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Jay Stegman

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since Aug 17, 2013
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Recent posts by Jay Stegman

why is there an 8 dvd set? Just wondering as it mentions 4 dvd's and thenin the drop down purchase it offers individual dvd for cobb, 4 dvd and 8 dvd set. What is on the extra 4 or are you ordering 2 batches?
3 years ago
We built an underground greenhouse many years ago and it was actually 4-5 feet deep, insulated north with peak, and polycarbonate south simply using silicone or tube glue to seal the joins (which were on 2x4's)Walls were 2x6 construction, poly on inside so it was washable, and then welded wire panels attached to that with 1000 milk jugs filled with water and tied by the handles on all 4 interior walls. The roof line was above ground, but everything was grown 4-5 feet underground on straight soil. To enter you walked through the 4 foot tall entryway that was about 3 feet deep and bermed - you had two doors so you could go in, close the exterior, then open the interior to get into the greenhouse.
SCreened east and west roof so when it got warm it could be vented.

We routinely get -40 to -60 and that greenhouse never got cooler than -11 with no heat. On a decently sunny -20F day we could reach 80-90F with no heating. BUT we could heat the 16x32 greenhouse with a space heater easily as we had insulated blankets which you pulled across two rods at "ground" level (where the roof started), in order to not have to lose your heat to the poly roof which was above ground level. It was completely experimental as we new nobody who had done it, and only a couple of books even mentioned earth bermed or underground greenhouses.

None of this probably makes sense (hard to describe), and we had to leave that home and the new owner bulldozed the entire greenhouse which was tear worthy . . . Our new place has ground water at 6 inches most of the year so anything greenhousy would have to be bermed which we have not got around to doing as we have no extra dirt. . . Add a rocket mass heater and some chickens would love to scratch around all winter and you could be very self sufficient with fresh greens and stored foods. We don't try to grow things out of season in this climate, so this was used as a season extender for cold weather loving things and to start our heat loving things like tomatoes, peppers etc.

middle of winter

early winter - you can see where we pull blankets across to help retain ground heat each night

early spring

this is looking inside from the west end - I am standing at ground level looking inside

Anyway, this was far from perfect and yours is absolutely gorgeous with the rocks, but maybe gives some ideas for future projects !
3 years ago
Trying to make contact with people who have already built rocket mass heaters to utilize in our extreme cold in ND to hopefully visit and learn from so we can put one in our home also.

Who are we? We are a young family of 6 and have a few grassfed dairy cows that are one of the most important things in our system. Their excess they produce from grass alone feeds our pigs and chickens and produces meat for our year. We fill in the rest of our grassfed dairy/meat/cheese diet with home grown veggies and try to extend our season on both ends with planting cold hardy greens so we live more seasonally rather than cramming our already busy summer with preserving tons of food for the other 9 months out of the year. A challenge, but fun to boot, and it keeps our children busy with us. We have bees, laying hens, meat birds, milking shorthorn, dexter cattle are working on an orchard and fruit and a lovely garden on 15 acres. I've been doing this on my own for 9 years before I met my now husband and we have been working on it together ever since.
6 years ago
Satamax, is there a book out there specifically on these barrel and half barrel batch rockets with more specific numbers, using L instead of J etc? I'm reading as much as I can on the multiple forums and reading the different websites, but maybe I'm missing something that would bring a lot of it together

In re. to vertical exhaust, is there any problem with them freezing over because of condensation? this last year we had record cold temps forever and all of our exhausts in the house (bathroom, furnace etc) froze up every night! Lots of fun climbing up onto the roof to yank them out, thaw in the house or jam a broom handle trying to break it up. It only takes a short while to freeze things solid here!
6 years ago
So continuous work on a regular RMH would be stoking it a lot the first while - maybe more than every half hour. With a batch maybe every 1.5 hours. I might have to figure the logistics of running one, as it takes us 1.5-2 hours to complete our chores morning and night, and I can't see me remembering to run to the house to stoke it every half hour for a few hours. OR are you guys doing a 6-8 hour feed and then letting it go for 24 hours ish? I'm sure it is like so many other things we have done and just simply takes getting used to and planning your life around it which is NOT a problem for me.

Do others ever install a regular wood stove for "backup" and immediate heat when the stove has completely cooled? For example, if we are gone for the day or a 24 hour period, I would not have time to get up, watch the RMH for 2 hours and then do chores for 2 hours and then go to town (a 1.5 hour drive one way). We do a day trip like this once a month for supplies. Or how about if you visit somebody for a day, how do you run your stove in preparation? I am a bit of a hermit so we don't do much outside of our acreage, but it does happen Our wood stove right now takes about 1/2 hour to get going well (I do baby it when first starting it), then I can usually do a good stoke that will burn all day and when we get home at night it will still be warm. It is the -50F windchill days that are seriously hard. But it gives us immediate heat if we need it.

I am thinking of doing a few things. WHEn the book comes I will make a small outside model to give me an idea of how the feeding works, how it maintains heat etc. I would love an outside one like the video (that video is actually the one I was referring to when i said using a half barrel as the burn chamber), but until I am very sure of the temps, heat and logistics I would leave the experiments outside. I have more than a healthy fear of fires so the idea of burning a hole through my floor from heat freaks me out (Already been there raising chicks inside my house when it was -10 May 4th). Until i am much much more knowledgeable of all the logistics like you two fellows I won't fuss with it, but I do think working with outside models will be great learning experience.

I am still confused on using one to heat a greenhouse as I can't imagine having enough time to continuously feed a fire in a greenhouse every day, but I love the idea. Last place we lived we had a pit greenhouse that was killer and my favorite place to be on a -40F day.

Out of curiosity, where are people getting these 17 gallon barrels? I've never seen anything other than 55 gallon.

6 years ago
I am probably the most afraid of fire, out of control, burning a house down, burning a field down, (burning anything including grass!) and so if there is ANY question about it overheating the floor it will be out. Thank you for cautioning me though as many a person wishes they had been warned!

In re. to the half barrel theory - I'm not seeing the inside of the batch barrel to understand how it works without a J inside? If the diameter of the burn chamber, tunnel etc is all so precise, how can you just have a large feed chamber that breaks the rules of size and has no horizontal combustion chamber ? I saw from the one diagram they were still insulating and forming a J cast core and then utilizing the half barrels further on, but the Matt something or other that was linked to doesn't appear to have anything like that in his outdoor stove. (obviously it was outdoor and not necessarily done safely for inside a house)
6 years ago
First, my cows are not appreciative of my new interest in RMH and bells - I was an hour late to milking because I kept watching video clips and trying to understand the barrels, exhaust location, burning chamber size etc (my brain doth spin!)

Neither I nor my husband weld and we have no crate or pallet truck, but our lives are full of lots of physical work and lifting so moving cob, earth, sand etc is not hard for us. And we have a 1 ton truck that can haul dirt and a tractor.

What about the concern that the wooden box will burn? Several people asked that and I did not feel it was answered too adequately (we'll be checking next year etc). It looked like there was maybe 2-3 inches between the half barrel and the wood.

The location this stove is going in has 2x8 or 10 x14 foot floor joists every 12 inches set on top of a couple of lengthwise running metal i- beams (I'll get DH to crawl under there next time he is there to see for sure how wide the floor joists are apart). These places are moved in 2 - left side that is 14x80 is hauled in first and then the second 14x80 is attached on the other side. They are usually blocked with concrete blocks and I know the entire house is on a concrete pad. I know that due to the metal beams running the long length of the house and no strength on the edges, you aren't supposed to put these homes on a basement.

The stove would be running parallel to the floor joists which is probably a big problem as no 2x10 will hold several tons of weight. I was going to put it along a wall that faces the living room and kitchen. The wall is 14 feet long and runs north south. I am glad you asked these questions as I had not stopped to think how the direction I wanted to put the RMH was vs. the floor boards. The problem is that the walls running east west across the joists have windows all across them and those windows are only 12 inches from the floor. I'll have to figure out what to do to get around this. I could put it in the middle of the room so I could go east/west but then the ceilings are tall and I didn't want to run pipe 20 feet up through the ceiling.

It doesn't have to be portable, but it does need to be able to be moved OUT if the next owners want it gone before we leave. I'm seeing a few things - old lockers, metal trunks etc that people are putting the barrels in that might work. The reason I like the idea of barrel is a lot less weight on the floor but I know one must be sacrificing something for that mass?? Are these things heating as well as the traditional RMH?

Has it been determined that the horizontal exhaust is a thing of the past? My initial research showed a horizontal exhaust and now I'm seeing all the new plans are vertical. And I believe I read in a post a while back that Ernie and Erica abandoned the horizontal, but I need to do some more research on that. I was HOPING to go out horizontally and have an external vertical if necessary - we don't want to put a hole in the ceiling yet because we are finding that nobody here likes to burn with wood and that means they also dislike holes in their ceilings from the chimney box. Their grandparents were forced to burn and heat with wood and why would they want to go back to that!
Edited to say I just found a post Erica wrote on vertical vs. horizontal and she answered most of the questions. But share your critiques if you like! They must feel the half barrel and barrel bell ideas to be not as good as their RMH? (not wanting to start an argument at all, just curious if they would recommend using something like a barrel).

I have only seen half barrel boxes so far - are people doing full barrels also?? I am not at all opposed to that if it is better (there is TONS of room in this house for anything I want as we don't use a lot of living space).

Are the tubes joining the half barrels at the bottom still? And tube does the diameter of the joining tube matter (6 vs 8 etc)

Is this what you are referring to

If so, they are making solid wooden boxes, putting a few inches of cob, concrete etc under the barrel, covering barrel with a good layer of COB to not burn paint, then fist sized stones on top of the COB? Then topping it with pavers? Is this air space with rocks better than some type of fill or more COB? We happen to live somewhere there are very few rocks - very fertile ground and such. It is probably easier to get pea gravel or even to do COB than to locate fist sized rocks.

6 years ago
the half barrels they are using - what is on the floor under the barrel when it is inside? I see outside he is doing it on the ground, but how does he go inside safely?
6 years ago
We are not really on speaking terms with the previous owners, as some issues came up between all of us that they have bad feelings over - a different story that involves them accidentally spraying our 20 acres pasture with Atrazine AFTEr we bought it . . . I know they were rarely home (very involved in sports for their children and said they came home midnight almost daily after their long work days). And I know that most people keep their houses much warmer than we do

I saw the video Ernie and Erica made of their newer RMH and the pieces they were showing as junk wood were the size we have used so I was surprised by everybody telling me you have to have the small 2x2 inch pieces for the whole burn. So thanks for clarifying that.

The wood stove does a good job when it is at 32 here. . . most of our winter is no where near 32, so we just exist in cooler temps, dress well and do a lot in the living room/kitchen . I was hoping that a RMH would be able to do better than that because of the mass being used to store heat - maybe the house won't drop to 52 each night and that would be good enough for me!

I don't THINK a single 8' RMH would do worse than our wood stove, but for the cost to put it in we are not out much if it does. I'm just trying to heat a bit more space with hopefully less wood and not a lot of investment (not asking for much, eh*G*). The year we ran out of wood, we paid $400 a month during Jan-April to keep our house at 55F during the day and 42 at night. . . the wood stove means we can actually be comfortable for 1/4rd the cost if we have to buy wood. Most of our neighbors spend $800-1200 per month to heat without wood. We keep our thermostat to 44 and never use it otherwise - I can't imagine not burning wood!
We are 90 miles from any store or mall that would have wood - but I know what you mean about sourcing it. When we go to the larger center for supplies they often have monstrous piles of small wood they are getting ready to burn in their incinerators (menards, lowes etc)

A question - do the "portable" ones (look to be about 8 feet long) do a good job compared to permanent? The only reason I ask is that we most likely will not stay in this new location for more than a year before looking for a place with trees on it. We are thinking a RMH might have to come out in a year so should we be thinking portable?
6 years ago
I have been reading and watching but not getting a lot of information on running these heaters. I have the book ordered and am contemplating investing in videos, but a few things I've read brought up some questions on the use of this heater in our climate, house, etc.

Right now we heat our 1500 square foot one level modular home (28x56) with a conventional wood stove. We live in a decently cold climate and get 2 months of minimum -30F, often snow from 1st of October til April and bitter cold. In order to keep the house liveable (we don't mind it being 60-64F) we use 5-8 cords per year and shut down the one side of the house, choosing not to use 2 of our 3 bedrooms, so we are only heating about 1000 square feet. Our Pacific Energy stove works well for us - I stoke it morning and night, but if it hits -50F I get up in the night so it isn't so cold by morning. It banks easily and I never have to restart the fire as there are always coals 12 hours later (I hate starting fires).

We are moving to a different place, but it is still a one level double wide mobile home but with more land. The house is larger and I have some concerns about heating a place this big - 2400 square feet! We can again close off 3 of the 4 bedrooms but it still leaves a larger home than we heat now. It is an open floor plan with kitchen, family room, dining room, living room all one big square, 3 bedrooms off the living room and then other side of house is last bedroom and bathroom. Stove would be in the family room as that is central to the other rooms, but I know this expensive wood stove will NOT heat a house like this and I just cringe at running 2 stoves and having to do as much as 16 cords of wood every year (we live in farming land and very little close "wood")

I happened upon Rocket stove heaters a couple of days ago and they sound wonderful! But nobody has mentioned how they run this stove - they talk about needing to tend it for 1.5-6 hours and then let it die out and heat the house via the mass. This means you guys are starting the fire every single day? When you talk about tending the fire, are you having to add multiple small pieces every 1/2 hour or something - what do you do to "tend the fire"?
Many have said you can't burn cordwood - my husband cuts our wood and doesn't cut it small. Would it all have to be these tiny 1x2 inch piecs?

Is the RMH a good option for a home this size that is not on multiple levels or am I dreaming to think we could heat something this size with RMH? I have read that the book addresses shoring up wooden floors so I will read up on that when the book comes.

We homeschool and have a lot of other things going on that require us to stay home (we milk a couple cows, have chickens, pigs, garden, etc) so tending something for a bit time is not a problem, I just want to know what the tending involves. I don't like building daily fires, but I also don't like putting up 20 cords of wood, running multiple stoves at the same time etc and would rather tend a fire.

I have read not to use a RMH on a house this size as a main source of heat. What would the recommendation be then?

I am not concerned about the build itself, just want to be sure this is the right heater for our house.
Thanks for any experience, critiques etc.
6 years ago