Buckley Rumford Fireplaces
Electrically Charged Particles?
Or maybe just a freaky orb?

Paul Tiegs to MHAmembers

Trying not to sound like a know-it-all, the explanation is that static electrical charges will accumulate on the container (ie, firebox/enclosure) of anything that is not grounded and burns with a flame. The light emanating from flames is created by electrons jumping energy levels (quantum jumping) as the chemical reactions of the burning process takes place. The more energy involved, the brighter and bluer flames are.

The fact that flue-gas particles are electrically charged has a great deal to do with how creosote collects preferentially on grounded chimney walls. Theoretically, a heater or flue/chimney that is not grounded will not collect creosote in flue-gas pathways. However, even non-metallic electrically semi-conductive materials like soapstone and limestone will conduct at least some electrons to ground so there will be some creosote accumulation due to electrical attractions. Also, the fact that some non-grounded electrically-insulated heaters still collect creosote is due to the fact that large non-grounded heater structure dissipate accumulating static charges from their surfaces into the surrounding atmosphere; ie, the dissipation of negatively-charged "ions". So the partially-grounded and large non-grounded heaters will not generally deliver a lot of static sparks or jolts to touchy users.

The greatest examples I have seen of these effects actually occurring has been in non-grounded small woodstoves installed on ceramic tile floors while burning hot in low-humidity environments.

The fact that these electrical phenomenon do occur and are normal has lead some researchers to try using electrostatic precipitators for lowering woodstove emissions. Most have given up without any success but some others have found that their precipitators produce some significant reductions but that the greatest effectiveness is only when fires are burning with flames in non-grounded stove/chimney systems.

Wow, I think I got carried away on this. More than we all need. Anyway, there is the explanation I have.

Paul Tiegs
OMNI-Test Laboratories, Inc.

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