Smoke Coming Out of Stove When Door is Open?


Well, the good news is you are in the right place. First off, do not despair. Did you know that it’s a rite of passage for liveaboards to smell ever so faintly of woodsmoke… At all times? You’re firmly in the club now. In this article we are going to take a detailed look as to why it happens and ways in which you might prevent it.

First off, check your flue.

This is a serious one. We mean it. In fact, do it right now.

Why so serious?

If your flue is blocked you might be accumulating carbon monoxide inside your cabin. People often make the mistake of assuming carbon monoxide only forms when burning gas. This isn’t the case. Any fuel that is burned creates carbon monoxide. In short, it is insidious, dangerous and lethal.

The best way to prevent danger is by allowing it to escape. The best way to achieve this? Make sure that your flue isn’t blocked. Blockages can form as a result of accumulated soot, damage, or even a cheeky bird who likes to keep warm. You can clear the flue by performing an external inspection follow by a good sweeping, we find a metal rod works best. Oh, and don’t forget to check your baffle plate too! Even a small obstruction can impede the correct flow.

Check the weather.

This actually has a couple of meanings. Let us elaborate.

Firstly, is it windy out? Strong winds can often push smoke and fumes the wrong way. This can actually be even worse if you have doors and windows open. The effect of air moving through your cabin can create a natural vacuum. It doesn’t even need to be that strong. A gentle breeze can pull smoke the wrong way. We know it’s counter intuitive, but provided you have checked your flue, try closing the doors and windows and seeing if the smoke clears.

Anything else?

We aren’t trying to be all scientific, honest, but listen to this. If you have only just lit the fire, you’ll be making a lot of smoke and not that much heat. But chances are your boat’s interior is warmer than outside…

Here comes the science bit. Concentrate.

Cold air is much more dense than relatively warmer air. Dense air flows towards less dense air. If it is a bit cold out and a bit warm in, physics means that the air from outside will be being pulled into your canal boat… And the smoke with it.

Are you under way?

A bit more science. We’re sorry. Did you know that by pulling air through your boat, it causes a subtle drop in air density inside the cabin? Well you do now. This vacuum can cause smoke to head the wrong way. Keep an eye on it, and see if it is smokier when you are moving.

Kitchen gadgets…

No wait, hear us out. Have you got a galley with all the mod-cons? Including an extractor fan? Or maybe in the bathroom? (Lucky you!) This can sometimes create a subtle drop in pressure, just like in the above situations. And what does a drop in pressure lead to? That’s right, a boat that smells like a kipper.

A Serious Smoker or Just Starting?

If you’ve been doing this a while, you might have noticed that you actually get more smoke when your stove is just getting going. This is true of both coal and wood burning stoves. The key here is to keep it closed until it gets going. If you let your fire die down then you have probably left it too late. We would suggest keeping your fire burning hot. Hotter fires produce less smoke.

If you are just starting your day and want to light your fire, leave the stove door ever so slightly cracked open to ensure a good ‘draw’. With slightly restricted airflow your stove should suck air from the crack around the door, preventing smoke from going the wrong way.

Empty Your Ash Tray

A solid fuel burner works best when it has a source of oxygen. Generally, the ash tray beneath the fire will allow air to flow up into the fuel, ignite and then be vented out of your flue. If your ashtray is blocked then the biggest air source might be your flue… and the way the gases and fumes leave…? That’s right, via the stove door. Give your ashtray a good cleanout to allow maximum airflow to come from underneath the fire then be pushed out of the flue with the rising heat.

Watch the door!

Alright not literally. But answer us this… How are you opening your door? If you are whipping it open you create a tiny bit of suction and backdraft. This might just be enough to pull smoke into your cabin. It might not be much smoke. But it doesn’t take a lot of smoke to create a distinctive odour.

Problem solved?

Solid fuel burners are actually relatively simple. You light it, give it some air and the fumes should go the right way.

If not, we want you to do something. We put it first and last for a reason. It’s so you’ll remember it. Please please, go out and buy a carbon monoxide detector. (The disc type are a couple of quid from B&Q). If you are smelling smoke there is a fair chance that the flow of fumes is not going the right way… this also includes carbon monoxide. The worst bit about carbon monoxide poisoning is that you will never realise you have it and it’s not always obvious. It’s better to be safe than sorry.



Well, hopefully you are now smoke free? If not then it might be time to invest in some febreeze? Alternatively, try and look on the bright side, you can make some space by removing the fridge, just leave your meats hanging for a week and they’ll be perfectly smoked and preserved, with no need to chill them. As we said at the start, it’s very much a part of boating life that you will carry a touch of au de barge with you pretty much permanently, maybe you should just embrace it?








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