During the Covid 19 lockdown, I’ve had several people ask me for information on rocket stoves – and why not – rocket stoves are awesome and would make a great project if you’ve got time on your hands and have to stay home. I love my rocket stove and the fact that I can cook five pizzas simultaneously using a home-made oven that’s powered by scrappy sticks and building off-cuts can never be a bad thing!
There is often confusion about what makes a rocket stove, so let me respond to that up front. Firstly, they aren’t rockets and they don’t blow up and they don’t fly to the Moon. The name comes from the sound they make when they are fired up – it’s a crazy quiet ‘whooshing’ sound like a tiny rocket or jet engine.
A rocket ‘engine’ is a super efficient way of converting (scrap) wood into heat energy. The two key characteristic of a rocket engine are:
- the design is such that there is a secondary burn chamber (the primary burn is the flame of the initial burning of the wood – secondary burn is the ignition of the gases released by the initial burning – this secondary burn is where the majority of the energy is harvested. The burn chamber can get VERY hot – up to 1000 C according to my rocket stove guru, Joel Meadows)
- the device (stove, water heater, whatever) is highly insulated so that the heat is retained for use within the system rather than lost to the surrounding atmosphere as radiant heat or heat going up a chimney.
If you see a tiny tin can heater being described on the Internet as a rocket stove but notice that it’s not insulated and doesn’t seem to have a secondary burn chamber, then it’s NOT a rocket stove… it could still be a cool thing and a great ‘lockdown project’, but it’s not a rocket stove!
Here’s a link to a great article which will get you started: