Tag Archives: rocket mass heater

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.

Earthbag home photos

View from the front. The rock retaining wall for a garden along the front is our project this weekend. It runs the length of the house and will be about 2.5 feet tall.Image

Picture of the back, which faces north. This will be bermed quite deep with only the windows of the office space peeking out.


The other night was a lot of fun. We fired up the mass heater and listened to music and danced. The acoustics in the round room are amazing. Our couch not only provided a toasty place to sit, but made our tea for us too. We’re looking forward to cooking all kinds of things on it.



And for the bulk of the cooking and additional warmth in the kitchen, there is this wood cookstove.


Having water is kind of important. Our inside tank now has almost 6000 litres of harvested rainwater stored for the winter.



Homestead update

I’m making the move from blogger to wordpress. I have had it with the crap over at that site. They keep changing the user interface every 20 minutes. I especially hate the new one. So to hell with them. I’m still forced to use plenty of other googley products for work. Im sure there will be things about wordpress that will take me some gettting used to.

Lots of action here on the homestead ever since spring has hit. We’ve finalized our plans for the new home and have started laying earthbags for the final phase. It’s a twelve foot diameter room that will hold our offgrid electrical stuff as well as a 1000 gallon water tank. There will be a few other things in this space as well like a hot water tank. Also, we are putting in a loft for a spare bedroom.

Last fall we built a rocket mass heater in the living room. Although it worked well most of the time, it did have a few issues that really concerned me. Like once in a while the smoke would back up into the house. I didn’t have enough time before the deepfreeze of winter to test and tweek it properly. So a complete rebuild was called for. I am very happy with the new one so far. It draws well, has that awsome rocket sound and is a better fit for the room than the last design. One thing I learned while doing more research is that I probably did not have enough volume in the space where the gasses exit the heat exchange barrel. The proper way to figure out what you need for this space is outlined at the rocket stove forum in the helpful hint thread.

Some quick numbers for rocket stove enthusiasts: top gap from riser to barrel = 2.5 inches; gap between insulation and exchange barrel = 3 inches; overall system diameter = 7 inches; burn tunnel size = 5.5″x7″. I used the inside of a hot water tank for the insulation container and another for a container around the feed tube. Perlite was used for insulation of both the riser and under the burn tunnel as well.

Other projects we have been working on include plastering the earthbags structures already in place. Mrs. Mud has been working tirelessly at this. Tirelessly is probably the wrong term. She seems pretty bagged by the end of the day. Then she gets up the next day and goes hard at it again. We have such a short building season and so much to do. I recently started building rock retaining walls. To start with and get some experience, I built pedestals to put the rain barrels on. They actually turned out pretty good. Fencing the new garden areas is complete so we should end up with no cat shit in the gardens this year. Rainwater capture has been working out well for us too. All our water for drinking, coffee, tea, cooking has come from the sky now for a few months. It’s free and tastes a lot better than the water from our well. It will be nice when our rain capture can supply showers too.