Looking for a better stove for Alaska

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Looking for a better stove for Alaska

Postby rapidair » Sun Nov 11, 2012 8:25 pm

I just joined the forum here. I have just recently become aware of these stoves and am very interested in them, hoping one would cut down on the size of woodpile needed each winter. I live in interior Alaska and have not seen anyone else on the forum from Alaska and am wondering if one of these stoves would do the job. It gets severely cold here, like -50 to -65 during a cold spell. I have been heating the house exclusively with an Earth stove for 35 years now and it does the job, but barely during those cold spells. What I need is some encouragement about whether one of these stoves would be able to do as well but with less wood.
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Re: Looking for a better stove for Alaska

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:08 pm

Welcome rapidir, glad to have you aboard. I would have one question for you. Do you work outside of youre home, or are you at home all day during the winter? If you are home I do not see any reason why the Rocket Mass Heater would not heat your home as well or better than your current wood stove, and use a lot less wood. The reason I asked that question is that the RMH has a relatively small fire box, it is designed to be fired for a short period and then radiate heat from the earthen mass for some hours. Because of your very cold temps I would be worried that if you were not around to fire it on occation during the day your house could get cold befor you returned because of the -50 temps. I am sure that your current stove has a Large fire box that holds a lot of wood and burns for an extended period. Even though the RMH is way more efficient in its burn and the heat that it retains in your home, if your house is not that well insulated it could cool down if you are not there to fire it when ever its needed. My guess is that your home all day during the winter, and that your home is pretty well insulated, you do live in Alaska after all, :D My next door neighbor lived in Alaska for some time, he was dean of students at Alaska University back in the 1970's. He has told me a little bit about life up your way in the winter and how you have to perpair. That perperation can be the difference between life and death up there. I do not know if you are thinking about building a RMH this year or next year, it won't be long befor the cold really starts to set in up your way. Good Luck.

PS Matt is our resident expert on the Rocket Mass Stoves, I am sure he will be able to give you a lot more information. He did change over fron a regular air tight metal wood stove for heat to a RMH. He loves it and says he is warmer in the mornings and is burning a lot less wood. You can read about his install here and watch some videos that he has made. I really do feel the RMH is the way to go, just figure in the small fire box into your calculations. :)
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Re: Looking for a better stove for Alaska

Postby rapidair » Mon Nov 12, 2012 2:22 am

Thanks friendly, It's too late to build one this year because it's already been in the 30's below and only -15 for the high a few days. There is always someone home during the day except when we go to Fairbanks and then sometime it's most of a day when nobody is here, but it is ok as long as it can stay about 50 or above. Of course when it is about -40 or colder we don't go away from home that far unless it's pretty important. I am totally excited about burning way less than half as much wood like Matt says his does if it would be the same up here. It seems from what I've read that they heat up quickly for a quick warm up and then more slowly heat up the mass heat sink. I'm wondering whether I would have to get up a time or two in the night to fire it during cold weather. I see some people are trying to design these rocket stoves with bigger fire boxes to burn longer. That would be nice. From your experience, how long can you go between adding wood to keep it putting out lots of heat?

PS: Yes, I've already read everything Matt has written about his new stove and watched all the videos. They are very interesting and I am going to be following everything else he writes abut it. My biggest question was about the major difference in temperatures between here and the Olympic Peninsula.
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Re: Looking for a better stove for Alaska

Postby myles » Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:28 am

Isn't there the option to use long lengths of wood for longer burn periods? I guess it would require some thought on the feed configuration for safety if you were to leave it unattended.
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Re: Looking for a better stove for Alaska

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Mon Nov 12, 2012 2:29 pm

I do not heat with a Rocket Stove. I still have a metal air tight stove in the basement that I burn from time to time but I do not try and heat my whole house with it any more. I used to work that hard, I don't any more, ;) I did make a small cooking stove that uses the Rocket design, but it isn't designed for heating. It works as well as a burner on a gas or electric stove for cooking, directs the heat right to the pot of pan. I have thought about makinga RMH in the basement but just have not tried that project just yet. Good luck with your project, make sure you have alot of mass in the bench, that is your flywheel and will keep you warm long after the fire is out.
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Re: Looking for a better stove for Alaska

Postby rapidair » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:26 pm

Guy, I just can't stand the idea of spending a dime on heating oil so I keep working my head off burning wood. This year I broke down and bought wood instead of getting it myself which is a big job but I still have to cut it up and split the big ones. You must have some kind of winter there in PA where you could save by using wood. Maybe someday you'll get around to building that rocket stove in your basement. I just might be able to experiment with one this winter in my airplane shop where we burn wood and some oil in a boiler for heating the slab.
And Myles, I've thought of that idea of using longer pieces of wood than most people seem to use. Makes sense to me to extend the burn a little at least. I guess you can't cram too much in because enough air has to pass to make it burn unless you have another air intake like Matt has on his with a little window.
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Re: Looking for a better stove for Alaska

Postby matt walker » Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:07 pm

Hey RA, glad to have you aboard. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, and not much time right this moment, but in my opinion it's a far superior heating system to a box stove. The idea of keeping it going for a long time is one that most folks come to before building one, but really it's the thermal battery size that determines how long it will keep your space warm between firings. In your case, a large mass coupled with a large capacity firebox would most likely satisfy your needs. Keep in mind the stoves really are doing the work of both a metal box stove type instant heat and the thermal mass radiator like in a typical masonry stove. Once you get that mass warm it is very effective at keeping a space warm.
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