Firespeaking wins two awards at this year’s Masonry Heater Association annual gathering!

We won 1st place in the masonry heater design/build contest with the heater that we recently built in Patagonia, Argentina and 3rd place with the oven that we built in Berkeley, California.  We will link to the contest results on the Masonry Heater Association page when they have published them.

This is the second year that Max has attended the annual gathering and the second time he has led a project.  Every year,  each of the projects is very well documented….  Max led a building project/workshop called: Experimental Stove Design – Combining Elements of the Rocket Stove and Contraflow Heaters.

Regarding the event, Max says: “The Masonry Heater Association annual gathering reminds me of what I imagine guild meetings were like during the Rennaissance times.  Many skilled people who share in their commitment to a craft coming together to exchange experiences and have a good time together.  Besides all the good fun and the incredible amount of projects that were accomplished, there was quite a bit of focus on preparing us for stricter federal-level regulations on wood-burning appliances that the EPA is preparing.  Masonry heaters have the good fortune of being very clean burning so the MHA as a professional organization is rallying to make sure that masonry heaters are included in the acceptable appliances in the legislature.

Two special guests at this year meeting were Lars Helsbro from Denmark and Heikki Hyytiainen of Finland.  It was really gratifying to see how both of them showed that cutting-edge, beatiful and modern stoves in Europe are being faced with unfired clay brick and clay-based mortars.  This has great potential to reduce both real and environmental costs by using locally available materials.

Another very revealing part of the gathering was learning about different air systems in and around the firebox.  It became clear to me that how the air is supplied to the fire is one of the most important things in clean, strong combustion.  It is very interesting how the more one looks into these matters, the more similar one finds wood combustion to be to any other kind of combustion.  Essentially, there is a process in which the solids in the wood turn into gases which then, and only then burn.  Good efficient combustion has to do with how completely you can turn that wood into gases and then how completely you can burn those gases and thereby get heat.  Parts of the wood that do not completely gasify or do not receive sufficient oxygen to burn end up as creosote in chimneys or particulates in the air as smoke.  As several of my mentors have pointed out, the goal is to burn wood so that only wator vapor and small amounts of carbon dioxide are coming out of the chimney.  If you combine this with a low stack temperature by transferring all the produced heat into a heat exchanger like a series of masonry channels then you are really using this sacred resource efficiently and respectfully.”

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