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Rocket Mass Heaters, the beginning

December 21, 2013

Back in 2007 I attended a training with Scott Kellogg and company up in Albany, NY. This was my first real exposure to the concepts and techniques associated with permaculture. Much of it was new and exciting to me, and seeing the different systems in place forever changed me. One of the subjects presented was the difficulty of urban sustainability in the cold winter regions in conjunction with home heating. As the weekend went on we learned about home food production, aquaponics, waste water treatment, worm composting, mushroom productions, low tech solar and wind power, bioremediation, and a whole slew of other things. We built a rocket cook stove and baked in a cob oven, but the problem of home heating was one of the few ‘problems’ we hardly explored solutions for. A year later I came across Ianto’s book about rocket mass heaters, and was totally intrigued. Heating with wood that didnt really need to be cut with a chainsaw or split with an axe…and using a tiny fraction of it? I looked online and found some of Paul Wheaton’s early videos on the topic and was introduced to the work of Ernie and Erica Wisner as well. At the time I was living in a one room straw bale cottage of sorts in PA and dreaming of taking the aesthetics, energy efficiency and novelty back with me to Detroit some day. Would it be possible to do something of this nature in the city?

Here we are more than 5 years later, and we are on our way to that little dream. Last night we had our first test fire in the new home that we’re working on turning into a multi household permaculture living and learning center. First attempt had a bit of smoke back, but after a little priming we got a nice draw and our partially built heater was blazing away and pulling like a champ! While Im incredibly busy lately, Im going to do my best to document the process so far and as it unfolds. Perhaps our lessons will be useful for others!


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