Soda Can Survival Stove There are very few places in the world that do not harbor some type of refuse from the human race. What you can do with trash in a survival situation is very important. One thing that you will see everywhere is a soda can. that is what brought me to this …
Do you have a means to heat some water for coffee or cook your meal in your kit? You can build a big fire and place your cooking pots directly on coals or a makeshift pot holder (ala bushcraft skills). But you might want to create a smaller footprint, use fewer resources and make your fire as efficient as possible.
If that is the case, you might be interested in adding a wood gas stove, stainless steel pot combination that is the perfect size for anyone wanting versatility in their kit. This kit is very affordable, sitting at a combined price of just under $40.
The stove is an Ohuhu Stainless Steel Wood Burning Stove. You can start a fire at the bottom and just add wood or other materials to keep it going, but it really should be used in the Top Lit Updraft Method (TLUD). This means that you fill the stove up with wood and other dry burning material, you then light it at the top. As the fire starts, it heats the wood underneath, producing gas. This gas then travels up the sides of the stove and burns very efficiently, creating a hot and smokeless fire.
The Ohuhu Stove nestles very nicely inside the Alpine MSR Stowaway Pot. The pot is a stainless steel, 775ml pot. It comes with a cover and the handle folds over to lock everything in place. The pot also comes with a mesh carrying bag. Using the cover, I was able to bring 1 cup of water to boil in 4-5 minutes. See my Instagram video below.
Like I said, this little combo is the perfect size for a bugout bag, GHB or any other survival kit. The stove nestles inside the pot (make sure you get the 775ml pot) and is very compact.
Check out my pics below.
The post Your Cooking Kit – The Perfect Stove and Pot Combination For Any of Your Kits! appeared first on Ed That Matters.
You have to just like Hiking Jim’s blog “Adventures in Stoving.” This is a blog to book mark.
Right now he a has a post reviewing a stove system and a methodology on how to determine how much stove fuel to take in to the back country.
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Building a Simple Barrel Stove Are you aware that the wood stove is illegal in some states in American. The act of heating your home seems so elementary because you rarely have any issues with it. Simply set your thermostat when it gets cold and go from there. What happens if the power goes out …
8 Alternative Ways to Cook without Power Whether stranded in the wilderness by accident, or relaxing at your campsite on a weekend getaway, hunger will come calling – and without traditional cooking instruments or appliances readily accessible, keeping your party fed means trying new methods of cooking. Don’t wait to experiment in the woods; review … Continue reading 8 Alternative Ways to Cook without Power!
The great outdoors is in fact great. It provides food, fresh air and a chance to unplug from technology and reconnect with nature. Sometimes, though, the great outdoors isn’t so great, turning your fun overnight hiking trip or weekend camping trip into a rough, wet, tiring experience. Here are 8 camping survival tips and tricks to make your experience a little more manageable and enjoyable.
- Make fishhooks from a zipper or tab from an aluminum can.
Whether you’ve lost, broken, run out of or forgot to pack fishhooks, don’t fear. You can make one using a zipper or the tab off an aluminum can. Simply break off the loop on one side, pull it out to a 90-degree angle and then sharpen the exposed tip on a rock until it becomes a sharp point.
- Use an aluminum can as a stove.
You can use a soda pop or beer can when you need a portable camping stove. First, you need to use your knife to cut a capital shaped I into one side of the can, with a vertical cut and a horizontal cut at the bottom and top. Next, you peel open the “window” you just created, place your fire starters inside the can and then light it for your very own portable, windproof cooking stove.
- Use loose strands from your socks as fire starters.
If you or someone with you happens to be wearing cotton or wool socks, you can use any loose strands from said socks as fire starters if you can’t find any other fire-starting materials.
Just take your shoes off, pluck the strands from each sock and make a flammable tinder pile. Once you have your little pile, set it where you want your fire and throw a few sparks on it to start your needed fire.
- Dry your boots out faster with fire-heated rocks.
Wet feet are the worst. Whenever your boots get wet, don’t just sit them by the campfire. That method takes way too long to thoroughly dry them out. Instead, gather up two or four large and dry non-porous rocks and place them on the edge of your campfire. Once the rocks are really hot, carefully place them into your shoes. Don’t use your hands unless you have thick gloves on, and really it’s best to use sticks or some kind of kitchen utensil to remove the rocks from the fire and place them in your shoes. This method may seem wacky, but it works at a quicker pace to thoroughly dry wet shoes from the inside and outside.
- Use tarp to make an emergency rain shelter.
Never leave for an overnight camping trip without a tarp, even if the weather forecast says no rain. Storms can hit out of nowhere and ruin your night in the great outdoors. A tarp makes a great shelter against unexpected rain. Create your emergency rain shelter by staking one corner of the tarp facing the wind. Next, prop a pole up under the opposite corner, and then tie a strong line from the top of the pole to a ground stake. Next you want to tightly pull the remaining two corners and stake them into the ground. The end result is a half-pyramid shape rain shelter that provides good water drainage, can stand up against strong winds and keeps you dry.
- Utilize a shower curtain to keep the floor of your tent dry overnight.
If you don’t have enough tarps but have an old shower curtain at home, fold it up and bring it with you. Unfold it and place it underneath your tent to keep your tent’s floor dry (as well as you and your sleeping bag) during the night and early morning. In the morning, you can throw it out or lay it out in the sun to dry so you can reuse it later that night.
- Keep pesky bugs away by throwing a stick of sage into your campfire.
It doesn’t matter how much you love nature—no one loves being eaten by mosquitos or having bugs flying around them and their food. If you forgot bug spray or ever run out, you can still keep those pesky bugs away from your campsite. Just find a stick of sage and throw it into your campfire. Bugs don’t like the sage scent that emits from your fire, making it an effective and natural way to keep bugs away.
- Always pack the right camping supplies.
Last on our list, and arguably the most important, is to bring along essential camping supplies, including a knife, warm sleeping bag, energy-boosting snacks, extra water, extra clothes, first aid kit, a compass and an emergency shelter. These supplies can literally be a lifesaver. You may not end up using every item you pack, but it’s always better to be prepared for every worst-case camping scenario.
Large Heat-Powered Wood Stove Fan This amazing large Heat-Powered Wood Stove Fan. Increase your stove’s efficiency, move more warm air around the room Starts automatically & adjusts its speed with stove temperature. The fan costs nothing to operate, no cords, plugs or batteries needed, this is great if you want to try and get as …
When the weather outside is frightful, it can be a challenge for people dependent on a wood-burning stove for heat. The question is: How can you improve the efficiency of your wood stove?
An obvious answer is to buy a new one with a built-in catalytic combustor, but they can be expensive. Thankfully, there are other ways to do it.
Here are some steps you can take to improve the efficiency of your wood stove:
1. A clean stove and chimney
Barring a warm spell, it’s a little late in the season to do some of this work, but good chimney sweeping and cleaning of the interior of the firebox can improve the efficiency of any wood stove. This also cleans out any creosote, which can impede air flow and pose the potential danger of a chimney fire.
Air flow is critical to good combustion and heat, and anything you can do to properly manage it will make a difference. If you have a brick chimney, make sure any cracks are sealed. This not only will avoid the potential for a fire but also will improve air flow.
2. A well-sealed stove and damper
There are two primary controls for air flow on a wood stove. These include small gaps that can be opened and closed on the front-bottom of some stoves, and the damper on top of the stove or in the chimney about two to three feet above the top. The damper is the primary air-flow control.
A problem can emerge if there are unwanted gaps on the stove. These typically happen around the door for the fire box. There are kits that allow you to replace the gasket, but it requires you to remove the door and let it cool. That’s tough stuff during winter. There are also kits that allow you easily to fill gaps as a short-term fix. Either way, an unwanted gap will cause you to lose control of your air flow and result in a fire that burns too hot for too long.
The damper also could have a smoke leak or allow air to enter where the spindle emerges from the chimney or stove. This spindle is attached to the damper flap and here again, wood stove supply stores or websites have various solutions you can quickly apply.
Assuming your stove is well-sealed and the damper is operating properly, there are some key things to damper management. The basic advice is that whenever you start a wood stove fire, you should leave the damper fully open for 30 minutes to get the fire off to a good start and properly heat the chimney for efficient drafting.
3. Seasoned wood vs. green wood
Green wood can have a moisture content between 30 and 60 percent. The result is poor combustion and lots of smoke and creosote. In fact, green wood with a very high moisture content takes more energy to burn than the energy it releases in the form of heat. It’s important that you use seasoned wood for a wood stove.
The U.S. Forest Service recommends that firewood be seasoned for six months to a year in a sunny location and protected from rain and snow with a tarp.
Another firewood consideration: Are you using softwood or hardwood? Softwoods, like pine and fir, are great for starting a fire because they burn hot. But they also burn very fast. That’s why you want to establish a good, hot bed of glowing coals with softwoods and then add two or three hardwood logs like oak or cherry. Hardwoods burn hot when well-ignited — and burn long. Make sure you don’t overload the firebox and when necessary, carefully remove the ashes to an ash bucket and dispose of in an ash pit outside.
4. Added iron on the stove top
My mother has three pieces of cast iron in the shape of ducks sitting on top of her wood stove. The iron pieces get hot and increase the heat exchange capability of the stove by presenting a larger hot surface area to the surrounding air. There are also iron pieces with simple fan blades that actually spin very slowly as the heat rises and runs over the blades. This, to a small degree, can help distribute some of the hot air.
5. Forced-air blower
A more robust solution for air distribution is a forced-air fan that will blow the hot air from the stove’s surface into a room. This requires electricity so it’s not a pure off-the-grid solution, but solar panels could be enough to power the fan.
6. The catalytic combustor
Many of the newer wood stoves feature a catalytic combustor as an efficiency feature. You also have the option of buying a separate catalytic combustor for installation into an older stove.
A catalytic combustor is a ceramic disc, usually about six inches in diameter and two inches thick. It has a honeycomb appearance and is coated with a rare metal called palladium. It’s inserted into the top of the stove where the smoke rises to the chimney and works to combust the smoke.
Smoke is essentially a gas that failed to combust and (most of the time) requires at least 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to fully ignite. A catalytic combustor will combust the smoke at temperatures as low as 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The result is that the fire burns better and hotter and any residual smoke that could cause creosote buildup is reduced. In fact, a catalytic combustor can reduce creosote buildup by anywhere from 20 to 90 percent
It’s reported that catalytic combustors are good for 12,000 operating hours before they have to be replaced. That equals 500 days, so you can probably get several years of service from one catalytic combustor.
One caution is that you should only burn natural woods (no building lumber, paper, or treated woods) with a catalytic combustor or the life of the combustor and its efficiency will decline.
How do you make your wood stove more efficient? Share your tips in the section below:
Most folks are inherently afraid of the idea of camping out in cold weather, but before we go further let’s define cold weather. A person from Alabama is probably going to have a different definition of what cold weather is than someone who lives in Maine or any of the northern latitudes. I consider temps 30 to 50 degrees pleasant to sleep in. Anything below 30 degrees is starting to get cold and once the temperature hits 10 degrees, I consider it true cold weather camping. The coldest I’ve ever slept in was -40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty cold!
So why would someone want to subject themselves to the torture of sleeping in the cold? A couple of reasons:
- To prove to yourself that you can do it. If you ever have to bug-out in the cold with just a tent and sleeping bad you know you’ll be able to do it.
- Once you’ve done it a couple of times you’ll have your gear tweaked for the cold just the way you like it.
- Experience. Nothing beats actual hands-on experience when it comes to any kind of camping, but particularly cold weather camping.
- It’s actually fun once you understand how to stay warm out there. It only sucks when you’re not prepared for it!
Shelter and Sleeping: A four season tent is good if you’re going to be camping in higher elevations or where it’s windy; however, I’ve slept in three season tents in dead winter and they worked just fine. They’re just not as sturdy in a high wind. I’ve also slept in tipi’s, five and ten military tents, and snow shelters, all of which did a good job of keeping the weather off. In my mind the sleeping bag is the most important piece of gear you can take with you into a cold weather environment. The colder the bag rating the better you’ll sleep. I’ve had a few nights where I slept cold (meaning I was shivering in my sleeping bag) because I took the wrong bag or was experimenting with different sleep systems. A sleeping pad is important too because it separates you from the ground, which will try to suck the heat out of your body.
Sled or Toboggan: An easy way to move gear through deep snow is with a sled or toboggan. I’ve pulled sleds called ahkios, which we used in Norway, but probably the most prevalent sled I’ve used is the toboggan. The toboggan isn’t just a death ride into the valley, it’s actually designed to carry gear. It’s slim width is well suited to fit into your snowshoe tracks as you pull it behind you.
Snowshoes: If you think you’re going to hike long distances in deep snow without snowshoes, think again. Let me save you the trouble and tell you that it is exceedingly difficult moving through deep snow without them. Invest in a decent pair and your life will be much happier.
Clothes/Boots: Synthetics and wool are your best choices here. Remember the old adage, “Cotton kills!” When it gets wet, cotton is pretty much useless when it comes to keeping you warm. Dress in layers using synthetics and wool and you’ll be fine. A good, warm pair of boots is also a good investment.
Water Filter: If it’s warmer than 32 degrees F., you can get by with a filter.
Pot Set/Mess Kit: If it’s really cold, you’ll likely be melting snow into water, so make sure you’ve got a pot to go with your stove. Snow is super fluffy compared to water, so you’ll need a bunch of snow to make just a little water. Plan accordingly.
Fire Starter: Lighters are good, but remember that butane doesn’t perform that well when it gets really cold. I always carry a firesteel as a back up. Matches are good as long as they are fresh and don’t get wet. I’ve used the wax tipped matches with mixed results in cold and wet weather and would rather have a lighter. Experiment and see what works for you.
Flashlight: Since it gets dark around 1630, it’s wise to have a couple of flashlights and even a lantern on hand. I love lantern light and that’s what I use 95% of the time when I’m cold weather camping in my tipi or military tent.
Toilet Paper: When there’s three feet of snow under you and no leaves, you’ll want to have some TP with you. You’ve been warned!
First Aid Kit: You’ll want a comprehensive first aid kit. In cold weather you could see anything from a cut by an axe to trench foot. Be prepared with knowledge and how to treat the injury.
Navigation: You all know how I feel about GPS. Yes, it’s totally awesome when it works. I love looking at my phone and seeing what’s over the next hill, but when the phone or GPS dies where are you going to be? Carry a map and compass. More importantly, know how to use it! If you’re in the back country snow shoeing and get lost, you have suddenly entered into a true life and death situation. Make sure you know how to get home, or at least to the nearest road.
Some things to think about in cold weather. Carry extra long underwear with you. When you stop for the night and you’re still warm from moving change into something dry as soon as you can. If you’re already dry, no worries, but if you’ve been sweating you’ll be a lot more comfortable if you change. Everything takes longer in cold weather. Moving, setting up your tent, getting water… everything. Make sure you give yourself extra time when setting up camp the first time, so that you can get a feel for how long it takes.
Things tend to break easier in cold weather too. The cold makes plastic brittle so it cracks easier, cold metal sticks to wet skin, batteries die faster, and other fun stuff you’ll discover when you get out there.
You won’t feel as thirsty in cold weather. Remember to stop and take frequent water breaks as you’re moving. One good thing about snow is when you urinate it’s easy to gauge how yellow it is. If it’s dark, you need to drink way more water. If it’s as clear as the snow, good job!
Going to the Bathroom At Night
Of all the things about cold weather this is the one that sucks the most. When you have to get up at 2:00 am to go to the bathroom and it’s -10 outside you might wish you were dehydrated, but don’t do it. I sleep with wool socks and as soon as I get up I stick my feet in my boots, grab my soft coat, and go outside. Usually there’s a designated area to go to the bathroom, but what you’ll probably find is at night people will take about five steps away from the tent and let fly. If there’s no wind it’s not too bad. Look up at the sky and marvel at how crystal clear it is. If it’s windy and snowing, you’d better hurry because you’re probably going to freeze your ass off. Once done, race back to the tent and crawl into your sleeping bag and get warm again. You’ll be surprised at how fast you get back to sleep!
Read Also: Cold Weather – The Great Equalizer
Another option is to use an old water bottle as a “piss bottle”. Just maneuver around inside your sleeping bag until you’re in position, open up the old bottle and urinate into it. Be careful you don’t miss!! Cap it up and slip it outside the bag when done. It’s more comfortable, but riskier if you can’t see what you’re doing.
Despite all the things I’ve told you to watch out for here winter camping is still an enjoyable experience. Once you’ve got your gear nailed down and your winter knowledge solid, you’ll enjoy those trips into the back woods. The only way to know for sure is to get out there and try it. Remember, when you’re walking from your heated car to the office and you’re wearing thin pants and winter jacket you’ll tell yourself, “No way in hell am I camping in this!” But as soon as you put on three or four layers and climb to the top of a mountain somewhere, the wind hitting you in the teeth feels refreshing.
Don’t sit around for life to pass you by, folks. Get out there and grab it by the tail and live it like it was meant to be lived! Questions? Comments? Sound off below!
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Heating your home with an outdoor wood boiler can be a great way to save both time and money during the winter months. Modern fossil fuel-based heat methods are almost always more expensive than wood, which can be sustainably harvested from your own land or purchased for a modest sum. Outdoor boilers allow you more flexibility than wood stoves, since they can burn almost any type of wood and help keep your house clean by leaving all of the bark, dirt and bugs outside.
Here are seven reasons you should consider an outdoor boiler:
1. Greater efficiency.
Outdoor wood boilers are often referred to as “wood gasifiers” because they technically burn the wood twice, extracting extra BTUs of heat energy that are otherwise lost up the chimney in a traditional wood stove. In the initial burn chamber, wood is burned as it would be normally, and the energy begins heating a thermal reservoir that will be piped to your house. The gas created in the initial burn chamber is then “re-burned” to extract additional heat energy from the volatilized gasses produced by the initial burn.
2. Works with softwood or hardwood.
Since the wood gasses are burned more efficiently in an outdoor boiler, you’re able to burn softwood, including fir, white pine, cedar and hemlock, all of which are dangerous to burn indoors in a normal wood stove. The re-burn helps prevent buildup in the chimney, and lowers the risk of chimney fire when burning soft woods. Still, it’s important to keep your chimney clean with a thorough sweeping each year.
3. Warm floors.
When you’re warming the air in your home, often you still feel cold as you walk around on cold floors. With an outdoor wood boiler, you use the heat generated for radiant floor heating, meaning that the floors stay toasty warm and slowly diffuse the heat into the room.
This means more consistent warmth, as the heat slowly diffuses throughout the room and helps keep your home at a constantly comfortable temperature.
4. Cleaner household.
An outdoor wood boiler means that all the mess, dirt, bark and bugs that accompany firewood stay outside in the boiler shed rather than coming into your house. Unless you have extra money to burn on clean kiln dried bug-free firewood, firewood in the house means extra mess in the house. Some homesteaders store wood in the basement, but that can create another problem in that it can continue to dry and release moisture in your basement – creating mold and health issues.
5. Less wood hauling.
With both the wood and the heat source outdoors, wood can be split and stacked once, outside under cover and ready for use, rather than having to be hauled indoors before burning. It’s already enough work to haul wood out of the woodlot; keeping it outdoors saves you a lot of time and a few slips on the ice during winter time.
6. Less cutting & splitting.
Outdoor boilers are generally much larger than in-home wood stoves, allowing you to use longer lengths of firewood. This means less cutting and splitting for the same amount of wood — a great labor savings! Feel free to use wood as long as your boiler will hold, but make sure that the wood is still split into small pieces, as the boiler will work much more efficiently if the wood is kept to a manageable size, avoiding wasted space and extra empty air pockets in the burn chamber.
Indoor wood stoves are dependable and generally easy to work, but they can be hazardous to small children playing nearby because of the direct heat source. They also pose a risk of chimney fire, which can catch and quickly spread throughout the house.
With an outdoor boiler, the risk is outdoors — and in a completely different building. They’re also generally safer because the re-burn process helps prevent chimney fires. Nonetheless, avoid burning garbage or excess paper in your boiler, which can send flaming ash into the pipe and potentially start a fire.
Downside of an Outdoor Boiler
There are also a few downsides to heating with an outdoor wood boiler. A traditional wood stove does not require electricity, while a wood boiler requires electricity to run both a fan to keep the gasifier functioning efficiently as well as pumps to conduct the heat to your house. With a little home ingenuity, both of these can be wired to run on DC power straight from off-grid batteries, but it’s still wise to have a backup wood stove in the house just in case power is out for an extended period of time.
The second major drawback is cost. While they’re inexpensive to maintain, the initial investment can be sizable. It’ll pay you back in efficiency and the ability to burn low-cost wood in the future, but in the short term be prepared to lay out some cash to get your outdoor boiler installed.
Have you ever used a wood boiler? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
I have three wood-burning stoves: a wood-burning cook stove in the kitchen of my cabin, a box stove with a glass door in the living room, and a boxwood, cast iron stove in the garage.
I’ve learned the hard way that some general inspections and maintenance can go a long way toward preventing problems when the weather gets frigid.
While there are some routine maintenance checkups and repairs we might consider, creosote is a major problem and threat in any wood-burning stove.
Creosote is a buildup of carbon-based chemicals in a stove and especially in stovepipes and chimneys. There are a variety of causes that lead to creosote buildup:
- Burning green or unseasoned woods that create excessive smoke and release numerous chemicals into the smoke.
- Burning at a low temperature, which also creates excess smoke.
- The effects of temperature on a stovepipe, especially through a cold, unheated space like an attic that causes the smoke to cool and coalesce on the sides of a stovepipe.
- A clogged or inefficient stovepipe cap that does not vent properly.
This is not to say that wood-burning stove maintenance is all about creosote, but it leads to a strategy for how to maintain stoves for winter. Here are seven steps homesteaders and users of wood stoves should follow before winter arrives:
1. Start at the top. Check the hood on your stovepipe top and make sure the spark arrester screens are clean and clear. They will often rust with time and result in holes in the screen or become clogged. This will affect airflow and efficient burning. If you’re afraid of heights, then hire a chimney sweep.
2. Sweep the chimneys and stovepipes. A chimney sweep can do this, or you can do it yourself if you buy the right size chimney brushes and the long handles that screw into each other to reach down the length of the stovepipe or chimney. This removes creosote (and you will always have some), and cleans out any other debris that may have found its way into the chimney or flue.
3. Vacuum. My sons and I use an industrial wet/dry vac that we bought at the local hardware store. They’re not that expensive. We start by vacuuming any of the debris or creosote that’s landed in the wood stove firebox after the chimney sweeping. Then we work on the firebox.
4. Scrape the firebox. Every firebox will also have its share of creosote and other residue. Wear a mask over your mouth and nose and maybe some safety goggles and scrape the side of the firebox with a metal brush, and perhaps a metal scraper. Vacuum everything up and inspect the interior with a flashlight to see if you missed anything, but don’t get too fussy about it. You’re just trying to get the crusty stuff off the walls of the firebox.
5. Check door gaskets. Every wood-burning stove has a door on the firebox. This door has a gasket that will tolerate the highest temperatures and is usually a synthetic, braided rope glued in place with a compound that can tolerate high temperatures. When a gasket gets old or compromised, it can allow smoke to escape from the stove, or air to enter the firebox in an uncontrolled manner. You don’t want this to happen.
Visually inspect your stove door gasket and if you smell smoke when you burn, it may need to be replaced. There are numerous videos on YouTube that show you how to do this, and anytime you buy a new gasket kit from your wood stove supplier it will always come with instructions.
6. Clean the glass. Many wood-burning stoves have a glass insert in the fire door. It is a glass designed to tolerate high temperatures, but often there will be a buildup of a brown residue on the glass over time. You can scrape this with a razorblade, but there are chemical solutions that will remove this residue without the risk of scratching the glass.
7. Polish and sharpen up the outside of the stove. Our wood-burning stoves are often a prominent part of our décor in our homes and cabins. They also rust and show some wear and tear. There are many solutions to this, from paints to other applications that can refurbish the look of a wood-burning stove.
These are available online or at stores that specialize in wood-burning stoves. Follow the directions, but keep one thing in mind. Your next fire after painting or refurbishing your wood stove is going to result in a smell that will fill the room if not the house. Now’s the time to open the windows and burn off that new exterior coating or paint. You don’t want to be smelling this on a night when it’s 10 below zero Fahrenheit and opening a window or door is a problem.
The other benefit of an early fire before you really need it is the ability to check for smoke leaks in the stove pipes, check air flow and check for smoke leaks. You want to do it when you have the option to make corrections and fixes before you are totally dependent on the stove for heat. Most of these maintenance steps require a cold stove with no fire. That’s not something you will have in January if you’re totally dependent on wood stoves for heat.
What maintenance tips would you add? Share them in the section below:
Most quality bug out kits give a hefty nod to a petroleum powered stove. Whether white gas, compressed gas or fuel tablets, the common thread is the need for man-made fuel. Even the multi-fuel stoves are at risk when there is nothing to eat. Enter the mini-wood stove. Vargo makes an impressive line of titanium products including the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove. Folding flat and weighing just 4.3 ounces, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove does the same things a conventional stove does without the need for extra help. Add another half ounce for the hexagon-shaped velcro-closure pouch and two dozen wooden matches, and the kit still doesn’t break five ounces.
Fuel Load out
Using sticks, bark, and the essentially unlimited supply of fuel found in any forest, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove will boil water and cook food better and faster than a small campfire. The shape and design of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove makes for concentrated heat and focused energy all in a tiny package. The stove has a five-inch diameter base that focuses the energy out of a three-inch chimney. The area of a circle is pi times the radius squared. So a five-inch base has about 19.6 inches of surface area, and the chimney has about seven inches of area. This means that almost three times the amount of burnable real estate heat is concentrated into the business end of this little wood furnace. Since pure titanium has a melting temperature of over 3000 degrees F, there is little chance that this alloy of Ti will ever soften during use.
Also Read: 15 Ways To Start A Fire
The Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is a set of seven hinged panels all folding flat into a quarter inch high plane. One panel is the hexagonal base, and the others are the six triangular walls. Piano hinges connect all the panels, and one simple notch on the base provides support and alignment with a wall panel, and another spring clip on the base holds the whole thing together. A single panel remains movable as the door.
Black Pots Matter
Unlike other folding stoves, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is ultralight and folds together in mere seconds. The folding mechanism creates a solid furnace that supports pots and has a door to open when feeding is necessary, which, by the way, is very often. I’ve used other flat-folding wood stoves and was impressed with their efficiency, but not their assembly. This becomes especially important when it’s cold, dark, wet, and there is no flat surface in sight. Further, the stove will be caked with black carbon so the less it must be handled, the cleaner your fingers will remain.
Gas stoves are great when they have gas. Otherwise they are dead weight. Campfires are a wonderful morale building tool, but heavy on the smoke, smell, and evidence. Plus, most folks new to campfire cooking build way too big a fire and make a mess of things. Part of the dramatic efficiency of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is that it has a raised base with 19 hexagonal-shaped ventilation holes in it. The flow of oxygen into the base of this stove makes for a much hotter burn than wood sitting on the ground. This also means you must keep the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove sitting on its base feet in order for air to freely circulate under the stove. As the holes fill with ash or the stove sinks into the ground or snow, the efficiency will suffer tremendously. As such, keeping the base above ground is critical to a healthy fire.
Wood Fired Afterburner
Up at the hot end of the stove, five of the six panels have a V-shaped notch about a half-inch wide and ¾-inch deep that allows flame to escape the stove and wrap up and around the pot. A sixth but smaller V-shaped notch is on the door. Since the top of the door is half an inch below the plane, the smaller door V actually corresponds to the bottom portion of all the other panel Vs. This makes for a level mount for wire or stakes but would prevent the door from opening. The top of the door is the largest vent. All these vents provide plenty access for pot-blackening carbon to coat the sides of your cookware.
The V-shaped notches also have another purpose. By placing small metal rods, tent stakes, or four-inch steel grabber screws across the top of the stove, you create a grill-like cap on the top allowing small containers to sit above the flames. Stainless steel water bottles may require this mod. If you prefer, you could just add a four or five-inch square of screen to use a grill surface. I don’t recommend a circle of screen due to all the exposed wires ends from cutting that shape. The more you add to this kit, the more you deviate from the lightweight simplicity you paid for.
Related: 5 Dollar Preps: DIY Fire Starter
If you’re adventurous, you could put the stove upside down inside a pot to make a small grill. You can cook meat and veggies right on the stove-top. With the proper mods, this stove has the potential to be a very versatile addition to your survival kit.
Feed Me Seymour
The success of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is dependent on a steady and endless supply of small lumber. The Vargo eats pencil-sized sticks like there’s no tomorrow so have a pile on hand before lighting up this hungry monster.
In reality, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove does not burn wood much faster than a campfire, instead it feeds on a diet purely of high-surface area kindling. The interior of the stove is rather small so the fire burns hot and fast. The first time I took my Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove for a spin, it kept coming close to going out. I thought I could take a break from stoking it, but I was wrong. You only get a few minutes of downtime between feedings. And you cannot put a nice juicy log into the fire to make a big glowing ember. To put it simply, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is more like a blender where you keep adding sticks and they keep disappearing in flames.
I was equally surprised at how fast a half-quart of water came to a boil on the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove. The concentrated heat literally firing out of the titanium tipi went directly into the pot. Time-to-boil depends on your wood, starting water temperature, outside temperature, and the shape of your cooking pot or cup. Something in the 10-15 minute range is a normal boiling time. Other variables include altitude, quality of fire, lid use, and wind. If you double the amount of water, it seems to triple the amount of cook time.
This titanium stove gets sooty quickly. That’s one big difference between a clean-burning gas stove and a primitive tree-burning one. In fact, the stove becomes a pretty dirty thing to handle. Thankfully the black nylon pouch included with the stove keeps soot contained.
Check Out: Gear Portable Military Wood Stove
Of course, this stove should burn about any fuel you can fit inside it. So fuel tablets, alcohol, and other dedicated burnables will work. However the opposite cannot be said for tiny tablet and alcohol stoves which have trouble digesting wood. If alcohol is a preferred cooking medium, Vargo does make a titanium alcohol stove that fits inside their wood stove creating an efficient windscreen and additional stove.
The downside of a small stove is that it is small. A small stove supports small pots with small water capacities. Under ideal conditions, you could balance a quart of water on Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove, but that’s pretty gutsy. Instead, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove works great with small pots and large metal cups. I use both stainless steel and titanium cookware, but always single-wall. The double-walled cups can explode if heated, so keep that factoid in mind.
The price of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is around sixty bucks or roughly three times the price of its stainless steel counterpart. So if weight is not an issue, you could buy three iron versions for the same price of one titanium one. The stainless version of the Vargo Hexagon wood stove weighs almost twice as much as the Ti version but both are considered light weight by reasonable standards. Well, actually the steel one is just lightweight. The titanium one is ridiculously lightweight.
Stained for Life
One use and the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove will have permanent blackened walls and lightly rainbow patina. Live with it. You can get some of the carbon off by scrubbing the stove with sand or dirt after it cools. I’ve wire-brushed mine but it’s usually not worth the effort. The next time you fire up your stove, you will re-blackening it.
The simplicity of a campfire has always been its main attraction. So, adding a little titanium tech to the campfire concept is hardly a big step. The Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove should be a welcome addition to any bug out bag or survival kit. The stove probably won’t make the difference between life and death, but it will do important cooking and boiling tasks much better than when in the open air. If time is critical and you need to keep a low profile, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is worth it’s minuscule weight in gold.
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If you’re living in a rural area and you happen to have a wood stove, you’re probably living the dream. Not only are you experiencing the joys of living so close to nature, and the peace of living so far away from the city, but you’re also sleeping easy knowing that if the grid ever goes down, you can always cut down a few trees for the winter.
But wood isn’t the only thing you can put in your wood stove. These days most people have forgotten that there is another source of fuel that is far more attractive: the much maligned rock known as coal.
Though coal is still widely used as a source of fuel for power plants, its house-warming applications have fallen out of favor over the past few decades, likely due to environmental concerns. Even if you don’t believe all the arguments about Co2 and global warming, the smoke and ash from a coal fire can contain radioactive materials, arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals. Coal is not something you want to burn in your house every day.
It should however, still of be of interest to preppers for occasional or emergency use. For starters, it has a very high energy density. It doesn’t have quite as many BTUs per pound as gasoline or propane, but it has at least twice as much energy density as wood. And unlike those aforementioned fuels, it doesn’t really require any special storage methods, and it’s not going to go bad. You can just leave it around somewhere on your property. Though it can catch fire, it’s not that easy to get it burning on accident. All in all it’s a very low maintenance fuel, but most importantly, it’s really cheap depending on where you live.
The location of your property is very important to keep in mind. Out of the ground, coal is nearly dirt cheap. The cheap stuff costs about $40 per short ton, or 2 cents per pound. But the cost of shipping can quickly dwarf the cost of the coal itself. If you live anywhere in the eastern half of the United States, then you don’t have much to worry about. The Western United States on the other hand has very few coal mines, so it’s probably going to cost significantly more for you there. You probably won’t be able to get a hold of any significant amount of coal in the West without incurring heavy costs.
Not only that, but you may not want most of the coal that is produced. The bulk of the coal that is produced around the world is known as bituminous coal. This is the stuff that contains a lot of those nasty substances I mentioned before, and it does not burn cleanly. You can still use it, but it would be wise to do so sparingly and mainly for emergencies.
If you can get a hold of it affordably, anthracite coal is what you want. In the United States it is only produced in Pennsylvania, and is a far superior coal compared to bituminous. That’s because it has a higher energy density, and burns with very little smoke.
Whatever you use, make sure that your stove is capable of handling coal. You don’t want to use some rinky-dink burner made of thin steel. Unless a stove is advertised for its ability to burn coal, you probably don’t want to trust anything other than cast iron. Otherwise you can use a fireplace, so long as you purchase and install a wood/coal-burning insert.
All in all, coal is a great fuel source for preppers living in rural areas. It’s something that can be cheaply and easily stockpiled on your property, and left on its own for years until an emergency occurs. You don’t have to worry about it rotting or going bad like wood or gasoline, and it doesn’t have the same storage dangers as propane or natural gas. You can just set it by your house and forget it till you need it. It will burn for a lot longer than wood too, sometimes for up to 24 hours, so you won’t have to stay up all night feeding that fire. If you want to have your home heating needs taken care of when the grid goes down, a big pile of coal is your best friend.
Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.
Joshua’s website is Strange Danger
This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition
It might be a bit simplistic to say that a wood-burning stove or fireplace is the only heat alternative in winter. However, for many people affected by the North American Ice Storm of 1998, it was their only heating source for months when power lines across Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and northern New York and Maine succumbed to ice.
Thirty-five people reportedly died as a result of the storm and millions were left scrambling to find ways to generate heat and stay warm.
Alternative such as propane, kerosene heaters and natural gas heaters can be a great backup if the power goes out. The problem during big storms is that stores quickly sell out of propane, kerosene and the heaters they fuel. So unless you had those resources already on hand, your only alternative was a wood-burning option, assuming you had a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
For those without any heating options, massive shelters were opened and supported by 16,000 Canadian troops.
For those with a fireplace or woodstove, the only option was to keep the fires burning until they ran out of firewood. While a sufficient stockpile of firewood could have alleviated the problem, many people typically only used their fireplaces and wood-burning stoves occasionally and stored only a small amount of wood.
To complicate matters, people who did have wood – or lived on wooded properties – were highly protective of the resource. And the wood that was for sale was not cheap. So many who opted to tough it out in their homes used some interesting alternatives. Here’s a few, although it’s important to stress: These should be used only in emergencies. Using them long-term could cause a house fire.
Alternative 1 – Yard and garden trees and shrubs
The first alternative that many people turned to were trees and shrubs in their yards and gardens. It wasn’t an easy task for thoe who didn’t have a chainsaw or the gas to power it, but neighbors cooperated by sharing tools, gas and sometimes labor, especially in exchange for some firewood.
Axes and handsaws were often used as well, and harvesting and stacking wood became a daily chore.
A fundamental limitation was that most of the wood was green and unseasoned, and smaller branches from shrubs burned quickly unless tightly bundled.
Alternative 2 – Rolled paper logs
Some people with sufficient stockpiles of paper created paper logs that were tightly bound into rolls about three to four inches thick. The paper used included newsprint, magazines, books, phone books and any paper trash.
There are paper log-rollers available on the Internet, but most people in the storm simply sat down and rolled their paper logs by hand. Bailing wire was sometimes used to bind the paper logs, but string, rubber bands and anything else that would bind the paper tightly was used, too.
For the record, paper logs last about a fourth as long as a wood log and they don’t burn quite as hot (they mostly smolder), but they maintained the heat in desperate times.
Alternative 3 – Lumber scraps
Many of us have lumber scraps leftover from that knotty-pine basement remodel or hardwood floor installation and we store these for other minor projects. People in the ice storm made good use of these extras.
A limitation is that these kinds of wood tend to burn hot and fast, especially in a fireplace. They also tend to spit and spark quite a bit, so if you’re using this kind of wood in a fireplace, make sure you have the screen tightly closed and move all rugs from the vicinity.
On a side note, a fireplace is far from an ideal wood-burning heat source. Many people stranded in the storm made the best of using a fireplace, but in reality most of the heat produced is lost up the chimney.
Alternative 4 – Damaged furniture
We’ve all got some damaged or old furniture in our garages and basements. Many of those old desks and cabinets found their way to the woodstove or fireplace when the storm hit. This kind of wood also sparks and spits and, depending on the type of wood, can burn very fast.
There also are stories of people tearing up their backyard decks as a wood source. There’s some danger here due to the fact that most decking is chemically treated to resist moisture. If the stove or fireplace is not well-vented, the chemicals can be released into the house. There were no specific reports or complaints about this hazard, although there were many reports of problems with carbon monoxide from poorly ventilated kerosene and propane heaters.
Alternative 5 – Rolled rag-logs
This was one of the most extreme solutions. It involved rolling rags and pieces of fabric along with twigs and bark into tightly-bound logs. Your best bet if you ever have to go this route is to use natural fibers, like cotton or wool. Burning synthetic fibers is as bad as burning plastic.
Alternatives to Avoid
While you might be desperate to stay warm, there are certain things that you shouldn’t burn in your home. These include:
- Charcoal briquettes. They are impregnated with a chemical that produces significant carbon monoxide. Save these for cooking outside.
- As mentioned before, most wood used for decks is chemically treated. Perhaps if the deck wood is old and weathered some of the chemicals are gone, but consider using only at your own risk.
- Any flammable fuel like gasoline, motor oil, kerosene, turpentine, alcohol, etc. These fuels are dangerous and burn very hot and very fast. The limited amount of time that any fuel like this would burn would not be worth the heat nor the risk.
- Burning plastic is toxic, produces copious black smoke and creosote, and will leave a hard, tar-like substance in your stove, fireplace and flue. Forget about plastic.
- Roofing materials. This is another bad choice that burns as poorly and as toxic as plastic. Don’t even think about it. The same goes for rubber.
There are a number of factors that can take down the grid, and this event was a dramatic demonstration of the dangers and the implications. If you’re going to have to depend on wood heat in an emergency, consider alternatives like well-ventilated kerosene and propane stove options. As for me, I keep three cords of wood just in case.
What alternatives would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:
My brothers and I years ago came across an old wood-burning stove in the garage of my Grandfather, who had passed away. We were in the process of renovating his house and property, and finding the old wood stove was not greeted enthusiastically at first.
“Let’s load it up and junk it. We could probably get 20 bucks for the scrap price,” one of my brothers said.
I actually considered his suggestion because I had way too many other projects to think about, but my other brother held out.
“We might need this someday,” he said. “Besides, it was Grandpa’s.”
The result was that we spent some days and weekends over the summer restoring this old wood stove.
This was a very basic wood-burning stove – sometimes referred to as a “boxwood” stove. It was cast iron and elongated, and was basically a firebox on legs with a flue at the back and a damper. My Grandfather used it in his garage in the winter while he tinkered around with stuff like chainsaws and sharpening axes and probably a few nights smoking cigars and just passing the time.
The entire stove was very rusted, both inside and out. There was still a good amount of ash in the firebox and a significant mouse nest made from various fur, fluff and other stuff.
The First Step
Our first step was to totally disassemble the stove. This involved loosening all bolts for the legs, the top, the door and every other piece. We laid these out on a sheet of plywood and started to scrape the rust with sandpaper, steel wool and both dry and wet rags.
A curious side note is that gravestone makers have the ability to sandblast, and many will sandblast your stove for a small amount if it’s very rusted. We didn’t need to do this, but I thought about it after a few hours of rubbing with sandpaper and steel wool.
We finally washed it down again with damp rags to clear off the rust/dust and let it dry in the sun. My brother thought we should spray paint it with a high-temperature flat-black paint, but I wanted to use tubes of stove-black. You rub it into the surface and rub it some more with a rag. It’s more expensive than spray paint, but when my brother saw the result he said we should get more of the stuff.
We used his high-temperature spray paint for the firebox interior and the underside of the stove, making all of the parts and pieces you could see completely black.
What About the Stove Integrity?
Once we had this old stove looking good, I started to worry about taking this from a decorative piece to a fully functioning and reliable stove. The first step was to insert some fireproof, fiberglass rope into the door to create a good seal.
The next step was to make sure the top lid, where you might put a cast iron pan, had a tight seal. These can get pitted, but we were fortunate and the seal was not compromised.
Our biggest problem was that the damper was rusted and pitted. I removed it and took it to a stove shop and handed it to the guy and asked, “Can you help?” He went back into his store room and came out with the exact damper in perfect condition. I asked how much and he said, “How’s 10 bucks?” I couldn’t pay him fast enough, and I went straight back to the cabin.
My brother and I started up a fire in the stove in the backyard, and I’m glad I did. The stove black and spray paint actually gave off some vapors, but once they burned off, the stove was without leaks, smells or anything that would cause us any significant worry.
That stove has been keeping the garage warm for about 12 years now. We still tune it up and maintain it, but I’m so glad we didn’t junk it. It’s an heirloom in my mind, and sometimes I sit by it and smoke a cigar, while I mess with a chainsaw and think about my Grandfather.
Have you ever renovated a wood-burning stove? Share your advice in the section below:
According to the National Fire Protection Association, around 25 percent of all home-heating fires are caused by creosote buildup in chimneys – a serious statistic if you use wood to produce heat on a regular basis.
A chimney sweep is the best solution, and homeowners should considering getting one on an annual basis. With the proper tools and technique, though, you can do this yourself, but make sure you do it right. Chimney sweeps will tell you a lot can accumulate in stovepipes and chimneys over time, including tar glaze, slag, flakes and soot. Collectively, these elements create creosote and the potential for a chimney fire.
What’s a Chimney Fire?
Chimney fires can be terrifying events, and take place when the creosote in a chimney ignites and spreads. Temperatures in a chimney fire can exceed 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius). That’s more than enough to warp a stovepipe, melt a rain cap and spark arrestor, and then launch burning coals and ash onto a rooftop.
Those temperatures can also cause masonry and mortar to crack and potentially vent extremely hot gases and fire into flammable, internal structures like an attic.
Some of the typical symptoms of a chimney fire include:
- A loud crackling and popping noise.
- A lot of dense smoke.
- An intense, hot smell.
- Large and long flames emerging from the chimney.
- A sudden intense increase of the fire in the firebox due to the intense drafting caused by the fire in the chimney (think: firestorm).
If you have a chimney fire, call the fire department. In the short term, you can close down all vents to reduce air flow and throw a chimney fire suppressant in the firebox to diminish the fire, but that doesn’t solve the problem; it only delays it.
You should also be aware that not all chimney fires are so dramatic. Some smolder without significant flames, but the temperatures can be just as high as a flaming chimney fire. Dark, copious black smoke emerging from the chimney is sometimes a sign of this kind of chimney fire.
How to Prevent Creosote Buildup
The number one cause of creosote buildup is a cool flue. A cool flue can happen a variety of ways.
- A wood-burning stove is inserted into a fire place and the smoke is vented into a large, masonry chimney hat, allowing the smoke to linger and cool.
- The metal stove pipe travels through relatively cool spaces, reducing the temperature of the smoke and exhaust gases.
- The fire is burning too low, producing more smoke than heat.
- The wood is wet, green or unseasoned, resulting in a lower temperature fire that further encourages creosote buildup in a cool flue.
- A restricted air supply causing the smoke to linger in the flue.
One of the best analogies for how a cool flue encourages creosote buildup is the effect of exhaling your hot breath on a cold mirror. The fogged area you see is what happens in a cool flue, as smoke and unburned particles pass over the cooler surface.
If you are venting into an open masonry fireplace from an inserted wood-burning stove, you should have a double insulated stovepipe installed with a six-inch diameter. This will concentrate the heat from the fire and the exhaust gases rather than allowing them to linger in an open masonry fireplace that can be up to eight times the diameter of a six-inch stovepipe.
Certified stovepipes for wood-burning stoves are approved to withstand temperatures up to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you’ve had a chimney fire, you should still have the stovepipe checked to ensure it has not been warped or damaged.
It’s possible you’ve had a chimney fire and don’t even know it. The danger is that any future creosote buildup could lead to another chimney fire in an already damaged system. Here are some clues to past chimney fires:
- Puffy or honeycombed creosote.
- Warped metal of the damper, metal smoke chamber connector pipe, or factory-built metal chimney.
- Cracked or collapsed flue tiles, or tiles with large chunks missing.
- Discolored and/or distorted rain cap.
- Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground.
- Roof damage from hot creosote.
- Cracks in exterior masonry.
- Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners.
If you suspect you’ve had a chimney fire, call a chimney sweep as soon as possible. They can give you an accurate assessment of whether or not a chimney fire has occurred and the next steps for maintenance or repair.
The simple fact is that clean chimneys and stovepipes don’t cause fires. If you burn wood on a regular basis to heat your home, annual maintenance and advice from a professional is a must.
What advice would you add for preventing chimney fires? Share your tips in the section below:
Wood-burning stoves are essentially simple machines that provide heat for warmth and cooking when we need it most. But like everything else, regular and annual maintenance are essential, especially if you are totally dependent on the stove for heat.
Summer is obviously the best time for maintenance. You can’t do much with a wood stove that’s blistering hot — and it’s a long day in the winter when you have to shut it down and let it cool for repairs. But there are weekly if not daily tasks that have to occur while the stove is hot.
Regardless of the design of your stove, coals and especially ash are inevitable. Some catalytic stoves burn more efficient and result in less ash, but even they need regular cleaning.
One regular maintenance item, of course, is cleaning ash, with the fundamental tools being an ash shovel and an ash bucket. Both are metal and need to resist the residual heat that the coals and ash will still have. Your dedicated ash-dump areas should be away from the house or other structures and anything else that’s flammable.
Beyond the routine ash cleaning, most maintenance needs to be done when you’re not using the stove. Here are the common areas to check and maintain:
Check the Gaskets and Doors
The firebox door should be inspected very closely for an airtight seal. One of the easiest ways to do this is with the dollar bill test. You close and lock the firebox door with the dollar halfway between the gasket and the stove. Then, gently tug on the bill and if it shows good resistance while you try to pull it out, you have a good seal. Do this all around the perimeter of the door. All it takes is one weak spot to interfere with the efficiency of the stove or cause a smoke leak.
If the seal is weak, you’ll need to replace the gasket. Gaskets once were made out of a braided rope of asbestos but today they’re made from a fireproof fiberglass braid with a gasket glue. You’ll need to remove the door to make this replacement, and you might want to watch some videos so you get it right.
While you’re replacing the gasket, take some time to inspect the glass window that may be in your firebox door. If there’s a buildup of white ash, it can easily be wiped off with a damp rag. If the stains are brown, you may have to buy a woodstove glass cleaner. The reason you may get these brown stains is because the stove is not burning efficiently. Wet or green wood, low-burning fires, inefficient combustion, and resinous woods like pine are often the cause of these stains.
Don’t Forget Flue and Chimney Maintenance
I have a chimney sweep come out once a year to clear the creosote. Creosote is made up of non-combusted particles that adhere to the sides of the chimney pipe. The danger is that creosote is highly flammable; a chimney fire sends large tongues of flame out of the chimney. Even a spark arrestor can melt under this heat, and the burned bits of creosote can land on the roof and start a fire. If you have a chimney fire, immediately call the fire department.
There is also a creosote fire suppressant. If you suspect you have a chimney fire, you put this in the fire box and it produces a chemical smoke that extinguishes the fire. Don’t get cocky, though. The fire can restart if the creosote buildup is significant.
Considering purchasing creosote cleaning logs. You put them into the fire box with a hot fire, and the combination helps to vaporize the creosote and safely flush it out of the chimney.
Prevent Your Stove From Rusting
Cast iron stoves can succumb to rust. Purchase a heat-resistant paint to touch up both the exterior and the interior of your stove. Follow the directions on the can for prep and make sure the paint is dry before starting a fire. I usually start a fire even in the summer after I’ve maintained or painted my stoves just to make sure everything is working properly. A chilly, rainy day is a good excuse for this test.
Other Areas of Maintenance
The features on different wood-burning stoves vary widely. If your stove has a feature like a catalyst, firebrick, soapstone or other unique options, then make sure you check your owner’s manual for recommended maintenance and find a nice warmer day to make sure everything’s alright. Trust me: You’ll sleep better at night.
What are your wood stove maintenance tips? Share them in the section below:
A few weeks ago we showed how to make a small rocket stove using a recycled #10 can and a few old soup cans. It was a cool project, but I quickly got a couple emails from people wanting to see how to actually use the darn thing. It is pretty simple and I am […]
If you have a cast iron stove, you no doubt know how to manage the flue and dampers and how long it will provide heat to your home. But there are a few “hacks” that you can improvise that will allow you to capture, store and radiate more heat longer. This can be especially useful at night when you might not want to wake up at 3 in the morning to put another log on the fire.
It could also come in handy if you’re facing a particularly cold period of weather. We had wind-chills of -30 degrees Fahrenheit in Michigan last winter, and I used some of these tricks to get the most out of our cast iron stove.
There are several factors that affect the radiance of a wood-fired stove.
- The stove material. Cast iron is the most common stove material, but there are also masonry stoves that are built with fire brick and other materials to hold heat longer.
- The size of the stove and the amount of mass that is exposed to the air.
- Venting and the amount of stove pipe that is exposed to the air, including second story rooms.
- The type of wood that is used. Soft woods burn hot, but fast. Hardwoods burn low and slow.
What we’re going to explore are ways to retain the most heat from your wood-burning stove. For the sake of argument, let’s assume you have a medium-size cast iron stove. There are some fundamental things you can do to increase its ability to hold and retain heat.
1. Increase the mass of cast iron. This sounds a bit complicated but it’s as easy as placing some dry cast iron utensils, like a Dutch oven or a frying pan, on the stove top. The utensils will get quite hot — but that’s the idea. You want to capture as much heat and hold it as long as possible.
2. Place some fire brick in the stove and the stove top. Fire brick is relatively inexpensive and you’ll only need enough to put on the bottom surface of the firebox. They’re about two inches high, so you might be reducing the size of your firebox somewhat. That’s when you can go a different route and place the bricks directly on top of the stove. Don’t stack them too high. The benefit of fire brick is that it holds heat longer than cast iron.
3. Reconsider your chimney venting configuration. Be careful here. Stovepipes should have a vertical configuration and a double-walled insulated pipe anywhere it bisects the structure, such as a second story floor or roof. However, there may be an opportunity to install a single-walled length of stove pipe to draw more heat from the pipe to the surrounding air.
4. Install a catalytic combustor. These are honeycombed shaped inserts that are covered with platinum to create a more efficient burn in your stove. They don’t work in all stoves, but are worth considering if you want to improve efficiency. The primary benefit is that they help to burn much of the smoke that is normally wasted heat in a traditional stove.
Proper installation and venting are critical safety factors for any wood-burning stove. These ideas are improvised solutions, and the two safest options are the insertion of fire bricks into the base of the firebox, or the installation of a catalytic combustor if your stove can accommodate one.
Placing anything on the stovetop, whether it’s cast iron utensils or fire bricks, requires some added care and attention in the event something falls to the floor.
Of course, these alternatives are proposed as short-term solutions in the event of extreme cold. If you need to combine too many improvised solutions like this, you might want to consider a new stove.
What tips would you add to this story? Share your advice for wood-burning stoves in the section below:
Your home’s heating is an essential part of your survival in cold weather. Even if your house is insulated well, it will eventually get dangerously cold if your heating system is off or the power grid goes down.
Many homesteaders have fireplaces or wood-burning stoves in their homes, an idea that has plenty of merit, considering that wood has been the most common heating fuel throughout history.
On the plus side, wood is a renewable resource that one can harvest on their own. On the minus side, a fireplace or wood-burning stove is limited as to the area that it covers. You can’t heat an entire home with a fireplace.
Our ancestors solved this problem in a variety of ways — many of which we can adapt to our own use. Knowing what they did and why they did it gives us some insight into how to keep our own homes warm without electricity, even in the midst of a winter storm.
American homes have grown through the two centuries of our country’s existence. The average home size now is 2,600 square feet, which is large enough to be considered the home of someone wealthy 200 years ago. Wealthy people could afford more than one fireplace and many of their homes had them. Some even had a fireplace in every room.
It’s difficult to retroactively install a fireplace in every room of your home, even if you have the money to do so. It probably would be easier to build a new home designed for all-wood heating. But if that’s not an option, then we need to look at other options.
If we look at our country’s Colonial period and the westward expansion of the pioneers, we see that homes were much smaller. A one-room home was much easier to heat and a single fireplace was enough to do the job. So most people lived in one-room homes.
The fireplace became the focal point of the home, much like the television set is today. People would sit around the fire, talking and working on small tasks. Much of the handicrafts of the day were done sitting around the fire in the evening.
As homes grew, one of the first rooms added was a separate kitchen. This helped keep the rest of the home warm, as well as providing a larger work area for processing food. It also helped to keep the rest of the home cooler in summertime, as the main fireplace would not have to be lit. Kitchens always had their own fireplace or a wood-burning cooking stove.
Many homes had a loft where the children slept. Since heat rises, the loft would be the warmest part of the home. Mom and dad’s bed would often be located below the loft, so that they could have some privacy from the prying eyes of the children.
Here are a few “forgotten” ways our ancestors kept warm that we can borrow, either now or in the future when the electricity is out:
1. Thick bedding and curtains
The classic down comforter was intended to allow families to sleep in comfort, holding in their body heat. Beds were piled high with quilts and comforters in an attempt to keep warm.
Quilts and comforters weren’t the only thing that beds were piled high with; they were piled high with bodies, as well. While mom and dad usually had a bed to themselves, the children often slept all together. As the family grew, there might be a boy’s bed and a girl’s bed to provide more room.
Warm night clothing was common as an additional layer of insulation against the cold. Most people even slept with stocking caps on, to protect themselves from losing heat through the tops of their heads.
The idea of bed curtains also traces its roots to trying to keep warm in cold weather. The extra layer of fabric used for the curtains would help hold a person’s body heat in the bed area.
2. Bed warmers
Before retiring for the night it was always a good idea to warm up the bed. This was done with a bed warmer. These are covered copper or brass pans, with a long handle. Holes would be punched in the lid, forming a design. The pan was filled with rocks that had been heated at the edge of the fire and then slid between layers of bedding using the long handle. This would warm the bed quite effectively.
3. Foot warmers
Foot warmers are both similar to and different than bed warmers. Typically, they were a wood-framed tin box with a wire handle on it. Like the bed warmer, heated rocks were placed inside the foot warmer, which could then be placed by the feet, under a blanket.
This was most commonly used as a heater in the family wagon, when going to the store or church. Wealthier churches had boxed-in pews, which allowed the families to bring in their foot warmer and lap blankets to keep warm in church. In many churches, this was the only heat to be found on a cold Sunday morning.
An alternative to the bed and foot warmer was a soapstone. Soapstones would be placed in the fire to heat and used directly, often wrapped in rags to prevent anyone from burning themselves on the hot stone. They could be used as bed warmers or foot warmers.
Due to their mass, soapstones were often more effective than a foot warmer. The more massive the stone, the more heat it can hold.
Have you heard of other ways our ancestors kept warm? Share your advice in the section below:
I have on many occasions found myself without hot water. Power outages are the usual reason, but when the hot water heater goes out, there’s usually a few days before a new one can be installed. It’s an inconvenience, but little more in that case. But what if we had to go without hot water for weeks or months?
The simplest and perhaps most preliminary solution to producing hot water is to build a fire outside and heat a large pot of water over it. This is quite labor intensive, though, even if it will create hot water. You also can put a large pot of hot water on a wood-burning stove and get the same result. The vapor will add some humidity to the house, which is a good thing since the wood-burning stove is also drying out the air with the heat it produces.
Using a fire or wood stove is a great way to heat a few gallons of water. The issue is when you want 20 to 50 gallons of hot water over the course of a day. That needs some new considerations.
One solution for heating water when you don’t have a traditional hot water tank has been the addition of a 20-gallon water box (reservoir) on the side of a wood-burning cook stove in the kitchen. This is a great multi-purpose solution, as the stove provides heat for the house, heat for cooking and hot water. Unfortunately, it creates a bit of a problem during hot summers.
But all of the options for alternative water heating tend to produce radiant heat within the living space. And if it’s 90 degrees outside, you probably don’t want to produce a lot of extra heat. Here’s one solution: You could wait for the coolness of night to heat your water, and insulate the tank for the morning shower or shower right away.
To keep the heat out of their homes, many homesteaders a century ago had an out-building known as a summer kitchen. The idea was that any wood-burning appliances for cooking would be located outside in the summer kitchen, at least during the hot months.
The summer kitchen was a hot place to work, but it kept the main house cool. It also provided a space for heating water. Often, a galvanized bathtub found its place in the summer kitchen due to its proximity to hot water. Dishes, once dirtied during meals in the main home, would be carried back to the summer kitchen to be washed in the sink. Many people also ate on the porch of the summer kitchen rather than ferrying plates and dishes back and forth for meals.
If you decide to use water that has been heated in a wood-burning cook stove or wood-fired stove, keep in mind it will be hot, hot, hot. In fact, the water is usually very close to the boiling point. There’s a few things you can do to temper the temperature, including adding a cold bucket of water to the top of the tank. But be very careful when tapping this hot water.
A thermometer that measures the water temperature is highly recommended. Some wood-fired cook stoves have this feature. If not, buy one. The recommended safe hot water temperature is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re above that (and you probably will be), then add cold water or let it cool down a bit.
In addition to stoves, there are water heaters that do not require gas or electricity to work. These also give off radiant heat so the winter/summer dilemma still stands. Most are wood-fired, although alternative burning fuels from peat moss to lower-grade softwoods can be used.
There also is the option on going solar. The best off-grid solution for solar hot water heating is a close-coupled system. This is a roof-top system where the water tank is on the roof above a set of solar panels. The water moves through tubes in the panel and is heated by the sun’s rays.
The benefit of the closed-loop system is that it requires no electric power for pumps. You can hand pump the water into the tank and as the water is heated, it rises into the tank. Gravity provides the water pressure. This system depends on sunlight to function and in extremely cold temperatures, you may find yourself with lukewarm water rather than hot.
There are many options for heating water off-grid. Do your research and ask other off-gridders what they use.
What advice would you add for heating water off-grid? Share it in the section below:
We have a cabin in Michigan that’s entirely heated with a cast-iron, wood-burning stove. It wasn’t long after we installed it that we came face-to-face with the realities of heating a whole house with one, wood-fired heat source. Some rooms were too hot, some were too cold. This motivated us to find a “Goldilocks” solution and see if we could get the heat distribution “just right.”
1. The heat-powered fan
It didn’t take us long to discover a variety of small fans that are powered by heat from the stove. These are made from heavy metal and are designed to rest on the top of the stove. The combination of heat rising from the stove causes the fan blade to rotate and direct a gentle draft of warm air in a specific direction. We actually have three of them pointing toward key points in the first floor of the house, like the bathroom, the kitchen and the front porch, although the front porch is often closed off at the height of winter.
We also bought an electric-powered fan that sits under the stove, but we wanted to make sure we had good off-grid solutions. Unfortunately, while the heat-powered fan made some improvement for air circulation, we still had a problem upstairs.
2. The stovepipe option
Our wood-burning stove is vented up a brick chimney before the stovepipe reaches the second floor. We considered re-routing the stovepipe through the ceiling so we could have some of the metal surface exposed upstairs, but it was a big job and it would have meant redesigning the second floor layout. It’s an option, but that’s up to you.
3. Passive vents
A neighbor of ours used something called a “passive vent” system in his cabin, and he said it worked surprisingly well so we decided to give it a try. A passive vent is essentially a hole in the ceiling leading to the second floor. It’s sealed off with a metal grate both on the floor upstairs and in the ceiling below. The inner space between the floor boards and the ceiling is surrounded in duct work, so the heated air rises up through the vent into the room above.
One word of warning. Make sure you know what’s in your ceiling and below your upstairs floorboards before you make any significant cuts. You could have electric power running through the floor, or you could have plumbing. A stud finder and a metal detector are a good place to start, or you could cut a very small hole and peak inside with a flashlight before you make a larger cut.
We ended up cutting two passive vents to the upstairs rooms and they both worked great. The warm air would rise from the vents, and my brother actually cut a couple of small plywood squares that he laid over the grills to act as a baffle for when it got too hot upstairs. We later installed grates with baffles built in and they still work fine.
4. The chimney insert heat reclaimer
The chimney insert is essentially a square box a little larger than your stovepipe that is inserted into the stovepipe and pointed in the direction you want to direct the heat. It works to not only extract more heat from your stove, but given its directional option you can do a little better directing heat toward a certain area.
If your stovepipe continues through upper floors, you can install an insert on both the first and second floor to capture and direct heat.
All of these options work best if the wood stove is centrally located in the home. The heat-powered fans work pretty well, but it’s a modest draft of heat. You might also consider keeping all of the doors open upstairs so any hot airflow rising from the stove has a chance to find its way up there. If you have an upstairs room that just doesn’t seem to get the heat and you’re looking for an off-grid solution, the passive vents may be the way to go.
What advice would you add on distributing heat through a home? Share your advice in the section below:
Traditional heating systems are powered by electricity and often accompanied by heat that is generated by natural gas, oil or propane. All are expensive options and typically require at least an electric-powered fan to force the air through heating ducts throughout the house.
The benefit of any forced-air system is even distribution of heat. Wood-burning stoves lack this feature and depend on “radiant” heat, or heat that is simply radiated from the stove itself. But the downside of forced-air heat is its dependence on the grid.
There are alternatives, though, to not only electric systems but also to the traditional cast-iron stove. Let’s explore them.
1. Masonry stove
These stoves burn wood but are made from materials like fire bricks and concrete, and some even funnel smoke through a chimney system that is embedded through a brick wall. The advantage of a masonry stove is that it holds and exchanges heat better than cast iron and typically can produce significant heat with a slow, burning fire.
One of the significant advantages of a masonry wood-burning stove is in the wall feature. By circulating heat through a brick wall, it can effectively deliver heat to a second story bedroom or bathroom to some degree. The biggest problem with wood-burning stoves is that they depend on radiant heat. The good news is that heat rises, but on particularly cold days it may not rise enough to sufficiently heat rooms upstairs. A masonry stove does both, imparting heat not only through radiance, but also through brickwork upstairs.
2. Pellet stoves
Another alternative is a stove that burns things other than firewood. These stoves can burn dried corn cobs, wood chips and even peanut shells. Pellets are the result of a manufacturing process that also requires a supply-chain distribution system. That can be a problem in an off-the-grid scenario.
Another consideration with alternative burning fuels is their availability in quantity. Burning corn cobs is a good idea assuming you can store and accumulate enough corn cobs to last the winter. But unless you plant a significant amount of corn or have a resource close to home from a local farmer, you might run out of corn cobs pretty quick. The same is true for wood chips and peanut shells. It sounds like a good idea, but do you have a ton or two of wood chips and peanut shells? If so, you may want to consider such a stove.
3. Passive solar
Passive solar involves the collection of heat from the sun in tiles or wallboards designed to absorb heat during the day and radiate it at night when it’s colder. It may be inaccurate to call it an “alternative” system, but think of it as a complement to another home heating system. It’s an excellent way to provide heat to parts of a home that are beyond the reach of radiant heat.
However, there are a few parameters.
- It requires a significant southern exposure with large windows that will allow sufficient sunlight to hit the tiles or wallboard so they can absorb the heat.
- It is ineffective on cloudy days. Even though solar panels can absorb some radiation from the sun on a cloudy day, passive solar tiles require direct sunlight to capture heat.
- The tiles can overheat a room in the summer and even in winter. There’s no thermostat you can dial up or down. Your only solution is drapes or shades to prevent the sun from striking the tiles. It’s a simple solution if you don’t mind covered windows in the summer.
4. An underground home
This is not for everyone, but where and how you live can make a big difference when it comes to maintaining and sustaining heat in winter. One of the best solutions is based on the geo-thermal principle. The ground stays warmer than the air during winter, so build your house underground. This gets to the basic laws of thermodynamics. The average ground temperature is around 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on where you live. Rarely above or below. Do the math. You’re never freezing and never over-heating. Few people consider this option, but it’s a good alternative solution. In an underground home, you won’t have to use heat until it really gets cold outside – and even then, it won’t take long to warm the place.
What alternatives would you add to the list? Share your tips in the section below:
I personally had never used a wood burning backpacking stove before, only gas, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the Solo Stove. Upon pulling the stove out of the bag I found it covered in soot from previous uses (Guy and Razor don’t know how to clean their …
How To Build a Deluxe Barrel Stove Prepping is the name and prepping is the game! Having a reliable heating system makes winter a more enjoyable, less stressful season. Most homes have central heating with oil, gas, or electricity for fuel and these are reasonably dependable even if evermore expensive to use. Many folks use wood-stoves for …
Starting next fall it will be illegal to install wood-burning heaters and stoves in new homes in at least one major American city: San Francisco.
Even wood stoves certified as low emission by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be banned.
“We are serious about reducing the health risks associated with our residents’ exposure to wood smoke,” Kristine Roselius, a spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, told the Contra Costa County Times. “We are strengthening a rule that has been successful in protecting public health.”
All 22 members of the district’s board of directors voted to amend regulations to bar the installation of wood-burning heaters in new homes starting November 1, 2016. The district consists of the nine counties that surround San Francisco Bay and includes: San Francisco County, Alameda County (Oakland), Contra Costa County, Napa County, Santa Clara County (San Jose), San Mateo County, Southwestern Solano County and Southern Sonoma County.
Fireplaces Already Illegal
Wood-burning heaters will still be allowed in existing homes, the Contra Costa Times reported, although sellers must give buyers a form explaining the “health risks” or burning smoke.
A ban on traditional fireplaces already was in place in the region.
The board also voted to end all automatic exemptions to its existing wood-burning ban, including one that exempts people who live in areas with no natural gas lines. Currently, such residents are exempt on high-pollution days. People living in areas with no natural gas will have to file for an exemption.
Some members of the board wanted to go farther. Earlier this year a measure that would have required home owners to get rid of old-fashioned fireplaces and wood stoves before placing a home on the market was rejected.
John Crouch, a spokesman for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, criticized the new rule.
“I think this is an overreaction,” Crouch told the newspaper. “I don’t think other pollution boards will take this approach.” (Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth interview with Crouch here.)
The district’s action is part of a growing movement to ban or restrict wood burning in the United States and Canada. Ban proponents believe that wood burning fills the air with fine particle pollutants that can cause health problems such as asthma, bronchitis, heart attacks and strokes. The installation of new wood-burning heaters has been illegal in Montreal since 2009.
Critics say such laws are government overreach lacking common sense – and note that people have heated their homes with wood for thousands of years.
“It seems that even wood isn’t green or renewable enough anymore,” columnist Larry Bell wrote on Forbes.com “… [It’s] the oldest heating method known to mankind and mainstay of rural homes and many of our nation’s poorest residents.”
About 12 percent of all homes rely primarily on wood, Bell said, quoting census data.
It looks as if burning wood for heat could soon become an endangered species in many parts of North America.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the section below:
A key component of a good survival plan is to take everyday items and apply them into useful purposes for a disaster scenario. Tin cans are just one of those items.
Tin cans, of course, cannot be resealed after you open and eat the food inside of them, but this does not make them disposable items.
Here are nine good survival uses for them:
1. Storage and organization. Sure, tin cans are used for storing food. But they also can just as easily be used to store other food and items after their initial use. More food, coffee, ammunition, seeds, water — take your pick. You can use a bandana or plastic wrap with rubber bands as a makeshift lid.
2. Cooking pot / stove. The ability to boil water and cook food while on the go in the wilderness should absolutely be on your list of top priorities in a survival situation. After all, drinking water from a natural source that is contaminated or hasn’t been boiled can sometimes be more dangerous than not drinking any water at all. Consider including an empty tin can or two in your survival bag to make hot drinks, to boil water, or to cook food. When using a tin can over the fire, just remember to use a branch or other object to hold the can and prevent burning yourself.
3. Transporting fire. You’ll need to be creative in how you make fire if your supply of traditional fire-starting materials is starting to run low. One such way is to keep your fire burning constantly, regardless of whether you’re stationary or on the go, in your tin can. The concept is incredibly similar to how you would make a fire bundle. Punch five holes in the sides and the bottom of your tin can, and then place coals from a recent fire at the bottom. The coals will burn for several hours, and you can keep them going by adding kindler and tinder at different moments. Caution: Avoid letting your skin coming into direct contact with the can (for obvious reasons).
4. Making hooks and arrowheads. Tin can pieces can be one of your best resources for fashioning fishing hooks and arrowheads. You can accomplish this either by bending the pieces yourself until you reach the shape you want, or better yet, you can cut them with a knife or another sharp object. All you have to do then is lash the arrowhead onto the end of a makeshift arrow or tie the hook onto some fishing line.
5. Showerhead. You can make your own wilderness shower just by punching holes in the bottom of a tin can. You’ll need to come up with a system where water is continuously pouring through the can. This is a survival use that you shouldn’t overlook.
6. Warning system. Many campers believe that a fire is all they need while sleeping under the stars; it offers them protection, peace and warmth. But fire can’t alert you to danger while you sleep. This is where tin cans come in: Simply set up a perimeter of cordage or string around your immediate camp site, and then attach tin cans at various points, paired by twos. If something tries to get through, the cans will rattle, alerting you.
7. Candle lamp. Many survival kits include candles to provide the user with immediate light and warmth. Nonetheless, lighting your candle and leaving that small flame exposed out in the open is going to pose some obvious problems if the wind is involved. Cut and punch a hole in your tin can’s side and then face it away from the wind. Set your candle inside of it for proper warmth and lighting.
8. Shovel. This survival use doesn’t need too much of an explanation. If you ever need a shovel or a scooper in a survival situation, a tin can that’s in good shape will do nicely.
9. Signal. There are just so many survival stories where the only reason people made it out alive is because they were able to signal for help. A tin can is an excellent signaling device if used correctly. Cut a small hole in the center of the bottom of your tin can, and then polish the outside with charcoal or chocolate. The surface should become very bright and smooth, and if the sun is also bright enough, you can aim the tin can at whatever or whoever you are trying to signal by looking through the small hole.
What survival tips would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:
Very cool. Want something bigger, a bigger stove for cooking with that skillet? How ’bout using 2 or 3 of these?
What’s the easiest and fastest way to make a DIY soda can stove? Glad you asked. There are actually a TON of valuable uses for this little powerhouse of a stove. And whether you call it a soda can stove, a penny can stove, or even a hobo stove, this compact stove can literally save […]