You and your flue

Flue sludgeA housetruck without a pot-belly is like going camping without a tent. It can be done, but the experience is far better with one. If you look in any early model housetruck or housebus, you are likely to see an old cast iron potbelly stove. Suitable for heating and cooking. Some owners will put in actual woodburners for heating. Whatever your choice, you want to make sure your investment is safe from fire, and your family is safe from poisons.

Two of the main reasons you should regularly clean your flue:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning. It doesnt just come from car exhausts. Any carbon based fuel will give off carbon monoxide, and if your flue is not clean, it won’t draw off the smoke as well as it should, and the fumes will stay inside the vehicle and overcome you. And;
  • A clean burner and flue are less likely to catch fire and destroy your wonderful housetruck

Where there is smoke, there is likely fire (or its not too far off) If a flue is not cleaned, it could catch fire which could spread and incinerate your prized possession. If you regularly use your potbelly or woodburner you should clean your flue at least once a year. If you burn softer wood like pine or gum, then a little more regularly would be the call of the day.

Cleaning a flue is dirty work and it can also be very dangerous. Of course, you could get a “man” in to clean it, but then you may as well hang up your truck keys, because the nature of housetrucking is mucking in and doing it yourself.

A well maintained flue will allow cleaner burning with minimal soot accumulation. Creosote is a sticky black residue that is carried up th eflue by the smoke and it sticks to the inside of the flue as it goes up. It reduces the ability of the flue draw the smoke off and as it heats up, it could easily catch fire.

Time to get your hands dirty.

Close the pot-belly doors and vents, or if possible, wrap it in plastic (make sure its cool). You don’t want black soot flying around inside your truck or bus while doing this. It is painful to clean up of those lovely doilies.

You are going to have to get up to the top of the flue and remove the wind and rain cover. I would assume at this stage you have a flue brush before continuing. They are available from any hardware store and come in various diameters and lengths. Once you are on the roof of your truck or up a ladder alongside it, sweep the flue. Up and down, round and round.

Once you have cleaned the flue, remove the wrapping around the potbelly and clean it out. Vacuuming or a brush and dustpan will do the trick. If vacuuming, make sure you empty it immediately after cleaning.

And thats it. Be warm, be safe.

12 comments on this post.
  1. Handy_handle:

    My bus does not have a “Potbelly” (I do so does that mean I am not really housetrucking?.. I have everything run with LPG as I am too lazy to gather firewood. I guess that why I have a potbelly and not one in my bus. However that means I get more time to help others and enjoy my travelling time.

  2. stu:

    LOL, no, not at all. Maybe the metaphor was a little misplaced. I am not implying anyone who doesn’t have a potbelly IS NOT a housetrucker, or, for that matter, anyone that does have a potbelly (stove) IS a housetrucker…I think…

  3. Rosie:

    Hey, with the new law/ban on some fireplacesin the home, is it still possible to have a potbelly in a housetruck without getting a fine?

  4. Handy_handle:

    I think the ban was for new or replacement installs. I would be interested to see how they can force people to replace a “pre-existing”, unless they want to pay the cost. Of course that is the thing with Govt dept changing the laws..the people have to pay for the change or they will get fined. How democratic is that?

  5. stu:

    There are a number of resources available to find out what’s what, but I reckon only Canterbury (South Island) at this stage would jump up and down if you used your woodburner down on the plains. The councils down that way will always defer to Environment Canterbury, Here’s the gist on their “approved” range of burners:

    Then of course, you head north to the likes of the big smoke (pardon the pun). The councils up that way don’t have any problems with you using woodburners. I would suggest you contact the councils in any areas you plan on staying and check with them just to be sure.

  6. Rosie:

    yeah, very true, I am from christchurch. my mother purchased a new house (on land) lol and she was sent a warning that if she used her fireplace she would be given a substantial fine, she had to replace her fireplace and flue with one that was specified by the government. It’s a shame really, i feel sorry for people that cant afford to heat their homes with heaters and cannot afford to replace their fireplace.

  7. Handy_handle:

    Another great reason for owning a house on land. I guess nest the Govt will be telling us that our lawns are not permitted to grow more then 4 inches or we be fine for “failing to be considerate of our neighbourhood” or something silly like that. But I guess that some people who have just left University have to justify their qualifications by making these silly rules that oppose what has been working for many hundreds of years. LOL

  8. astar:

    A hundred years ago there weren’t half a million people living between the plains and the sea wanting to burn wood and coal ;-)

  9. stu:

    These restrictions on solid fuel burners “doon Sooth” are for the environmental good, or so we are led to believe, right? I don’t seem to recall the smog the few times I have been down there, but I hear it can get quite bad. And it is all the fireplaces’ fault, isn’t it? Not the thousands upon thousands of cars idling away every day, chucking out all that combustion engine by-product into a thin, cold atmosphere. So, how come there are no laws about what brand of exhaust system can be used on a car, or who can supply it? Isn’t it the same thing…? Bet you two bob there are kick-backs involved for someone.

    I recall a program on the telly about this guy in Chch a week or so ago, burning treated pellet wood on an open fireplace. I think it was Campbell Live. An open fireplace is a complete waste of time if you ask me, but he is still allowed to use it because it was a pre-existing fireplace, and the landlord refuses to replace it. So this guy belches chemically treated wood by-product into the neighbourhood because he can.

    So, as far as I am aware, any fines a council issues at this stage would only relate to new installations not meeting the emmissions laws (unless you are creating a nuisance with yout fire of course).

    Coincidentally, today I did the kiwi thing and whinged to the council about a neighbour upwind and downhill of us who burns their fire 365 days a year. Unfortunately, they don’t just use it to burn wood, they burn their rubbish on it as well. This article actually relates quite well to them because judging by the state of their chimbley, it hasn’t been cleaned for some time (I’ll post a pic). We can’t even open our north facing windows or hang washing out on a fine day. We don’t get a break at all because they are a retired couple and don’t go anywhere. Just stay home and burn stuff. After 5 or so visits over the years to complain to them about the smell and smoke, and the affect on the children in the house between us, I finally went to the council. Not that that will amount to squat of course. Councils are just tiny governments.

  10. stu:

    Added a picture of my neighbours chimbley as an example about how not to look after your pride and joy

  11. Handy_handle:

    get some of that “space filler’ in a can and sneak over one night and fill the gap.. might stop the smoke from coming out. Then they also might understand what they are doing to you..LOL

  12. stu:

    yea, my luck the wretched thing will probably catch fire, and as Murphys law states, I’ll be the one in the doo doo.

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