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Thread: Rocket Stoves in Alaska?

  1. #1
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    Default Rocket Stoves in Alaska?

    I've been reading a little about Rocket Stoves (or Rocket Mass Heaters), http://www.richsoil.com/rocket-stove-mass-heater.jsp and they look pretty interesting to me. Wondering if anyone has every built and used one up here in AK. I really have to minimize the amount of wood I'll have to cut, but I want to make sure it will keep the cabin warm enough. The cabin is started, but not finished yet. It's logs (only 6"), one-story 24' x 36'. I remember that Chuck was thinking about doing that in the new cabin before he died, but he didn't tell me what he'd decided. I had forgotten about these Rocket Stoves, and had just about decided to get a Blaze King Princess, but that will be spendy. I know the Blaze Kings are a lot more efficient than most wood stoves, but if these rocket stoves do even close to what they say, I'll burn a lot less wood with that than I would with a Blaze King. What do you think?

    Thank you,

    Jenny

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    The idea is simple enough. You should build one. Youtube has a lot in the how to of one of these.

    Ron
    "Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure science"

    Edwin Hubble

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    Jenny if your wanting to put in a rocket stove you need to make sure it isn't over the basement. The mass to run the chimney through will be heavy...the other thought would be a masonry stove. Again a large weight/mass but it should hold the heat better over night than a rocket stove would. I got the bricks here to create a rocket stove in the little green house I'm wanting to build off the back of the house... Just a thought

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    Thanks for the suggestions. I don't have a basement. Only a root cellar. The stove won't be over that. I'd sure like to hear from anyone who has used one or seen one in use in a cold climate.

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    I don't know about rocket stoves but my friend in the under ground house in MN has the masonry stove he built. He builds a fire in the mornings till about noon or so, heating the rocks which keeps the inside of his place warm all night... Yes his place is smaller, I believe, and it is under ground, which in turn would make it much more efficient than an above ground home.

    google is your friend...

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    I've also been reading a lot about these and I am very interested. I believe I saw a youtube video or read an article from someone who had one in their home in Fairbanks. If I can find it again, I am gonna try and get in touch with them. I know masonry stoves are growing in popularity here, so it stands to reason that RMHs should as well.

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    Late to the party, but the thread is open. I have been fooling with these in my backyard.

    A six inch diameter J shaped burner motor in a rocket stove is kinda fussy and really wants wood split small, straight and knot free, but they run pretty OK. I have been able to get good clean secondary burns without too much trouble.

    I built a smaller one, 3 3/8" diameter, and thing is more finicky than my cat about fresh salmon. From reading about them they get fussy around about 4" inside diameter, and run real nice starting at 6" and going up. Apparently it's a laminar flow thing.

    I still want to build a rocket mass heater for my wife to lay her chaise lounge pad on in the winter time, I think she will like it rather a lot.

    There is a discussion forum specifically about Rocket Mass Heaters here: http://www.permies.com/forums/f-125/rocket-stoves

    There is also a downloadable .pdf here by Ianto Evans and Linda Jackson, they have built many many of these over the course of, gosh about 30 years or so I think: http://www.rocketstoves.com/

    If you read the pdf first and then go to the permies forums you'll see about half the threads on permies are by folks who "saved" $15 by not buying the pdf, then went to all the effort of building an RMH that doesn't work - because they don't know the dimensions worked out by trial and error and published in the Evans/ Jackson .pdf.

    Its a no brainer, get the pdf before you build a five ton thing inside your home.

    I will gladly volunteer labor helping build a couple of these near Fbx if my wife can come over and try it out once it is dried out and running good.

    EDIT: I am planning to keep my box type wood stove to burn all the curvy knotty pieces of wood that won't feed well in a rocket. I don't see RMHs as a primary heat source up here, but potentially a very very nice accessory in an efficient home.

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    swmn, great to hear someone in fairbanks is trying them out. I would likewise extend the offer of volunteering labor if you're going to be building one. Someone told me that the UAF Cooperative Extension teaches instructional classes occasionally, but I havent seen any come up, so I'm eager to try it on my own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by greenmachine View Post
    swmn, great to hear someone in fairbanks is trying them out. I would likewise extend the offer of volunteering labor if you're going to be building one. Someone told me that the UAF Cooperative Extension teaches instructional classes occasionally, but I havent seen any come up, so I'm eager to try it on my own.
    My wife suggested I could build a trial RMH into the floor of the new woodshed I am going to build this summer. It may come to that, but I would sure rather help someone heat their house, my wood will be dry before the shed is done.

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    So perhaps I am missing something, but it does seem to me that the reduced quantity of fuel needed would be potentially outweighed by the labor needed to produce the stoves appetite for 100% kindling, and fairly smooth kindling at that or else it won't feed. Is this an incorrect impression? Also seems like someone needs to be there to feed it fairly often. This is just after a quick overview of the stoves, haven't read into it much so if I just need to read more and am asking ill-informed questions someone just say so.

    I have access to a lot of dimensional lumber scraps due to my work, and even of that a lot is knotty and produces pretty rough kindling. My stove's diet of birch is surely no straighter, so isn't it easier for me to just throw big logs in the stove than fuss with this sort of stove?

    I can potentially see the application potential in a setup where acquiring large amounts of wood is an issue. Is this an accurate assessment?

    Not trying to rain on any parades, just some practical thoughts/questions that jumped out at me.

    Andrew


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    No doubt splitting wood small enough to feed a rocket stove is a time investment. If I take one piece of stove wood with max dimension six inches I can split it into 6 or 8 pieces to burn in a six inch diameter rocket stove. Small stove wood, say 4" max dimension I can split into nominal one by one inch pieces and get four or five pieces for the rocket stove.

    According to the book - have't built one - I/we should be able to run a 6" rocket stove into a 55 gallon drum and then 30-40 feet of six inch stove pipe buried in a clay/adobe bench. Most of these I have read about are in the Pac NW, Oregon, Washington, so we'll have to smoosh a little bit for climate difference - but supposedly in that climate they can run one for about four hours daily and have the cabin or small house warm enough for the pipes not to freeze and the bench/ couch warm enough to lay or sit on in great comfort.

    Compared to being out in the cold swinging a maul, sitting in a warm house making small pieces out of big ones with a hatchet isn't so bad.

    Not sure of the trees in your area. Near Fairbanks in the public access woodcutting areas I can find birches 60-90 feet tall with the first branch and significant knots way up in the air. I harvested ten cords this year, the trophy birch yielded 19 rounds 16" long between the stump burl and the first fork. Some of the trees had a wavy grain kinda like quilted maple, one was twisted, spiral grain all the way up. Plus here we have to worry about center rot, any tree with a bunch of fungus globs on the standing trunk is gonna have some rot in the middle. Out of ten cords, not all of it split yet, I suspect I can produce 4-5 cords of split stove wood with straight enough grain to be split smaller for a rocket stove.

    I only took two spruce this year. One of them gave up two knot free 16" rounds between the stump burl and first significant branch knot, the other was totally hopeless as rocket stove fuel.

    Possibly altering the PacNW standard design might get us a single burner box heating system - maybe use two 55gallon drums in series and a shorter pipe in a smaller bench to get more radiant heat in the air and less stored heat in the clay mass - but then we are back to having to be very selective and a little bit lucky in the trees we cut.

    I am (planning) sticking with keeping some kind of box stove (Russian masonry heater, wood stove, whatever) for the knotty curvy ugly pieces; and looking at an RMH as a nice add on that is a little finicky about the wood it burns but very efficinet about storing and distributing the heat from the pretty wood. What I am finding with my test stoves in the back yard is I can load it up, let it run and then about 20 minutes later load it up again. In the vertical feed ones the wood will drop on down the feed tube as the bottom of each stick burns away. Home anyway cooking dinner and watching TV, not so bad. In a rocking chair by the feed tube drinking beer its really pretty nice if I have plenty of small wood ready to go.

    I am kinda thinking 1200sf cabin, well insulated with a masonry stove for primary heat and the RMH bench as an especially warm place to sit in the winter time.

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    I don't know anything about them but they are based in talkeetna and gave a class last year on this topic. It came up in a search that I did while researching rocket mass thermal heaters.

    https://northernsusitnainstitute.org/alaskafolkschool/

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    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1...ilebasic?pli=1

    Noticed this today.


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