Chris Stallings

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since Feb 17, 2014
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Recent posts by Chris Stallings

Truth is, I'm not sure I know the difference. I called my local lumber yard and asked if they had fire brick. They said "yes" and when I get there these bricks looked and felt like every other fire brick I've ever seen and held. But, I can tell you that they are a bit lighter than the standard ole' red building brick if you hold one of each in each hand.
6 years ago
On top of the riser (which I will show in a reply to my own post) is a 30 gal. metal barrel that we fitted temporarily to see how the draft on this design would work with an attached barrel. I'll be using a 55 gal. I hope but this did cause a question and temporary solution. The bottom of the barrel is convexed out so, initially, I placed three bricks flat to set the barrel on around my riser in order to maintain the suggested two inch clearance from the top of my riser to the barrel. (standard fire bricks...roughly 2x4x8) When I did this I lost all but the smallest amount of draft and my fire began to burn out of the feed chamber. So, I took those three bricks and turned them on the side creating more distance between the barrel and riser so, instead of two inches of clearence, I had approx. four inches. This solved my draft problems temporarily but does beg the question...how important is that two inches of clearance? Is that kind of the rule of thumb but can be adjusted when necessary or is it concrete that my heater won't act right with anything but two inches? Will a 55 gal. drum act or draft differently than a 30 gal.? Is that why my draft disappeared because I was using a 30 gal. instead of a 55 gal.? Once I had the drum placed on the side of the bricks rather than the top, it worked beautifully. I noticed little change in my draft between drum on and drum off. I left the rear of the drum unplugged to kinda' simulate where my chimney pipe would go. I was still getting smoke out (smell and sight verified) but I chocked that up to a rough design with no sealing material. There are places on my current heater where you can see the slightest of light coming from inside the burn chamber as it starts to get dark. I'm hoping that once I get it mortared into place, seal all the cracks and crannies and properly insulate my riser then all this left over fuel will be spent. (gasification) On top of the drum you'll see a turkey thermometer. It's all I had at the time so I placed a brick on it so it would maintain contact with the drum. It never fell below 250 degrees and stayed steady at 270 as long as I kept an eye on the rough wood I was using and corrected any "hang ups" that occured. A couple hours after these photos were taken I borrowed a laser digital thermometer. My feed tube was cooking at a blistering 1000 degress F, bricks at the bottom of the riser were roughly 320 degrees F, barrel was the same at roughly 320 degrees F and the exhaust dropped to just short of 300 degrees F.

The other two pictures are just for reference. I figured that since I took them I might as well share them. Perhaps they will point out a mistake I've made along the way or let someone see something that needs to be adjusted. Like I said before, this is just a rough draft if you will. I have no expierence at building these what so ever except for the information the internet has provided. I understand that it has to be sealed in with cob, pea gravel, concrete, etc. and, since it's not, a lot of my issues may be corrected once it is. But if anyone sees something amiss...please don't hesitate to point it out. Either way...thanks for taking the time to read through this and giving my "pet projest" a look see.
6 years ago
So, this is my fifth or sixth attempt at making a RMH. I've encountered some issues that weren't expected and I think I might have figured them out but I'd still like some folks who've done more than a handful of these to tear it down and tell me what I've done wrong. I've included some pictures for visual reference so please feel free to shoot holes all in my design. I'd rather be told that I'm wrong now then find out the hard way when I install it.

The first picture is what I was planning on using as a riser. It's a piece of refurbished flue pipe that I found just laying around and the previous owner just wanted it gone. So, I snatched it up. After doing some research, it was suggested that I use something with a rougher interior for maximum turbulence to aid in the gasification reburn. But, after watching several videos of people using stove pipe as interior lining (even the wise and famous Wisners) I wonder how necessary the texture of the lining truly is to the process. The flue pipe is about 3 1/2 feet long and 8"x8" O.D. squared. The RMH I've featured in the majority of my photos is built with a riser opening to match this pipe but I have experimented with smaller openings on smaller, hastily built heaters trying to decide on a finally product and size for installation. So, suggestions on riser material, height, width, etc. would be greatly appreciated.

The second picture was taken to show the overall size and build of the current favorite design. The burn chamber is three bricks high (approx. 6") not including the cover bricks, four bricks long (approx. 32") and 1 1/2 bricks wide (approx. 14"). Like I said before...I've done some experimenting with size vs. draft vs. burn so on and so on and this, so far, is leading the pack. Not only because it seems to be the easiest to start, burn, feed and keep running but, also, because it uses more of the materials I have handy with little investment into it. Feed chamber height is seven bricks laid flat high (approx. 14") and it's the same dimensions as my riser hole (approx. 8"x8" O.D.) but the wood I am planning on using with be cut into two foot sections roughly and will mostly be seasoned cut wood busted down to appropriate size. (my son needs a summer job and conditioning for fall football...lol) One issue that I have run into is that there is some blowback from the fire back up the feed tube...no flames, just smoke. I temporarily corrected this issue by covering half of the feed tube with another brick. The smaller opening and it's placement (I covered the back half of the hole away from the burn chamber) seemed to help my draft. Why...I don't know but I suspect that the position of the cover brick is causing the incoming air to be forced down to the burning wood as opposed to be being sucked into the burn chamber from a much shallower angle. And, perhaps my draft has increased slightly because my intake hole is smaller thus causing air to move faster into the "vaccum" created by the hot air rising up the riser. I'm thinking of decreasing the height of my burn chamber by one brick (approx. 2") to force my draft to the fire. I think what might be happening is that the draft has enough room to skate by the wood at the top of the burn chamber and not carry the smoke from the fire in the back of the feed tube with it thus allowing it to rise out of the feed tube slightly. My riser base is eleven flat bricks high from the floor (approx. 22") with my flue tube sitting on top so all in all my riser is pushing 60" if not surpassing it. That is just a guesstimation since I've not actually measured it but it's pretty close.

The third picture is that of my feed tube. Notice how all the wood is pushed directly next to the burn chamber. I found that, if I rested my wood to far from the burn chamber then once the wood burned down and dropped the draft wouldn't catch the fire or smoke and prevent it from coming back up the feed tube. Hence my temporary fix with the single brick you see sitting on the feed chute. To correct this in the near future, I'm thinking of redesigning my feed tube to make it smaller in diameter than my riser tube. Currently they are eyeball gauged to be the same size. I'm hoping with a smaller feed tube that my draft will be moving all the way to the back of the feed tube and picking up all the not-so-nice stuff there to be carried to combustion. A lot of videos on some pretty respected sites show that the wood goes in straight up and then falls down as it burns. I love this design feature but have only seen it work on the smallest of my experimentations...at least work as advertised. What I have noticed, with the exception of the Mr. Wisner's design where he is demonstrating how the draft works on a rocket, is that the wood tends to fall at an angle as it burns off at the ends. eventually, it is laying flat in the bottom of the feed tub being consumed by the fire. Once it is burned up to the back wall of the tube, my draft is no longer catching the smoke and fire and it's allowing them , both, to travel back up the tube into the space I am occupying. So, any wisdom on this issue would be greatly appreciated.

I'll post the rest of my pictures and comments in a reply to this post so please scroll down to continue reading.

6 years ago
Thanks for answering my questions Thomas. They've pointed me in the right direction and made me believe that my idea might actually work. I won't be doing this in a plastic green house though...more like an insulated one car bay garage albeit a home made one as opposed to a professional contractor built one. If you're getting those temps 8-10 hours later after last feed with no more than plastic sheeting between your heater and the outside then my idea of a fully insulated room should hold a higher temp for a longer time in theory. So, I'm hoping that with the insulated walls and roof, I'll be able to to conserve more room temp and use it to heat my detached home as opposed to losing it to the outside environment. I guess trial and error will be the judge of that though. One of my concerns is heat loss through the ducting/piping I would need to use to move the heated air from around my RMH to my home. I know that preventing 100% of the heat loss would be impossible so I had the theory of making this "hot room" and moving the more-than-comfortably-heated air to my home so that when it arrives, it's still warm enough to heat my families home to a comfortable level. In essence it would be making a sauna and, instead of sitting in it and enjoying the heat, bringing to heat to me. Thanks for the suggestion on Ianto Evans book, I'll be picking that up.
6 years ago

William Bronson wrote: 'round here conventional wisdom says rockets only work in living spaces, as locating them else where makes tending to them unpleasent and unlikely.



Yeah, I kind of gathered that the general idea was to have the RMH within the same walls as you with all the pictures available showing sitting cushions/sleeping cushions and all. If I were able to do that safely that would be my prefered method of going about this "little" project in mind. Unfortunately, with my family living in a mobile home, I fear that it would be a disaster looking for a place to happen considering how fire prone mobile homes are anyways. But, I will be researching your other suggestions about a detached heat source given that I'm just getting started in this area and I have never heard of either of them...they may fit my idea better than a RMH. I have expierence with the old style cast iron wood stoves so I'm not a complete rookie when it comes to wood heat. It just seems that a RMH would be a lot more efficent and a little safer to operate since I wouldn't be on post to monitor it with the set up I have in mind. Thanks for your post...it's given me some options to look at.

6 years ago
So, first and foremost...hello to all the folks on permies and thank you in advance for the advice you are sure to give to a newcomer as he endeavors to lower his electric bill, better protect his family and become a more self sufficent human being. My first topic of choice is an idea I've been throwing around and I wanted to get some advice from people who have a lot more expierence than I do concerning RMH and thermal masses. The general idea is to build a shed/room/shop where a RMH and thermal mass would be housed outside the family residence...it would be close by but not "attached" to the dwelling. This room would be heated beyond comfortable limits and the heat from this room would be carried to the family home through the use of standard ducting (possibly buried piping of some sort to help with insulation) by small booster fans that would normally be used to help circulate air through duct work of larger houses. These fans would run off a thermostat to be able to control the comfortable temperature inside the home. I like the idea of incorperating a thermal mass into the design to prevent having to feed the "J" tube (the design I'm most familiar with) every hour or so to keep the room at adequate levels of heat to feed the main house say through a normal cold night here in southern, middle Tennessee. Granted that's well below the normal cold of the northern part of the country but I'll freely admit I'm a big sissy when it comes to cold weather. This room would be insulated with salvaged but commercially available materials...most likely left over spray foam insulation from some local agricultural building projects where they bought more than they needed and would just throw the excess away and would be made out of locally available materials such as cedar post cut from my land and tin roofing panels from aforementioned projects. Flooring would most likely be dirt floors for the time being but would eventually be updated to a cement slab. I'd like to see the room being attached to a work shop at some point but I'm more then willing to start on baby steps.

Now, I do have some general questions and forgive me if I'm asking stuff that has been answered else where and I haven't noticed it. They are as follows:
1) How hot/warm can I reasonably assume a RMH with thermal mass to be able to heat this room? (I'm looking for 80-100 degrees F with a in home temp of around 70 or so)
2) How often do you have to feed a generally normal sized RMH? (as in the readily available designs you see on youtube and such)
3) Are there any safety concerns past the initial set up, burn and operation that are specifc to RMH that would not normally be associated with the old style cast iron wood stoves?
4) How long will a thermal mass radiate heat that would be sufficent for what you assume I would need? (I'm looking to keep my kids from waking up shivering without having to man it like a campfire)
5) If this design has already been tried, is there a link, webpage or resource I could use for reference?

I've attempted to do my research on RMH's but I'm no fool...I know when to ask for help. I've studied Erica and Ernie Wisner as much as possible but have yet to attempt my own build. I can gather that the general practice is to have the RMH inside your residence or to use it to heat some medium (i.e. water) in order to transfer that heat into a residence. I live in a double wide mobile home at this time so it's not feasible, at least, at the onset to place it inside my residence. Thats why I'm looking to create this set up in order to benefit from this type of heating but still maintain some illusion of safety. Now, I have plans within the next few years to build a permanent home out of steel containers surrounded by earthern berms and I'll be looking to place one inside my residence during that process but it's just not doable with my current set up unless the experts here tell me otherwise. (err on the side of safety) So, any advice, criticism or hints would be greatly appreciated before I jump in with both feet and find out the hole is above my head. Oh, one other thing...my wife and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to the desirable temp for the house and she usually wins. So, the temps I've suggested are just that...suggestions.

On a side but related note...I saw a documentary once about a Kansas family who had incorporated an air-to-earth geo cooling system into their home where they pulled outside air into the home through underground pvc piping allowing the hot air to transfer that heat to the cool earth by using similar fans to what I mentioned before. I've researched geo thermal heating/cooling and have found that the majority of the systems out there require water or some other liquid to operate. I've looked at permies and haven't seen anything comparable to what I saw or have in mind. (which is a topic for another time) If there's anyone who's seen this documentary or knows something about this set up, I'd appreciate a helpful push in the right direction in order to keep my northern wife from melting in the southern heat. I'd like to be able to, somehow, mesh it with the system of duct work I have in mind in order to save money and electricity by using the same fans, ductin, etc. I would be using for my proposed RMH system but any information on the cooling set up would get the idea ball rolling.

Thanks again guys.
6 years ago