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1st RMH BUILD -- old house in detroit, scrappy approach, winter is coming  RSS feed

 
Posts: 17
Location: Detroit, Michigan
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YAY for my First Permies Post! YAY for my first rocket mass heater! LOVE learning so much from all of you. You are all such an abundant wealth of information and inspiration. My understanding of RMH elements, performance, thermo-godamn-ics, etc. come from Ianto's book, speaking/corresponding with E & E, and this stupendous website.

And so: I've got a big (2,700 sq ft), old (built in 1903) house, in a relatively dense neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan. Our house is entirely off-grid (no city water -- all caught; no sewer -- all composted; no electrics -- off-grid solar-system)... and winter is coming! The house is only insulated in the attic, above the 3rd floor -- I know, I know. I just don't have time this season.

Our intent is to have the RMH integrate (as) seamlessly (as possible) with the existing structure/layout -- which is a challenge of trade-offs. We will be 'shrinking' the living-area (bedroom, kitchen, living room, composting toilet) from 2,700 sq ft down to 4 standard-size rooms. I am hopeful that a RMH with an 8" system throughout can provide enough heat to cut the cold. Please correct me if I am mistaken. We have an existing, 2-sided fireplace, which is south-facing, centrally located East to West, and 5ft from the front doors. This chimney is 35-40ft tall, and includes 4 flues, one of which is lined (though it isn't the easiest to pipe into). The plan is to build the core and bell, out of re-purposed firebrick + 55g metal drum, on one side of the chimney, and then pipe the ducting (including manifold) though the brick wall separating the two fireplaces, where a 48" x 85" mass of urbanite, brick, earth, etc. will be positioned. This will be our (wife and I's) winter-bed (lovely, no?!). Directing the piping is a tiny challenge, as its entrance arrives at the longer-angled axis of the mass... so even distribution of heat to mass is a touch tricky, but enough drawing should solve this easily enough. We will be laying 6 cinder-block columns in the basement for additional support below the mass. Existing concrete slab has minor damage in a single 1' x 1' area, which I do not believe to be of significant concern, post-patch job. I am considering laying a column or two under the combustion unit as well, but I haven't committed to that yet.

If all this seems prudent to you, and I'm on the right track, I would like to ask what I came to ask: can I pipe the exhaust (which has travelled 50ft, incl. 5ft per pipe-turn through the mass material) down/vertically about 5ft into the basement, where one final bend will take it outside, to and through a small garden bed, which will, it is most hoped, become warm(er) than it would otherwise be. The wind comes from this direction, so that appears to be a plus. But, is it possible/feasible to drop the pipe's run by several feet and take it another 15-20ft outside, all in a horizontal run? Boy oh boy, does a year-round growing-bed sound mighty tasty... Or: do you recommend that I just pipe it into the existing, and most welcoming 35ft chimney, thereby increasing draft, ejecting all so safely away?

I am probably forgetting to ask some other outstandingly important things... but, yes.

Thank you so many millions in advance! I will be laying the support columns tomorrow. Soon to be rounding up materials. Excited to hear from you all.
greg
 
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Greg Crawford : Welcome to Permies.com, our sister site, Richsoil.com, and the rocket and wood stove forum threads !

God we are going to need several score of pictures, it would be really nice if E & E were not totally right-out-streight at wheaton labs,
I am sure that someone has tried what you are attempting- ? ?!!

I just want to re-phrase what you are saying to possibly show you a small ambiguity in your words ! Yes you should be able to use
~50 feet~ of horizontal heat runs through your thermal mass starting at the transitional area at the rocket mass heaters RMHs base
and ending at the last stovepipe elbow connecting into your chimney, But you must remember to subtract 5 feet for everyElbow in
your system, 5 elbows = 25 ft, that is 50'-25'=25' of horizontal run ! A 35' tall masonry mass chimney should give you more draft than
most chimneys, however some of the additional benefit is lost as the chimney travels through the colder upper floors of your house.

You will also have to deal with cold air downdrafts through other smoke ducting passages within this tremendous thermal mass !

There are conditions where you could be condensing abondant moisture inside the upper reaches of the chimney that services your
RMH, you could even have rain-like conditions in your chimney !

Please concentrate on heating as small a 'core' of your house as possible, asking for a nice warm garden will not work with your 50'
limitation anyway !

the ernieanderica.info site has lots of information on how to schedule and then check on your progress to be able to start your
build with materials gathered and your mind intact ! Of primary importance to you is Knowing from where you are going to resource
materials, good scrounging comes from planning, failing to plan is planning to fail! -Or a lest arrive at the end of your build finding you
have spent much more money than you've planned, and with paid materials you didn't use ! For the good of the Craft ! Big AL !
 
greg crawford
Posts: 17
Location: Detroit, Michigan
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Thanks for the reply Big AL! I imagine someone else has tried what I am attempting... WHERE ARE YOUS GUYS?!?!?!?

Yes, I am clear on 5ft accounting per elbow. And, I am planning on closing the other ducting passages within the chimney, to prevent any cold-air down-drafting.

Perhaps I should integrate a moisture catchment basin for any potential 'rain'... Thanks for that advice. Concerning that huge chimney -- do you suppose that, being the huge and unheated mass that it is, the chimney will be a heat sink, sucking the heat I am trying to generate?

The warming of a garden: I have been led to expect 90-100 degree (f) air exiting the mass, if this is correct, it would be significantly warmer than the winter temperature. Even if the exhaust is 60 degrees, this is valuable potential for a very small, cold-framed, outdoor growing bed.

Yes, material acquisition is now on my mind. Love the advice to check out ernieanderica.info for scheduling/progressing information -- but I cannot find this on the site. Are you able to send me a direct link? I do have the required items list in Ianto's book.

"Failing to plan is planning to fail." I like.

Greg

 
allen lumley
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Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
59
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Greg C. : Kinda in order, A well functioning RMH will only produce '' Fly Ash'' that is consisting of a few elements only and not long chains of heavy
elements of combustion gases, Water vapor is possible, creosote is not nether is lye, a strong caustic, but we do not know the complete burning
history of each flue in your monolithic chimney ! You could end up with black rain and really nasty stuff leaking out of wall thimbles and pipes.

Your stove pipe has a crimped 'male' end that goes into the un-crimped 'female' end. you want the female end facing upwards towards the ceiling,
with the male end sliding down into the female end this will keep the nasty stuff from leaking out Every stovepipe joint should have two (2) short
sheet metal screws to hold the sections together and the joints taped !

The end nearest the RMHs burner base/transitional area has the 1st call for heat, there will be little left for the mass of the chimney after 50'.

However, you must work at isolating your chimney and other areas or your living core from the rest of the house.

Please take the safe way to get through this winter, don't even think about heating a garden space, your 50' will quickly get used up!

There base to be some heat rising in the chimney to create the draft that you need to prevent smoke back at your feed tube ! Cold air will only fall
you can not make it rise !

More at :::--> ernieanderica.info/shop :::--> try a right click with your mouse for a new window or exact Google search , then scroll down the
page close to the very bottom for the parts and accessories, treat every world as GOLD ''Mithril'' For the Good of the Crafts !
Big AL
 
greg crawford
Posts: 17
Location: Detroit, Michigan
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here's one photo i have on my computer. you can get a sense of how the chimney, with its two fireplaces, sits in the middle of the space.

the side from which this photo is taken is where the mass material will be located. its piping will emerge through the brick wall which separates the two fireplaces. the mass material is planned to wrap-around both sides of the chimney, so that the bed hugs the chimney.
the combustion unit will be located at the other fireplace, which is not visible in this picture.

i will snap a few more photos to fill-in the rest of the area.
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greg crawford
Posts: 17
Location: Detroit, Michigan
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got some photos snapped.

the first two show the side where the combustion unit will live.

the last is where the mass material will be located.

again, both units, respectively, snuggled up to a single side of the chimney, with the piping passing through the brick wall which separates the two fireplaces.

what thoughts have you?
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Posts: 243
Location: near Houston, TX; zone 8b
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Exhaust from a fire does not want to go down. It wants to go above the height of the fire. If you try to force it down, your fire will be smoky and not burn fast and hot.
 
allen lumley
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Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
59
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Greg Crawford : A little more home work for you! This time we are completely by-passing the Woo-Woo stuff and getting down to further making your house livable!

The picture that shows the condition of the ceilings in your to-be-heated-space is a major problem for you ! To understand why you have to understand that all houses
Breath, releasing warm moist air at the top of your house, creating a low pressure area at the base that sucks in cold air !

You need to do a Google Search for 1) stack effect, And 2) Whole house stack effect, 1st the one, and then the other, this is not an intellectual exercise, you need to
understand how the loss of ceiling plaster is like a BIG hole in your house connecting to the Outdoors, and letting heat out and sucking in cold air !

1st we stop the heat/hot air loss and then work on the cold air drafts !

Before I saw your ceilings condition I was going to suggest seeing if any of the Insulation in your attic was roll insulation, and could be taken up and laid strategically
on the floor of Your Houses 2nd story! In many ways this will be of little help while your ceiling is a major hot air vent dumping heat/warm air out from underneath it !

The days dwindle down to a precious few ! Colder days are coming! You have to spend Time, Effort, and Money to tighten things up there or find other tighter winter
quarters! The ball is in your court ! Big AL
 
greg crawford
Posts: 17
Location: Detroit, Michigan
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the balls are most certainly in my court! thankfully, i understand that holes in the ceiling are bad. not to worry, i will soon be patching all.
good thought about moving the insulation in the attic, but no, being loose-fill that is not possible/desirable. but: the house came with a mountainous abundance of clothes -- i will be relocating these to the 2nd floor, above the living area/heated zone. i am also hoping to score some rigid board insulation via craigslist. i plan on laying this down on the floor of the 2nd story, as well as shaping it to fit window recesses. i will also be sewing insulated blankets for doorways, etc.

cold air drafts will come after re-plastering holes, yes.

i realize the consequence of spatial/structural design in regards to how capable the house is to hold the heat the RMH is generating. for, how can a heater perform well, if the heat it makes is not held? alas, all these balls bouncing at once. interesting days are certainly here.

thank you for your advice. if you have any more, i would most certainly welcome them.

greg
 
allen lumley
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Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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_ The old timers rule- " If your feet are cold, put on a hat !" was never truer than in your case ! Good Luck ! Big AL
 
Posts: 45
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I have a suggestion, but it there may be drawbacks I've not foreseen. In our rural setting, some folks will LOOSELY fill plastic bags with dry fall leaves. I stress loosely, because this maintains insulating air pockets. These are then piled around the exterior foundation as a wind break and insulating barrier.

Would there be merit in the same concept in the room above the living space Greg is seeking to heat ? I think it might be better than old clothes, which will compress with time and lose insulative quality.

Just a thought...
 
gardener
Posts: 2581
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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Just a consideration, bags of leaves might also be less attractive for mice and such to nest in (or at least better contained). Nothing like picking up a bunch of clothes and finding a winter's worth of mouse droppings in the chewed-up remains...
 
gardener
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greg crawford wrote:here's one photo i have on my computer. you can get a sense of how the chimney, with its two fireplaces, sits in the middle of the space.

the side from which this photo is taken is where the mass material will be located. its piping will emerge through the brick wall which separates the two fireplaces. the mass material is planned to wrap-around both sides of the chimney, so that the bed hugs the chimney.
the combustion unit will be located at the other fireplace, which is not visible in this picture.

i will snap a few more photos to fill-in the rest of the area.



Greg; please, don't mess about, turn that into a batch rocket massonry heater! See my reply at donkey's site. I have the solution for you!
 
greg crawford
Posts: 17
Location: Detroit, Michigan
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oddly, i havent seen a single mouse (nor sign of one)... odd, since the house has been vacant for some time.
i hadnt considered something like bags of leaves.

satamax has a pretty novel idea... rocket masonry heater... i have replied to his suggestion @ http://donkey32.proboards.com/thread/1354/build-house-detroit-scrappy-approach, but the gist of which is that: "i like the idea of heating up the chimney mass, this is quite certainly desirable, as i am slightly concerned that it will otherwise be a bit of a thermal nosebleed, being enormous, as well as connected to the outdoor temps. i see myself missing the heated bed-platform, as my intent was to heat our bodies, most directly, as opposed to heating the space (for the first year). one could build a bed up on the top there..."

it's classic, yes it is, for my finger to be on the trigger, flicking there, and be called to consider something totally out of the box. thanks for keeping me real satamax!





 
Posts: 126
Location: Coastal temperate deciduous forest (Boston) - zone 6b - 44" rain/year
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Congratulations Greg on being off-grid in Detroit. I hope I can visit next time I am there to see my family on the east side. Someone is fixing up the old family home at 300 Ashland (on Fox creek) as well this year.

Jerry
 
greg crawford
Posts: 17
Location: Detroit, Michigan
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SOME RANDOM Q's:

*E & E's material list @ ernieanderica.info/shop, includes 'gasket', under hardware/fitting category. is this the expansion joint that connects the barrel to the masonry material?

*it is acceptable to use a simple/generic clay-slip to mortar the firebricks in place for the j-tube combustion chamber... would refractory cement be preferable?

*are there any suggestive advice for details concerning the manifold (connection between barrel and mass-ducting)? i have the relative sizing figured out, from watching the DVD -- is this the only particular?



 
Glenn Herbert
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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I'm not certain what E & E intended the "gasket" to be used for, but the expansion joint would be appropriate. If there is a removable top to your barrel, you would want a good gasket on that.

Plain clay slip would probably work fine, but not be as durable as fireclay mortar. Its main purpose is to seal the joints and keep parts from wobbling, not to work as glue. Someone with more experience with both in this application could give a firmer answer.

The main particular of the manifold is to keep the flow area as large and smooth as possible, as the gases have to do a lot of contortions in this area. You especially want the transition from manifold to flue to be considerably larger than the flue cross section.
 
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