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The Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide

Heating with wood is often considered a natural and economical alternative to electricity or fossil fuels. However, even with a fairly new and efficient woodstove, many cords of wood are required for burning over the course of a single winter, and incomplete combustion can contribute to poor air quality. A rocket mass heater is an earthen masonry heating system which provides clean, safe, and efficient warmth for your home, all while using 70 to 90 percent less fuel than a traditional woodstove. These unique and beautiful installations provide luxurious comfort year round. In cold weather a few hours of clean, hot burning can provide twenty or more hours of steady warmth, while the unit's large thermal mass acts as a heat sink, cooling your home on sizzling summer days. Packed with hard-to-find information, The Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide includes: Comprehensive design, construction, and installation instructions combined with detailed maintenance and troubleshooting advice Brick-by-brick layouts, diagrams, and architectural plans augmented with detailed parts drawings and photographs for clarity Relevant and up-to-date code information and standards to help you navigate the approval process with local building departments Earthen masonry heating systems are well-suited for natural and conventional builders alike. A super-efficient, wood-burning, rocket mass heater can help you dramatically reduce your energy costs while enhancing the beauty, value, and comfort of your home. Erica Wisner and Ernie Wisner have built over seven hundred super-efficient, clean-burning masonry stoves. They are dedicated to the search for sustainable solutions and the hands-on teaching of creative, ecological, and practical skills.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Overview and Terms1 A) What is a Rocket Mass Heater?1 B) Parts and functions1 C) Rules of thumb1 D) Is a Rocket right for me? Chapter 2: General Design Considerations2 A) Site-Specific Design 2 B) Heat transfer (convection, radiation, conduction, state change)2 C) Heater Placement 2 D) Heating Loads2 E) Weight Loads2 F) Air supply & draft2 G) Building and Environmental Safety2 H) The Seat TestChapter 3: Design Examples3 A) Annex 6": hospitality bench, building permits3 B) Bonny 8": air channels, multistory house3 C) Cabin 8": Compact footprint, barrel decoration3 D) Daybed 6": Bypass damper for intermittent heating3 E) Mediterranean 8": Warmer climates3 F) Phoenix/Greenhouse 8": box-and-fill constructionChapter 4: Sample Project, Step By Step4 A) Tools and materials4 B) Planning and Prep4 C) Combustion Unit4 D) Thermal Mass Heat Exchanger4 E) Firing In4 F) FinishingChapter 5: Operation and Maintenance4.4: Warnings4.5: About rocketry, stoves, and mass heaters4.7: Diagram of sample heater4.8: Terms and definitions4.9: Specific information about this site-built heater4.11: Preliminary inspection checklist4.12: Routine operation4.14: Lighting the Rocket Mass Heater4.16: Cold starts and optional priming features4.18: Fuel selection and storage4.19: Performance Log4.20: Maintenance, Inspection, and Repairs4.22: Troubleshooting4.25: ResourcesChapter 6: Rules and Codes6 A) Design rules: Adapting the heater6 B) Historic masonry heating6 C) Building codes and rocket mass heatersCommon Errors and Questions (FAQ)AppendicesA1) Earthen BuildingA2) Rocket mass heater building code, Portland, ORA3) Special Cases 1) Alternative Chimneys 2) Alternative Air Supply 3) Alternative Thermal Mass 4) Alternative Fuels 5) Extreme SizesA4) Home Heating Design ConsiderationsA5) Wood Heat ConsiderationsA6) Supplemental Practice Activities

Promotional Information

Features offered to Mother Earth News, Permaculture Activist, Green Building Excerpts offered to Fine Homebuilding, Home Power Magazine, GRITAdvertising in Green Builder, on-line natural building sitesPromotion with Permies.comPromotions targeting natural building organizations, permaculture organizations, green building organizationsPublicity and promotion in conjunction with the authors' speaking engagementsGalleys on Edelweiss

About the Author

Erica Wisner is a skilled educator and project coordinator, with over 25 years' experience building teamwork and facilitating hands-on learning. She loves making things from scratch - anything from blueberry scones to the oven they were baked in. Erica is the author of The Ultimate Girls' Guide to Science and The Art of Fire and she has also created instructional materials and rocket mass heater resources for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, The City Repair Project, Handprint Press and others. Together with her husband Ernie, she has built over 700 super-efficient, clean-burning masonry stoves and led over 50 workshops across North America. Ernie Wisner is a jack of all trades -- his rich and varied background includes fishing and maritime work, firefighting, botany, natural building, hydraulics, and plumbing maintenance. Extreme conditions and high-risk work focused Ernie's attention on survival skills and emergency preparedness. After witnessing hard evidence of global climate change, Ernie's search for sustainable solutions led him to Cob Cottage Company, where he built his first rocket mass heaters while serving on the research team for Ianto Evans and Leslie Jackson's pioneering Rocket Mass Heaters. Together with his wife Erica, he has built over 700 super-efficient, clean-burning masonry stoves and led over 50 workshops across North America.


Finally -- a comprehensive book about rocket mass heaters! This should put an end to the freak shows of flaming death showing up on YouTube mislabeled as rocket mass heaters. And put an end to getting the same questions asked over and over again. We can start every answer with: "Have you read The Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide?" ---Paul Wheaton, founder of online community Eagerly awaited by homesteaders both urban and rural, appropriate tech folks, and do-it-yourselfers of all stripes, The Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide is a comprehensive, well-researched, and clearly illustrated manual on one of the most exciting home-heating concepts to come along in decades. The book is firmly grounded in the authors' many years of experience, will save every builder vast amounts of toil and frustration, and paves the way to a home-heating system that is clean burning, marvelously fuel efficient, and a pleasure to live with. Rich in detail without being overwhelming, this book is an essential addition to every homesteader's and builder's library. ---Toby Hemenway, author, Gaia's Garden and The Permaculture City An advanced companion to Rocket Mass Heaters: Superefficient Wood Stoves You can Build and Snuggle Up To. The second, more comprehensive work on revolutionary wood heating; thorough, technically advanced, comprehensive, well thought-out by the experienced masters of rocket stoves. ---Ianto Evans, director and founder, Cob Cottage Company, inventor of Rocket Mass Heaters and Lorena Stoves Drawing on the centuries-old tradition of masonry stoves and heaters, the "rocket" mass heater offers a modern, fuel-efficient way to heat a home with wood. This Guide represents more than ten years of collaboration and lessons learned from hands-on building and experimentation. The result is a frank, practical and detailed discussion of design and construction, pros and cons, and helpful anecdotal stories. While passionate about empowering the owner-builder, the authors also address code compliance and stress fire safety. ---Catherine Wanek, author/photographer, The New Strawbale Home and The Hybrid House, and co-author, The Art of Natural Building In The Rocket Mass Heater Guide, Erica and Ernie Wisner have distilled the best, most tried-and-true design for efficient, low-cost, low-effort, carbon-neutral, regenerative home heating. Undoubtedly people will continue to experiment, but it will be hard to improve upon the wisdom of this book -- what works, what doesn't and why. ---Albert Bates, author, The Biochar Solution You will be happy to own this book for years and years to come! There are life-changing secrets inside of Erica and Ernie Wisner's most remarkable book, ways of understanding how to live better, more simply, and more beautifully while also being more snuggly and cozy that you ever thought possible! ---Mark Lakeman, co-founder, City Repair and design director, communitecture Over the years, a handful of dedicated practitioners and authors have helped the natural building movement advance their craft based on solid engineering and experimentation. The authors are among that elite and vital group, and this book is a must-read for anyone who longs for practical, detailed knowledge on rocket mass stoves based on extensive experience. ---Dan Chiras, Ph.D., director, The Evergreen Institute and author, The Natural House and The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy Biomass energy is sensible when used super-efficiently and locally -- which is the point of this book. Folks who live in cooler climates can benefit enormously from this simple, do-it-yourself technology. ---Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute The Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide provides a remarkable amount of detail for designing, building and using these elegant and efficient space heaters. In a world of ever-diminishing resources, growing populations and changing climates, safe, efficient and low-cost solutions to space-heating without fossil fuels are vitally needed. I have long planned to build a high mass rocket stove in my bioshelter/ greenhouse to replace our woodstove. After reading this book, I feel inspired and feel confident to do it. ---Darrell E. Frey, author, Bioshelter Market Garden: A Permaculture Farm

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