Are you ready to take your wood-burning stove to the next level? It's time to try a rocket mass heater. A good wood stove can be a cost-effective way to heat your house in the winter, especially if you have a cheap or free source of firewood, but a rocket mass heater really ups the ante. A well-made RMH can be up to eight times as efficient as a standard wood stove, and produce less smoke and ash to boot. That means they are clean, sustainable, and can save you big money on your winter heating bills. Read on to find out how these heating marvels work.
Did You Say Eight Times More Efficient?
That's right, you can keep your home warm and cozy for a fraction of the wood you're accustomed to using. Rocket mass heaters create a very hot, high-oxygen environment and consume almost all the wood mass, leaving little waste. Once they get going, they even burn up the combustion gases and barely produce any smoke. You don't even need large logs to fuel the stove-- smaller wood pieces and scraps will do the job.
The RMH is built so that the fire burns horizontally-- hence the “rocket” in its name-- and gets a strong oxygen draft that adds to the intensity. A barrel or similar object radiates most of the heat out into the room. The flues and exhaust are arranged to then disperse any remaining heat into the house before it can escape out the chimney.
Finally, the RMH is made of natural heat-absorbent materials, so once your fire gets going, the stove itself heats up and remains hot for hours after the initial fire burns out.
Cool! How Do I Get One?
If you are the handy type, you can custom-build a rocket mass heater yourself so it fits in perfectly with the space and design of your home. They are sometimes made from masonry, like stone, tile or brick, but also can be made from materials like cob, a mix of sand, clay, straw and dirt. Inspiration Green has a photo array of RMHs of all shapes and sizes, some of them doubling as cooking stoves and benches, all of them beautifully incorporated into the house.
If building your own stove sounds like too much for you, there are a number of kits available from companies like Dragon Heaters, or you can find someone to build one for you to your specifications. A word of caution: Although a few places, like Portland, Oregon, have specifications for RMHs in their local building codes, most localities do not and you may have to navigate some tricky bureaucracy to get yours approved. Contact a local HVAC professional for more information about how to make sure your project remains legal under local code.
Contact local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning® for guidance on home heating and local building code. We're always here to help!