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rmh in a refrigerated shipping container  RSS feed

 
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Hi everyone,
I've following these forums for a while now but just recently registered. I would like to get some much needed advice on a project of mine. I have read the rocket stove book but it doesn't address my situation directly and I can't figure out the best way to go about it. I have a insulated shipping container with aluminum t bars as the floor. I was going to build a wood floor and put a rmh on top, but could I just build it on top if the metal floor with a layer if brick on top if the floor? I'm building an office in it but I need to keep water from freezing, it gets to minus 40 degrees celsius here in the Canadian prairies. Any feedback would be much appreciated.
Btw I have a regular wood stove in one if my containers and it gets really hot in it,but I'm burning a lot more wood than I'd like.
 
John Eee
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I was also thinking about building a cob floor but it's a 53 ft long container so that would be a lot of extra stress on the railroad ties the containers are sitting on. eventually I want to bury the containers, just waiting for a cost effective way to do it.
 
steward
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welcome to permies. glad you decided to join up.

I think that you'll want to insulate the heater from the floor somehow. there are a number of ways to do that. for my own heater, I used perlite and clay slip surrounded by a course of salvaged bricks. cob that was heavy on the straw could work, too. rigid foam insulation would work, but that doesn't really fit the mass heater vernacular in my opinion.

on the other hand, if your container is already insulated from the exterior, maybe heating the interior metal by not insulating the mass could work really well. maybe some more details of your situation are in order.
 
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Location: Spokane, Washington
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John Eee wrote: I have a insulated shipping container with aluminum t bars as the floor.



Sounds like a dream come true...

I doubt that the inherent design of a refrigerated shipping container would include the contingency of thermally conducting the heat from a rocket stove directly into the floor. I would go with your original plan of a wood floor and isolate your mass.
 
John Eee
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Tel, the container is layered from the outside in; steel Reinforced aluminum shell, r30 rigid foam, and than the aluminum floor. When it is closed it holds heat great, and I was thinking the metal floor would be great at conducting the heat along the length of my container. As Chris pointed out I'm not sure the floor was made to take that direct heat, however, these things actually heat up as well refrigerate. I have working diesel reefers attached that will heatthissucker to 80 f I believe, but they are more for emergency use for me though.

I may have to build the floor I just hate working with lumber.it just seems redundant to build another floor on top of a well insulated one already there mean these floors are meant to take fork lift traffic, what's a little heat stress going to go you know?

 
tel jetson
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alright. that does give me a better idea of what's going on.

I would say that the only part you'll really need to insulate is under the stove core. that's the only part that would be really hot. and it needs to be really hot, so insulation is important regardless of the floor it's on. the mass, though, doesn't ever get terribly hot, which is sort of the point of the mass. it gets warm, but not hot. so if your floor can handle a forklift, I don't see any reason you would need to add more floor just for your mass. just make sure there's a fair amount of mass between the flue and the floor.

being such a good conductor of heat, the aluminum should act as a further heat sink and improve the function of the stove. aluminum does also have low emissivity, though, so it might not give that lovely radiant feel.

from what you've told us, I think your containers will be a great location for a mass heater.
 
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Just thinking on the fly here. Those trailers usually have a channeled floor. If you built a floor on top of the aluminum channels you would have an opportunity to create a plenum across the front of the trailer with a small fan installed, you could blow air under your thermal mass and spread the heat the whole length of the trailer. Sounds like a great set up to me.

I engineered a pump house for a concrete plant using one of those trailers. We built a 2500 gallon tank in the front half, and put all the pumps and the boiler in the back half. Then we packed the underside of the trailer with straw bails, and built a skirt the whole way around. The first winter, I would go in and check on things when it was a long weekend just to make sure nothing was going to freeze. It was clear, that freezing was not going to be an issue. with all the thermal mass of the water and insulation, it never got below 60° F, even after 4 days of not running anything.
 
Shane McKenna
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In my scenario, I would put the thermal mass on aluminum sheet metal.

I would put the thermal mass at the front of the trailer, with the rocket stove built into a corner. When burning, the heat is going to be quite intense in the front of the trailer, so it may be a good idea to put a forced air fan and duct along the ceiling, to distribute the heat along the whole length of the trailer. I think the challenge would be having a really hot space on one end of your trailer while burning. Having a plan to add more air distribution, more heat sinking, and perhaps even a vent to the outside would all be a good ideas to consider, should you find the stove chasing you out of one end of the trailer.
 
John Eee
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Yeah sounds like I should at least build a floor for just under the combustion chamber, I think there is treated wood under the aluminum. I really like the idea if putting bales if straw underneath the container, that would be cheap extra insulation.

Thanks for all the input! Going to go pick up some materials today after I draw it all out.
 
John Eee
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Shane
Do so you would build the thermal mass and the stove at one end?

My plan was to have the stove at the front, and the thermal mass run to the other end. That way I could use the heat from the combustion chamber in my office while I'm in it, and the thermal mass can keep the other end warm overnight when I'm not in it. The other end will actually be used for a growing stage of oyster mushrooms.
 
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Is this a flat floor or ribbed? I see no reason to put down an extra floor, perhaps if you have an air gap under the burn chamber area it would be perfect. Have thought many times to getting an old reefer trailer and turning it into a snowmobiling/hunting shack. They can be had cheap due to the complexity in removing all of the metal from the insulation for recycling.
 
Shane McKenna
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You have obviously spent a lot more time thinking about your needs, so your plan of running down the length of the trailer probably meets those needs better than my ideas.

I had a brain flash, and shared how I can see a system working in the space, but I was thinking your whole trailer was being used as an office, and that the thermal mass would take up work space. I was also mainly considering how the channeled floor lends itself to moving heat down the whole length of the trailer with a forced air system. Also, I have seen these trailers with a simple tarped ducting system to move cold air from the front to the back along the ceiling. That same system could be used to move warm air from the front to the back. However, since you are going to be dividing the space, that changes my conception of the project, and how best to distribute the heat.

Overall, the insulation, sealed envelope, existing air moving components, weight capacity, and thermally conductive floor of your trailer makes for an excellent project, and a wonderful repurposing of a refrigerated trailer. In several projects I have used them as working modules for mobile systems, and at least one of them became a permanent installation with very little conversion. Considering these trailers are designed to move 50K+ worth of cooled or frozen goods over varied road conditions, they are likely over-designed in frame, and weather proofing than any building you could purchase at the same price.

One thing to factor into your design, is that a trailer is designed to carry the weight over the whole length of the trailer. That weight is spanned between the rear axles and the king pin. The floor has a slight crown over this span. If you evenly distribute the design capacity weight the crown flattens out. In the case of our install with the water tank, boiler, and pumps, we loaded everything in dry, and watched the crown flatten out as we filled the system. once it was flat, we braced up the center of the trailer. With the bracing in place, the trailer could then carry well over the design capacity. We could have braced it without letting it flatten out first, but we wanted a relatively flat grade to keep our tank water level flat.

 
Chris Burge
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John Eee wrote:what's a little heat stress going to go you know?



it's gonna melt that r30 foam in a heartbeat
 
Shane McKenna
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Chris you bring up an important issue that should be thought about in any stove installation.

My next door neighbor painted their front door black, and it melted all the foam out of the door one hot summer afternoon.

Most of the insulating foams are rated in the 150° to 180° range, except for polyisocyanurate at around 300°. I highly doubt your trailer is using the later. However, like all good installations, a heat shield/heat spreader should be used to prevent any elevated temps from contacting any combustible or meltable materials. Most trailers have FRP, or plywood panels that are not good heat spreaders.

I scroundged up some used commercial heat ducting from a project rebuild. These are sheet metal lined with 1" fiberglass insulation that we are putting on the walls and ceiling around our install (sheet metal side towards the stove). This reflects the heat out into the room, and spreads and deflects the hottest temps from our wood basement ceiling. By the time the heat migrates past the heat shield it has diluted enough to be perfectly safe.

If you are trying to do a project on the super cheap, another source of insulated sheet metal can be found on used ovens, and dishwashers for free. The sheet metal sides usually have insulation on the inside of them, or around the central vessel that you can use.

Commercial heating and air contractors sometimes have ducting tear outs from remodels and upgrades, since the initial installs are mostly custom fabricated parts, that can't easily be retrofitted into other systems, they are glad to have you haul it away, rather than filling up their dumpster.
 
John Eee
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John Master wrote:Is this a flat floor or ribbed? I see no reason to put down an extra floor, perhaps if you have an air gap under the burn chamber area it would be perfect. Have thought many times to getting an old reefer trailer and turning it into a snowmobiling/hunting shack. They can be had cheap due to the complexity in removing all of the metal from the insulation for recycling.



The floor is made of aluminum T's spanning the length of the container, so I guess you could call it ribbed. Yeah they are pretty cheap, I live in the middle of Canada so they cost a little more, I've seen them for sale at major dock cities liek vancouver and they are crazy cheap.
 
John Eee
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Shane McKenna wrote:You have obviously spent a lot more time thinking about your needs, so your plan of running down the length of the trailer probably meets those needs better than my ideas.

I had a brain flash, and shared how I can see a system working in the space, but I was thinking your whole trailer was being used as an office, and that the thermal mass would take up work space. I was also mainly considering how the channeled floor lends itself to moving heat down the whole length of the trailer with a forced air system. Also, I have seen these trailers with a simple tarped ducting system to move cold air from the front to the back along the ceiling. That same system could be used to move warm air from the front to the back. However, since you are going to be dividing the space, that changes my conception of the project, and how best to distribute the heat.

Overall, the insulation, sealed envelope, existing air moving components, weight capacity, and thermally conductive floor of your trailer makes for an excellent project, and a wonderful repurposing of a refrigerated trailer. In several projects I have used them as working modules for mobile systems, and at least one of them became a permanent installation with very little conversion. Considering these trailers are designed to move 50K+ worth of cooled or frozen goods over varied road conditions, they are likely over-designed in frame, and weather proofing than any building you could purchase at the same price.

One thing to factor into your design, is that a trailer is designed to carry the weight over the whole length of the trailer. That weight is spanned between the rear axles and the king pin. The floor has a slight crown over this span. If you evenly distribute the design capacity weight the crown flattens out. In the case of our install with the water tank, boiler, and pumps, we loaded everything in dry, and watched the crown flatten out as we filled the system. once it was flat, we braced up the center of the trailer. With the bracing in place, the trailer could then carry well over the design capacity. We could have braced it without letting it flatten out first, but we wanted a relatively flat grade to keep our tank water level flat.



Hmm thanks for sharing that. It's actually been pretty difficult to find any information on modifying refrigerated containers, everything out there is about those corrugated steel wall containers.
 
John Eee
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Shane McKenna wrote:You have obviously spent a lot more time thinking about your needs, so your plan of running down the length of the trailer probably meets those needs better than my ideas.

I had a brain flash, and shared how I can see a system working in the space, but I was thinking your whole trailer was being used as an office, and that the thermal mass would take up work space. I was also mainly considering how the channeled floor lends itself to moving heat down the whole length of the trailer with a forced air system. Also, I have seen these trailers with a simple tarped ducting system to move cold air from the front to the back along the ceiling. That same system could be used to move warm air from the front to the back. However, since you are going to be dividing the space, that changes my conception of the project, and how best to distribute the heat.

Overall, the insulation, sealed envelope, existing air moving components, weight capacity, and thermally conductive floor of your trailer makes for an excellent project, and a wonderful repurposing of a refrigerated trailer. In several projects I have used them as working modules for mobile systems, and at least one of them became a permanent installation with very little conversion. Considering these trailers are designed to move 50K+ worth of cooled or frozen goods over varied road conditions, they are likely over-designed in frame, and weather proofing than any building you could purchase at the same price.

One thing to factor into your design, is that a trailer is designed to carry the weight over the whole length of the trailer. That weight is spanned between the rear axles and the king pin. The floor has a slight crown over this span. If you evenly distribute the design capacity weight the crown flattens out. In the case of our install with the water tank, boiler, and pumps, we loaded everything in dry, and watched the crown flatten out as we filled the system. once it was flat, we braced up the center of the trailer. With the bracing in place, the trailer could then carry well over the design capacity. We could have braced it without letting it flatten out first, but we wanted a relatively flat grade to keep our tank water level flat.



Now it all makes sense! Putting in the laminate floor was a pita, i couldn't figure out why there were slopes in the plywood we laid down and we couldn't get anything level or plum lol.
 
John Eee
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Shane McKenna wrote:Chris you bring up an important issue that should be thought about in any stove installation.

My next door neighbor painted their front door black, and it melted all the foam out of the door one hot summer afternoon.

Most of the insulating foams are rated in the 150° to 180° range, except for polyisocyanurate at around 300°. I highly doubt your trailer is using the later. However, like all good installations, a heat shield/heat spreader should be used to prevent any elevated temps from contacting any combustible or meltable materials. Most trailers have FRP, or plywood panels that are not good heat spreaders.

I scroundged up some used commercial heat ducting from a project rebuild. These are sheet metal lined with 1" fiberglass insulation that we are putting on the walls and ceiling around our install (sheet metal side towards the stove). This reflects the heat out into the room, and spreads and deflects the hottest temps from our wood basement ceiling. By the time the heat migrates past the heat shield it has diluted enough to be perfectly safe.

If you are trying to do a project on the super cheap, another source of insulated sheet metal can be found on used ovens, and dishwashers for free. The sheet metal sides usually have insulation on the inside of them, or around the central vessel that you can use.

Commercial heating and air contractors sometimes have ducting tear outs from remodels and upgrades, since the initial installs are mostly custom fabricated parts, that can't easily be retrofitted into other systems, they are glad to have you haul it away, rather than filling up their dumpster.



Actually i believe it is polyisocyanurate. One of the 3 containers has a hole on the inside, and the insulation looks a lot like polyisocyanurate, and I guess that is why my regular wood stove placed 10 inches from the wall hasn't melted it down yet? Or maybe because its just too friggin cold here. Thanks for that tip on finding some sheet metal insulation, people are always giving those things away on kijiji/craigslist. I just got a pick up and il always trying to find things to haul back to my farm.

The walls of my container are made of this white glossy wallboard, like what you would find in a commercial washroom or walk in cooler wall. Its textured but really smooth, and where it has been broken it looks like its at least partly made of fibreglass. I will probably have to at least redo the silicone around the combustion chamber, as I dont know if it is hi-temp rated.
 
John Eee
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Shane McKenna wrote:You have obviously spent a lot more time thinking about your needs, so your plan of running down the length of the trailer probably meets those needs better than my ideas.

I had a brain flash, and shared how I can see a system working in the space, but I was thinking your whole trailer was being used as an office, and that the thermal mass would take up work space. I was also mainly considering how the channeled floor lends itself to moving heat down the whole length of the trailer with a forced air system. Also, I have seen these trailers with a simple tarped ducting system to move cold air from the front to the back along the ceiling. That same system could be used to move warm air from the front to the back. However, since you are going to be dividing the space, that changes my conception of the project, and how best to distribute the heat.

Overall, the insulation, sealed envelope, existing air moving components, weight capacity, and thermally conductive floor of your trailer makes for an excellent project, and a wonderful repurposing of a refrigerated trailer. In several projects I have used them as working modules for mobile systems, and at least one of them became a permanent installation with very little conversion. Considering these trailers are designed to move 50K+ worth of cooled or frozen goods over varied road conditions, they are likely over-designed in frame, and weather proofing than any building you could purchase at the same price.

One thing to factor into your design, is that a trailer is designed to carry the weight over the whole length of the trailer. That weight is spanned between the rear axles and the king pin. The floor has a slight crown over this span. If you evenly distribute the design capacity weight the crown flattens out. In the case of our install with the water tank, boiler, and pumps, we loaded everything in dry, and watched the crown flatten out as we filled the system. once it was flat, we braced up the center of the trailer. With the bracing in place, the trailer could then carry well over the design capacity. We could have braced it without letting it flatten out first, but we wanted a relatively flat grade to keep our tank water level flat.



originally I was planning on a forced air heating system, but i am on solar and only have 2000 watts to play with. Plus in one of the containers with the traditional wood stove, I am using this "eco fan", which is powered by the heat of the stove. It is actually pretty amazing, with the stove on full blast, the fan is able to push alot of hot air across the whole container. Has anyone used these eco fans on their RMH? i imagine they'd work the same...
 
Shane McKenna
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John Eee wrote:

The walls of my container are made of this white glossy wallboard, like what you would find in a commercial washroom or walk in cooler wall. Its textured but really smooth, and where it has been broken it looks like its at least partly made of fibreglass. I will probably have to at least redo the silicone around the combustion chamber, as I dont know if it is hi-temp rated.



That is FRP (fiberglass reinforced panel). They are made with fiberglass and plastic, not high temp friendly enough to have a stove up close. I would be less worried about melting, and more worried about off gassing. I am not familiar with the temp rating, and I am sure it varies depending on the manufacturer. If it were me, I would cover with insulation and sheet metal until you are a distance far enough away to have temps below 130° at the surface. That is not a scientific number, just my seat of the pants talking, for what ever that is worth.

 
gardener
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isolate the RMH core from the floor. we are not talking about a few hundred degrees here we are talking incandescent bricks and that means very hot. aluminum cannot take the heat nor can the foam but its not a big task to lift the burn unit and insulate under it.

the T channels would make a really good hydronic floor and the RMH can heat an open tank on top then you can use a small pump to circulate the hot water all over the container.

umm why is the container still refrigerated? is it a blast freezer and you are using the blast unit for air conditioning? bad idea for continued health if you are.
 
John Master
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Ernie, how long until incandescent bricks phase? I have only burned my rocket heater for an hour or so and obviously haven't gotten there yet, just wondering if it is 5 hours ish or how long? I realize this is a wildly speculative question but humor me please if you have an estimate.

I think he was saying it was a referigerated type trailer and not that he was refrigerating it while he was in there.
 
John Eee
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Shane McKenna wrote:

John Eee wrote:

The walls of my container are made of this white glossy wallboard, like what you would find in a commercial washroom or walk in cooler wall. Its textured but really smooth, and where it has been broken it looks like its at least partly made of fibreglass. I will probably have to at least redo the silicone around the combustion chamber, as I dont know if it is hi-temp rated.



That is FRP (fiberglass reinforced panel). They are made with fiberglass and plastic, not high temp friendly enough to have a stove up close. I would be less worried about melting, and more worried about off gassing. I am not familiar with the temp rating, and I am sure it varies depending on the manufacturer. If it were me, I would cover with insulation and sheet metal until you are a distance far enough away to have temps below 130° at the surface. That is not a scientific number, just my seat of the pants talking, for what ever that is worth.


Lol yeah I realized the meaning of FRP when I was at home depot looking for a sheet to repair some holes, but that stuff is expensive. 55$ for a 4X8 sheet... I've been meaning to put up some insulation on the wall, it's just been really cold so I haven't done any work except work on keeping warm lol. I've been feeling the walls around the wood stove when it is on full blast just to make sure things aren't too hot, and so far its been ok. Nothing uncomfortably cold, but I have a window right beside the stove for when it gets really hot, just cracking it open lets in a lot of cold air and mellows everything out.

Oh yeah forgot to ask, are there any tips on salvaging that FRP stuff??
 
John Eee
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Ernie Wisner wrote:isolate the RMH core from the floor. we are not talking about a few hundred degrees here we are talking incandescent bricks and that means very hot. aluminum cannot take the heat nor can the foam but its not a big task to lift the burn unit and insulate under it.

the T channels would make a really good hydronic floor and the RMH can heat an open tank on top then you can use a small pump to circulate the hot water all over the container.

umm why is the container still refrigerated? is it a blast freezer and you are using the blast unit for air conditioning? bad idea for continued health if you are.



Yeah I will definitely be insulating under the RMH core, thanks. Yeah I want to utilize the T channels somehow, and that sounds like a great idea!

The container isn't refrigerated. I don't use the diesel reefer units, they are their just for emergencies, and only for the mushrooms. I will be putting up window A/C unit in the summer along with a swamp cooler.

One question is anybody using RMH's in -20 to -40 celsius weather? Am I dreaming by thinking that a RMH would be able to keep one of my containers warm over night, when it is -40 outside?
 
Shane McKenna
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Oh yeah forgot to ask, are there any tips on salvaging that FRP stuff??

Food packaging/processing plants use it to line the walls in washdown areas. If you have a company near you that has done some expansion projects that is where I would check first. I see it on Craigslist.org from time to time.
 
Ernie Wisner
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our stove hits incan in about 30 min. we are burning larch, fir and spruce. our bricks do not take very long at all to glow. i would think that in one hour yours should be glowing very nicely. do you have the feed insulated down at the bottom couple bricks?
is the bottom of the burn tunnel insulated? lots of things can make it take longer to get a good glow. you should be getting almost pure mineral ash out of the burn tunnel if you arent you need to A. burn the stove longer and get the whole system up to temp or B. insulate a bit more. generally i find that folks skimped on insulation, mostly not a fault as much as it is our lack of language to describe how the perlite and clay should be mixed for best results.
 
Ernie Wisner
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uh yes on the -20 and -40 weather. We are at 3800 feet 12 miles from the Canadian border. Pinticton would be the best known town in canada, near us. no problems and we are eating through our 1 cord of wood; it should be interesting how much we actually burn.

we burn about 3 feed tube loads of wood a night/burn period. the wood is 16 to 18 inches long so its got some time to burn. we tend to load the stove once every hour and a half or so. It varies up to 2 hours. its our only heat source and keeps our place comfy for many hours.
 
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Hey Ernie.
What's that perlite/ clay mix ratio/technique and how thick are you using it?
 
Ernie Wisner
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start with clay slip the thickness of pancake batter then add perlite until you can press a ball from it and when the ball is compressed between thumb and forefinger it explodes. this is a very definite stage the perlite tends to feel dry but if you compress it like you are making a snowball it will adhere together. the application of force to opposing points on the surface brakes the adhesion suddenly. since different clays and wetness es of perlite cause the proportions to change there is not set mix.
 
steve raymond
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thanks for the info Ernie.
I, like many, am building a RMS and will post any interesting stuff to share with others as the build progresses!
 
John Eee
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Ok so I am still trying to wrap my head around raising the combustion chamber, and insulating it. So I want airspace between the stove and my floor, but what is supporting that space? I understand I need to have the air and insulation but how do I support the space to have air, and put in insulation. In Ianto's book, it says to put bricks on the foil, and than mineral clay insulation. But how do you place a layer of clay on top of bricks on edge with space in between them? Any insight would be very helpful, I have most of my materials but I feel I should have a better understand everything before I start.
 
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