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When we think of wood burning stoves, we may think of something very rustic or old fashioned and many people simply don’t think it’s possible to have one anymore (unless you have a cottage somewhere).
Assuming all goes well on the bureaucracy end of things, let’s look at wood burning stove installation!
Most of the installation of a wood burning stove is more to do with preparing the area than the actual stove. As you can see, it’s usually quite possible to have a wood burning stove or small furnace in your home, so long as you are careful with your installation and make sure you build in such a way that you have easy access to a chimney or at least a chimney flue to build into!
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The goal of a rocket stove is to burn a relatively small amount of wood at as high a temperature as possible, resulting in more complete combustion, and to extract as much heat as possible from the exhaust gases. Insulating the chimney ensures a large temperature difference between the exhaust gases inside the chimney and those outside it. Above is a picture of the internal parts of the stove (combustion chamber and chimney) set up for initial testing to make sure it would generate enough draft for vigorous combustion. The above image shows the combustion chamber and chimney being welded into the side of the hot water tank. Notice that I removed a glass pane from the left door of my fire place and replaced it with cardboard. I also made a simple metal screen that can be placed over the combustion chamber to prevent sparks from popping out into the room where they could ignite something (or more likely just leave burn marks as they smolder on the carpet). On average the heat energy available from burning wood is around 4.5 kWh per kg (assuming a 20% moisture content). Wood stoves used as a primary heat source for a home will derive significant benefits from thermal mass (imagine replacing my short length of aluminum flex tube with 30 or 40 feet of duct buried inside a couple tons of concrete and you’ll have the right idea).
However, for a stove like mine that’s used only for supplemental heating, thermal mass is not of much benefit since an even temperature can be maintained simply by varying the heat input from the primary system (which happens automatically since it is controlled by a thermostat).
So in a nut shell, thermal mass is not really that useful for a stove that’s intended for use only as supplemental heat, if the primary heating system is on a thermostat.
Update 2015-02-14: A few readers have emailed me asking if there is any way they could purchase detailed plans so they can build a stove similar to mine or get a welder to build one for them. If anyone out there decides to build a rocket stove based on this or a similar design, I would be happy to post some pictures of your project, or if you have your own site, let me know and I will post a link below. 2010-12-13: One reader, Brent, built his own rocket stove following a similar design (though he was clever enough to put the cleanout in the side of the combustion chamber rather than the bottom). I had considered building a rocket stove from a natural gas hot water tank, and keeping the tank intact so it could be filled with water, drawing the exhaust through the existing tube through the center of the tank to heat the water, and allowing the tank to continue to radiate that heat for hours after the stove is extinguished. So, using a repurposed gas water tank, the sticks would go into the central gas exhaust pipe. If your fireplace has air supply from outside the house to burn the wood, it’d be better to use that supply for your stove, instead of using air from within the room. What is the maximum temperature of the radiating surface you noticed when using this stove?
One of the downsides of rocket stoves or other high temperature fireplaces is that the very high temperature combustion also produces nitric oxide out of the nitrogen in the air.
Your stove is somewhat similiar in idea to a downdraft wood gassifiers, which use a water bubbler and fiberglass screen of sorts as a scrubber.
However, I’m doubtful that the combustion temperature in this stove is much higher than the peak combustion temperature in an ordinary fireplace or wood stove, and given its higher efficiency, I believe the NOx emissions are lower per kWh of useful heat produced.
Incidentally, if the combustion temperature were too high, it would be a relatively simple matter to reduce it by recirculating some of the exhaust back through the combustion chamber.
If I piped the exhaust all the way up my chimney through a PVC pipe, then I could also draw fresh outside air directly from the fireplace for combustion making the design even more efficient compared to using inside air for combustion. Make sure the tank you use is not galvanized, galvanized tanks will give off toxic fumes when heated.
Your warning about burning treated lumber applies equally well to ordinary fireplaces and wood stoves (and especially open fires). Would it be feasible to have copper lines coiled around inside there to pre-heat water going to an electric water heater? Using coiled copper pipe inside the stove for water heating will work, but you should not simply hook it in line with your existing water heater. Connecting the exhaust to the house’s chimney improves the draft, but draft is still affected by the height of the stove itself and other factors like the diameter of the internal chimney and the diameter and length of the exhaust tube. I have been wanting to buy a propane bullet heater for my garage to work on my trucks in the winter. For those who haven’t used a wood burning stove like the Atlanta Stove Works we used, here is a diagram of safety measures. The cook stove we used for several years in the Idlewild Lake house was a combination of wood burning on one side and electric on the other. When we moved to the house we now live in in Atlanta, Ga we found this stove already in place. The strangest way to heat a place where I have lived was a sawdust furnace, back in the 80’s. Fire places are good too but they do not contribute as much heat as you’d like if you are really heating with wood.
Wood stoves are such an evocative furnishing of the American home, but few people actually know them so well.
Sometimes my husband would build it up so much that we had to open the windows to cool off in the middle of the winter. Love your solarium, but all of this talk of wood chopping and carrying sounds exhausting to me. One of the simplest ways is simply to plumb the boiler stove directly in to the existing system. It is also important to get the proportion of heat which the boiler stove passes to the room right. The thermal store can also come solar enabled so that you can link in solar panels to provide hot water when it is sunny. There are a number of boiler stoves available which are suitable for pressurised systems as well as open vented, however many, and certainly the traditional English boiler stoves, are only suited to open vented systems.
The best starting point is for you to contact us either through our enquiry system, or by ringing our main line which you can see at the top of this page on the right. If you need a stove to run your whole house one of our heating engineers can then perform a heat load calculation for your house which will then allow them to be able to suggest suitable boiler stoves. If you do not want to run the whole house from the stove then our engineers can discuss how best to link the boiler stove to your heating system.
But there are around 3 million Canadians-ten percent of the current population) who use wood burning stoves regularly! This is because the area where the stove will sit needs the right sort of setting or else you risk burning your walls or floor, causing irreparable damage. Measure out the area you want and then cut off the carpet or cut away the hardwood or laminate. This level of clearance is the absolute minimum if you want to protect your walls from damage, even with the heat shield and if you can get away with it, a bit more space at least between the heat stove and the wall is a good idea.


Your wood burning stove should be placed where there is either an existing chimney flue or where you can build one so that your stove can vent properly and bring in air to keep the fire burning longer. With care and patience, you can enjoy the benefits of a wood burning stove to supplement your current heating and to make a room cosier.
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Import charges previously quoted are subject to change if you increase your maximum bid amount. See the Rocket Stove Plans section at the end of the article and let me know if you’d be interested. Mulching or burying do postpone carbon release to the atmosphere, but the carbon will be released eventually regardless.
Building and operating your own wood stove of any design will almost certainly void any fire insurance you may have on your home and may also pose a serious risk to you and your family.
To generate high combustion temperatures, rocket stoves separate the combustion, heat extraction and exhaust functions. Note the block of wood between the end of the chimney and the inside surface of the tank to ensure an appropriate gap for the exhaust gases. The aluminum flex tube passes snugly through a hole cut in the cardboard to expel the exhaust gases into the fireplace where, still warm, they rise and exit through the existing chimney.
The difference between burning wood in the fireplace and burning wood in this stove is incredible.
Assuming roughly 80% efficiency of the stove (just a rough guess) the heat extracted will be about 3.5 kWh per kg. The thermal mass stores heat and releases it slowly into the home, evening out the temperature and allowing the stove to be operated intermittently. For example, when I operate my rocket stove in the winter, my electric heaters automatically cut back such that the house temperature does not rise significantly. Improved efficiency is often a side effect of adding thermal mass, but the improvement is really just a result of extracting more heat from the exhaust gases.
He’s using a large water reservoir for thermal mass with a coil of copper tubing wrapped around the internal chimney of the stove for heat transfer.
I would suggest picking one that interests you the most or inventing something of your own. I considered it but it was not very practical considering the location of the stove in my home. There are a few materials that will store more heat in less volume but the are expensive and relatively exotic (compared to water), storing energy via phase change or chemical reaction rather than a simple temperature rise. The design would be quite a bit more complicated though and I would have needed to use a non-leaking tank, rather than repurposing a leaking one.
We collect it then have a big bonfire in the fall and I’ve often wondered how to capture all that heat. If there we actually water in the tank, the insulated exhaust chimney and the like would be in a second tank? The insulated chimney is simply inserted through the existing tube through the center of the tank. Sucking the air from the room would cause flow of the cold fresh air to the room, reducing the temperature and decreasing the net heat gain from burning this wood.
Comparing natural gas furnaces, an outside air supply seems to raise the efficiency from around 80% to just above 90%. I’ve noticed that maximum heat output only happens on windy days when the venturi effect of the wind blowing across the top of the chimney develops the strongest draft. You will enjoy welding a whole lot more when you dont have to deal with smoke, flux, and spatter. Soot on the other hand is unburned carbon, and the presence of soot in the pipes signals an incomplete burn. Combined with the steam present in the flue gasses, it forms nitrous acid which will slowly erode your chimney as it condenses on the surfaces. Though of course, nitrous acid also causes acid rain and nitric oxide destroys the ozone layer, which is why power plants use smokestack scrubbers to get rid of the stuff.
The idea is to combust the wood with too little air, and then burn the resulting mix of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane gas in a separate burner. Some experimentation may be in order to determine actual combustion temperature, but I know that NOx emissions are not much of a concern below about 1500 degrees C (around the melting temperature of iron) and as the unmelted nails in my ash will attest, the combustion temperature is lower than that. That would be much more efficient than the more common solution of just drawing more air through the system. I am also wondering if such a preheater would require any modifications to the house’s water system.
Does the internal chimney have to be a certain height to create an updraft, or is that mostly taken care of by the draw from the house’s chimney?
Water will need to flow continuously through the coiled copper pipe or it will simply boil in place (if you have a one way valve installed this could cause your hot water tank to explode due to the increased pressure). When we first started, my husband didn’t realize why the stove was set out so far from the wall and moved it closer. The house is passive solar and has a berm against the north wall and a wall of windows on the south side. I wish we could have figured out how to combine being there and being here but, only a view of the city outside now. I’m sure you developed a sense of timing for how long it would take to get to the right temperature. They carried it at the lumber yard when we moved in but by the time we moved they were no longer carrying it. A disadvantage is that you do have to have the boiler stove lit when you want heat, although of course you can easily incorporate the conventional oil or gas boiler already running your system. Many other heat sources can also be connected to the thermal store, including a conventional oil or gas boiler as backup. Don't worry, it is still pretty easy to integrate a stove like this into a pressurised system using a plate heat exchanger or a heat exchange coil in a thermal store.
They can also incorporate a suitably sized thermal store into the system, complete an overall heating and hot water system design for you and liaise with the installer through the job. In order to avoid this, things like a heat shield and floor pad must be installed on the floor and walls.
Then cut out your floor pad (usually made from pyrex since it stays solid under high heat) and fit it into the stove’s new floor home. Then install your furrings (the pieces which will hold up your walls), paying close attention to avoid the studs. You may require the services of a wood stove technician at this point in order to ensure that your chimney will be put together safely.
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What’s worse, mulching or burying the wood will result in some anaerobic decomposition (that is decomposition in an oxygen deprived environment) which will result in the production of methane, a far more harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Scrap wood and yard trimmings are burned in backyards across the country each year without any attempt to capture that useful energy. As far as wood stoves go, a rocket stove is probably one of the safest designs since the combustion chamber is tiny, the exhaust volume is low, the draft is strong, and the bulk of the exterior of the stove does not reach very high temperatures. At least 18″ is recommended by most building codes for ordinary fireplaces and wood stoves. With an average load of wood my stove burns for about 30 minutes before requiring more fuel.
Treated wood, plywood, OSB, etc all contain chemicals that will be released into the exhaust during combustion. All combustion appliances are capable of producing carbon monoxide which can be deadly if it is released into your home.
The hot exhaust gases in the chimney rise, while the cooler exhaust gases outside the chimney fall, and the whole process draws fresh air into the combustion chamber, supporting vigorous combustion. I know you’re probably thinking I must be crazy to use a combustible material like cardboard for this purpose, but the fact is that the exhaust volume from this stove is so low and the stove is so efficient at removing heat from the exhaust that this aluminum tube reaches a maximum temperature of only about 60 degrees C during operation.
It’s useful to quickly extinguish the fire and to prevent air infiltration when the stove is not in use. I just slide it out as shown in the photo and the ash drops into any suitable receptacle (I’m using a plastic tray above).


You really have to experience it to believe you can get so much heat from a small handful of wood.
Another enclosure, a steel drum perhaps (or another electric hot water tank) must be inverted over top of the gas hot water tank.
It’s a feature I am considering adding, but there is no simple way for me to do so since the fireplace does not have an existing outside air supply. Of course the exhaust inside the tube is hotter than that (the tube temperature should be near the average of the exhaust temperature and the ambient temperature).
In practice, I’ve found there is usually a draft even before lighting the stove since any breeze outside the house draws air out of the chimney via the venturi effect, causing a partial vacuum in the fireplace which in turn draws air through the rocket stove whenever the cover is removed from the combustion chamber.
About 20% of the heat is produced in the gassifier, and 80% is available in the woodgas, and all the ash is left in the gassifier and not blown around the neighborhood. If I did want to address that problem, rather than increase the exhaust temperature to eliminate condensation, I would simply pipe the exhaust all the way outside through a PVC pipe (the melting temperature of PVC is well above the exhaust temperature of the stove and I believe it will not corrode in the presence of nitrous acid).
To avoid this problem, you would need a closed loop and a pump to circulate the water through the stove. Incomplete wood burning produces carbon monoxide and that dryer ducting looks awfully thin and easy to puncture. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kristin Cleage and Finding Eliza with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Sometimes I cooked on it if the bottled gas ran out.  It was also great for drying diapers hung on lines across the room.
That meant a bit less wood (by now we also had a wood splitter) and a few less steps up and down the stairs to keep it going. I’m sure that was his method of staying warm ?? In all earnest, I envy you because of your drawing capabilities!
Incorporating a wood boiler stove, or wood pellet boiler into a heating system is relatively easy and can be done in a variety of ways.
Too little heat passed to the room is not such a problem as we always recommend that you have a radiator in the same room as the stove partly for this reason.
You can use this heat as and when it is needed, which also means that you can have the heating on when the stove is not lit. If you’d like to learn how to install a wood burning stove, either for total home heating or to supplement your current heating, you’re in the right place! Make sure the adhesive you use to stick the floor pad to the floor is also able to stay solid under heat. Then install your heat shield which should again be made from something like pyrex so that it can withstand high heat. However, if you build a rocket stove for heating a garage or outbuilding, you should probably install a smoke detector there as well. Other combustion appliances in your home such as a furnace or hot water tank are probably a greater carbon monoxide threat that the rocket stove described in this article since they operate continuously, unattended, even while you sleep. What I did have was my parents’ old electric hot water tank that they had just replaced since it was corroded and leaking. The chimney is insulated with about 1″ of Roxul (a rock wool insulation that will tolerate higher temperatures than fiberglass insulation) and wrapped with adhesive aluminum furnace tape to hold the insulation in place. I’ve found it best to clean the ash out every week or so as once there is more than about a cup full it will fill the bottom of the combustion chamber and start to build up in the tube between the combustion chamber and the internal chimney. I’ve fed my fireplace for hours with hardly any change in room temperature but it only takes a few minutes for the rocket stove to raise the room temperature noticeably. Therefore, the heating value of my scrap wood is about $0.25 per kg and by burning about 20kg per week I save about $5 per week on heating costs or about 50% of my heating bill for this time of year.
For example, I could extract more heat from my exhaust simply by using a longer piece of aluminum duct between the stove and fireplace (I have noted that the exhaust temperature drops about half way to ambient for every 20cm of tube length). Sorry I can’t really help you much without knowing what your particular interests and skills are.
I had thought about running 30 or 40 ft of exhaust duct down into my crawlspace to extract even more heat from the exhaust, but that length of tubing would add significant resistance, reducing the natural draft.
My main design criteria for combustion chamber size was that I wanted to be able to fit two chunks of 2×4 into it side by side.
Thus the hot exhaust gases are directed up the insulated chimney through the tank and then back down around the exterior of the gas hot water tank. Also, the additional tubing would reduce the natural draft, likely requiring addition of a fan. To start the stove with no smoke released into the room regardless of the presence of an outside breeze, I use a small propane torch aimed into the rocket stove for a few seconds prior to lighting the fuel (regardless of the direction of the draft the propane torch makes it much easier to light fuel that is way down at the bottom of the combustion chamber). Also, the copper pipe in the stove may be prone to corrosion over time due to acidic exhaust products. Because he worked long hours from spring through fall it wasn’t possible to get all the wood needed during the snow free months. It radiates a lot of charm, you should do something with that talent (if you don’t do so already).
Because you are storing up the heat from the stove this also means that you can choose a boiler stove which passes little heat to the room, allowing you to use your stove to provide water for washing and bathing on autumn and spring days when it might otherwise have been too warm to light it. Basically, you should have a three piece shield: the floor pad and then two pieces on the walls on either side of the stove which do not connect to each other or to the floor and have enough clearance for the stove to ‘breathe’ safely. Scrap wood is loaded directly on top of the existing burning wood inside the combustion chamber.A  The flame is drawn downward by the strong draft rather than rising out of the chamber as one might expect. I did not want to weld it on permanently since I may want to disassemble the stove later for inspection. Then it’s a little harder to get to and it will eventually start to reduce the draft.
Savings will be much greater in winter when the stove can be operated more frequently without the room becoming uncomfortably hot. The best evidence of the lack of combustion products released into the room is olfactory rather than visual.
This solution would probably require addition of a small exhaust fan to increase the draft which might be hindered by the longer exhaust path.
Luckily we lived in the Manistee National forest and there was plenty of wood around.  A few times we burned coal.
We also have an gas furnace we use only rarely when we don’t feel like building the fire. Rocket stove designs are most often used for small cook stoves but larger stoves for home heating are not unheard of. The result is that ALL combustion products pass through the hottest part of the fire resulting in very complete combustion, producing the greatest amount of heat and reducing products of incomplete combustion such as carbon monoxide and smoke. I also used some flexible aluminum tubing (dryer ducting) to feed the exhaust from the rocket stove into my existing fireplace. In hindsight, access through the side of the combustion chamber instead of the bottom would have been more useful. Feeding the stove every evening after work, I have only managed to go through about one bin (perhaps 20kg) of wood per week. It’s better to suck the exhaust through the system rather than blow it through, or you risk exhaust leaks into your home.
When I used to light fires in the fireplace, I could smell it throughout the room even if I couldn’t see any smoke. We are back to a couple of pick up loads a winter and with all the trees that topple over in Atlanta we have no lack of wood available. To capture as much of the heat as possible and radiate it into the room, the exhaust gases are passed through a secondary chamber (much larger than the combustion chamber) that absorbs and radiates the heat. I also considered installing an oxygen sensor (like the ones used in automotive fuel injection systems to determine the proper air fuel ratio) and adjusting fan speed based on the sensor output. Although you need more volume to store the same heat, solid mass storage can more easily be built into the home in the form of walls or floor for new construction, or the addition of an adobe bench or similar usable fixture. It just doesn’t take much heat to get the house to a comfortable temperature right now in early spring. I may experiment with such things in the future but for now the simplicity of my first design can’t be beat.
Lastly there is the concern you mentioned about pressure build up, but as you say, that is easily solved by leaving the storage tank open to atmospheric pressure.



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