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Rocket Stove

Nice and comfy, nested on the heated sofa-bench… The house is warm, the water hot, and the stove gently crackling as it finishes hits burn for the day. Temperature meant to go down to 1°C tonight. Right now it’s 4.7°C out there, but 20.2°C in here.

Our rocket stove is now in its second week of its second season. Only 2 blow backs so far ; once after I rushed putting a big log in shortly after starting it, the other time was when we had North West winds. The chimney is on the NW side of the house and isn’t yet taller than the apex of the roof, still got about 50cm to go. The book said that it might not be needed to take it up so we have been experimenting, but I guess the nearly 10m of horizontal stack was pushing it a bit… Yes, after the cob bench, the pipes go under the office floor… I hope elevating the outlet will solve the problem, lots of smoke rushing in the lounge is the last thing I want when changing the baby’s nappy …

Apart from that, it’s been a pleasure to get it started again, having last years’ experience means we’ve chopped our fire wood into long pieces and know which wood to burn when (mimosa for a quick clean burn, olive to last …) The land provides us with what we need but we also have been planting with burning in mind, the Indian cane in particular very straight and fierce as it burns, even wet. It feel s good to only rely on the land and our work to keep us cosy and clean.

Before the first burn, I got to clean our stove’s insides out. I am used to taking the barrel’s lid off, but it was first time I broke the cob seal to get to the chamber that joins the stove to the bench. The process involves one wall and the top part of the chamber to come off, freeing a lot of space to access both the pipe (pipes in our case) and the barrel/stove outlet. Last year was its first in keeping us warm, and we have been burning all sorts; pine cones, damp wood… So the clean was needed! There was a lot of shiny black soot but it was still a long way from getting clogged up.

It did take quite a bit of time to build and get right. But it was an enjoying process, and now it feels rewarding every cold day that the winter sends our way!

Here is a few things we altered/added:
* changed the vertical feed barrel for a horizontal feeding system , it feels safer to me as apart from our granite walls, everything was built with wood… and allows for burning of bigger, unbarked, damper logs, that can go straight into the burning tunnel. Making the stove basically less fussy, more like a traditional stove, even allowing for a big olive log to slowly burn overnight…
* added a water heating system ; simply coiled some irrigation pipe around the cobed barrel, then more cob for esthetics as well as the mass effect, and yes, even 12 hours after the fire being off, I can still hose down the baby’s bum without a tear!
* made the chimney much higher up than initially planned to stop smoke blowing back.
* we opted for a barrel with a removable lid, and I am really glad : being able to open the top of the stove allows easy cleaning of areas otherwise impossible to get to. With a very simple maneuver, I can check the top of the heat riser, the insulation, the soot…
* the bench has two 18cm diameter exhaust tubes running parallel through it, to increase the heat exchange surface.
* allowed a 2 inch gap between the wall and the bench and that’s where the fresh air supply runs, warming up along the way.


That done, WE NOW LOVE IT! It keeps us warm, we can cook on it, it heats our water and even our floor!
As one of the walls of the burning chamber was carved into the granite slab, after a few days of burning, the whole floor heats up. Warm feet, warm bums, safely dried shoes, winter’s starting good! Next? Get that chimney a bit higher, mold a cob seat above the burn tunnel and against the barrel, and figure out of to bake pizza on it!

Long gone the shivering night under double duvet in the caravan! Pfew!!


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