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Burning Bamboo in a Rocket Heater?  RSS feed

 
Ian Rice
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Anyone have any experience or comments regarding the use of bamboo as a fuel for a rocket stove? I have read that it needs to be split (to avoid the "POP" when burned whole) but I have also read that it burns hotter than hardwood and produces less ash. Sounds like a perfect fuel source to me.....and bamboo is (if you choose it right) edible and makes the very best garden stakes!
 
Fred Morgan
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I would think you need to cut it so that you don't retain the air pockets (every joint needs to be separated). Other than that, if it is dry, I see no problem.
 
Saybian Morgan
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Why do the most awesome things have the downside of exploding.
It's one of those yes you can, but consider yourself the sole operator of the rocket stove, and consider the rocket stove as something that now requires a fulltime nanny.

If you got a bamboo forest on your hands then then live with it's downside cuzz it surely would make a great fuel just like hydrogen. It's not like it's TNT but it only takes one ember and a little bit of bad karma to burn down a house.
While designing my own portable rocket stove I spent hour's sitting in front of it waiting for the evil ember to burn down my house. I don't know if it was just wet wood or the mushrooms coming out the side of the wood I had but those pops scared the pant's out of me and I would spit water everytime they'd fall near the next batch of wood.

Good luck though, it's doable just not broadly applicable. Now bamboo irrigation lines that's awesome, cutting up bamboo into perfect chunks everyday well it's just exausting. You could always chip em, my rocket stove burns pellets but again if anything's gunna piss off a chipper it's bamboo.

Please make a youtube video if you do try it out, id love to be wrong about it working most of the time and going horribly just once. I made the rocket stove burn pellet's cuzz I couldn't get over the mass warfare popping when I didn't have perfectly seasoned wood.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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Not a lot of energy in bamboo, but if you have an abundance, why not?
 
Tom OHern
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I would think that their might be some variation depending on the species of bamboo, but this site shows that bamboo has less than 50% of the stored BTUs as a lot of other hard woods.
 
Ivan Weiss
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Thanks for that site, Tom. Bookmarked that sucker. Confirms my observations about Osage orange and holly.
 
Ian Rice
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Great link; thank you!
 
Saybian Morgan
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Whoa! what a link!
 
Greg Hickey
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My first post, and certainly don't want it to come off as combative or contrarian. However, I don't see the 'numbers' you refered to, Tom. How do you get 50% less energy. I see that Bamboo has only 1/3 the mass (33%) of the top fuel; and exactly 1/3 of the BTU's per cord. That would make it as energetic as osage, the top fuel, pound for pound. Remember a cord is a cubic dimension; but unrelated to mass (weight.)

I will openly admit that I am a bamboo enthusiast; and admit my bias. But considering that bamboo grows and replenishes itself at over 40 times the rate of most wood products and has the same energy per mass of a dense hardwood like Osage; from a Permaculture stand point I believe bamboo is a fuel worth investigating further. Bamboo is easily split without any waste (sawdust, limbs, etc.), easy to harvest and haul, and can be grown almost anywhere. Also some varieties are much more 'woody' than others (Mosa vs. Rivercane) so using Poaceae Bambusoideae as a baseline might be misleading.

I have burned my share of bamboo (broken arrowshafts.) They burn quickly cleanly and throw good heat, but has to be replenished constantly. In a conventional application that would be a problem. However in a rocket stove it may not be a drawback. The same BTU's per pound released in a shorter time frame may be an advantage to bring the flue to temp quickly.
 
Ken Peavey
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A cord is a measure of volume. Bamboo is hollow. It takes up volume without adding the mass. When measured by BTU/pound, Bamboo is right at the top. Due to its hollow structure, there is considerably more surface area. This stuff burns fast and furiously. Take a different wood, split it into 1/8" thickness, it will burn fast too, but not so fast as the bamboo. Being hollow, it allows the air to flow through the middle, making an excellent natural flue.
 
Ian Rice
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So granted Osage is premier in one sense but it doesn't grow nearly as fast as bamboo, right? This fact in conjunction with the burning within a Rocket Heater and the ease of harvest and preparation.........and the fact that you CAN EAT IT.......again.......isn't this a perfect permaculture plant? Almost every book on permaculture lists bamboo......but none of them mention it as a fuel source. I think that this marvelous potential is being overlooked.
 
Matthew Fallon
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ken beat me to it,
i meant to post earlier today but got caught up in other things.

i burn bamboo in a woodstove. according to mid-atlantic bamboo nursery ,Bamboo, when used as fire wood, produces more btu per weight than hardwood and makes less ash.
Bamboo charcoal will maintain a constant heat longer than hardwood charcoal... i think it's got a lot going for it as a fuel for rocket stoves/heater

grows faster,more plentiful, dries faster(more surface area), easier to harvest,transport,cut to size ,compact uniform size makes it easy to store and fit in a rocket too.doesnt attract bugs so things wont make homes in it.
the leafy branches will probably make great kindling,and theyre all straight/uniform size as well,what could be better?

save the hardwoods for woodworking projects

its been covered a few times in the past here, i'd asked ernie and erica about this last year.
http://www.permies.com/t/2976/alternative-energy/greenhouse-rocket-mass-heater-vid#24107
 
tel jetson
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I followed a link on that Sweep's Library site to this page. it mentions the assumption that all wood contains the same energy by weight, so the table is really just telling you the density of each wood. if, as Matthew Fallon suggests, there is a significant difference in the extractable energy between various sources of wood, that difference is not reflected in the Sweep's Library table.

many bamboos do grow quite quickly, which makes them attractive for fuel use. I don't know how it compares to other fast-growing plants for putting on dry weight, though, since it is hollow. anybody else know? seams reasonable that something like black locust, which grows quickly and is quite dense, might be close to bamboo by that measure. black locust is sometimes very obnoxious to handle, split, and season, though, which should definitely be considered.

producing less ash is certainly nice, as is quick seasoning. and the incorporated air spaces in bamboo do contribute to a nice, quick, hot and clean burn in a rocket stove. seems to me that the most significant problem would be frequent re-loading, which isn't really such a big deal as it might be with woods that are heavy and make more of a mess.

the edible shoots of some bamboo species are a nice benefit, as is a ready supply of building material. those advantages certainly aren't unique to bamboo, though, and many folks aren't particularly fond of eating bamboo shoots. running bamboos do share with other fast-growers a reputation for being invasive. frequent harvest would take care of things above ground, but many bamboos can also form pretty dense sod that doesn't play particularly well with other plants even if the canes are removed.

so, like most things, I don't think there's one obvious best option here. bamboo is useful stuff and could work real well for some folks. others might prefer other plants for a variety of reasons. for myself, it will be one of several plants I use for fiber, fuel, building material, and occasionally for food. it's also quite beautiful, which is more important to some folks than others.
 
Ian Rice
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Regarding bamboo and it's tendency towards being invasive. There are running and clumping varieties. Clumpers are not invasive as I understand it and although these varieties are not edible, they are really great candidates for building/gardening materials. Really good windbreaks too! I'm thinking about a small contained amount of running (edible) bamboo and a much larger amount of privacy/windbreak/fuel and building (clumping) bamboo (behind my hazel row) with an eye towards the Rocket Heater....still to build. It is an interesting thought experiment. Thanks for all the feedback...love you guys!
 
Len Ovens
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So, from all this, the best kind of bamboo would be thin? I would think the thinner stuff might be less air space for the amount of wall? Doesn't matter that much as I have only seen thin stuff around here anyway. About 3/8 to 1/2 in. I had been thinking of willows, but I don't see that much around here. I will have to try some bamboo.
 
Ian Rice
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I need to do a lot more research about different kinds of bamboo as regards their individual abilities to produce biomass with burning in mind. The big thing that I have gleaned thus far is that invasive bamboo is the running type. These also seem to be the ones that produce edible sprouts. Clumping varieties do just that and are not very invasive....but inedible. As to speed and usability goes...I'll bet the so called "timber" bamboo (such as Vivax) produces the most fuel fastest...just a hunch. It (V) is also edible and is very invasive and probably should be contained in some way. Smaller varieties might be tough to split...just a thought.
 
Len Ovens
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Ian Rice wrote:I need to do a lot more research about different kinds of bamboo as regards their individual abilities to produce biomass with burning in mind. The big thing that I have gleaned thus far is that invasive bamboo is the running type. These also seem to be the ones that produce edible sprouts. Clumping varieties do just that and are not very invasive....but inedible. As to speed and usability goes...I'll bet the so called "timber" bamboo (such as Vivax) produces the most fuel fastest...just a hunch. It (V) is also edible and is very invasive and probably should be contained in some way. Smaller varieties might be tough to split...just a thought.


My burn chamber and fuel are completely enclosed. It seems to me someone said it is more noisy than anything. Maybe small stuff could be run through a couple of rollers like a wringer from an old washing machine to crack it before burning...
 
James Colbert
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There is a Japanese tool which works somewhat like an circular apple slicer. You know the ones where you push down on the apple and it cuts the apple all at one into eight pieces... Well there is a small tool like that can do the same thing with bamboo. Its quick and looks pretty easy as it slides down the length of the bamboo. It splits the bamboo into four sections. What your left with is a stack of tall flat bamboo strips that you can use in your rocket mass heater without worry of air pockets and without wasted space. So with this I envision a fuel which is nearly as dense as hardwood and can burn for a longer periods of time simply because of its geometry. Your thoughts?
 
Len Ovens
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James Colbert wrote:There is a Japanese tool which works somewhat like an circular apple slicer. You know the ones where you push down on the apple and it cuts the apple all at one into eight pieces... Well there is a small tool like that can do the same thing with bamboo. Its quick and looks pretty easy as it slides down the length of the bamboo. It splits the bamboo into four sections. What your left with is a stack of tall flat bamboo strips that you can use in your rocket mass heater without worry of air pockets and without wasted space. So with this I envision a fuel which is nearly as dense as hardwood and can burn for a longer periods of time simply because of its geometry. Your thoughts?


Assuming you have bigger bamboo than we do... most I see around here is 3/8 round or so. It would take some time to split it. Loading the burner more often might be less work.
 
Matthew Fallon
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James Colbert wrote:There is a Japanese tool which works somewhat like an circular apple slicer. You know the ones where you push down on the apple and it cuts the apple all at one into eight pieces... Well there is a small tool like that can do the same thing with bamboo. Its quick and looks pretty easy as it slides down the length of the bamboo. It splits the bamboo into four sections. What your left with is a stack of tall flat bamboo strips that you can use in your rocket mass heater without worry of air pockets and without wasted space. So with this I envision a fuel which is nearly as dense as hardwood and can burn for a longer periods of time simply because of its geometry. Your thoughts?


bamboo splitters come in a few sizes. 3 splits up to 12 splits. , this is also how i envisioned using bamboo in a rocket.
http://bamboodirect.com/bamboo/catalog/tools.html

theyre fine until you get into really thick-walled stuff. it will also let the boo dry much faster and stack more compactly for storing.
i'd say if you have it growing nearby use it, that and branch trimmings should be enough.

heres a homemade one, crude but effective.

 
Ian Rice
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Thanks for the post on the bamboo splitting tools; with all of the sizes I think almost any variety could be easily split for fuel. This is great!! Best!!!
 
James Colbert
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Yea that's what I was talking about. Bamboo, the fuel of the future lol.
 
                                  
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Ian, in response to controlling invasive species from what I have read you basically just build a retaining wall 3 feet or so below the surface with a material that wont rot. Supposedly this controls the runners, which if I understand correctly are the also the most aggressive in their growing. As to which one produces the fastest/most biomass, I do not know but would love to.
 
Ian Rice
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Confining the "invasive" varieties of bamboo is a subject worthy of it's own thread I suppose? Regarding the fastest biomass producing types...I am choosing to think of multiple use as part of my own equation. Garden stakes, edibles and as I am into primitive archery...even material for arrows (in the case of Arrow Bamboo). From what I have read so far, timber type bamboo will probably end up being the most "productive" but I won't know until I have experimented a lot more. In any case, I have already made up my mind to pursue bamboo in many different directions and I am beginning to understand why it has been mentioned high on just about every list regarding permaculture. If there is a bamboo nut out there with a lot of varietal experience, I would love them to chime in with their insights regarding biomass and the like........thanks!
 
Brent Rickenbacker
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You could always make bamboo nuggets... Maybe cut them up on a bandsaw or table saw.

Another thing to consider is maybe grinding them down and making fuel briquettes out of it. If you Google "briquette press" you will find a wealth of info on the process.
 
Matthew Fallon
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i think short pieces(nugets) of 3" or whatever will take up too much space and not feed well vertically(they're fine in a woodstove though,i do that with leftover bamboo from my flute-making). also much more time/energy consuming.briquettes would definitely be laborious ,i dont think they'd stick together well as bricks.you'd be making it less dense which is opposite of whats wanted.

i think the fastest most efficient way would be to saw at 36" lengths (japanese pullsaw goes fast,chopsaw faster but needs power) and split with the bamboo splitter.
theyll pack well for storage while drying and equally fill the feed-chamber well while self-feeding down without a hitch the branchy offshoots and leaves make great kindling.

on a larger scale maybe DIY some sorta bamboo splittin' thing like this

 
Ian Rice
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The idea of making briquettes from bamboo is an interesting one but I am thinking of this as a potential fuel for a rocket heater and the "chop saw / bamboo splitter" approach is I think perfect! I have a piece of land that is connected to my main property by a narrow section (very easy to trench and install a barrier) and the rest of it is bordered on all sides by road...planning on turning the entire section into a little forest of timber bamboo! We shall see!
 
Ernie Wisner
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split the internodes with a bamboo knife and it works fine. like wood if its seasoned a bit it crack and then you dont have to worry about it. only down side i can see is that i would love to have bunches of bamboo to build with. Oh and i am moving this post to the wood stove section.
 
Dave Bennett
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Chopped bamboo works well in a wood gasifier. I am not too sure if I would use it as a primary heat source in a RMH though.
 
Ernie Wisner
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Why not? it stacks well, splits well, and stores well, burns fast (some varieties), and comes back really fast. its fuel value is a bit low but that can be made up for in the volume you burn. its not the greatest thing but the stove has no problem burning it. you just need lots of it. course pressed logs of bamboo fiber would be the best sort of way to burn it.
 
Dave Bennett
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Good point Ernie. I have been harvesting it for a couple of years from a friend's property since he considers it a weed. I use mostly for building framework but I know that it burns well too when it is dry. It also makes good charcoal.
 
Ernie Wisner
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I didnt know it made good charcoal. i have just burned it with the rest of the sticks in the RMH. Since Tari's sails require bamboo battens I some times have lots of ends that i need to get rid of. I am curious about how well solid stemmed bamboo varieties would work as heating and cooking fuel, I think i had read somewhere that there where cold weather varieties hardy to zone 3.
 
Matthew Fallon
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i know it makes good charcoal as in 'biochar' for soil ammendment.,as it has more surface area in many lil' micro channels in the structure( or something to that effect!)
not sure about charcoal for grilling/BBQ... it's also used as a textile somehow, i have 'bamboo charcoal' socks and boxer briefs, very comfortable and super absorbent.said to be antimicrobial as bamboo has that characteristic.

heres a page that lists several very thick-walled boo's cold hardy down to z5 (-20F-10F) , "solid stem" is one thats solid in the lower portion of the culms. nifty! i only knew of iron-bamboo which isnt cold hardy.its nearly solid,theres like a pinhole center.from india i tihnk,someone also brought a lot to Honduras where they use it for furniture making etc.
http://www.lewisbamboo.com/cold-hardy-bamboo.html
 
Dave Bennett
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Ernie Wisner wrote:I didnt know it made good charcoal. i have just burned it with the rest of the sticks in the RMH. Since Tari's sails require bamboo battens I some times have lots of ends that i need to get rid of. I am curious about how well solid stemmed bamboo varieties would work as heating and cooking fuel, I think i had read somewhere that there where cold weather varieties hardy to zone 3.

Definitely zone 4. I seem to recall a variety that grows all over the Korean peninsula. I harvest three varieties Zone 5 & 6 here. One of them has extremely thick walls. Split and dried, it burns very well. I use it for making Long Bows. One of my hobbies is primitive weapons. Most varieties have a lot of silica in it. I wonder how much extra fine ash that it generates in an RMH. I am from upstate NY zone 4 and I know it will some of the larger varieties will grow there. It is a very useful plant. I feed it to my rabbits. Goats like to eat it too. Unfortunately where I am moving growing the really big stuff is out of the question. It is one of my favorite grasses.
 
Matt Armstrong
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What about thin 3/8 to 1/2 in bamboos? Is it worth the time to split 'em? Also, how would be the best way to split such thin bamboo stalk?
 
Matthew Fallon
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Matt Armstrong wrote:What about thin 3/8 to 1/2 in bamboos? Is it worth the time to split 'em? Also, how would be the best way to split such thin bamboo stalk?


burn a few and test it out, they might be small enough to just pop minimally and not really explode dangerously. if so i'd just hit the joints with a hammer.
i have bamboo splitters that split it 3 and 4 ways, but for burning it only needs to be cracked to not build pressure , technically.
 
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