009

Who is responsible for maintenance of the fireplace? If it is your landlord you need to contact him immediately. Also you should be sure the batteries in your alarm are fresh.

I have a wood burning fireplace and it was very troublesome for quite some time. I had to go to a lot of trouble to get the landlord to deal with it. I'm not familiar with gas fireplaces, but evidently the danger from asphyxiation is just as great.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 2:55PM
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brickeyee

"The main products of combustion of natural gas are carbon dioxide and water vapor..."

The issue with any combustion process is that they are never 100% to water and carbon dioxide.
Some carbon monoxide is always produced from incomplete combustion.
For smaller flames like gas stoves and ovens that are not used continuously in a residential setting the carbon monoxide is not a significant hazard.
trying to heat with an stove or oven IS a hazard.

Carbon monoxide is a rather insidious poison.
It produces an anesthetic affect as it accumulates in the blood were it binds to the heme molecule that normally carries oxygen. The carbon monoxide bonds very tightly to the heme and is not easily released.

Carbon monoxide exposure victims have bright red blood even in their veins, instead of the more bluish venous blood.
The carbon monoxide does not separate like oxygen, but stays bound.

Victims at first present as sleepy and confused, and they simply cannot 'wake up' no matter how hard they try.

At higher levels of carbon monoxide intoxication there is not enough oxygen in the blood to maintain consciousness.

If a person is sleeping while the carbon monoxide is being absorbed, they can simple die without ever waking.

Some places have completely banned 'vent free' gas fired appliances.
Even when operating perfectly they release some carbon monoxide, and dump a huge amount of water vapor into the house.

If you do not have a carbon monoxide (CO) detector you should purchase one and use it.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 3:39PM
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manhattan42

Vent-free gas fireplaces have proven themselves safe...and actually MORE safe than all other types of fuel fired fireplaces, furnances, and burners combined because of the safety features required to be in them. So says US Consumer Product Saftey Commision data compiled over the last 30+ years.

Fewer deaths, fires, and personal injuries occur from unvented gas fireplace and other unvented gas heating appliances than all other fuel type heating appliances, furnaces, burners, stoves etc.. combined.

While 'some' jurisdications, indeed have banned their use, such jurisdictions are in the extreme MINORITY and very RARE indeed.

Unvented gas heaters, logs and inserts remain one of the SAFEST type of fuel type appliances and been used for decades with fewer problems than most other types of supplemental fuel burning units.
------------
That said:

Excess water vapor in the atmosphere can cause smoke detectors to go off.

That is why smoke detectors are not usually installed in bathrooms.

Unvented heaters CAN cause a lot of water vapor to enter the room air, and if not properly exhausted or diluted with other room air, can cause your smoke detectors to harmlessly respond.

Make sure the unvented gas log units are properly sized for the room, or provide make-up air from other rooms or the exterior environment.
------------
Otherwise, have the logs themselves checked for damage.

Damaged logs can release fumes into the atmosphere that can set off smoke detectors, and while the fumes can largely be harmless, can pose a potential fire threat to the building.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 9:23PM
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macv

This is the sole document upon which the national gas manufacturing organizations base their claim that ventless gas fireplaces are safe.

It should not be necessary for these unvented indoor space heaters to kill people in order for them to be considered an avoidable hazard; the fact that they pollute the air in homes should be enough.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2009 at 8:19AM
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woodbutcher_ca

Hi, I am in Ca. They make two types of smoke alarms one called an ion type is most common. The other is a photo type it cost a couple bucks more but it cuts way back on false alarms it doesn't go off with steam or dust. A smoke alarm is usless if it is disconnected because of false alarms. and lot's of folks do that. They make a single CO alarm, I think I would have seperate alarms so I knew which battle I was fighting.
Good Luck Woodbutcher

    Bookmark   September 12, 2009 at 7:47PM
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brickeyee

"Fewer deaths, fires, and personal injuries occur from unvented gas fireplace and other unvented gas heating appliances than all other fuel type heating appliances, furnaces, burners, stoves etc.. combined. "

"Fewer deaths" is a meaningless number.

The correct number would be deaths per installed units.

I do not care what any part of the government has to say about large open flames without vents being safer.

Combustion NEVER goes to 100% anywhere but in a laboratory.

Some CO is ALWAYS produced by ANY combustion process, and the larger the amount of fuel burned the more CO will be produced.

"Vent free" combustion appliances are just stupid, and no amount of technology is going to eliminate the risk.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 1:51PM
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manhattan42

"Vent free" combustion appliances are just stupid, and no amount of technology is going to eliminate the risk."

And despite all the scientific evidence that contradicts such an ignorant statement, and all the evidence that indicates that fewer deaths, fewer carbon monoxide poisonings, fewer injuries, etc. occur with vent-free gas fireplaces....compared to any other type of combustion heater...

Some still cling to their ignorance....and make such foolish statements.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 11:22PM
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macv

It is also possible that people who use vent free combustion appliances are not stupid but simply misinformed by press releases from self-serving trade organizations like GAMA or they are ignorant of the potential effects of poor indoor air quality.

What mystifies me is why death from CO poisoning would be proposed as the only relevant safety criteria for these appliances.

But on this forum every one has a right to their opinion and the characterization of another member as "ignorant" or "foolish" is inappropriate, rude and forbidden by the Terms of Service of the Gardenweb Network.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 9:20AM
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brickeyee

"And despite all the scientific evidence that contradicts such an ignorant statement, and all the evidence that indicates that fewer deaths, fewer carbon monoxide poisonings, fewer injuries, etc. occur with vent-free gas fireplaces....compared to any other type of combustion heater... "

Frrom FEWER INSTALLED UNITS.

It is astounding how ignorant some people are about figures of risk and merit.

You cannot achieve 100% completion of combustion process.

That means CO IS PRODUCED and DUMPED into the house.

COs greater affinity fore heme in the blood supply than oxygen means we naturally concentrate it if exposed.

Even kerosene heaters are banned in a number of cities.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 9:30AM
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texasredhead

I'll answer this post the same way I did the same one under Home Disasters. You need to understand the purpose of smoke alarms. They are designed to wake you out of a sound sleep so if your home catches fire you will not be overcome by smoke, a common sourse of death in home fires. As such, smoke alarms should be in the halls just outside each bedroom. Smoke alarms are not necessary in areas of the home you only use when you are awake.

The smoke alarm in the room with the fireplace is not monitoring CO2, but is rathergoing off due to some residuals in the room. If the smoke alarms are not direct wired, I would remove it and place it where it would do more good.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 10:24AM
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macv

There is no national database for low white cell counts or other complications from long term indoor air pollution. So why worry?

Here is a link that might be useful: one opinion

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 10:42AM
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