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Posts Tagged ‘rocket stove’

We fell in love with Ianto Evans’ rocket mass heater the first time we heard of it. So much so that we booked a trip to Oregon to take his course. What isn’t to love? The idea is so ridiculously simple and immensely practical it’s amazing that we haven’t been using these all along. Rather than burning a fire in a traditional fireplace and allowing much of the heat to escape straight up the chimney, with a bit coming into the room and quickly dissipating, the chimney is built into the furniture. Furniture that is built to store the heat. Additionally, it’s built in such a way that it uses way less fuel than a traditional fireplace.

If you don’t already own a copy of “Rocket Mass Heaters: Super-efficient Woodstoves You Can Build“, it’s worth picking up. True, if you’re using anything other than an eight inch system (we went with a seven inch) you will need to adjust your calculations, and the pictures are not altogether fabulous if you’re hoping for a step by step pictorial to accompany the tutorial, but the basics that you will need to understand are in there. Understanding the ‘whys’ of how the system works was critical, for me anyway, and helped with a somewhat finicky build.

The critical measurements are the feed tube, the burn tunnel, the riser and insulation, and the space between the top of the riser and the barrel. Of course the size of pipe that you decide to go with will affect those measurements. Less so, but still factoring in, are the bell chamber and the length of the run.

If you are planning to build one of these, I’d suggest leaving yourself a little extra time for fiddling around. You may have to raise or lower your barrel a little to get a good draw (and the amount of heat you want on the top of the barrel) or make other adjustments to the system. We ended up shortening the burn tunnel and widening the feed tube a little from where we started. Don’t apply your final mortar or mudding in until you’re certain the system works.

In the first pictures that accompany this article, you’ll see that we used papercrete blocks against the wall- behind what would become the bench. Less visible is the papercrete that we built into the floor (about 6 inches worth) along the wall. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t losing any of the heat to areas that don’t provide any value.

We didn’t use cob for the bench- we went with a mix very similar to that which we used for our bag work, just a little wetter. (Gravel reject: clay/soil: touch of cement. No- I didn’t keep exact measurements.) We used quite a lot of rocks in the bench. Rock stores heat more efficiently than cob, or in our case ‘mix’, so it makes for a better battery to have lots of them.

Our stove pipe will end up being eight inches from the surface of the bench. We don’t want it so high that the top super-heats and we want to ‘charge’ as much of the thermal battery (the bench) as possible, so that the system continues to release heat over a longer period of time. As the bench was put together post-building season we were short on time (it’s now freezing every day, and snowing) so we built the system to where it will work and provide heat to the area and will finish it off come spring.

The stove takes amazingly little wood. I’m impressed by how little fuel it takes to fire this puppy up and heat up that amount of mass. Although the bench isn’t done, it’s already several tons of material. Another impressive feature is how efficient this thing is. I’d seen it work at Cob Cottage, but I have to say- when I went outside and put my face to the vent to find steam being released- and not smoke- I was just thrilled. Still, we’re interested in using as little wood as possible so we’ll work on some possible biofuel alternatives over the winter.

So there it is- the basis of what will be our primary heating system for the living room area. Come spring we’ll finish building the bench and punch a hole lower in the wall so that we have a more direct fresh air intake (we’re connecting to one of our vents right now). In the meantime- we have heat! 🙂

papercrete blocks & floor fill

mudding over the papercrete blocks

insulation shroud placed & ready to be filled

feed tube, burn tunnel & riser w/shroud

riser & insulation shroud: top view

insulation packed around riser

riser w/insulation & brick platform

custom cut barrel, ready to be placed

barrel placed & ready for mudding

note the gap underneath the barrel

the run all laid out to confirm placement

building the bell chamber, note the clean out

the somewhat tricky bell chamber

note the clean out on the side

checking for level on run

lots of nice big rocks in the bench

first section of bench started

almost done- what a lot of mix

bucket over brick feed tube

the cats, enjoying the warm bench

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All of the really good ideas we’ve gone with have also been the simplest. Go figure. So we’ve been hammering out a plan for weeks now, trying to decide on the best possible stove top using the least amount of fuel. We worked with ideas using firebricks, and all sorts of designs, and we finally settled on a modified rocket cook stove. Simple.

Shane dragged in a barrel (yet another left behind by the previous owner) and we took the measurements before he set a fire in it to burn off the residue. We were hoping the paint would burn off too, as it has with other barrels, but it required a bit of sanding.

We used standard black stove pipe to build a sort of J-tube. Had to chop down a piece of pipe to get it just the right length but it’s a perfect fit now. Another length of stove pipe will be the riser, and we’ve got some old metal from a water heater that we’ll chop and use as a sleeve around the riser, to fill with insulation.

A chimney will exit out the lower third of the barrel and outside of the house. The whole deal will be insulated and plastered in so that it retains the heat where needed and doesn’t look like a hobo stove. I think with some creative plastering we can actually make it look quite nice. Pictures of the final product will have to wait- we won’t get this puppy in until the floors are done in the new house, but here’s some photos of the supplies to give you an idea of how it comes together. Simple and efficient.

 

A few basic measurements and calculations and we’re on our way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cut a piece of stove pipe to extend the feed tube by 4 inches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’ll be the J tube and riser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tin from an old water heater is perfect for cutting down and making a sleeve to hold the insulation around the riser.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cleaning out the barrel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing the draw on the internal unit. It draws surprisingly well, thought it might not at this stage. Now all that’s left is to cut a hole for the chimney and put the whole thing together.


 

 

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Rocket (cook) stoves are as cheap and easy or as expensive and full on as you want them to be. Our first one was made using materials on hand: a coffee can, two progressively smaller cans, and a couple of handfuls of diatomite. It was never intended to be anything more than an experiment, as evidenced by the fact that I left it outside to rust for the last year, though it did come in handy when we lost power and wanted hot tea.

The basic idea behind the rocket stove is to use minimal (wood) fuel to heat a concentrated area. The stoves are generally meant for outdoor use as they don’t include a chimney. I did, however, find a video online for an industrial size rocket stove with a chimney and have posted it below. A person could scale down the design and make a reasonably sized rocket stove for indoor use based on that design.

For those of you who just want to get started though, and intend to use the stove outdoors, here is a list of what you’ll need: a large can, and two progressively smaller cans, some scrap metal, clay (optional), and some nonflammable material for insulation like industrial vermiculite, perlite, or diatomite.

For the sake of this article, I’ll assume you’re using a large coffee can for your main barrel. It’s the perfect size for a starter project. (Personally, I’m planning to use a 5 gallon canister for my next effort. I like the size of the surface.)

Basically what you’re looking to do is connect your two smaller cans so that they form an “L” shaped elbow and house this configuration inside of your largest canister. Insulation is packed inside the large can, keeping the heat isolated to the inner sleeve. Your wood is inserted in the horizontal portion of the elbow on a piece of metal used as a ledge.

Your smallest can needs both ends removed- easy enough with a can opener.

Then make a hole in your mid-sized can. You’ll want to make this on the lower portion of the can, right near the bottom, so that when you insert your smallest can, together they’ll form an elbow. You’re going to trace the hole to cut from your smallest can since that’s what it will need to fit.

Then take your biggest can and trace a hole in the side a couple of centimeters above the bottom using your smallest can. (I’m assuming you’re using a coffee can for your largest container, if you’re using something bigger adjust your measurements accordingly.)

On the lid of the coffee can, trace a circle the size of your medium can and cut this out.

Get your insulation ready.  Use a light, non-flammable material such as vermiculite, perlite, scoria, diatomite or even wood ash.

Insert your medium can into larger so it is vertical with the open end up and the hole you cut facing the hole in the coffee can. Now insert the smallest can through the coffee can into the can in the middle. This will form the elbow within the coffee can. Pack underneath and around the elbow with insulation.

Now push the lid of the coffee can into the top of the coffee can until it rests on the top of the elbow inside. Be careful, there are sharp edges.

Finally, take a piece of metal scrap the width of the smallest can and insert it for use as a shelf for the fuel. You don’t need too long a piece and can even use the lid you removed earlier if you don’t have any scrap.

The basic shape of a rocket stove

Rusted, but still usable in a pinch

That’s how to make a very simple rocket stove. You can see that by applying the basic premises though, you can build a larger stove or a considerably more fashionable one with just a bit of effort. We went super lazy on our first one and it was still useful when push came to shove and we needed boiling water. I’ve posted a video of a considerably more polished version that I found on YouTube below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPddd5CoyII

Here is a video displaying two models that are very similar to our own first effort.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-BQMpaW-E0

Finally, the video for the industrial size rocket stove with chimney. (Note: this is part 1 of 8 videos available in this instructional.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdhLWMW7IXA

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The pocket rocket is a brilliant little invention that Ianto Evans and Larry Jacobs came up with some time in the late seventies, early eighties. (Yes, I did mention to Ianto that he might have thought of copyrighting that name before another, ahem, ‘invention’ made use of it. Hindsight, eh?) We built one for use in our sauna last year, to try out both earthbag building and rocket stoves at the same time. We went out in January to test how it would stand up to colder temperatures and within under ten minutes, we had raised the temperature from -15 C to +35 C, a 50 degree difference!

It requires only a few easily scavenged materials and is a great ‘starter project’. You’ll need a 30 or 55 gallon drum- one with a detachable clamp-on lid is great for a pocket rocket. And a couple of pieces of pipe- one for the feed tube and one for the chimney. That’s it. A little mortar for around the pipe and you’re ready to roll.

Start by burning off any paint on the barrel. We just stuck ours in our firepit and let it go for a while. While you’re waiting for the drum, cut two holes in the lid- one to fit each of the pipes. (Note: if you want to use the top of your stove for heating water, you’ll need to position those holes with enough room for a kettle or pot.) We didn’t cut our holes to the exact size of the pipe- we cut them slightly smaller and then cut tabs to fold up along the pipe for a nice snug fit.

When your barrel has cooled, dust off any remaining paint. Place your rocket stove somewhere away from anything flammable. (Seriously- this thing heats up like crazy!) Put the lid back onto the barrel and position your feed tube. It should be a few inches from the bottom of the barrel. Place your chimney in the other hole. The chimney (exhaust) only needs to go into the barrel a bit, several inches should do you.

The rocket stove prefers small diameter, straight wood. Gather some up and test drive! It’ll sound like a rocket when it fires up- that’s the draw. If it’s roaring when it starts- you’re good. Wait until it cools a bit and then mortar around the pipes. If you’re not getting the draw you want, fiddle with the feed tube a bit until you get it to just the right height. It may take a bit of patience, but this is a stove you can build in a matter of hours, so it’s worth playing around with to get just right.

Have fun- and let us know how it works out for you!

NOTE: If you want to preserve some of this heat, you could easily cob around the lower half or two thirds of the barrel. Otherwise, be prepared for some incredible radiant heat!

DISCLAIMER: This isn’t something you want to be building in your traditional home, as it would be a fire hazard.

Barrel for the rocket stove

top of barrel, with holes for connecting pipe

basic pocket rocket

pocket rocket fired up

A couple of rocket stove mock-ups

A basic pocket rocket used for interior heat

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We intend to go entirely off-grid. I can’t say exactly when we’ll hit that goal, or what the final system will look like quite yet. Redundancy is important to us so that if a component fails or is down for maintenance it’s not an entirely dire situation. So is efficiency. Ideally, we want the greatest return for the least input- particularly where fuel is concerned. We’re confident that the rocket mass heater we’re building to heat our main living space meets this criteria.

A rocket mass heater burns (wood) fuel extremely efficiently. Seriously efficiently– which is important to us for several reasons not the least of which is that we live on the prairie. There are lots of systems that make this claim but I have never seen anything like the rocket stove. When we were in Oregon, one of our projects was a rocket water heater. When we fired up the system to test it we were encouraged to go around to the exterior of the building and put our faces close to the exhaust. (I know, I know- apparently I’ll do anything for a lentil burger.) I was utterly amazed when instead of a face full of smoke, I was greeted by a cool steam. The wood was burning so efficiently, and the system using all of the heat, that there was nothing but a light steam by the time it reached the outdoors. This is the promise of a rocket mass heater.

That’s the other very important feature of the rocket mass heater- efficient use of heat. When you think of a traditional forced air system, or even a regular wood burning stove, it’s clear to see that a lot of heat is wasted. The mass heater, on the other hand, stores the heat for slow release in easy to build, dirt cheap furniture. Excuse the bad pun. The heat travels down a course built into the furniture (in our case, a combination couch/day bed) transferring its heat to the cob that encases it and slowly releasing it. Essentially, the chimney is inside of the furniture exiting only when it has had a sufficient run to use up the heat. For example, a standard 6” system would have a run of about 30’ and be enclosed in about 3 tons of material.

When you hear talk of rocket mass heaters, you’ll hear frequent mention of the combustion unit and the thermal battery. The combustion unit is roughly J-shaped, and is made up of the feed tube, the burn tunnel, and the heat riser. Measured precisely, and with good mortar and insulation, the combustion unit burns fuel very efficiently and draws well. The thermal battery, as mentioned, is in the furniture itself (or the floor, though it’s not a recommended first time project) in which the heat is stored.

It’s important not just to get the measurement of the combustion unit right, but to carefully consider the run. You don’t want to place the pipes too low into the furniture (or maybe you do, for a much slower bleed and perhaps warming the floor in front of the bench) but you don’t want to go to high and risk a burning hot surface. About 6” from the top of your bench is recommended for a nicely toasted bum. Your initial run will be the warmest, with every length doubled back running slightly cooler- assuming that you’re doubling your run (we may be tripling ours).

You’ll also want to insulate underneath the combustion unit and behind your bench (couch, daybed…) if it sits against a wall. No sense bleeding good heat into the wall. Vermiculite (industrial, not agricultural), perlite, or pumice are all good materials. Use your imagination but avoid anything that may off gas, like foams.

For all of this you’ll need only the most basic materials. Bricks (which you can reuse or make), clay soil, sand, straw, urbanite or rocks (for heat storage) and a couple of barrels and stove pipe, or metal duct. The size of your barrels will vary between 15 gallons for the feed tube, and 30-55 gallon for the heat exchanger- depending on your specific design. Most, if not all, of your supplies can be found and reused.

If I’ve made it sound complicated- it isn’t, but there is some patience and tinkering required. You can’t (or rather shouldn’t) just throw your system together and encase it in cob. You build the system, and fire it. Check it for leaks, or a weak draw, or any other issues, rework your design and fire it again until you have a leak-free system that draws well and burns efficiently. You’ll know it draws well because it actually sounds like a rocket. I’m sure I’ll eventually tire of the sound when it first catches but I’m still just amazed every time that I hear one start. You’ll also want to decide how much radiant heat you want as that will decide how much of the barrel to leave exposed. Myself, I’d like to boil water for tea on top of the heater, so I’ll need to position the heat riser to within 2” of the barrel to create a hot spot.

Once your design is perfected, you’re ready to encase the entire thing in cob and wait for your new furniture to set. (It’s a good idea to test it once again, before your furniture is rock hard.) If you’re a patient person, you’ll have a mass heater that will last you for years. If you try and rush this, you will regret it- it’s not as easy as throwing out an old couch.

Now, having said that it’s efficient and simple to build- I’m not going to go through the entire process on this blog, nor could I without writing a book-length piece. Pick up the actual book- “Rocket Mass Heaters” by Ianto Evans and Leslie Jackson- it’s well worth it. You can buy it in book stores but for the (small) profit to go directly to the authors, you can order it at http://www.cobcottage.com/products . The book will walk you through the main components of the system, layout, calculations and exact measurements. And, apart from the fact that you won’t be able to build a mass heater based on my brief overview, the book also provides alternative models and adaptations, including a rocket hot tub, a Guatemalan cook stove, and an ingenious little coffee rocket.

As a prelude to building a mass heater, try your hand at a pocket rocket- a very simple rocket stove. It is really easy to build and throws an amazing amount of heat, but most importantly it will get you started, build your confidence and have you well on your way of being as hooked on these wonderful heating systems as we are! I’ll provide full details and pictures so that you can build your own pocket rocket in my next blog.

The combustion unit of the water heater

The combustion unit of a mass heater

Note the clean-out

Super cozy rocket mass heater, Cob Cottage, OR

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Long cold winters are a major consideration when building on the bald ass Alberta prairie, where we live. It is not at all unusual to hit temperatures as low as -40 C for extended periods of time, sometimes even colder. Even a slight wind at temperatures that low can bite, but we don’t get slight winds– we get strong, sustained winds and sometimes dangerous gusts. A calm day around here sees winds of less than 20 km/hr, but not much less than that. Warmth in our new home during the long cold season is paramount.

Thermal mass has its benefits but is not the obvious choice for an extreme climate such as our own. It was suggested that we might choose a different building method for our home, straw-cob and straw bale being the favourites, but we were determined to go with earthbags for several reasons- ease of construction for first time builders and (very) low cost topping that list.

With that in mind, we’ve tailored our plans to accommodate the weather. The first consideration was to keep the rooms small. That in itself is an interesting concept given our propensity for big, open spaces. For big, open spaces we’ll have to go outdoors; a new habit that- to me- meshes well with our new way of life. I like the idea of spending more time outdoors and good thing, because we won’t have the power capacity to sit in front of the computer or television what with going off-grid.

Windows are an important aspect of our plan. The bulk of the windows are south facing and low in the building, to best maximize our winter solar gain. They are regular glass, as opposed to the ever popular low e variety, in order to make the most of solar heat. (And here’s one area thermal mass has the advantage, absorbing and storing the heat for slow release later.) The couple of windows (in the bedrooms) that are not south facing are low e, however, and very small. As we wouldn’t be getting much solar heat gain from either of these windows, it’s important that we minimize heat loss.

Landscape features further protect our building. The backside (north side) of the building will be bermed to near roof level, and we have plans for a surround-garden on the south side to window level. (The house itself is also sunken into the ground several feet.) The south facing garden has the additional advantage of being a slightly different zone than the rest of the property- because it wraps around so much mass- and we’re quite excited to see what we can grow.

A section of the living room has been dedicated to a greenhouse/sunspace and will be double glassed (i.e. we will have sliding glass windows on the inside of the building to access the garden). This will add to the natural warmth of the living space quite nicely, as well as extend our short growing season.

Also in the living room, we will build a rocket mass heater to wrap around the entire north wall. If you haven’t heard of these entirely efficient stoves and heaters I highly recommend you read Ianto Evans book (Rocket Mass Heaters: Super Efficient Wood Stoves You Can Build), or better yet- head to Oregon and take a course with the man himself as we did (visit http://www.cobcottage.com/ for information on courses, or to order the book). The mass heater will serve as a toasty and comfortable sitting area. If you live in a standard construction home, as we currently do, you can quite possibly imagine how nice it would be to heat your body rather than the air around you and this is one of the advantages of a mass heater. I’m always amazed at how often our heat kicks in and how cold it remains in the house- one of the (many) disadvantages of a forced air heating system.

The kitchen will house a wood stove. Not nearly as efficient as a rocket stove, but it throws a lot of heat. We are considering putting in a small rocket stove in that room as well, for days when we don’t want to use the wood stove. The plan that most interests us for the kitchen can be seen at http://cato-projects.org/ArLivre/EN/RocketStove3.htm .

Finally, there’s the roof. Admittedly, we’re fly by the seat of our pants kind of people and this whole thing has been a great big experiment- on us. So some things we’ve come to late in the game. Originally we had planned on building earthbag domes. There’s easy, cheap and require absolutely no construction experience. Roofing a structure requires a little more skill. But at this stage of the game, we are leaning towards roofing at least the larger (18’) rooms. Primarily because so little of the building is actually exposed to the elements that should we add a highly insulated roof, there really is nowhere for the heat to go during the winter. Sure, it will bleed slowly through the walls- but it’s a bleed so slow that it’s negligible. If we continue on with the dome plan, there will be considerably more space to heat and more room for heat loss.

That’s not to say that we won’t change our minds- again. We do have all winter to consider our options. If we do revisit the idea of domes though, it will be with a plan of having a second floor in each of the main domes and plenty of insulation. Another option that we’ve all but ruled out is scoria filled bags. If you live in an area where scoria is cheap or reasonably priced (we don’t), scoria is excellent bag fill for providing that little bit of extra insulation without changing your building plans.

So that’s the plan as it stands and how we intend to deal with our extreme climate. Build small rooms, sink the house into the ground and berm as much as possible, maximize solar heat gain by keeping windows on the south side plentiful, place only two windows that aren’t south facing and keep them small and low emissivity, have a sun space for additional heat gain and a nice garden area, build a rocket mass heater for the living room, use a traditional wood stove in the kitchen, and keep the roof low and well insulated. Ah, and we’ll tint the finish lime plaster a darker shade, in order to further enhance heat absorption. Our house is not simply a shelter, but a system that needs to consider and work with all components.

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I love living in Canada, wouldn’t trade it for anything. Oh I enjoy traveling, for sure, and could spend months on end in Mexico alone but I always look forward to coming home. At least now that we’ve abandoned city life. It does, however, present its share of problems for natural and conventional builders alike- namely climate.

Here on the prairies our temperature ranges from as low as -50 C to as high as +38 C or so. The heat I can handle, and a few well-placed vents and windows with overhangs will go a long way towards keeping a house comfortable on those long summer nights. Cold on the other hand- now that can be a problem. Having said that, a good plan and some common sense go a long way.

Currently, we live in what (by conventional standards) is considered a quite comfortable home. We have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, large kitchen, living and laundry areas, a sunroom, and a full basement with attached garage. There are lots of large windows for light and expansive views. Sounds wonderful, right? Well, in summer it’s not too bad (save for those ridiculously hot days when it’s clear no one was thinking of a cross breeze during design). In winter, it’s an entirely different story.

There are entirely too many windows in this home. The windows on the north and west sides do nothing to contribute to comfort, they are an aesthetic addition. We lose a tremendous amount of heat through our windows in winter, which brings us to heating… Forced air heating has got to be one of the most impractical inventions ever conceived. Not only does it make me sick, gasping for air after a ‘good’ night’s sleep, it’s so temporary it has to run all the time to maintain a steady temperature. And still I’m not warm. Traditional heating is inefficient, unhealthy and irresponsible. Add to which it keeps us tied to the grid, so tied to traditional work to pay for the ‘luxury’.

So what does a natural builder do to combat these issues? Well, for starters, we build small. I’m far from the view that a person can live comfortably in a single room home like some natural builders would suggest- at least not this person. But I do believe a large amount of space is wasted. Our demonstration home will be small relative to traditional housing and maximize the use the space with storage built into the structure itself, underneath and behind furniture, and overhead. Additionally, we will simply have to adjust to the fact that we can no longer house the junk that we’ve accumulated over the years, nor can we afford to continue to collect it. (Stay tuned for my “Lament for Shoe Storage”; I’m a work in progress.)

Secondly, we will orient our building solar south and strategically place our windows. By orienting our building south, we maximize our solar gain. Windows will be expansive on the south side only, with smaller windows to the east, a much smaller window to the west (where the only solar gain would be in the summer, when heat is already at times unbearable), and none on the north side. The main living area, which all of the additional rooms will connect to, will be partitioned to include a small south facing greenhouse. The greenhouse will provide not only additional food, but (because it is double glassed) provide considerable heat (in the form of solar gain) to the living area.

Thirdly, we will build heavy. There’s no sense in planning around solar gain if there’s nothing to absorb the heat. Heavy clay-sand walls and thick earthen floors and plasters absorb heat quite nicely, and are slow to release it. And this is where heat matters most, in the areas that a person has contact with, not the air as it drifts by. I’m reminded of this now, as I sit next to the heating vent and warm air is hitting the side of my body but I don’t dare yet put my feet on the floor.

On the subject of mass, we’ll build “rocket mass heaters” into the design. If you haven’t yet heard of these, see the pictorial below, or get a copy of the book from Ianto Evans if you intend to build your own. They borrow on the efficiency of rocket stoves and take it to the next level. Basically, it is an extremely efficient wood burning ‘stove’ with a long run of venting built right into the (cob) furniture. It requires ridiculously little fuel and (because mass retains heat so nicely) provides an exceedingly cozy sitting area. And, because of the genius design, it burns clean. I don’t blame you if you’re hesitant to believe these claims (I was) but build yourself a very basic rocket stove for all the proof you’ll need.

Finally- we’ll insulate the heck out our building. As our intention is to build as naturally and cheaply as possible- and use recycled materials wherever we can- we’re going with papercrete. The entire building will receive a papercrete plaster about 8” thick, topped with lime. Additionally, the sub-floor will be made of papercrete. (*Note: there are some problems associated with papercrete and mold in humid conditions but we happen to live in a drought area. I wouldn’t suggest papercrete as a sub-floor in damp environments.) The R value of papercrete is cited ~2.5 per inch, dependant on the mix (the higher the paper content, the higher the R value), so at 8” thick will more than provide for our needs.

So that’s the plan for surviving the Canadian winter, and I dare say we’ll do so more comfortably (efficiently and cheaply) than we currently do.

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the first ring

 

making good progress

 

earthbag portion completed

 

cob complete & plaster started

 

almost done

 

completed earthbag sauna!

 

Our pilot project, a sauna. We wanted to try our hand at earthbag building while also experimenting with cob, earthen plaster and a rocket stove. We fired it up the other day to test it out in winter conditions and were able to jump from -10 C to +35 C within a matter of minutes. Not bad for a lot of mud and a few sticks.

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