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RMH and british regulations

 
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Hi folks

I've got another thread going for the technical side of my rocket mass heater build, and while I did touch on the legal side, I don't want to get my hopes up in case the legality of an RMH in England is a big blocker. As the house shares a wall with the neighbors, I'd rather not risk doing anything which will invalidate my home insurance in the unlikely event the rocket does burn my house down, as it's not just my neck on the line!

I've seen various folks using rocket heaters in britain, but I've not come across any mentions of the interaction with Building Regulations. From a more general look around the internet, the main concern with any heating system that burns fuel is "Document J", and you can do the work yourself as long as the council's Building Control inspector agrees your stove or heater meets the requirements in the document. Masonry heaters, including bespoke ones, can be signed off, and there seem to be various companies building them.

Home insurers' opinions seem to range from "We won't insure you without a certificate from the council/the registered installer?" to "we won't ask about stove certificats directly, but in the small print it says any fire damage resulting from poor workmanship on a stove or other device using combustible fuel won't be covered". I don't recall having to discuss the existing gas boiler with my insurance when I originally took the policy out while buying the house, and my policy doesn't seem to reference it, so I suspect my insurance provider leans toward the latter end.

So how many of you folks using rocket heaters or similar setups around here have had the inspector in? And how many of you have talked to insurers about it?

Since I made the last post the builder confirmed what I suspected already, which is that the entire extension I'm planning to put the RMH in can't be effectively shored up, and has to come down and be rebuilt. While that completely scuppers any chance of having an RMH built before winter this year, it does offer me the chance to have the folks building the new one include a flue vent in the roof, as well as possibly an air intake point somewhere. The builder will already have building control in to sign off on the new extension, so I may get a chance to ask someone then. I might couch it in terms of a masonry heater, even if the internal section of the bell ends up being steel in my final design.

Thanks in advance!
R
 
pollinator
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I've no idea but would be very interested to know for the future!
 
rocket scientist
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Hi Ros;
I can't help you with what British regulations might be, but it seems that worldwide masonry heaters are OK and the unknown RMH is scary and strange.
Absolutely, say you are going to build a Masonry stove and not a rocket mass heater, in fact, if asked, denying any knowledge of RMHs could be a good approach.
Funny how terminology can affect thinking.  
It has been my personal observation over a lifetime that the insurance company papers always have some clause or another absolving them from paying out.



 
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Hi Ros, I live in Guernsey so not quite England but we do share a lots of similar regulations.

Where I live there are no building regs relating to a rocket stove so as far as building inspectors are concered there is no such thing as a rocket stove!

There are no set standards or guid lines for an inspector to follow so it is impossible for any inspector to approve a rocket stove.
The other main issue is house insurance, unless a stove is approved you insurance will not be valid.
The building inspector I dealt with was very understanding but was at a loss as to what he could do, my insurance was very understanding too but needed the stove to pass building control ……

It may be different where you live and all I can suggest is you start by asking you hose insurance company.

The method of construction may effect decisions too, a full masonry build with a steel door, batch box, might be more appealing to authorities rather than open top J tube!

At the end of the day a lot is based on the name and description of your proposed stove.
Good luck….
 
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That underscores the rationale for calling your construction a masonry heater instead of a rocket mass heater or stove. I suspect the authorities know about masonry heaters, or at least can quickly look them up in approved references and regulations.
 
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A rose by another name
 still smells just as sweet
And a rocket mass heater by another name
 burns just as complete.  
 
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Hi, Maybe this will help.  I read somwhere that in the US there is a new set of building codes approved for RMH.  I don't have a link for it but maybe someone else does and your inspectors can go off that?
 
Fox James
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Good point however I would have to wonder just how many masonry stoves there are in the whole of the UK?
 
master gardener
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I know of one chap who has two (one inside one outside). I won't say where he is since his whole home is outside planning rules.....I think there are quite a few "cob bench masonry heaters" about though.
 
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Combustable fuel = gasoline, diesel, kerosine, gas. This is a contained wood fire so what does your insurance say about enclosed fireplaces and such?
 
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Ros Harrison wrote:Hi folks

I've got another thread going for the technical side of my rocket mass heater build, and while I did touch on the legal side, I don't want to get my hopes up in case the legality of an RMH in England is a big blocker. As the house shares a wall with the neighbors, I'd rather not risk doing anything which will invalidate my home insurance in the unlikely event the rocket does burn my house down, as it's not just my neck on the line!

I've seen various folks using rocket heaters in britain, but I've not come across any mentions of the interaction with Building Regulations. From a more general look around the internet, the main concern with any heating system that burns fuel is "Document J", and you can do the work yourself as long as the council's Building Control inspector agrees your stove or heater meets the requirements in the document. Masonry heaters, including bespoke ones, can be signed off, and there seem to be various companies building them.

Home insurers' opinions seem to range from "We won't insure you without a certificate from the council/the registered installer?" to "we won't ask about stove certificats directly, but in the small print it says any fire damage resulting from poor workmanship on a stove or other device using combustible fuel won't be covered". I don't recall having to discuss the existing gas boiler with my insurance when I originally took the policy out while buying the house, and my policy doesn't seem to reference it, so I suspect my insurance provider leans toward the latter end.

So how many of you folks using rocket heaters or similar setups around here have had the inspector in? And how many of you have talked to insurers about it?

Since I made the last post the builder confirmed what I suspected already, which is that the entire extension I'm planning to put the RMH in can't be effectively shored up, and has to come down and be rebuilt. While that completely scuppers any chance of having an RMH built before winter this year, it does offer me the chance to have the folks building the new one include a flue vent in the roof, as well as possibly an air intake point somewhere. The builder will already have building control in to sign off on the new extension, so I may get a chance to ask someone then. I might couch it in terms of a masonry heater, even if the internal section of the bell ends up being steel in my final design.

Thanks in advance!
R



This is something I need to get around to investigating, but isn’t at the top of my list yet - so super interested. We’re in Wales.
 
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thomas rubino wrote: It has been my personal observation over a lifetime that the insurance company papers always have some clause or another absolving them from paying out.



This is the truth! It's amazing how much money you constantly hand them, and then they have little wiggle loopholes for everything!
We live in an area with no codes, but insurance is thus more expensive and stringent, because there is more potential for claims resulting from people cutting corners with construction. We have talked with all the main companies (Allstate, State Farm, etc) and unless a heating device is UL listed or custom built by a licensed specialist, it's not covered. We can't even build our own masonry heater, much less RMH, and have insurance. We did find a small independent agent who said she could find a way to do a policy, but the cost would have been an extra $600 more than we pay now, so not logical, plus we don't know how well any claim would be handled. And that's where the loopholes come in. Let's say we build the RMH, and hope for the best. A tree falls on the house. An adjuster comes in and sees the RMH. Somewhere there's likely a clause that allows them to deny the roof damage due to us having a non-standard heating device. It's outrageous but what choice does anyone have? Fire risk aside, going without insurance means you could lose your home in a personal injury lawsuit when the UPS guy trips on a garden hose.
 
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