Collection of 14 Permaculture/Homesteading Cheat-Sheets, Worksheets, and Guides
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Douglas Smith

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since Mar 03, 2013
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Recent posts by Douglas Smith

Hi Paul Wheaton,

I was listening to your "awesome shit" podcast this week (while I was plastering the inside of my new straw bale work shed), about well repair issues, and you mentioned something about how the hell your water line was put in such rocky soil.

And, then I remembered I saw this video, about a tool that uses pressurized air to dig trenches in rocky soil, and it really works great  (according to the video).  Another benefit, is that it does not destroy tree roots.  Can you imagine digging a trench, and keeping the tree roots?!!!

It's called an Air Spade, used by arborists for excavating root systems. Hope that helps those looking for rentals.


Published on Dec 3, 2016
Progression of our off grid water system:

We are working on installing a more elaborate water system before winter strikes, but we ran in to a huge problem: we needed to dig a trench

7 years ago
@kirk Thank you for the update. That is very inspirational.

Some questions:

o how did you finish the top? did you insulate that also?

o I know you probably need time to actually evaluate the system for summer time use, but can you tell how much extra house heat the system generates , that is, might it overheat the house in summer? How cool does the exterior stay? Could it use more insulation? Maybe you use solar heated water in summer anyway, and see it as a 2ndary RMH ? It looks pretty easy to wrap in fiberglass (or something more natural), if needed.

Thanks again for sharing.
9 years ago
FYI, I got this email back from Sam Bentson over at Approvecho. Looks like it's a pot with it's own skirt built in.

Hi Douglas,

Thanks for sending this. We have done tests with finned pots before on wood stoves and the gains are not noticeable. There is also a problem of the fins becoming clogged with the tar from the wood smoke.

I think you are right that the pots you have found are designed for gas stoves. Have you seen our super pot? It increases fuel efficiency of wood stoves by about 30%

Take care,

9 years ago
It might be worth noting that these types of pans are probably only more efficient with an open flame stove, where the hot air is moving past the pan. They probably won't be as efficient with an electric stove, or hot plate, such as the top barrel of a RMH or wood stove. In that case, greater contact surface area probably counts for more. This is just my guess.
9 years ago
I thought the group might find this interesting. Improving the pan efficiency is complimentary to improving stove efficiency.

"With conventional pans, a significant amount of heat disperses into the air, causing energy to be lost. But the Flare pan uses technology that is often found in jet engines. Fins on the sides of the pan capture heat that would otherwise be lost. This is known as FIN-X technology and helps distribute heat evenly. This technology allows for heat transfer to happen quicker without using as much energy.

First designed for outdoor use during camping trips, the Flare pan could also be suitable for indoor cooking, Povey discovered.

“We realized it was a problem that applies to the domestic market,” he told the Telegraph. “So we worked from there.”

When camping with my alcohol stove, I already use a pan with heat collection fins on the bottom that greatly increases efficiency of the stove.

I am seeing more of these heat collecting pans in the camping gear scene, and I bet they would be just as effective on the top of a rocket stove.

9 years ago
Hi everyone,

Here are the Virginia Masonry Building code specs for your general perusal and edification. I think the section of concern to Rocket Mass Heaters is "SECTION R1002 MASONRY HEATERS"

I may be willing to go thru the process of building my RMH to attempt to meet these specs, and getting a permit and inspection to cover fire insurance concerns.

If anyone sees any points of concern or potential blockers, that would be great feedback.

Thank you much, Douglas
9 years ago
Thank you Allen! These are good items to chew on. I especially had not thought about the house stack effect.

o The RMH would be in the family room in the basement, and the whole family helps currently tend our wood stove there. I am sure the heated bench would be a favorite place to hang out.

o The flue is constructed smack in the middle of the house, and not exposed on the side, so it generally stays warmer, and does not get cold. I opened the stack clean-out door, and lit a match. There is currently a draw up. I think I should also test this on as cold a night as possible. The stack clean-out door also provided a convenient place to light some paper, to get a draw going, if needed.

o I realized the pipe-to flue connection is actually a clay pipe that the 6 in pipe fits into, that I could remove, and looking at it, it might leave about an 8 inch hole. I may be able to remove the clay pipe, and replace with 8 inch stove pipe (and seal), without further damage to the stack.

o I may need to seal air leaks to the attic, to reduce potential for back draft.

So far, I am leaning toward the 8" RMH solution. I don't have a measurement for the pipe length of the bench yet. Will get that shortly.

Does anyone else have any other caveats, best practices or bad experiences, related to items above?

Thank you! - Douglas

9 years ago
How do you deal with long term rust? enamel coating? A stainless steel barrel costs about $750
9 years ago
nice design. Would putting heat collection fins on the barrel make heat collection more efficient? What if the air spiraled down along the barrel, increasing the contact time?
9 years ago