A mass heater made by Organic Arts
Project data
Authors Leigh Blackall
Location Canberra, Australia
Instance of Rocket stove
OKH Manifest Open Know-How Manifest Download
Upload your project too!

Building a rocket stove mass heater (including research).

Advantages[edit | edit source]

  • Heat your home with much less wood than an open fire (it has been claimed 5 to 10 times less).
  • Exhaust is mainly steam and CO2, with much less of the impurities normally contained in smoke. (A little smoke is emitted at the beginning.)
  • The heat from one fire can last for days thanks to the thermal mass.
  • You can build one in a day and half.
  • Cost is very low - it is possible to build one for less than $20, plus natural materials collected locally (mainly earth).

Design principles[edit | edit source]

A stovepipe or chimney is still recommended to vent the air to the outside to minimize indoor air pollution. To gain as efficient a heat transfer as possible, use a long thin pipe or heat exchanger, to extract maximum energy from the flue gas. The challenge here is that increasing the resistance offered by the pipe will interfere with operation of the furnace. Increasing the height of the vent increases the chimney effect and may counteract this.

Ernie and Erica Wisner's 6-inch Annex RMH plans, available here: https://permies.com/wiki/64029/Rocket-Mass-Heater-Plans-Annex
Image from Ernie and Erica Wisner's 6-inch Annex RMH plans, available here: https://permies.com/wiki/64029/Rocket-Mass-Heater-Plans-Annex

Questions[edit | edit source]

  • It seems that when initially starting the fire, smoke might not draw through the system until the burning chamber is heated and drawing enough air so that smoke is taken out the exhaust. If this is a common problem, what additions could be added to the design so that smoke does not fill the room in which the heater is situated?
  • When feeding a stove pipe horzontaly out of a wall it is often put into a t with a bottom that can open to allow cleaning the chimney.
  • Some builders will light a single sheet of newspaper crumpled into a ball in the T outside to start the air flow going the right way.
  • Can the mass covered flu work vertically so that the hot gasses can be drawn downstairs and then exhausted back upstairs?
  • Any reversal that attempts to draw hot air downwards tends to air lock the flow. If at all possible, always stay level or sloping up.
  • How long does the stove top last given the amount of heat being put there? Is maintainence built into the standard design?
  • Cleanouts are often included in the design of the exhaust pipe in the mass to allow removal of ash build up or a sucked in paper ball.

Understanding the market[edit | edit source]

  • Permits and local regulations need to be considered which often require partical output measurements along with efficiency ratings. This will be difficult for a self built RSMH as it will always be different.
  • RSMH are largely Do It Yourself and so are not commonly seen as sellable commodities and do not have standards in place.
  • Fuel efficiency and possible reduction in emmissions could make this heater a prefered heating method in many regions

Safety[edit | edit source]

Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer, responsible for approximately one million deaths each year worldwide. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious threat when burning wood in an enclosed space without proper venting. Some steps you can take to make your rocket mass heater safer include:

  • Always install a carbon monoxide detector and regularly change the batteries.
  • Always have a certified professional stove installer review your installation.
  • Install an external air source vent and completely seal the stove from the interior of your structure. This may include adding a door to seal the fuel chamber.
  • To prevent the risk of 'smoke-back' out the external air source vent, the external air source vent must be as low as possible, optimally 3 feet or more below the fuel chamber in order to reduce the risk of 'smoke-back' out the external air source vent and carbon monoxide being drawn back into your structure.
  • The exhaust vent of your stove must be at least 3 feet above your roof in order to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide being drawn back into your structure.
  • If you are having a problem with 'smoke-back' into the interior of your structure, your stove design is not safe and may be a serious risk to you and your family. Leave the area immediately and replace your stove as soon as possible.
  • The amount of weight (or mass, if you prefer) involved in a thermal-mass stove may be unsafe for existing flooring, and do-it-yourself builders may be unfamiliar with safe and appropriate measures for such construction.
  • When in doubt, be safe, not sorry.

Rocket Mass Heater proponent Paul Wheaton advocates the continued use of a J-Tube style design, rather than the more complicated batch-box systems, reasoning that J-Tubes are more tolerant of error in design, construction, and operation, making them more easily made by the inexperienced builder.

Next steps[edit | edit source]

Contact details[edit | edit source]

Leigh Blackall in Canberra, Australia is working on this and would like to hear from you: leighblackall@gmail.com

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Page data
Type Project
Keywords cobb, heating, permaculture techniques, rocket stoves
SDG Sustainable Development Goals SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities
Authors Leigh Blackall, Beaumdavidson, CWG
Published 2009
License CC-BY-SA-4.0
Impact Number of views to this page and its redirects. Updated once a month. Views by admins and bots are not counted. Multiple views during the same session are counted as one. 21,608
Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.