In Alternative Fuels

What is a Rocket Mass Heater, you ask?

A while back, the team from Green Energy Futures (which includes our past PDC grad Duncan Kinney) came down to Calgary to film a workshop we co-hosted and create an informative video about these little wood stoves. Simply put, rocket mass heaters are great DIY options for creating cheap and super efficient heat for a wide range of applications. They burn small amounts of wood, are easy to build, and can be made inexpensively for around $200 in material cost. In my opinion, they’re one of the most important appropriate technologies for sustainable living.

Peak your interest? Think that you might have an application? Free on September 12 – 14th? I’m delighted to let you know that the folks at Groundswell Network are teaming up with Dirtcraft Natural Building to run another amazing Rocket Mass Heater workshop in a few weeks from now in Invermere, BC (3 hours from Calgary):

Rocket Mass Heater Workshop Groundswell Dirtcraft

Over the course of the two and a half day workshop, participants are going to play with fire, learning about how rocket mass heaters work and how they can be integrated into a functional greenhouse. But this won’t be your ordinary backyard greenhouse – this will be a production-style greenhouse with a subterranean heating and cooling system, able to store surplus energy underground through a network of air pipes so that it can be extracted at a later date. Essentially, it moderates the space, keeping it cool when things gets too warm and keeping it warm when it gets too cold. This ability is crucial if you’re trying to grow through multiple seasons, even year-round, given our extreme Canadian climates.

For a background on rocket mass heaters, check out these past Verge blog posts:

For more details on the workshop, visit Groundswell’s Community Network website or check out Dirtcraft Natural Building. Space is limited!

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  • Musa

    Hi Rob,
    Thank you for sharing your passions and interests. I live in Vancouver and have attended quite a number of native sweat lodges in the area, the interior and on the islands. I have been many times gifted with the task of being the fire keeper for the “grandmothers and grandfathers” (the sacred rocks that are heated until they glow, before they are brought into the lodge). It takes a large quantity of wood to get these grandparents ready for the sweat lodge as we usually burn for an 1.5 to 2 hours!
    Is there a way that between your expertise and that of others in this field of rocket stoves, that we can co-create and come up with a way to heat these 40-50 grandparents to glowing using a larger chamber to create the heat needed? As well it has to be large enough that one can open the chamber and remove the heated rocks safely so it can be brought into the sweat lodge. I am also thinking that pipes can be run into/around/under the sweat lodge to utilize the vented heat. Any ideas, suggestions, thoughts?? If we can make this happen, I would love to bring the idea to elders so we can be more cost effective (as large sums of money are spent just on the wood being burned alone) and maybe more environmentally friendly (smaller footprint on our environment). Imagine if all the sweat lodges used this creation to heat the sacred rocks, what a difference we would make in people’s lives, financially and environmentally!

    Looking forward to the conversation and challenge of doing things diffferently,

    Musa Kalaora

    • Rob Avis

      A rocket could definetly be used. Perhaps have the heat riser feed into an insulated chamber like a forge. The forge could have an inlet on one side and shoot on the other. The shoot could direct the rocks into a metal container that could transport the rocks, or perhaps shoot the rocks right int the middle of the sweat lodge. You could also just build a proper rocket in the middle of the sweat lodge and then use it to flash steam and avoid the rocks all together.

      Hope that helps.



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