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rocket heaters meeting code

Seppi Garrett


Joined: Jan 07, 2012
Posts: 3
I am currently trying to get my town to allow some permaculture friends and myself to take over an unused school and create a center of sustainability. One of the problems with it is the estimated $500,000 new HVAC system they believe is needed. I am trying to convince them that this building can be heated at a fraction of the cost. Is anyone aware of any towns or municipalities that have adopted into code the rocket mass heater that I can use as a guide and example?
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6661
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
138
I have not heard of any jurisdictions who have given the green light to them.

Most local building codes are based on the State codes, which are based on years of proven safe practice. Since RMHs are still in the experimental stage, it would take a very progressive jurisdiction to permit it (or a very lax one).
Seppi Garrett


Joined: Jan 07, 2012
Posts: 3
Thanks John. Do you know who is doing the testing or at what stage it is in?
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6661
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
138
RMHs are more of a do-it-yourself project than a commercial, manufactured product. I would imagine that most regulating authorities would be very reluctant to approve them on a one-on-one basis.

Don't forget that the building inspectors are familiar with "standard practices". It would take a ballsy inspector to "sign off" on something he didn't understand, especially if it was obviously home made.

Insurance is also an issue. Insurance companies are a "risk-taking" venture. They weigh the risks, and then set their rates according to where they believe they will make a profit. To them, a home made/designed heating device would seem risky. Since this will be a public learning center, you would probably want/need liability insurance as well...the city will probably require it. If your fire insurance policy considers you a high risk, your liability policy will too.

I am not trying to discourage you, but trying to warn you that you face an uphill battle if you are attempting to use experimental technologies in an establishment designed for public use. Perhaps some RMH users with fire insurance can chime in and give you some helpful hints.

Good luck.
Seppi Garrett


Joined: Jan 07, 2012
Posts: 3
John, I appreciate your feedback. You are right, actually most of this is an uphill battle. I certainly hope others will chime in with their experiences. I am also curious if the "russian stove" experiences the same problems as the RMH in regards to codes and insurance. Thanks for your thoughts and time spent answering my questions.
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
Current code in most places could allow a RMH however; the insurance wont. the typical RMH is not under epa classification as a wood stove due to weight. testing an RMH is hard because they simply cannot eat enough wood to fall into the testing criteria. We are currently working on getting RMH code in portland oregon but that is taking time.
Any efforts in other parts of the country are welcome. we can share our experiences and drawings code write ups ETC. with folks who are trying to get them coded and insured. Yes we wrote the inspection criteria and code our selves cause no one else was qualified. We find this terribly ironic.


Need more info?
Ernie and Erica
Wood burning stoves, Rocket Mass Heaters, DIY,
Stove plans, Boat plans, General permiculture information, Arts and crafts, Fire science, Find it at www.ernieanderica.info


S. G. Botsford


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 62
    
    1

The guys on the masonry stove sites claim that they don't have issues because it's a 'russian fireplace' and fireplaces fall in a different category.

Call it a russian fireplace, and disguise the wood input point. As a compromise, ask if you can build the fireplace, see if it heats the place, and then have a secondary system for backup heat.

If it is going to be used with significant numbers of people, then the V in HVAC comes to fore. That's ventilation. Most code if anything UNDER estimates needed ventilation to keep meeting rooms from getting stuffy. However IMHO this is better handled on a room by room basis.
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
for our money we would rather you do it above board as much as possible. We will send code officials the rocket stove book if asked and we will educate them as much as we can to give you folks the best possible chance of getting RMH's coded.
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    8
Paul talks with Ernie and Erica about rocket mass heaters in this podcast: rocket mass heater podcast

They talk about rmh's meeting code and share a few stories.


www.thehappypermaculturalist.wordpress.com
Christopher Harrison


Joined: Apr 22, 2011
Posts: 3
Location: Warwick, NY
I especially liked the part of the podcast where Ernie, Erica and Paul were talking about how you can find many engineers who are actually interested in helping to push rocket mass heaters, and other natural building techniques, more into the mainstream so that they are not held hostage by outdated, overly-constrictive building codes.

I liked it because... I am one of those engineers. I'm licensed in New York State (with the plan to expand to NJ and PA, possibly CT as well) and will be constructing a rocket mass heater for my basement in the next year or two, time allowing. I plan to develop plans of my heater and apply my stamp to certify those plans in order to help pacify any inspection requirements. Please note: I've read Ianto's book and read up other sources on RMHs over the internets, and I'm planning to put in a straightforward design directly based on those sources as opposed to "innovating" without mastering the basics first.

If anyone else out there is interested in coordinating similar efforts, or is actually engaged in this sort of thing, I'd love to link up and discuss further. Thanks!
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
Well yes we would like to hook up and get some of this done. and since we already have basic plans out it might be prudent to take a look at the information packet we have for the inspectors already. send us email and we can get some of this ball rolling.
Gerold Dodson


Joined: Feb 14, 2012
Posts: 1
Hello All,
Has anyone thought of submitting experimental model to UL (Underwriters Laboratory). I would think that most State and Local Codes follow along with the research by the insurance (Underwriters) companies. Gee! with a little research of my own --- UL wants a fee to test a product so they can give their stamp of approval. What's a do it yourself person to do?
Regards Gerald
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
oh its about 5000 to get a stove tested in a UL authorized lab and we used to live about 45 miles from it. We are working to get the money up to do this and try to have the testing lab modify the tests so we can actually qualify for the tesing. the RMH doesnt actually consume enough wood for the tests. so we will ahve to rewrite the testing criteria so our strove can be tested. not to mention the filters and all the rest of the junk that must be changed to allow the stove to be tested.
Erica Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Feb 10, 2009
Posts: 774
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
    
  94
There was a little about this in an earlier thread: http://www.permies.com/t/12742/stoves/Complying-building-codes

There is an ASTM standard for masonry heaters: 1602-03, and it is possible to build a rocket mass heater to meet existing masonry heater standards, clearances, and footing/earthquake standards. It involves a lot more firebrick; you set the 'lining' (instead of ducting) in 'fireclay mortar' (instead of cob), and include 'expansion joints' which as far as I know, can be a piece of cardboard form that you leave in place after using it to shape your fireclay-stabilized perlite insulation. You might have to go to a conventional masonry casing (with, ugh, cement type mortar) outside of that expansion joint, or maybe they would accept 'monolithic adobe, with integrated fiber reinforcement' as an internationally-known building material that is fireproof and offers healthful benefits by mitigating some air quality concerns.
I would go to woodstove clearances around the barrel. And you may need refractory insulation and a custom barrel/bell to scale up to a public-building size.
If you have a willing engineer (God bless you, NY!) and an alternative-approvals process where they know about masonry heaters already, you have a lot more in your favor. It will still be a roughly $5000 solution, at a guess, not a $50 solution, to do this up to spec for a public building. That's not counting the permits or engineer's time.

You might also look into the already-UL-approved masonry heater kits that are sold from Canada and the eastern USA. The core can cost under $5000, and then you would be looking at additional casing work but saving a ton of permitting hassles (because it comes with a sticker, or certification document).

They still might be leery about solid-fuel devices, somebody has to read the owner's manual and operate the thing, and they are seriously and rightly paranoid about fire in public buildings.

We have had several public schools shut down in Western Oregon in the last decade or so due to major, toxic mold problems. Pre-1950's buildings are hard to heat due to more use of masonry and windows, less insulation; a thermal-mass heater could be useful in this situation, if the building will be continuously used throughout the week.
Post-1960 buildings are hard to ventilate because of over-confidence in the miracles of better living through chemistry (concrete, windowless buildings).
If mold and indoor air quality are the HVAC concern, not just heat, then you have a larger problem. Creating decent ventilation in a poorly-designed building is a cat-in-the-hat, and it would take a careful on-site investigation to determine if there is a low-cost passive-solar solution, or if it's a case of the building is unavoidably unhealthy unless you run fans throughout occupied hours.

There's about 4 1/2 cents worth.

-Erica


Play with nature, make nifty stuff:
www.ErnieAndErica.info
Rw Loomis


Joined: Jun 10, 2012
Posts: 7
After reading all of these posts I am officially discouraged. Was contemplating building a RMH in an existing home in Michigan. Sounds like you have no shot at doing it above board to code so you can insure the house. If anyone can give me a vine of hope how I could pull this off under 3k that would be grand. Any information is greatly appreciated,

RW
Roy Clarke


Joined: Feb 05, 2012
Posts: 121
Write to your climate-change-friendly senator and get them to take it up.
R Scott


Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 2484
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
    
  21
Roy Clarke wrote:Write to your climate-change-friendly senator and get them to take it up.


UGH. There has to be a better way than MORE .gov

But I also know the code for a private residence vs. public building are quite different and usually there is zero flexibility in the public code.

ETA: Maybe there is a loophole in your codes dealing with experimental, business incubator, or green initiatives that you can exploit.


http://www.treebytheseafarms.com/
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Roy Clarke


Joined: Feb 05, 2012
Posts: 121
R Scott wrote:
UGH. There has to be a better way than MORE .gov



It's .gov that's stopping it. You need to remove the blockage.
Amit Enventres


Joined: Mar 24, 2011
Posts: 120
    
    3
Any of you in production Green houses? I know this administration is really pushing local food and there's sometimes grants from the USDA for showing working experiments that help with that. If anyone want to ride the political wave, you may have a chance by seeing if the USDA will promote it for "greenhouse heating" and then once it's in the books, see if it can't be flipped to the "housing" page....just a far-fetched idea.
Dillon Stanger


Joined: Nov 20, 2012
Posts: 21
Christopher Harrison wrote:I especially liked the part of the podcast where Ernie, Erica and Paul were talking about how you can find many engineers who are actually interested in helping to push rocket mass heaters, and other natural building techniques, more into the mainstream so that they are not held hostage by outdated, overly-constrictive building codes.

I liked it because... I am one of those engineers. I'm licensed in New York State (with the plan to expand to NJ and PA, possibly CT as well) and will be constructing a rocket mass heater for my basement in the next year or two, time allowing. I plan to develop plans of my heater and apply my stamp to certify those plans in order to help pacify any inspection requirements. Please note: I've read Ianto's book and read up other sources on RMHs over the internets, and I'm planning to put in a straightforward design directly based on those sources as opposed to "innovating" without mastering the basics first.

If anyone else out there is interested in coordinating similar efforts, or is actually engaged in this sort of thing, I'd love to link up and discuss further. Thanks!


Hello,
My name is Dillon Stanger and I am an engineering student at McGill. I am very interested in designing Rocket Mass Stoves and would like to connect with you. I am unable to connect through linked in because I am out of your network. If you can please email me at dillon.mark.stanger@gmail.com since I can not find a way to contact you.
Thank you
Dillon
514 894 1801
Clifford Gallington


Joined: Nov 08, 2012
Posts: 85
Location: Kansas
I really hope you can get some approval on this!
Our town outlawed chickens, my wife put together a 40 page proposal backed up by many other cities and conversations with their city commissioners, and the local animal control and chief of police all gave their blessing only to have her proposal to allow chickens again blown out of the water by the vice mayor with the statement of
"I do not want to sit on my patio drinking my coffee in the morning and hear a chicken"
Barbara Wasinger vice mayor Hays Kansas 2010

I hope your city is more open minded than ours.
Trevor Balch


Joined: Dec 04, 2012
Posts: 2
Ernie Wisner wrote:Current code in most places could allow a RMH however; the insurance wont. the typical RMH is not under epa classification as a wood stove due to weight. testing an RMH is hard because they simply cannot eat enough wood to fall into the testing criteria. We are currently working on getting RMH code in portland oregon but that is taking time.
Any efforts in other parts of the country are welcome. we can share our experiences and drawings code write ups ETC. with folks who are trying to get them coded and insured. Yes we wrote the inspection criteria and code our selves cause no one else was qualified. We find this terribly ironic.

I was thinking about this and I have a question to you sir. Has anyone considered building the rmh portion outside of the dwelling and just running the exhaust into the house? Would that work? I am a complete newbie other than about 24 hrs now of you tube viewing including all of your VERY informational posts sir.
I am all over installing these up here in Canada.
I understand that the main source of heat i.e. the oil drum would be outside but would that not also remove the (An Oil Drum in my sitting room) issue?
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
it has been done but it doesn't work out so well. it also doesn't make one whit of difference to the insurance company because the fire is still close to the house.
extending the burn tunnel makes you have to extend the heat riser. the barrel in the house can be dressed up pretty well if you just use your imagination.

pretty much you need to work with your building code and insurance folks. In Canada i dont think this is all that hard to do. at least from what i have heard.
thanks for your interest.
Trevor Balch


Joined: Dec 04, 2012
Posts: 2
Ernie Wisner wrote:it has been done but it doesn't work out so well. it also doesn't make one whit of difference to the insurance company because the fire is still close to the house.
extending the burn tunnel makes you have to extend the heat riser. the barrel in the house can be dressed up pretty well if you just use your imagination.

pretty much you need to work with your building code and insurance folks. In Canada i dont think this is all that hard to do. at least from what i have heard.
thanks for your interest.

I thank you for the reply. I have as of yesterday joined the ranks of "rocket men" and of course women having built my first one which worked quite well considering there was no cob to seal the joints however watching flame go sideways was an experience. I had pondered your response and this morning contacted my city rep who suggests I build it and go from there. That is the next step will let you know How I go.
Philip Durso


Joined: Mar 05, 2013
Posts: 142
Location: Missoula, Montana (zone 4)
    
    8
EPA Unveils Long-Awaited Regulations To Make New Wood Heaters Burn 80 Percent Cleaner
Len Ovens
pollinator

Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1306
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  16


Fun stuff, but... isn't there always a "but"? Most steel wood stoves already burn very clean in an EPA test lab. It is just that while burning clean they put out more heat than anyone can use, so in practice they are used in a smolder and burn dirty. I don't think that will change. Most newer masonry heaters already meet the new spec and I don't know if it includes fire places The biggest hit will be the wood fired water heaters (there are a few good ones but most smoke pretty bad). This may have some effect on wood cook stoves (not tested right now) as well.
 
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