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Masonry stoves or rocket mass heater

 
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Penny Oakenleaf wrote: but my home state is actively working towards making any kind of wood fired heating or cooking rather illegal).



A super-secret Rocket Mass Heater should be under consideration.  Keep in mind, it's still not illegal to build one in Washington State, and nearly everything can be 'grandfathered' if it's completed before the actual ban on new wood heating appliances is passed.  This should motivate you to get these things done, not discourage you from attempting them at all.  Even if the law says that you can no longer use that RMH, even though it stays in place, you can just tell them that it's for emergencies only.  They would never know if you actually used it unless your neighbors complained, which they probably won't notice either.
Staff note (Nicole Alderman):

I think this thread was split from this topic: https://permies.com/wiki/102544/PEP-Badge-Food-Prep-Preservation

 
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Creighton Samuels wrote:

Penny Oakenleaf wrote: but my home state is actively working towards making any kind of wood fired heating or cooking rather illegal).



A super-secret Rocket Mass Heater should be under consideration.  Keep in mind, it's still not illegal to build one in Washington State, and nearly everything can be 'grandfathered' if it's completed before the actual ban on new wood heating appliances is passed.  This should motivate you to get these things done, not discourage you from attempting them at all.  Even if the law says that you can no longer use that RMH, even though it stays in place, you can just tell them that it's for emergencies only.  They would never know if you actually used it unless your neighbors complained, which they probably won't notice either.



1. Neighbors on two sides call me if they see a weed they don't like in my pasture. I've been messaged about a tree that I hadn't even planted in the ground yet after bringing it home from the nursery, because the neighbor thought I'm bringing in toxic plants just to try to kill her horses, that have no business in my garden. They did not even ID the plant right, so they messaged me over nothing. All traffic in and out is monitored by busybodies. And we have a pretty nice, private neighborhood (cluster of a couple houses on acreages) with polite people.

2. Advocating breaking laws is iffy, even when the laws are stupid. The way to go about it is to try to find a lawmaker that'll agree to advance your cause. If you do decide to break a law, don't telegraph it on the internet, unless you're okay inviting some busybody (see 1) reporting you.

3. A barrel drum is plain ugly. And a safety hazard through the eyes of a parent with little kids. My house is old and used to have a woodstove, but it, and its foundation, was removed by a previous owner, meaning I'd have to do a massive retrofit for a foundation of any kind of thermal mass heater. You don't just sneak in a new foundation under a house, unless you're a builder. I am not, and with the upgraded insulation and south-facing windows, I can get through most of the winter without firing up my heaters, and have yet to be cold and miserable through winter storms and "Snowpocalypse" situations, so do I really need one? o.O

4. Mark Twain wrote about Masonry Heaters, which I grew up with, and thus consider the only good wood fired heat (also, EPA exempt last time I looked, so it eliminates the iffy 2nd point) You can cook and bake with the kind I've got my eye on, and they can be crammed into a fairly small footprint vertically. The initial investment is higher, but you can get through a winter with 2-3 cords of wood, not even huge logs, but "twiggy" things you prune out of your orchard or forest anyway. Explains why I thought for a very long time that American firewood piles were a 10 year supply, not a one winter supply...

"Take the German stove, for instance - where can you find it outside of German countries? I am sure I have never seen it where German was not the language of the region. Yet it is by long odds the best stove and the most convenient and economical that has yet been invented.

To the uninstructed stranger it promises nothing; but he will soon find that it is a masterly performer, for all that. It has a little bit of a door which you couldn't get your head in - a door which seems foolishly out of proportion to the rest of the edifice; yet the door is right, for it is not necessary that bulky fuel shall enter it. Small-sized fuel is used, and marvelously little of that. The door opens into a tiny cavern which would not hold more fuel than a baby could fetch in its arms. The process of firing is quick and simple. At half past seven on a cold morning the servant brings a small basketful of slender pine sticks - say a modified armful - and puts half of these in, lights them with a match, and closes the door. They burn out in ten or twelve minutes. He then puts in the rest and locks the door, and carries off the key. The work is done. He will not come again until next morning.

All day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and comfortable, and there will be no headaches and no sense of closeness or oppression. In an American room, whether heated by steam, hot water, or open fires, the neighborhood of the register or the fireplace is warmest - the heat is not equally diffused throughout the room; but in a German room one is comfortable in one part of it as in another. Nothing is gained or lost by being near the stove. Its surface is not hot; you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt.

Consider these things. One firing is enough for the day; the cost is next to nothing; the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns; one may absorb himself in his business in peace; he does not need to feel any anxieties of solicitudes about the fire; his whole day is a realized dream of bodily comfort.

America could adopt this stove, but does America do it? The American wood stove, of whatsoever breed, it is a terror. There can be no tranquility of mind where it is. It requires more attention than a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time; and for all reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half. It warms no part of the room but its own part; it breeds headaches and suffocation, and makes one's skin feel dry and feverish; and when your wood bill comes in you think you have been supporting a volcano.

We have in America many and many a breed of coal stoves, also - fiendish things, everyone of them. The base burners are heady and require but little attention; but none of them, of whatsoever kind, distributes its heat uniformly through the room, or keeps it at an unvarying temperature, or fails to take the life out of the atmosphere and leave it stuffy and smothery and stupefying."



5. I may disagree on rocket stoves being a necessity, and on what does or doesn't constitute a skilled cook or baker, but I hope we can agree to disagree on that point, and surely still bond over something like classic literature, or a good homebrew. ;)
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Creighton Samuels
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Penny Oakenleaf wrote:
1. Neighbors on two sides call me if they see a weed they don't like in my pasture. I've been messaged about a tree that I hadn't even planted in the ground yet after bringing it home from the nursery, because the neighbor thought I'm bringing in toxic plants just to try to kill her horses, that have no business in my garden. They did not even ID the plant right, so they messaged me over nothing. All traffic in and out is monitored by busybodies. And we have a pretty nice, private neighborhood (cluster of a couple houses on acreages) with polite people.


I've moved for less than this.  Where I live now, I set up a temporary fire pit in my front yard for July 4th; neighbors didn't even care.  Your neighbors may be quite polite from a certain point of view, but I would consider being heckled about weeds to be petty and less than polite.  If you think that your neighbors would call the city because you were using a wood appliance, even if they can't see or smell the smoke, that sounds downright rude to myself.  Sounds to me like you need to find some better neighbors.  


2. Advocating breaking laws is iffy, even when the laws are stupid. The way to go about it is to try to find a lawmaker that'll agree to advance your cause. If you do decide to break a law, don't telegraph it on the internet, unless you're okay inviting some busybody (see 1) reporting you.


I suppose that this is a difference of regional culture.  I'm a libertarian, and I usually act like it.  I don't vote, I don't know who my legislators are, and I wouldn't talk to one if I knew.  My neighbors mostly just want peace and quiet where I live, so they seem to be fairly libertarian as well.  I've never called the city on a neighbor, ever.


4. Mark Twain wrote about Masonry Heaters, which I grew up with, and thus consider the only good wood fired heat (also, EPA exempt last time I looked, so it eliminates the iffy 2nd point) You can cook and bake with the kind I've got my eye on, and they can be crammed into a fairly small footprint vertically. The initial investment is higher, but you can get through a winter with 2-3 cords of wood, not even huge logs, but "twiggy" things you prune out of your orchard or forest anyway. Explains why I thought for a very long time that American firewood piles were a 10 year supply, not a one winter supply...


If you have the means for a traditional masonry heater, then more power to you.  Yet, the RMH is another take on the masonry heater, and uses even less wood to heat than a traditional masonry heater.  Yes, the barrel is ugly; but that's why it's cheaper.  The barrel is not required, however, and I suspect that if you looked more into it, you'd find some truly beautiful RMHs that both have barrels and some that don't.  Also, a RMH's mass can be vertical like a traditional masonry heater (using heat bells).  That said, the traditional masonry heater, such as a Russian type, is a wonderful choice if you have the money.  Even better if it's exempt from the wood heat laws, because the RMH probably would not be.


 
pollinator
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Penny Oakenleaf wrote:
2. Advocating breaking laws is iffy, even when the laws are stupid. The way to go about it is to try to find a lawmaker that'll agree to advance your cause. If you do decide to break a law, don't telegraph it on the internet, unless you're okay inviting some busybody (see 1) reporting you.



This varies a lot. My area is very rural, but local politics are not; three rural areas have a single vote each, while two small cities and a village have 5-18 votes each.

So the laws are written by city people, and often make little sense, especially according to more independent rural values. Fighting city hall, the various departments of sadness, and the culture of regulation is not a very effectice use of time in most cases... they have the power, and making sense is not part of the mandate.

There are a lot of things considered normal here that are not legal according to local bylaw, or prov/federal law.

Every time you share your low opinion of a nonsensical law, or flout it, or choose to turn a blind eye to other folks doing so, you are a little piece of local custom, helping shape it.


This is mainly a rear guard action. Bureaucracies always get worse over time, see Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy. Political system is functioning as intended, codifying the values of the many and imposing them on the few, while fleecing the majority of both groups tonfeed the machine..

It's still better than nothing, which is the impact I generally observe from voting, petitioning, letter-writing, etc.
 
Penny Oakenleaf
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Creighton Samuels wrote:
If you have the means for a traditional masonry heater, then more power to you.



It's not about "means", it's called "priorities". For example, I can choose to drive an older but reliable car to free up funds for something I need more often than a car. Right now, that "saving" is why I finally have a farm tractor, so I don't need to shovel and wheelbarrow everything up and down a sloped lot with my back injury. That enabled me to put in a significantly larger garden this year than before, which provides my family with food I don't have to buy. A masonry heater will last until my grandkids are old. A metal barrel will rust through and break if it's not maintained (even then, thin metal is under more heat stress, and does buckle, bend, and wear out over time), while a masonry heater rarely needs repairs, especially the newer construction has cleanout holes for clearing out the smoke channels, so you don't have to take the whole contraption down and reassemble it every 50-80 years as part of maintenance like with the antiques. I have made a couple of them as part of my education in structural engineering (the auditorium in one o the older buildings was still heated by them, with scrap lumber from the wood shop classes) and as a volunteer restoring old houses, so I am fairly certain I could make one completely myself, or at least shave off a lot of the labor expenses just being able to pitch in.

As far as politics goes, apathy doesn't help advance any cause. I earned my U.S. citizenship this year, and I already voted in "insignificant" rural county elections with a voter turnout of about 25%. Put in a write-in candidate in stead of an unopposed incumbent whose policies don't work. It didn't change the results at the county level, but it slows stupid politicians and self-perpetuating bureaucrats down. Locally, we got the new fire commissioner that I voted for, with a slim margin, and ours was the only district that voted down another useless new tax proposal. So 2 out of 3 issues on the ballot. I could have not voted, and the commissioner might have remained the same incumbent who has already pissed away enough tax money to need to ask for a tax increase to make up for that.

It's always easy to advise someone else without knowing their situation. I can't afford to move even if neighbors are annoying. We're within commuting range of a good city job that's helping us accrue savings that are fueling our own business, which, eventually, will be able to enable us to move wherever we want, pending it has a stable internet connection and a nearby post office. In the meantime, though, if you want to find me a comparable acreage that's less than $600k within an hour's drive of my family's income source in this area, let me know. I haven't found a livable one yet. Property prices have gone up 75% since we moved in, after developers started hounding local farmers to sell up so they can put in hundreds of "affordable lower $500's" McMansions. Wages have hardly nudged in the same time, but this area is getting filled up with tech workers who can afford those kinds of dollars. Thankfully, the "bad" neighbor is trying to sell up, so they'll go away eventually. The other one will probably age out and die in the next few years. Sometimes it's better to hunker down and just wait out the annoying neighbor who is trying to sell while the market is up rather than try to relocate yourself.
 
Dillon Nichols
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Getting back onto the heating topic...

I have always assumed that the barrel was a medium-term consumable, and been bothered by this. What if your RMH needs a rebuild in midwinter?

But... I am not finding reports of this issue when searching for them.

Has anyone else found data on barrel longevity?


It is claimed here that Ianto has been using the same barrel for 30 years without burning through.
https://permies.com/t/91896/RMH-Barrel-Choices
 
Creighton Samuels
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Penny Oakenleaf wrote:

Creighton Samuels wrote:
If you have the means for a traditional masonry heater, then more power to you.



It's not about "means", it's called "priorities".


It wasn't a jab at you, I was being sincere.


A metal barrel will rust through and break if it's not maintained (even then, thin metal is under more heat stress, and does buckle, bend, and wear out over time), while a masonry heater rarely needs repairs, especially the newer construction has cleanout holes for clearing out the smoke channels, so you don't have to take the whole contraption down and reassemble it every 50-80 years as part of maintenance like with the antiques.


Again, the use of the barrel is just a cost savings choice.  It's possible to completely replace the metal riser with a set of heat bells, very similar to how a traditional masonry heater works. Unfortunately, it's expensive.  I suspect that, even if one had to replace the barrel every 5 years, it would still prove less expensive than a professionally built masonry heater of a traditional type.



As far as politics goes, apathy doesn't help advance any cause. I earned my U.S. citizenship this year,



Good on you for that.  I'm not apathetic, I'm jaded.  From experience.  Paul isn't just joking when he refers to the city bureaucracy as the "The Department of Making You Sad".



Thankfully, the "bad" neighbor is trying to sell up, so they'll go away eventually. The other one will probably age out and die in the next few years. Sometimes it's better to hunker down and just wait out the annoying neighbor who is trying to sell while the market is up rather than try to relocate yourself.



Well, it sounds like you have given this a lot of thought. At least you have a plan.
 
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You can get the benefits of a masonry heater without having the expense of one.

It depends on your home, and what you are willing to do about it, but one year I greatly improved a pot bellied stove by just building a freestanding rock wall that surrounded the stove. Obviously I left the front open so I could put wood in it, but the semi-circular design allowed the stove to heat the rocks up, and then at night as the stove died down, the rocks would radiate that heat back out into the room. It really made a huge improvement in my homes heating efficiency with doing nothing more than strategically moving some rocks into my home.

Somewhere I got a picture of how well it worked. It was -4 below zero outside (f), and inside it was 87 degrees (f); a 91 degree temperature differential from outside to inside. There was no concern about my pipes freezing that winter that is for sure!

In my case, I had a concrete slab for a floor, so it held the weight, but if a person had a crawlspace or a basement, they could just put in some posts to help further support the floor joists.
 
Travis Johnson
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Personally I think it is good that you are staying where you are. I talked about this on another post, but it applies to this situation as well.

My personal opinion is, that moving is one of the greatest reasons Homesteaders fail.

Every location has deficiencies, but in the thrill of the unknown, and the thrill of something new, they are overlooked. But one thing that is definitely overlooked in moving, is the loss of contacts.

In a new location, all these contacts must be renewed, but staying in place allows a homesteader to work with people they already work with. I am not sure people understand just how important that can be when times get tough. All that forging of relationships which is good, but at the same time, as hard as staying where you at can be, but in life, doing it the hardest way, if often the best way in the end.

In life you cannot run from your problems, so why would it work in Homesteading?

I know what poor neighbors are like, I have lived with some nasty ones all my life. It has just got to the point where I know if I do anything near the property line, I will inevitably have to call an attorney. And at other times I have had to carry a gun in order to keep my neighbors for damaging equipment on my land. But all that, and I still have not moved. Moving would just mean finding new people that suck, so why move?
 
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Looking into an old school barrel stove enhanced with masonry lead me to the rocket stove and this site.
The firebox is huge,  but you burn fast and hot,  and capture the radiant heat in the masonry.
Very simple.
I'm still looking at it as a way to capture the heat from a biochar retort.
 
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