Home Heat – An Archive of Stories and Experiences About People Building For Fire to Heat Home & Family

The stories are gathering fast so a new archive has been created! The saying “Only mass can hold energy” has been rattling around the press for some months now and this is the result. A collection of stories by people who are experimenting with different techniques of building for fire in order to burn cleanly and retain the most heat possible within their homes. An activity where art and science come together – where the intuition of sculpture and the discipline of measurement are kindred spirits.

Contents

Improving woodstove efficiency: Rocket Stoves & Masonry Heaters

photo credit: Norbert Senf, MHA

Improving woodstove efficiency: Rocket Stoves & Masonry Heaters:

Editor’s introductory note: Masonry heaters, many of them self-built, warm millions of homes in the former USSR, where Alex Chernov grew up. Now working as a certified heater mason in Canada, Alex designs and builds heaters and ovens, and consults on projects all over the world through his company, Stovemaster (his website offers a wealth of background info). In the article below, he combines his professional expertise with his own background and experience in a culture where most people have long experience heating with wood, and where building one’s own heater was

How to Make a Rocket Powered Kiln of Clay and Sawdust

ahiasunfactory

Jon and Flip Anderson have been working with stoves and ovens for some years now (HPP regulars may remember their rocket powered oven design.) Last February, they helped teach at the Winter Stove Workshop put on by Aprovecho and InStove. Aprovecho Research Center (ARC) was consulting for Mercy Corps in East Timor, who had sent their Program Manager for Renewable Energy, Will Baron, who has responsibility for all programming related to energy, poverty, lighting, electricity, appropriate cooking technology and sustainable cooking fuels.

Mercy Corps’ East Timorese stove program imports stove components from China and trains locals to make and sell …

Mass Heater for a Greenhouse Using a Wood Stove

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Introduction
Visiting in the Winter Time
Step-by-Step Photos of the Construction Process
Analysis and Suggestions for Improvement
A Call for Support
Additional Resources

Kiko Denzer and I were hired to build a heater in a greenhouse for some very avid gardeners. They had experimented with using a wood stove but there simply wasn’t enough heat retained for the stove to heat the greenhouse from one day to the next throughout the winter. Our task was to incorporate the old wood stove, mostly taking advantage of the glass door and firebox it offered, and plug it into a system with channels …

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Testing the Limits – Adobe Heaters in Argentina

campana-mardelplata-encendida

I have recently built three single-skin masonry heaters in Argentina using unfired bricks and would like to share some thoughts and an account of the experience.  All three were based on the design presented by Alex Chernov at the 2012 MHA Annual Meeting at WildAcres, with minor modifications to accomodate brick sizes, hardware, and site considerations.

I have spent the past 4 years living in the Patagonia region of Southern Argentina.  Natural gas is cheap and widely distributed, but many people here, and in neighboring Chile, continue to live with wood fires as part of daily life for much of …

Cob + Firebrick = Masonry Heater Experiment

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When I was 27, I moved back to my hometown in northern Minnesota to start a small organic vegetable farm. I sold produce to the wife of a stone mason, and he was looking for help in the winters. I told him I didn’t know anything. “Don’t worry,” he calmly replied, “I’ll train you.” I learned, of course, that hauling an endless supply of block and stone from one place to another doesn’t take much training. But he also handed me a copy of David Lyle’s history of masonry heaters. Three years later I was working for Albie Barden, building …

Recent Research on Rocket Mass Heaters (and Bell Design)

rmh-painted-on-by-JR

There appears to be a huge amount of traffic and discussion through different internet forums about rocket mass heaters and reports from the authors on sales of the book on the subject confirm this incredible surge in interest. I am quite certain that this excitement stems from the tangible possibility that the rocket mass heater concept offers to individuals and families to build their own affordable efficient wood-fired heating system. I thought it would be interesting and useful to offer the following synthesis of recent research I have been directly involved in and links to information that others have provided …

Increase wood-stove efficiency with bricks and mud: Construction Details & Videos

about 300 pounds of masonry moderates a small space

Increase woodstove efficiency with bricks and mud

This is a pretty simple do-it-yourself option for anyone interested in increasing the efficiency of an old (or new!) woodstove.

That said, a heater in the home poses serious risks — greater than an outdoor oven, and potentially greater than the old stove itself. But it’s not rocket science; masonry heaters were developed and designed by people who worked for love, not money (the whole story is in David Lyle’s Book of Masonry Stoves: Rediscovering an Old Way of Warming).

The videos below show (roughly) how it goes together. In addition, I’d …

Heat your masonry oven with a clean, top-down fire

top-down-fire

Heat your masonry oven with a clean, top-down fire

The top-down fire works well for masonry ovens, stoves, and fireplaces, as well as outdoor fires. It’s simple: dry fuel, small sticks (plenty of surface area), plenty of volume where fuel and oxygen can mix — and kindling on top, so the fire burns down, clean and hot. Think of a candle: the flame on top pre-heats the fuel (wax) below, as well as the incoming combustion air. The wick burns hot, bright, and clean, so all you get is light and heat — a perfect fire! If you use it …

Adding masonry to increase wood stove efficiency

about 300 pounds of masonry moderates a small space

Adding masonry to increase wood stove efficiency

By adding masonry and mud to an old cast-iron wood stove, I greatly increased its efficiency — and it even has an oven! (note the wooden door on the right, just above the iron stove door). The wood that used to over-heat me, briefly, in the morning, now keeps me comfortably warm all day, and into the next morning (depending on how long I fire it and how cold it is). And, unlike most iron stoves, it no longer generates that fierce, dry heat that you can only moderate by burning wet wood, …

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waterglass for binding earthen surfaces & pigment

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“Waterglass” for protection & paint

Waterglass has become my preferred binder in places where it’s needed. The chemical name is sodium or potassium silicate. It’s an inert mineral compound similar to window glass, but under heat and pressure, it’s soluble in water. I get it from a ceramic supplier for $9 a gallon. It’s clear, viscous, and pours like heavy cream. It dries into a clear, brittle substance that crushes to a fine powder, but it has significant binding power, and is used in some refractory cements, as well as numerous other industrial applications.

I’ve only discovered it in the …