Turns out heat is kinda important

It’s a pretty awful thing to see. That look on your partner’s face that screams “ Fuck this shit, this can’t be my life.” It’s time to swing into high gear. Before that look turns to “This is your fault”. When it’s 35 below outside and there is ice on the bedroom walls, who could blame them? Our adventure in natural building and sustainable living has hit a major hurdle.

A big part of our plan was the Rocket Mass Heater. It really seemed like a good idea at the time. And I really wanted it to work. I wanted so bad to love it. Never got there. I built a few mockups and rebuilt the final one twice. I read everything I could find on the subject, ran all kinds of experiments and even traveled to Oregon to meet the folks who are the most experienced experts in the world on the subject, including the original inventor.

Things worked great if conditions were right, but wind is certainly an issue and we get plenty of that here. In order to get a decent draw I had to have a tall chimney out side. That means a heavy column of cold air is pushing down into the system. Since a RMH isn’t sealed, cold air blows through the system and into the house making it very difficult to get a fire started. I tried warming the pipe with bricks from the cook stove, candles, and even a torch. Putting a duct fan inline at the top of the chimney helped for a couple days, but once the system got hot, it burned out. Getting it going in very cold windy weather always had the risk of having smoke blow back into the house. Not good, remember that ‘look’ I mentioned? Besides, even when the damn thing was burning great, with that cool rocket sound, I’d have to feed it every 3-1/2 minutes. My wife and I talked about all kinds of modifications but in the end we’d never be able to make it work in our situation and environment. You can put wheels on a horse and shove an engine up it’s ass and you still won’t be able to take it out on the highway.

So goodbye rocket crap heater and hello Blazeking Princess wood stove. As I’m typing this, I’m sitting warm and half-naked (settle down…) and I have hope that we may just survive winter.

4 thoughts on “Turns out heat is kinda important”

  1. Thanks for sharing. It’s always easy to share when things go right -not so easy when it doesn’t. I think I’d be in the same situation as you as wind is a factor at my house. I almost went the same way, even have the fire bricks piled up.

    Of course, I’ve taken the cowards way for winter. I’m in the Flrida Keys right now. Just climbed out of the pool. If the wife ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

    1. Hi Sixbears,
      I should actually post more of my failures along the way. Maybe save someone a bunch of grief. Of course I would have probably tried the rmh even if a neighbor had failed because I can be a little stubborn sometimes.
      As for being in the Florida Keys, what you call coward, I call intelligent. The next chance for outdoor swimming around here is at least 6 months away.

  2. Please do post your mistakes. I’d rather make new ones than remake the ones you already did. 🙂 Of course this story hasn’t changed my plans to build a RMH here (even though we do have high winds). LOL But having heard your story, I’ll definitely do more research.

    1. I really really wanted the damn thing to work. As I’ve said, I researched obsessively, traveled to see them and built/rebuilt several times. I can’t in good conscience recommend anybody build one in an enclosed space or have one as their only source of heat to survive the winter. What I’ve found is there are plenty of folks who spew the virtues of a RMH. Some of these are even people who have built them. Here on the prairie at -40C, there is no where to go if things go wrong, if we would even be lucky enough to get outside. If you must build one, do it outside. I might do just that for our outdoor summer kitchen to be built. Also, our situation is such that our entire home is thermal mass so a decent wood stove is giving us what I hoped to achieve with the rocket mass heater.

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