Rocket Mass Heaters: Clean, Inexpensive and Efficient
Shared by Our Friends at Good Dirt Radio
If you live in a cold climate, have high heating costs and access to wood, a do-it-yourself Rocket Mass Heater might be of interest. It’s a simple, super-efficient, woodstove that can help you stay toasty in winter, save money and reduce pollution. Like a poor man’s masonry stove, it absorbs and holds heat in a thermal mass made of common, local materials.
Bernhard Masterson is an artist, natural builder and teacher in Portland, Oregon who leads workshops on building Rocket Mass Heaters. He says the design creates turbulent fire, with a gentle roar that burns very hot, eliminating particulate and gas residues with little to no visible smoke at the chimney. The mass heater uses about 75% less wood than a conventional stove and holds heat in a sculpted adobe-straw cobb bench.
Masterson says, “It’s basically a heat storage device and so when it’s fired every day for a couple of hours, you’re storing the heat from that fire in the thermal mass. The heat is being released
into the space from that thermal mass and it’s a radiant heat, which is a really comfortable heat.” Most woodstoves and fossil fuel heating systems are major contributors to global warming. The low-tech application of a Rocket Heater’s swirling fire can
turn wood remnants into utility bill savings, much less pollution and efficient heat.
Masterson explains, “The turbulence is really produced by the fact that the burn tunnel and the flue path have a couple of different 90° bends in them; every time you go around one of those 90° bends, there’s more turbulence, so that improves the
completeness of the combustion.”
Leslie Jackson is a musician and gardener in Oakland, California who built her own thermal mass stove. She’s the coauthor of Rocket Mass Heaters a how-to building guide with examples and drawings. Those who want a local, independent, low pollution heat source can build their own, adding creativity and comfort to their home, she says.
“The wood stands up to burn. The fire burns sideways down a short brick chamber. The chimney is inside the stove and it’s insulated. The wood burns so efficiently because of the stove’s geometry, there is almost complete combustion leaving few greenhouse gasses, if any. Fire, which has been one of our tools forever, is such a powerful tool to harness. And Rocket Mass Heaters are a great solution for those whose locality contains a
lot of inexpensive, available firewood,” says Jackson.
Masterson says mass wood heaters can be built in most rural and urban areas subject to codes and safety measures from local building departments. Using recycled parts, he built his for about $400. “One of the real benefits of a Rocket Mass Heater that I see is using materials that are not processed consumer materials to build the stove, and using waste products from the local environment to heat the house. And for me, heating with wood really connects me to nature,
connects me to the outdoors.”
Jackson adds, “So this is just one of many solutions, like permaculture and making biodiesel, that’s local and available to help heal the Earth back to a more balanced state.
Rocket Mass Heaters can provide cheap but inviting winter heat comfort using wood waste and help reduce one’s carbon footprint. Knowledge is power. When a critical mass of people learn the issues and practice solutions, we can be a strong force for change, creating a saner future.