Rocket Stoves

super-efficient earthen masonry woodstoves

Upcoming Rocket Stove Workshops:

Annually in February and October: 

Pyromania! with Ianto Evans
Cob Cottage Company, Coquille, OR

January 21-23: Portland, OR

Check our calendar for further dates and details.

Other Natural Building Workshops:

Natural Building Network, Find workshops in your region. 

Rocket stoves are a type of fuel-efficient device, named in the 70's, but dating back millenia in concept.

Variations on the same concepts include Fox-stoves or Badger-stoves, Aprovecho cooking Rocket Stoves, Roman hypocausts, European masonry heaters, furnaces, incinerators, kilns, and the unsung tea-stoves and household hearths developed by frugal peoples everywhere.

The heart of our personal research is the Rocket Mass Heater.

Rocket Mass Heaters are a specialized adaptation of several concepts that are well worth knowing in their own right.  Consider visiting the Fire Science section for the long story.

  • Heat people and things, not space.  Masonry or water holds hundreds of times more heat than air, stores it longer, and releases it at safer temperatures for household comfort.  Mass can be heated by sun, by geothermal, water or steam, fire or flue gas.
  • Smoke is wasted fuel.  It's also poisonous.  Good mixing, high-temperature combustion, and the right balance of draft and drag create a clean-burning, efficient stove.  Efficient stoves use less wood, as well as promoting healthy air for everyone in the neighborhood.
  • Clean fire needs tending.   Staying warm all night is a major safety concern with solid-fuel devices. Smoldering 'banked' fires put out smoke and carbon monoxide, and increase the risk of conflagration.  Mass heaters solve this problem by burning quick and clean, storing heat in inert mass, not smoldering wood.
  • Waste into Resource: Rocket Mass Heaters are designed around common, affordable materials that can be down-cycled from the waste stream, or obtained in almost any location at 'dirt cheap' prices.  Scrap metal forms, earthen masonry, earth-friendly and low-impact technology that will last for decades.
  • Passive Comfort is Awesome: The fire roars merrily in its insulated chamber, fuel feeds itself slowly downward, and the masonry soaks up the heat and transfers it slowly toward your feet, butt, or other appreciative surfaces.  Radiant heat from the metal surfaces provides instant gratification, while stored heat warms the house gently like a spring thaw.  No moving parts, minimal wood-prep and cleaning, and very low risk of creosote or chimney problems.
We encourage you to explore these links or take a workshop.  These effects are achieved efficiently with certain key techniques and proportions.  Tthe best introduction is to read the book Rocket Mass Heaters, by Ianto Evans and Leslie Jackson:

Owner reports: Rocketeer Reports


Fox Circle, Dana Annex Remodel 2009:

Test beds, Dana Annex Rocket Mass Heater 2008:

Trackers Rocket Stove Intro: (2 minute video of Ernie)

Article by Paul Wheaton, with pictures & video from Pyromania 2009:

(Other video is available too - like this interesting all-masonry variation: 
Compare the search results from "Rocket Mass Heaters" and "Rocket Stoves, Cooking;" you'll quickly pick up on the differences in design and intended use.)

Rocket Stoves.. Experimenters corner.. Answers questioned!
(An edge-exploring discussion forum set up by researcher Kirk Mobert.)

About Rocket Stoves: 

Ianto Evans, Leslie Jackson, Ernie Wisner, and other friends are among the researchers developing efficient, clean-burning, afforable stoves for a variety of heating and cooking needs. 

One remarkable stove design this group developed and published is called the Rocket Mass Heater, or Rocket Masonry Stove. The design combines an innovative clean-burning combustion chamber, with a masonry thermal mass, resulting in extraordinary heat capture and low waste from an incredibly small amount of wood. 

The goals of Rocket Stove researchers include 

- meet human needs for food, warmth, comfort, and safety

- conserve fuel (much of the world depends on scarce firewood),

- clean air, reduce smoke-related health and environmental problems

- turn wastes into resources, e.g. find new uses for junk & scrap

- encourage resourceful thinking and hands-on problem solving 

- offer affordable, clean alternatives to conventional technologies 

"Rocket Stoves" of various designs have also been developed by other communities. The common denominators are a vertical "heat riser", and creative use of basic materials. Rocket stoves use the "hot stack" or chimney effect to draw pyrolitic gases through a hot zone for complete combustion. Some are simple emergency or open-fire cookstoves, others more complex designs for specific purposes like home heating, metalworking, or water heating. Among simple cookstoves, I personally like the mud-brick "The Good Stove" from India, but Aprovecho also puts out a metal-encased version. You can get a similar effect by using a coffee can to start your campfire: trap the heat in a vertical column, and your fire starts easier and burns better. 

Rocket Mass Heaters are not an ideal cookstove, but they are great for simmering French sauces or keeping hot water on hand for washing up. 

These are experimental, "tinkerer's" stoves. They are not for the fire-fearful or dirt-shy, but for those interested in taking part in a new era of natural building design. 

The basic design has been researched over about 20 years, and is described in the 2006 book Rocket Mass Heaters by Ianto Evans and Leslie Jackson. 

Many people want to add features or change things, and of course, this changes performance as well. We recommend playing with the basic design in an outdoor setting or workshop before attempting any changes. Some ideas just don't work well in practice, and the real world offers better lessons than any book or armchair discussion.

More links and articles:

Rocket Mass Heaters (as featured in Home Power magazine):

Blog post about a rocket-heated shower system in Australia:

Rocket cookstoves (tin-can stoves, as featured on NPR):

Forums for discussing endless possibilities:
Permaculture / Alternative Energy Forum (open to all readers, members may post):

Rocket Mass Heater researchers (become a member to view and post on this forum):

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