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New Rocket Mass Heater Plans

Hermon HeaterHermon Heater Plans
All-Brick Rocket Mass Heater. Walls are 4.5″ thick. Wood box / air intake opens @ 4.5″ by 9″, same for burn tube, heat riser & initial exhaust. 10 Bricks per layer in the heater, 16 layers high. Around 180 brick in this heater. One bag of masonry heater mortar. Absorbs lots of heat and gives it out for hours after heater shut down. Cad drawings done with Google Sketchup. Electronic delivery $40.

Visit for discussion of Rocket Mass Heaters and Rocket Stoves.


What is a rocket stove, and how do I build one?

A rocket stove uses a j shaped fire tube to efficiently convert solid biomass fuel (wood, biomass briquettes, etc.) into heat, with minimal emissions. A rocket heater adds an insulated heat riser, and a radiator, as well as a thermal mass for slowly radiating heat into the surrounding area. A inexpensive unit can be made from cans, or thermal mass units with concrete, brick or cob.

Hermon Heater Plans


Dragon Heaters Vs. Rocket Mass Heaters

dragon heaterDragon heaters offer more efficient heating, in a smaller footprint, with more flexible design options. Our goal with Dragon Heaters is to bring Rocket Heater concepts to everyone, by simplifying the build, improving aesthetic choices, offering a range of heat storage approaches and reducing its footprint.

The traditional rocket heater was developed and described by Ianto Evans and Leslie Jackson in their book Rocket Mass Heaters. Dragon Heaters differ from this approach in 2 key areas: the combustion area and heat capture options.

The Dragon Burner is made with optimized materials and a complex shape that is more efficient and has fewer emissions than a burn tunnel built with bricks.

Flexible heat capture is the other main difference. The traditional rocket heater uses a steel barrel for immediate heat and a clay bench with an embedded flue for heat storage. Using the same J-tube style combustion system, Dragon Heaters facilitate more options for utilizing the heat. Users can select to release it all immediately, only some, or put all the heat into thermal storage as in a masonry heater.

Having a pre-built combustion system frees up many of the design constraints associated with traditional rocket heaters. For example, it is possible to build a heater which radiates a portion of the heat into a space and puts the rest into thermal mass, without either the barrel or a cob bench.



Modular Construction and Green Building Design Principles by Triumph Modular

Forget any preconceived notions you may have had about modular buildings…

President Obama, in his recent address to college students in Richmond, VA, was quoted as saying the following about Modular Classrooms: “We shouldn’t have people teaching in trailers. We shouldn’t have kids learning in trailers.” Mr. Obama, sadly for the commercial modular building industry, and those in the business of providing re-locatable school spaces, has a perception of the word “modular” that many people share, is that of inferior spaces, lacking in efficient, or sustainable design principles.

What we are learning however, is that there has been a dramatic shift in the quality and type of building structures being used for temporary spaces, and that old perception is not warranted in many cases. There are projects that are literally re defining the very word “Modular”, and there is enough data to support the fact that President Obama’s first impression is as wrong as the stigma itself.

Many architects, engineers, manufacturers of modular buildings, and modular building contractors, (also referred to as dealers or manufacturers’ reps) are designing and building some very efficient, and truly “green” buildings. It’s not that good ol’ trailers are no longer being used, but it is the fact that there are just as many beautiful and energy efficient movable buildings replacing the old ones.

Modular building companies are incorporating green building design principles into their portable and temporary classroom offerings, child care buildings, healthcare facilities, and green office spaces for companies that are serious about sustainable design and overall building efficiency.

For instance, Triumph Modular has installed a child care building for temporary use, for a leading university in Cambridge Massachusett. This particular project has won an award by the USGB Massachusetts chapter.

More recently, one of their school buildings installed at Newman Elementary School in Needham Massachusetts, last summer, and scheduled to be removed right before September of this year, had high efficiency Lennox roof top HVAC units, with the highest possible EER (Energy Efficiency Rating) of 17.

A look at the actual construction drawings reveal that these particular modular classrooms are state-of-the-art learning facilities. The buildings met the Mass Stretch Energy code when built. In summary, Triumph’s green modular school buildings operate 20% more efficiently, in terms of heating and cooling energy expenditures, than a typical code compliant building.

Green Building Design Elements Implemented with Needham Classrooms

  • The insulation values and air barriers in the assemblies are far superior to typical portables and exceed base code requirements again by 20%.
  • The windows are double insulated glass which mitigates unwanted heat less. The windows are large and spacious, operable at the center pane, and made of low emissivity glass maximizing the use of natural daylight while being sensitive to comfort and efficiency.
  • Window surfaces are a break in the thermal envelope of a building structure and thus attention to quality windows is a basic but yet very important ingredient in “green building design”.

Triumph Modular has provided us with actual statements from parents, teachers and administrators at the Newman Elementary School about these modular classrooms:

“A huge thank-you from the Newman Elementary school staff to everyone involved. We have been so impressed with how well this team has worked together to create this beautiful space for our students!! Amazing work!” – Jessica Peterson, Principal

“My son is a fifth grader at Newman Elementary School. We went to meet our new teacher, and were surprised at how the modular buildings turned out – in a good way! The modular classrooms are spacious, bright, and exceeded my expectations. The parents and teachers expressed how happy they were with the new space. It is definitely a job well done.” – Parent

Suffice to say, after getting facts straight, my perception of the word Modular may have changed. Maybe someone should call President Obama! 🙂 Maybe, we should leave that up to the people in the Modular Classroom industry.

Triumph Modular, a Littleton, Mass-based company, was selected to help the Newman School with its temporary classrooms. In less than three months, Triumph provided a 35,000 square foot complex with 30 classrooms, administration offices and three multi-stall restrooms, on time and on a budget.

Triumph Modular has worked with learning institutions throughout New England including: Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Colby College, The Carroll School, and in each case they have instituted green design principles into their projects.

The building at Colby College won an award in 2006 as Winner International for Green Classroom Design under 2000 square feet at Modular Building Institute –

Modular Construction for permanent buildings, a process in short defined by using wholly finished off site constructed modules delivered and set up on site, has been receiving more attention as it lines up naturally with green design and building principles. A report published by the Modular Building Institute,, entitled LEED Rating System and Modular Buildings, published 2010, by Architect Robert Kobel, analyzes modular
construction process under the LEED Rating system

Also, recently published by McGraw Hill Publishing a report on the benefits of modular construction. Prefabrication and modularization is gaining momentum and growth in the A.E.C community around the country given the contribution it makes to schedule savings, cost and waste reduction.


Consolidated bioprocessing: a revolution in biofuels development

by Jeremy Fordham <>

In 1956 M. King Hubbert, a geoscientist working with the Shell research laboratory, developed a controversial theory of petroleum production that rocked the oil industry. The model, known today as the Hubbert Curve, was widely criticized at the time. In a nutshell it predicted that overall petroleum production in the U.S. would peak sometime between the mid-sixties and early seventies. Scientists and oil speculators thought he was crazy and dismissed his model as irrelevant and poorly constructed, especially because Hubbert was reluctant to publish the methods and equations behind his theory. Then, in late 1970, United States petroleum production actually did peak. A few years later the U.S. entered an energy crisis characterized by high gas prices and a frenetic rush to find new resources in places like Mexico and elsewhere.
Lots of people mistake the actual implications of Hubbert’s theory, which he later developed to predict a world petroleum production peak around the year 2000. Since the oil industry is fragile and dependent on things like wars and the shape of the global economy, this prediction is subject to much more variability and fluctuation than normal. What is certain, however, is that mass implementation of renewable energy systems is a viable alternative to consuming depletable petroleum-based resources. In the last couple decades, renewable energy initiatives have skyrocketed all around the world. Britain recently finished building the world’s largest offshore wind farm, which is a daring and trend-setting achievement for the country. All across the world academic programs have cropped up in attempt to instill interest in this now-blossoming realm. While online PhD programs have yet to come to full scale, places like Loughborough University in the U.K. are helping people gain extensive and professional expertise in this field from their own homes. Renewable energy is an infectious ideal that has effectively swept the entire world.

Biofuels are a particularly interesting form of green energy because they don’t require the construction of a secondary infrastructure for use. You can take biodiesel created from algae and put it directly in your gas tank, just like ethanol derived from corn-based biomass can be added directly to gasoline to improve its octane number substantially. Many companies have attempted to take advantage of everything from solar algal systems to gasification reactors that turn woody biomass (woodchips, etc.) into heat and fuel oil. Unfortunately, these reactor systems can cost upwards of $100 million, which is a lot of money to invest in something that hasn’t yet proven its power. Biofuel researchers are working hard to break through the barrier holding this industry back from macroscopic economic viability, and by far one of the most creative, and cost-effective, recent developments is consolidated bioprocessing.

Microorganisms are incredibly abundant and diverse, especially in their metabolic functionality. Consolidated bioprocessing takes advantage of this versatility. To obtain ethanol from a plant like sugarcane, a factory must grind the biomass, heat it up, feed it to microorganisms that can degrade cellulose into glucogenic byproducts and then feed those sugars to another set of microorganisms that can digest them to create ethanol. Cellulose is a crystalline molecule that is critical to a plant cell’s structure, so it is hard for microbes to break down naturally.

This is a very complicated and sensitive bioprocess that requires lots of temperature-controlled reactors and expensive grinding equipment. Consolidated bioprocessing, then takes this entire concept and minimizes the components needed to create ethanol from biomass, by genetically engineering one microorganism to both break down a plant’s cell wall (cellulose) and ferment its constituent sugars. This eliminates the need for an expensive grinder and for separate reactors that contain different microbes with different functions.

The genetics are approached in many interesting ways. A microorganism that is capable of degrading crystalline cellulose but incapable of fermenting its sugars, for instance, could be engineered with alternative metabolic pathways that allow it to use molecules like glucose, xylose and arabinose (components of cellulose) to create ethanol. This is typically done by introducing homologous genes into the target microbe’s DNA that cause it to develop novel fermentation pathways. Alternatively, a microbe that is widely used as a fermentative species (yeast, for instance) could be engineered with genes that give it the ability to break down plant material, which it cannot do naturally. This “super microorganism” would only need one reactor to function optimally in a biofuel production system.

The macroscopic consequences of this difficult genetic manipulation are astounding. Engineers can save millions of dollars by eliminating more than half of the reactors involved in biofuel processes if they create a microbe that can “do it all.” This drives down operating costs and ultimately makes the price tag on a biofuels plant that much more bearable. Companies like the Mascoma Corporation and Qteros (who actually discovered their own microbe in the wild) are working rigorously to develop technologies that rely on consolidated bioprocessing to make biofuel production worth the cost. They are making great progress.

The USDA is also actively involved in this research, so it will be interesting to see where things go in the next decade. Solar and wind technologies are still very expensive and bulky, so biofuels have an outstanding opportunity to outshine them as a resource whose implementation will be relatively transparent.

While nobody knows the exact date and time that petroleum will run out, the overarching point is that someday it will be gone, whether it’s 30 or 300 years from now. Biofuels have an opportunity to slow this depletion and are sure to come to the forefront of renewable energy in time, so be on the watch.


The Rocket Mass Heater

Want an extremely efficient, clean burning wood stove? Check out the Rocket Mass Heater by Ianto Evans and Leslie Jackson! A house that burns 7 cord of wood a season can burn just 2/3 of a cord with this style heater, as it burns cleaner, extracts more heat from the “chimney” without creosote build up (no chimney fires), and stores the heat in a thermal mass for gentle long term radiant heat, so the fire doesn’t have to be fed constantly. The best part? You build it yourself, and it’s very inexpensive. Learn more from the $13 eBook at We bought it, read it, and are starting on our stove. We recommend it.


Making and Using Biomass Briquettes

A Biomass Briquette is a compressed brick made of agricultural waste, used for heating and cooking. It is very efficient, renewable, and carbon neutral. Common materials are sawdust, charcoal, grasses, and other biological materials. The following links will describe the process, and how to build your own press.

A rocket stove is a efficient way to use them. There are many youtube video’s on rocket heaters, and we have plans at


AIR-X Wind Turbine Arrived, More Rocket Mass Heater Videos

The 24v AIR-X arrived today, and the Whisper 500 watt unit arrived last week. The Whisper was donated by Jim Juczak of Allan Smith, the creator of the Rocket Mass Heater came for supper, and we discussed his design, and alternative implementations. We will be building one of these soon. A ebook of the heater with video and Sketchup diagrams will be available from us shortly, as well as one with the wind turbine setup and installation. He has also added a couple more video’s on startup of the heater, and heat circulation. The manual wood splitter mentioned in the video’s is found at Bailey’s Online.


Allan’s Rocket Mass Heater

A friend of mine just posted his working version of a Rocket Mass Heater on Youtube. This is a great example of a clean burning, extremely efficient heater that can be used for space heating, cooking, or heating water, or any combination of the above.


Biodiesel, or Bioethanol?

Once again, the news media gets it horribly wrong. Apparently, the text of the article is talking about a new method for obtaining some type of liquid biofuel, comparing to old ethanol efficiency numbers, and not even matching current efficiency. 2.2% energy gain isn’t anything new for ethanol, and less than the 3.x (varies with source material) gain provided by biodiesel, which the article is labeled, but doesn’t even cover. Whatever it is they are making, it isn’t biodiesel. Nice try CNN, but you blew it!

The research can be found at but isn’t available to the great unwashed.

Abstract : Huber et al., Production of Liquid Alkanes by Aqueous-Phase Processing of Biomass-Derived …, Science 2005 308: 1446-1450

For the real scoop from the University of Wisconsin, where they call it “diesel like” (not biodiesel), see


Dr. Dumesic asked me to respond to your email to him. I am a graduate student for him and was an author on the Science paper.

We hadn’t realized that CNN picked up the article. (We never talked to a reporter from CNN and there are several technical inaccuracies with their article.)

Our process produces large alkanes from sugars, whereas biodiesel is produced from tryglycerides (plant oils). We view our process as complentary with traditional biodiesel production from triglycerides because we are using a different feedstock. Sugars are the major component of most biomass making up approximately 75 wt% of biomass, whereas the plant oils are only a small fraction of biomass.

We have only done our process on the bench scale, so far. Before this can become an industrial process we will need to continue to do more research (and get a lot more funding). We estimate the cetane number of the fuel to be between 46 to 80 depending on how we process it.

We don’t know the emissions profile, but I imagine it would be pretty clean as they are all alkanes (no aromatics or sulfur containing compounds).

I am also unsure of the energy content, but the energy content of the fuel would be the same as the energy content of C7 to C15 straight chain alkanes.

George Huber