Sunday, February 2, 2014

Outdoor Rocket Stove

Its not pretty, but its functional!
 I have been a huge proponent of burning wood for home heating, cooking and recreational pursuits for ages. The primal feeling of gathering around a fire speaks to our inner cave dweller, insight near spontaneous bouts of petroglyph carvings! From a very early age I can remember going wood cutting with my family, uncles, aunts, and grandparents, everyone looking to load a shed or four to stock up while the supply was easy to gather and fill the "Ant Hill" for winter. I have been using wood heat for most of my life in various places that I have lived and the addition of the stove to my house was the best money spent at this present home, bar none.

Learning about Permaculture for the past two years has opened my eyes to so many ideas and designs. When I first heard about Rocket Mass Heaters, the idea rolled off, a concept maybe? I thought that a conventional stove was the cats meow, how could something made of recycled brick and cob be safe and efficient for use in a home? Upon further investigation and the information basically being rammed into my brain by many of Paul Wheaton's podcasts, I could see the value in these beautiful works of art. A feed tube with a fire burning sideways, travelling into a "chimney", spilling over into a barrel and then "pumped" into a manifold of pipes, heating a mass. That mass could be sculpted into a bench or even a bed, and could retain its stored heat for many hours, even days! Incredible, all while using 1/10th of the wood and creating no creosote or smoke.(Click here to see more awesome information) Unbelievable, this can't be true! However, after much YouTube perusing and podcast listening, plus browsing the forums, I was convinced. Luckily in my searches, I found a link to THE book. Ianto Evans book, Rocket Mass Heaters, Super Efficient Woodstoves You Can Build, as a PDF. So I downloaded it, and made a copy. Score! Especially since the book is no longer in print. A wonderful compendium of knowledge from the main innovator of this technology. My education had begun.
Yes it was burning, but where is the smoke?
Fast forward a few months. I was keeping my eyes peeled for a pile of used bricks, that someone wanted me to haul away for free. One mans garbage etc. My friend Chase tipped me off to house where an old chimney was deconstructed, and said the material was up for grabs. I managed to grab about 200 of them the other day. Nice and clean, the old mortar peeling off like dust. I was shocked that old chimney didn't fall over on its own. Chase had previously delivered fifty of the same style of bricks from another job to my house, so I was well stocked with building blocks to create something.
Just for fun. Took a while but got a rolling boil
This morning was supposed to be a gardening day. Another friend and local farmer, Arzeena, wished to incorporate some woody hugle-style beds on contour at her house, and I volunteered to assist in the digging. Miss Mother Nature had different plans, as she decided to bring a snow flurry to North Courtenay this morning. Unfazed by this news, I sought a new project to tackle today. I looked at the bricks and knew straight away what I must do. Arm load by arm load(I need to repair my wheelbarrow!) I carried the red masonry into the rear yard to play lego. I had no plan, just have some fun, kill sometime and be outside. The snow fall didn't dissuade me at all, I was going to play with fire!(beating chest). I dug some sod and raked a plot roughly level, my foundation for the sculpture. Beginning with four by five bricks, I had a flatish non-combustible base for the rocket burner. After about twenty minutes, the rocket was ready to launch!
Backstrap for dinner!
I spent the rest of the day monkeying around with the layout. Add a few, remove some, make the chimney taller. It was burning sideways and making almost no smoke! It was grand, couldn't have been happier. My face was constantly staring into the burn chamber and watching those orange tendrils "rocket" on their side, making that text book sound, that gave the stove its name. Time to cook! I unwrapped a package of venison sausage and placed them on an old BBQ rack over the chimney. From frozen solid to eating in about fifteen minutes. That was fast and delicious. I boiled a big pot of water. That took a little longer, but it got to a rolling boil, perfect for a crab feed. My daughter arrived home and came down to be drawn in to the fire. It is amazing how much more enjoyable sitting around a fire is when there is no smoke getting in your eyes! No need for white rabbits. We decided to cook dinner on the new beast. A package of potatoes in foil, with butter, onions and garlic. Once those were fini, on went deer loin steaks, straight on the grill, with nothing but S&P. Magnificient! A feast to make a true caveman jealous, and one to make my belly happy. She also suggested roasted apple as well as almonds. Delectable treats and the most wonderful way to spend a Sunday.
Sideways flames(mostly)
With all this fun I had today, thoughts of sustainability coursed through my mind. Tired of the NIMBY attitude of folks that I deal with in my day job, loving "clean burning natural gas" because they can't see the process of the extraction of the fossil fuel, only the lack of smoke from their appliance vent. Getting rid of wood appliances because they are messy, or are allergic to the smoke. I wonder how allergic the folks living in gas country are of fracking chemicals in their water supply? I grow more and more jaded with no solution to the problem. After today, I see the solution. Rocket stove technology could be the wave of the future, creating energy independence for those who wish for it. Completely off grid, using potential waste materials like pallet wood, or construction debris, giving a resilient back up. Three is guarantee and the rocket burner gives me a trio of options for cooking if there is a major dilemma. So I will be using the new term "IMBY" because I can get energy from my backyard, and will be working at fine tuning my little experiment and sharing that knowledge with others who wish for an interesting and resilient piece of "art" for their home site.

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