I live downwind from five neighbors who burn firewood. The smoke that hangs in my yard is unbearable. In order to do my January pruning, I have to wear a mask to protect my lungs from those lingering wood particles. A cozy fire may bring pleasure to some people, but for us who live nearby and work outside, wood burning fireplaces bring only unhealthy air!
Lydia--I can sympathize with your predicament, however it sounds to me as though your neighbors have not got a clue as to how to properly burn wood. A properly burning wood fire should have next to no smoke, so it sounds to me as though your neighbors are burning unseasoned wood or are poorly educated on how to get a proper fire going.
If your neighbors are not careful and continue to burn wood improperly they are putting themselves at risk for a nasty chimney fire. I hope they are getting their chimneys swept on a regular basis.
A good place to learn about properly starting and maintaining a fire is http://www.woodheat.org. If you are on good terms with any of your neighbors maybe you could suggest it?
Niere, thank you for your kind response. I've given air quality literature to those neighbors that I felt would be responsive to my concerns. However, I'm reluctant, given past experiences, to talk to the main contributor. Okay! I'm just darn right chicken! You have, however, provided useful information and perhaps I'll eventually have the courage to discuss it.
Lydia--I hope things work out for you. No one should have to be concerned about breathing unhealthy air, especially in their own backyard or in their own homes. Wood smoke can be a real health hazard and there's really no excuse for it.
I wish you could come to our home and see how we burn our wood in our woodstove--you would not see any smoke coming out of our chimney except for maybe a tiny bit once we get it going in the morning. Otherwise, we make sure to burn our fires hot which leads to minimal if any smoke. My guess is your neighbors are burning unseasoned wood or are keeping their dampers on their stoves (if they have stoves) so low that the wood is burning at too low a temperature, thus the smoke. Some people like to turn their dampers down very low at night to try to get a long burn out of their wood but usually this results in a lot of smoke as the fire is not hot enough to burn properly.
At the site I linked to they have some videos on how a good fire should burn with no smoke. This is what everyone who burns wood should strive for. Even my girls (ages 4 and 6) will comment on someone's chimney if they see too much smoke coming out of it! Now if very young children know the difference, you'd think the adults would as well.
Again, sorry for your plight and I hope your neighbors learn some more about proper wood burning so that you no longer suffer and that they will avoid a chimney fire.
Laws on how and when to burn have been in TX books for a long time but not enforced. Because of the harsh droughts, catastrophic wild fires and burn bans of 2011, the TECQ has commited to enforcing these rules henceforth. For example, before you start burning, you are supposed to call this agency. They look up your property and ck wind conditions, etc. Once they determine conditions are favorable for safe burning, THEN you can burn. This mostly applies to outdoor burning, but if the neighbors' wood burning fireplaces pose a hazard or annoyance to neighboring residents, you are within your rights to report them to the fire dept. or air quality agency. They will come out, help them figure out the reason for excessive smoke and educate the neighbor. At least they have done so in my community.
The only down side of this is that your neighbor will guess you made the call and it might create more tension than you want to live with.
Again, speaking about TX, many people don't know about these regulations so I thought it appropriate to post here. My guess is that many states have some sort of air quality agency. For sure CA, which is at the vanguard of environmental laws.
I realize you posted in 2010, I hope that by now your situation has improved.
The above comments and suggestions are. useful but unfortunately many people are not aware of the difference between a coal burning stove and those designed for wood. Coal burns efficiently when ash falls away allowing air to flow to the coals. Wood burns most efficiently on a bed of ash...i have been using wood burning stoves for 50 odd years. It is one of the simple pleasures for many men. and one that maintains a basic link with a simple life at least when logs are sawn and split.
Ensure that the stove and fuel are matched and that the chimney is lined and of sufficient height and with a little practice you will be proficient in its use
It may also be noted here that the smoke plume will not disperse very efficiently under certain atmospheric conditions -no matter where you live or who your neighbors are. Primarily when there is only a slight breeze and/or a vertical temperature inversion at the bottom of the atmosphere. This occurs typically at night or early morning. Smoke despersion can also be limited by terrain features such as a valley or other low areas as well.