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! RMH in a Tipi

 
Emily Aaston
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Update! This build is covered in DVD 1 of the new Better Wood Heat 4-DVD set.

Hello! Tony and I will be spending the winter in a tipi with the newly installed rocket mass heater from last weekend's RMH workshop on the lab. We intend to update this thread with our experiences as the fall progresses to winter. After last weekend's workshop, the heater itself is installed, the dry stone masonry foundation is completed, and the first layer of thermal cob is set and currently drying. We are also testing out the new shippable core as part of the experiment and will be able to report on its performance. There are still several layers of cob (structural and plaster layers) that need to be added, and the poles to the tipi need to be replaced before we move in. I will be running a hot fire through the system today to help the drying and adding a bit more cob once it thaws. Here are a few pictures from the workshop last weekend:

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current interior of tipi: RMH in place, masonry layer and first layer of thermal cob
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installing the core
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the core
 
Emily Aaston
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more workshop photos:
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laying out the ducting
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adding clay slip to the ducting
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first layer of cob
 
Emily Aaston
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a few more workshop photos:
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busy at work
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learning how to set up a tipi properly
 
Miles Flansburg
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Emily, I will be watching this thread with great interest. I have a lodge but have never used it during the colder months.
Do you have experience with Living in a lodge?

Have you ever read this book?

http://www.amazon.com/Indian-Tipi-Its-History-Construction/dp/0806122366/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383244693&sr=1-1&keywords=laubin+tipi

Do you have an ozan?

Here is some interesting information. Although the Laubins used small sticks to keep rain from dripping at the liner.

http://simplydifferently.org/Tipi
 
William Bronson
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That looks cozy! Thanks for sharing the photos!
 
Vicky Barton
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Came into the forum today searching for any photos of the Tipi / RMH project. Thanks, Emily, for posting the pics! I am also interested in knowing how well the RMH does in the tipi.

Why replacing the tipi poles? ... I'm dreaming (as usual) of building one on our little property north of Spokane WA. We're about the same elevation as Paul's land, I think.

Emily, I hope you enjoy the experience and that it all goes as good as possible for you. Thanks for keeping us posted!
 
Emily Aaston
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Quick Tipi update:

Tony and I have not yet moved into the tipi. We had some technical difficulties with the first core so we are in the process of making a new one. We will also be getting some straw today to begin the structural cob layer on the bench/bed, which we hope to complete this weekend. After that, the plaster layer, making a portable woodshed, collecting firewood, and making ourselves at home.

Vicky Barton wrote:
Why replacing the tipi poles?


We will be replacing the poles since the current poles are too short. On some lengths there is less than a foot of clearance at the top. We have been told that long poles stabilize themselves in the wind and keep the canvas taught. Luckily there is a second tipi on the laboratory with longer poles so as soon as we are able to thoroughly dry out the other tipi and fold it up for the winter, we will make the switch.

We are very much looking forward to moving in once we finish the project. By the end of today our core should be finished. We are using Paul's shippable core design found here:http://www.permies.com/t/29470/pp/rocket-mass-heater-shippable-core. We will posting more photos on that thread soon.

Hoping it doesn't snow again for a wee bit longer, but at least we have the advantage of using a rocket mass heater to dry the cob as we go!
 
Emily Aaston
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Tony and I spent the better portion of the last week building a new core for the tipi. We used Paul's new wooden box style and posted a lot of pictures on his wooden box style thread: wood box style. Right now it needs to dry out quite a bit more before we "ship" it up to the laboratory and into the tipi.

We have been unable to find organic hay anywhere nearby so will be breaking out Paul's scythe to harvest our own tomorrow.
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our new core with an existing RMH in the background
 
Anthony Aiuppa
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A Tipi Update:

We had a bit of a delay on our cob progress when we discovered that we could not find any organic straw anywhere nearby. After calling a dozen places and asking around, we decided to take Paul's advice and use his new scythe to harvest some straw from the backyard. So here is a photo of Tony's first scything experience. We still have some practicing to do, but we were able to harvest a decent amount of straw within an hour.
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Tony scything
 
Emily Aaston
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We also replaced the tipi poles with taller ones, but utterly failed to set up the tipi properly. We have since watched many "how to" videos and are hoping the third time will be the last. We have appreciated the bits of sunshine over the last few days and have been able to pull back the canvas to allow some sun-drying and more space for working. There are couple of photos of the bench before we added structural cob as well.
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re-setting up the tipi
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the bench: pre structural cob
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pre structural cob
 
Emily Aaston
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We have spent the last few days adding the structural cob and have begun forming our bench wall, which we plan to bring up to 2 feet.
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tony working on bench wall
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the bench wall under construction
 
Emily Aaston
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AND.... today we were able to transport the new core we made last week up to the tipi! We have spent the better part of the last week building and firing our core (using Paul's wooden box style). It dried enough to move it today and it fit into our bench remarkably easy.
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core arrives
 
Mariamne Ingalls
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Thanks, Emily, for the awesome pics!!!

Am really loving the sequences you are shooting.
I know it takes effort to stop and record while you are doing, and so especially appreciate them: very instructional to us all out here!

Thanks for all you and Tony are doing at The Lab!

Mariamne
 
Julia Winter
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Would you care to explain why you made a new core? Maybe I missed something. . .
 
Bill Kearns
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Hi Emily and Tony,
Thanks for all the pics of your hard work. Your RMH is looking great!
When I read that your tipi is canvas and that you were taking down a second tipi to store it for the winter, I wondered whether you'd given any thought to erecting the second tipi (with another set of poles) as an outer shell? This would provide a dead air space for insulation, help keep the inner canvas drier, and could be erected with the outer poles actually resting on the inner tipi. It might also provide additional structural support during windy periods.
Just a thought. Will be watching your efforts with great interest.
 
Jason Lindsay
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Hey guys, great Progress! Glad the weather has been cooperating, and way to be kickin-a%* with the cob work.
I was super happy to see the muddy garden digger in the picture. I left it on purpose figuring it would come in handy.
The new core looks good. I assumed it was cob, but am wondering now if it's clay and perlite?
 
Jennifer Charlton-Dennis
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These are great photos!! That RHM is amazing!! I can't wait to hear about how well it works and see more photos!! Thanks for sharing!
 
paul wheaton
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Julia Winter wrote:Would you care to explain why you made a new core? Maybe I missed something. . .


The first core was using Erica's amazing new goo. Only we think that putting it in a place where there is frost before it has completely cured was not a good idea.
 
Mike Roesch
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where are you located? would it be possible to come by and take a look at the RMH and maybe help out if needed?

thanks

mike
 
paul wheaton
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Montana.

You talk to Jocelyn. You will need to have listened to several podcasts first.
 
Emily Aaston
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Miles Flansburg wrote:
Do you have an ozan?


Thanks, Miles, for the helpful links. I only recently realized what an ozan is, and am wondering if we might be able to make one out of say, a wool blanket. Have you used one before? If so, did you find it to be worthwhile? Thanks!
 
Miles Flansburg
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Emily, I am really watching this thread because I want to try the same thing with my lodge.
I have never used it during the winter so have not used an ozan, but my experience in the lodge shows me that the wind will blow under the cover at ground level and up between the liner and cover , up and out of the smoke hole. This creates a natural chimney. The ozan is hung at the same level as the liner, over the sleeping area, to keep heat in the living space as much as possible. I would think that any kind of blanket or tarp would work. As you all are experimenting with living in the TiPi through the winter I thought that an ozan might be part of that.

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Bill Kearns
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It's cold here at my place. Really cold: -3oF. It's even colder in Montana.

So. How are you good folks doing? RMH + Tipi = staying warm?
Seriously, I am concerned. Is there anything we can do/organize on the forums to assist your winter experiment in some way?? Need anything?

Better yet, tell us you're warm and happy!
= )
 
Chris Hearn
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I thought tipis were designed to be mobile for chasing the buffalo. Will you build a new RMH when the buffalo roam?
 
paul wheaton
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We have a big group of people here right now. The highest priority is to finish the cob at the tipi - but it is too cold right now.

Tony is on his way up there to run a fire for several hours.

Tony and Emily have been out for two weeks for turkey day and visiting kin and the like. But now they will be here full time until march. Temps have been sub zero day and night. There is cob ready to roll just outside the tipi under a tarp. but it is now frozen like cement.

Once Tony has the inside of the tipi heated up, then we could (in theory) work cob inside and then start applying it. If the stuff outside is too cold to work, we are thinking of a two prong approach:

1) on a day where the temps might get above freezing, build a fire on the cob and get it warmed up so that once the air temp is above freezing we can bring the cob in the tipi and work with it.

2) on a day where the temps might get above freezing, take the track hoe to the material spots and dig up fresh raw materials at a level that is lower than what is frozen, take that to the tipi and work with it.

 
Micky Ewing
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Hi Emily and Tony,

I wish you good luck and warm weather while you work to get your situation more livable. You are a gutsy pair to have taken this on and this winter ain't making it easier. I'm watching this thread with great interest; I'm currently building a yurt which I will heat with a RMH. I hope to build a platform for the yurt at some point, but initially it will go on the ground, putting me in a similar situation to yours.

I'm curious about the dry stone foundation for your RMH. I'm guessing this is a combined thermal mass, moisture barrier and thermal insulation. I'd like to know where the idea comes from and if it has been tested somewhere before. I have old stone fences on my land, so if this is an effective approach, I may try it too.
 
Emily Aaston
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Hello, and thank you for the encouragement. Tony and I have officially been living in the Tipi now for a few days (for Tony, close to two weeks).

The cob bench is still not completed, but it is in a state that allows us to be comfortable. When we left for a vacation, the cob froze due to very cold temperatures. We had two waves of awesome helpers come through for 8 days when we returned near the beginning of December, but due to the cold we were still unable to add any more cob. We have been creating a sauna in there for a while to thaw and dry the existing cob. We believe that it is now thawed, and almost entirely dry in the most imortant places (the bed and bench) while the back wall is not dry, but is dry enough lean against.

We still need to add at least a foot of back wall, and add the finished plaster to the bench but Erica has advised us not to add much wet cob when what is existing is not yet dry. So we plan to plug away at it slowly through the winter, but I don't foresee the finished dried cob to happen until spring, or at least a warmer stretch. That, and the materials are mostly frozen, so mixing cob is a chore. We were able to mix a few buckets of cob with the second wave of helpers last week, but it took building a large fire on top of the frozen clay/sand AND using the track hoe to break up the rest of it.

We are wanting to add finished plaster to the actual bench surface as soon as we can find some organic horse manure in the area.

For a while we were running heat through only half of the bench to thoroughly dry that section before pushing it through all of the twists and turns in the bed. But in the last couple of days we have switched it to the end of the bench, and the RMH has been working efficiently.

The bed mass now heats up very well, and we are very warm when sleeping. We have two down sleeping bags that we have zipped together and use as a blanket. Tony was actually two hot a couple of nights ago. It is difficult to create much insulation in a canvas tipi, and we are still newbies and learning much, so in the mornings the air in the tipi is cool, while we are still warm in our bed. In the evenings, when we light the stove at night, the radiant heat from the barrel coupled with the conductive heat from the mass keeps us very cozy. We can sit inside comfortably with a t-shirt even.

We are still looking for ways to create more insulation in the tipi to save some of the heat for the morning, but for now we are enjoying the warmth from the barrel and bench!
 
Anthony Aiuppa
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Micky Ewing wrote:Hi Emily and Tony,


I'm curious about the dry stone foundation for your RMH. I'm guessing this is a combined thermal mass, moisture barrier and thermal insulation. I'd like to know where the idea comes from and if it has been tested somewhere before. I have old stone fences on my land, so if this is an effective approach, I may try it too.


Micky, you would be right. The idea came straight from Erica during the workshop. I think it is a tested cob building technique, IE: cob needs a good hat and pair of galoshes. The topic is covered somewhat in the cob book "Hand Sculpted House" by Ianto Evans.
Emily and I like drystone masonry. I think if we had had more prep time we might have made more of the bench out of drystack, thus saving us the work of mixing as much cob. It is our other job to do this on trails in National Parks.
 
Emily Aaston
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Here are a few photos from a few weekends ago when some folks were here helping us unthaw cob and move forward with the project in cold conditions. Many thanks to all of the folks who came out to help! Mixing cob in the snow is not easy.
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tipi in the snow
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cob!
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mixing frozen cob
 
Emily Aaston
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We enjoyed Christmas in the tipi!
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Christmas in the tipi!
 
R Scott
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Emily Aaston wrote:The bed mass now heats up very well, and we are very warm when sleeping. We have two down sleeping bags that we have zipped together and use as a blanket. Tony was actually two hot a couple of nights ago. It is difficult to create much insulation in a canvas tipi, and we are still newbies and learning much, so in the mornings the air in the tipi is cool, while we are still warm in our bed. In the evenings, when we light the stove at night, the radiant heat from the barrel coupled with the conductive heat from the mass keeps us very cozy. We can sit inside comfortably with a t-shirt even.

We are still looking for ways to create more insulation in the tipi to save some of the heat for the morning, but for now we are enjoying the warmth from the barrel and bench!


Wow, I never realized just how synergistic that was--radiant heat when you are up and then the bed is toasty for the night. I bet it still sucks to be the one to light the fire in the morning, though

Those big fancy poster beds, they were to hold the heat in as a mini tent within a room. You can do the same over the bed with something hung like a mosquito net, but thicker. Something like this: http://www.amazon.com/Brown-Canopy-Mosquito-Outdoor-Events/dp/B005PJ5EY8/ref=pd_sbs_sg_38 (chosen for the picture, not the product) but made with a light cotton. Four goodwill bedsheets on a ring. Tipi within the tipi.
 
Julia Winter
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the big circles up behind the barrel--are those to reflect heat away from the poles? (and towards the people?)
 
Emily Aaston
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Julia Winter wrote:the big circles up behind the barrel--are those to reflect heat away from the poles? (and towards the people?)


those were put up as heat shields, to keep the tipi poles and canvas from getting too hot, but I think it also reflects back onto us. It also serves to reflect the fire at night, and provide a kind of light show for us.
 
Tyler Flaumitsch
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That bench looks heavy duty! The core looks awesome, I take it that it is the one that broke up though as heard in the podcast. Have you guys been able to make headway in rebuilding?
 
Anthony Aiuppa
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Tyler Flaumitsch wrote:That bench looks heavy duty! The core looks awesome, I take it that it is the one that broke up though as heard in the podcast. Have you guys been able to make headway in rebuilding?


The core pictured above, made out of clay and perlite is the one we built to replace the original broken core. It has been working admirably so far.
When the core is fired for three plus hours the bench gets nice and warm. When fired for 6 plus hours I would call it hot. Emily and I were using inflatable thermarests that started to "pop" like popcorn as the factory bonds began to melt and break. Now however we have assembled the buckwheat mattress which is much better. We'll get some pictures up soon.
 
Tripp Tibbetts
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Wow! I thought we were hardcore, but living in a tipi through a Montana winter?? Especially this one!

My wife and I, and our two young children live in a 16x20 wall tent in the north Georgia (USA) mountains and use a rocket mass heater. First winter we heated with a small iron box stove, and burned a LOT of firewood, like 4.5 cords or so, even in a mild winter. Not what we wanted to be doing. We built the RMH this fall and are burning next to nothing and generating a respectable amount of heat. A lot of my firewood stash is finding new careers in the garden bed retention, fence shoring, and hugelkultur industries. Because we're converting our tent platform to a cabin soon, we haven't added thermal mass to the bench, which could make all the difference, but we have trouble staying warm enough through the night with just the stove. For this one winter we're using a propane space heater to pick up the slack at night and allow us to stay in bed all night, sleeping, and not up tending the fire. In our admittedly limited experience with the RMH it takes too much regular attention to use through the night, and Ianto Evans would probably be quick to point out that that's not the way it's intended to be used anyway. So we use a little gas. Just for a few months until we get that hard structure built. I'm not at all sure the building department is going to understand, so I don't want to have to move that much weight twice. We're two years deep into coppice management and judging by the fuel preferences of our "dragon," (his name is Smaug) this seems like it's going to be a winning combination...once we get some hard walls, insulation, cob and plaster around that stove. The combustion unit weighs about half a ton itself, and holds onto heat really well, but I'm guessing another 2-3 tons of mass bench will be a substantial upgrade for next winter.

But compared to us, you guys definitely got all the stones. Thanks for sharing your story! Best wishes to you. The light and sound of living in canvas is hard to beat. We'll keep our fingers crossed for breaks in the weather out there (aka "May")!

My blog address is www.smallbatchgarden.blogspot.com if you'd like to see more pics and read commentary. Oh, and I think the up-thread suggestion of wrapping the second larger tipi around the smaller one is a real winner...

Cheers,
Tripp



http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-MRVXLfeADfo/Uqy1np0jQTI/AAAAAAAAAsU/aTdNtW1IoCU/s1600/109.jpg


http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-0EnHILZ97Bc/Uqy1zaMmqII/AAAAAAAAAsk/u-xyy-fh90k/s1600/120.jpg
 
Emily Aaston
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Tripp Tibbetts wrote: My wife and I, and our two young children live in a 16x20 wall tent in the north Georgia (USA) mountains and use a rocket mass heater. First winter we heated with a small iron box stove, and burned a LOT of firewood, like 4.5 cords or so, even in a mild winter. Not what we wanted to be doing. We built the RMH this fall and are burning next to nothing and generating a respectable amount of heat.


Very cool! It's nice to know we're not alone living in canvas with an RMH. It really is remarkable how well the mass heats up. It has become quite difficult to leave our warm mattress in the cold, dark mornings. Having spent a good portion of my life living in tents out in the wilderness, I now have a great deal of gratitude for the warmth the RMH is providing. Thank you for sharing your story and stay warm in your wall tent! Once you are able to add mass to this or another RMH in the future, you will be quite pleased!
 
Emily Aaston
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And here are a few photos of the new mattress we just made recently: ALL ORGANIC and made of primarilly buckwheat hulls. The items came from openyoureyesbedding and it took us about a half a day to assemble the mattress. It has been incredibly comfortable, absorbs a lot of the heat from the mass, and we were able to manipulate the shape of the mattress to fit perfectly with our oddly shaped cob bench. So here are a few photos:
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Tripp Tibbetts
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Emily, thank you for the response. So it sounds like all that mass really is keeping you guys warm in that challenging climate! Good to hear. Maybe I should go ahead and fill that bench of ours and let the county sort it out when the time comes.

The big king bed you see in my last photo was purchased several years ago, when we both had "real jobs," before our world was rocked by permaculture - standard manufacturing pillow-top type, and still really cozy, but we have been thinking about switching to something more natural lately. Buckwheat hulls sound super comfy, and you say they hold the mass heat well too? I'm sold. Just need to convince the wife now.

Best,
Tripp
 
paul wheaton
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Here are a few of my thoughts in talking wtih Emily and Tony.

71) We want the goal to be that you have a fire at night and everybody is warm, then wake up to lots of warm.

72) The tipi is wonky. The lower edge has an odd shape. We bought it used and now we are beginning to understand why the price was so good.

73) While the rock base does a great job of breaking any water wicking up into the cob, it also creates a place for the mass heat to escape where it is of little value to the occupants. A possible improvement may have been to start the rock base lower in the ground, then have an insulative layer, and a thicker mass.

74) Currently the back of the bench is not complete. We think this would be a big help in keeping things warmer.

75) If the back could be more insulative, then more heat would be directed to the inside and less to the outside.

76) I think it would be good to have a collection of experiments involving the exhaust. My concern is that once the fire goes out, the chimney continues to draw cold air through the mass - taking the heat out through the chimney. One thought is to put a guillotine where the exhaust comes out of the mass and shut that off when the fire goes out.

 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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