Eric A Milller

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since Nov 30, 2018
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duck urban chicken
Chicago, IL
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Recent posts by Eric A Milller

Us greenhouse growers can help our selves, but think we can squeeze a little more growth out of our plant when we have low light in the winter. After getting a small dose of CO poisoning after my second RMH test fire that was venting into my wide open greenhouse(sides were open about 4 feet all the way around the greenhouse and most of the smoke I was breathing was from burn back), I am having second thoughts about trying to vent an exhaust into the greenhouse. I did purchase a couple CO2 and CO sensors. It will still be interesting to collect data on CO2 levels in the greenhouse and CO levels in the exhaust.

Not to mention that although CO2 is not nearly as dangerous as CO (it doesn't bind to Hgb and you breathe it in and out in every breath) you can still suffocate from CO2 displacing O2. If you're not paying attention, sleepy, or overexerting yourself you could easily pass out and suffocate in a CO2 enriched environment.

Also, you lose weight from exhaling carbon in the form of CO2 do your CO2 generator may make you gain weight, Just kidding but if it convinces people not to play with fire, no pun intended.
2 years ago
Thanks, Glenn,

Your first post didn't sell me on the idea of insulating the bottom of the pipe but your second post did. I did think about the issue of conduction. but I didn't think about the radiant heat and the issue of and the brief rising of the water table carrying away heat.

In hind site, I wish I had just built a bench/raised bed in the middle of the greenhouse. I was attempting to merge some of the concepts of earth tubes and RMH's but i think the high water table is an issue I didn't fully anticipate even though I knew our water table is high.

Thanks again, Glenn!
2 years ago

Glenn Herbert wrote:

I saw what looked like the long duct just buried in a trench; is there insulation under that duct? If not, you are trying to heat the whole earth which is futile, especially if there is groundwater which will efficiently carry away any heat put into the ground.

there is no insulation under the pipe other than an air gap. I was assuming that heat rises. and my plan was to try to heat as much earth as possible. I was planning on burning as long of fires as possible and infrequently as possible. I do have below grade polystyrene left over from building my walk-in cooler I could create and insulated channel. but it would i think it would create a huge amount of more excavation. how much mass would I need between the pipe and insulation to keep the insulation from melting?

I'm confident the water table is typically a lot lower than it is now so I'm not too concerned about water moving the heat away, and my other thought is we have about a 4-foot frost line in my area, so there is a limit to how far heat/cold will conduct. I am also planning 3  or 4 100 foot earth tubes. which will help me to pull heat back out of the earth.

I think I'm going to change my plan for using 1/4 inch 2600 CF board wrapped with 1 inch CF blanket.

Has anyone used CF Blanket Rigidizer? Does it lower the R-Value? any other issues with the rigidizer?
2 years ago

Graham Chiu wrote:Is it possible the bricks got water into them and they fractured as ice formed inside?

I agree with Glen its unlikely due to freeze, its possible it was different rates of expansion between the firebrick and the cinderblock. also, those bricks were only rated for 2000F and I had a very hot fire with the fan-forced air. they felt very crumbly and brittle when I was removing them, so I think the most likely cause was overheating.
2 years ago

thomas rubino wrote:Hi Eric;
your "plan" on 8" surrounded by 10" with perlite (not vermiculite) in between... is this a riser?  If so you might want a C.F. riser instead.

This was for insulating the chimney and my plan was to use vermiculite temperatures shouldn't be hotter than 250 F. and its primarily to hold the airgap centered
2 years ago

Caleb Mayfield wrote:One other thing, what are you using for fuel? It needs to be really dry.

I was burning 3-year seasoned logs that were really dry.
2 years ago
Thanks for everyone's advice. I purchased Erica and Ernie's book, and I agree it was worth every penny, it would have saved me hundreds of dollars. I was excited to return from vacation on Sunday to work on the stove. I was planning on increasing the exhaust manifold opening to a 10-inch pipe that reduces to an 8-inch pipe as Caleb recommended and i was going to increase by heat riser to 54 inches. I was also going to cob the inside of my combustion channels to size them down to 7x7 and try to protect the 2000 degree hard bricks.

However, this is was I found when I returned, see below.

We just had 9 inches of really dense snow melt with an additional 1 inch of rain. the soil still seemed to try in the center of the greenhouse but it appeared like water was seeping in from outside the greenhouse. after a half hour of sucking up water, it appeared like it was going to continually seep in. for that reason, and also to better use the radiant heat coming off the barrel, and also to shorten my exhaust pipe which was a 55-foot straight run of 8-inch pipe which is longer than all recommendations. I decided to move the combustion unit 10 feet farther into the greenhouse.  

while digging the new pit it became apparent it wasn't only seepage coming from the wet ground outside. but in fact, the water table had risen. since Im deep enough to reach the water table under moderately wet conditions I decided I need to raise the combustion chamber.  I put down 4 inches of pea gravel to act as drainage under the system which I'm planning on running to a sub pump pit. I'm hoping I will not need to use a pump, but it will be available if we have more flooding. I put down 12x12in stone pavers to help stabilize the pea gravel bed and then added about 4 inches of vermiculite. i may try to fix the vermiculite with clay or a may create a pad of refractory mortar to float on the vermiculite bed, then do a layer of clay fixed vermiculite.

I also noticed that all of my firebricks had cracked after the first firing, and didn't think it was that bad but as I tried removing the bricks to move the firebox it turns out almost every brick had cracks.

I am not trying to find new refractory bricks in having a hard time finding a supplier near Chicago.

I need some advice, I'm tempted to try a cob core but I have seen a lot of casted cob cores seem to have a lot of cracking. I am looking at online suppliers of soft insulating fire bricks but some require you to order a whole pallet.

Does anyone know any suppliers in northern Illinois?

has anyone had luck with a cob core?

Do I want to use soft bricks or hard bricks, or a mix, hard in the feed chamber soft in the horizontal burn and riser?
What is the minimum heat rating on the bricks you would recommend?

Would it be easier to use the order ceramic board? would that burn out faster?

are there any good plans that would use 1-inch ceramic wool since I already purchased it? I'm having trouble figuring out how I would secure it.

my plan is to use an 8-inch duct vent for the chimney with a 10-inch pipe surrounding it with the gap filled with vermiculite has anyone tried anything similar?

if I can't find fire bricks I was thinking of building a plywood form of the channels that would be 7x7 and using a 2-4 inch layer of cob than brown construction paper, fiber blanket, paper, cob paper blanket, paper cob. knowing that the plywood and possible paper would burn out. Thoughts?

2 years ago
So the pipe leaving the manifold is 8 inch. my chimney is not completed yet. it's currently only 5 feet of 8-inch tube open on the top. but the mass is so cold by the time the gasses get the chimney they have reached ambient temperature.

I tried just using the bottom barrel, which is acting as my manifold and is uninsulated and I still was only getting a mediocre burn even when I was bypassing my thermal mass.
2 years ago
This is my first rocket mass heater build, and it was a big one.

I have experimented with J tubes on the past with great success. but my heater is experiencing a low amount of draft and constant back burn. I believe there are numerous issues, but I need some guidance on what to try next.

my firebox is built out of half fire bricks. 4 1/2" x 9" x 1-1/4" on a base of vermiculite concrete. the dimensions of the burn tunnel are 6.5 inches wide 7.75 inches deep and the overall length of the base is 3 fire bricks so 27 inches long. that includes the opening of the feed shoot and heat riser

there's a 9-inch horizontal burn chamber.

i initially had a 6-inch double walled metal exhaust pipe with a 1-inch ceramic wool liner inside of a 7-inch pipe. cemented in place with castable refractory cement.  with this configuration, I had very poor draft. and a large amount of back burn.

today I replaced the pipe with a single layer of fire bricks. which created a 7.75" x 6.5" inside dimension heat riser I had not yet insulated the riser.

i am still experiencing a large amount of back burn and poor draft. it is sucking now, but only modestly.

My initial theory was the 6-inch pipe was just not enough flow for my inlet so I replaced that. Now I am trying to decide what to try to fix next.

My exhaust pipe and thermal mass are COLD. probably 30-40 degrees F so that I'm sure is a contributing factor but I'm not sure how much? also when I open the clean out port right next to the burn barrel I get a slightly better burn, but not great, still a lot of smoke and back burn.

My goal for this heater is to get as little immediate heat as possible with as much slow release heat as possible so I did insulate the inside of the top barrel with 1 inch of ceramic wool. Not having the gasses cooling on the top of the barrel I'm sure is a contributing factor. I don't have the heat riser very well insulated. I was planning to use ceramic wool or Vermiculite and refractory mortar, which would be better.

if my dimensions are off on the j tube should I consider lining the inside of the tube with ceramic wool? I already purchased 25 feet by 4 feet so i have plenty.

how large of a role does the heat after the mass going up the chimney play. my exhaust up the chimney even if I'm forcing air into the system with a fan only gets maybe 10-20 degrees over ambient. There is a large amount of empty space inside of the barrel is that causing problems?

2 years ago