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hot water heater turned wood stove Options
#1 Posted : Monday, August 10, 2009 5:18:54 AM
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Hi, Greenpassion, welcome to the forums. Having been inspired by those plans in the article you mentioned, I built several stoves just like that in the late 1970s. I'm a welder/fabricator by trade. Since then, I have made several  water heater tank woodstoves. The orignal design (in the article) worked okay, but I have evolved a design that uses an end-loading door, and a box atop the tank that is a secondary combustion chamber and has a flat top very suitable for cooking because of  the baffle effect of the design. I did not like the top loading door in the original stove design in that article, nor the baffled air inlet tube that ran along the bottom inside the firebox. It was hard to load wood into, and a hassle to clean out the ashes.

Basicly when using waterheater tanks, which are quite thin, you can get a lot of the heat out from the fire through the thin tank. It is a radiant heater design. These uninsulated firebox stoves have the effect of cooling the burn through their extracting  much of the initial heat, the firebox temperatures do not get real high (which is the design intent of the modern day low emission stoves, with their insulating bricks).  These are not low emission stoves, especially if used improperly. That said, with careful use, these thin stoves can achieve a real efficiency in terms of the amount of wood consumed. They can be very thrifty of your woodpile. The ones that I've made also have the virtue of having a very wide operating range. They can be run from very slow, to very hot. They put out heat quickly after you light them. That makes them thrifty when you don't need much heat. They are best used by limiting the fuel, rather than filling them up and choking down the air supply, which causes them to burn dirty and make smoke.

 Modern manufactured stoves, because of clean air legislation, cannot allow that much range of adjustment. The waterheater tank stoves are an "airtight" design. Consumers haven't been able to purchase manufactured airtight design stoves since the 1980s. Around 1990, the rules came in for emissions that closed down about 80% of the stove manufacturing companies (I used to work for one of those companies that were forced out of business...). By making one of these water tank stoves you will be making your own "old school airtight design" stove. Mother doesn't advocate that design, or sell the plans for it anymore, because of the changed emission laws.  I live in a sparsely populated mountainous place here where stove emissions are not too critical.

You can have a look at some stoves I've made in my photo album site. Just open the link, click photos and then stove construction pics       http://practicalman45.spaces.live.com/default.aspx

(Aug. 22, I have added lots of captions to the pictures in that folder describing the steps, materials etc.)

#2 Posted : Saturday, August 15, 2009 9:07:24 PM
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If welding is beyond your abilities, and you still want a really cheap stove? Consider making a barrel stove with a kit.  Just $100 including shipping,  plus a barrel. Make it in just a couple of hours.


#3 Posted : Saturday, August 22, 2009 9:09:56 PM
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Stovepipes/Chimneys are definitely the most expensive part of going for wood heat. Doing it right can cost 2 or 3 times as much as the stove in many cases if you go buy new parts.

I'm always keeping my eye open for good deals on chimney pipes. Last year I was given 2 sections of 6" metalbestos chimney 3 foot long insulated pipes by a lady who was about to throw them in the dump. They were used but still in good shape. New those are around $100/ea. now. Two weeks ago I picked up 4 sections 3foot long of  double wall stainless-lined metalbestos 6" interior pipe. I paid $10 for the 4 pcs. at a yard sale in Ashland Oregon. These were in great shape! New, they are about $80/ea!  This stuff all goes into my resource pile, and when someone needs to put in a chimney I can help them a lot and still make some profit from my stash of junk.

A lot of people are going for wood heat now that home heating costs for fossil fuel heat are going up. Many also like that they will be warm even if there is power outages.

Searches on ebay or graigslist will often turn up great deals on chimney pipes. Summer is the time to find that deal before it starts getting cold again.

#4 Posted : Friday, September 11, 2009 3:57:52 PM
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Here's a direct link to my photos of waterheater tank stove construction pics. I've added more photos and descriptions of the different steps in the comments under them. I'm sharing what I've discovered about recycling the water heater tanks, and how to best deal with them. They are a pretty cool resource for free material.


#5 Posted : Friday, September 11, 2009 4:17:14 PM
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If anyone else has any stories or pictures of making your own stoves I'd love to to read about them and maybe see the pics. These ones that I've come up with work really well. They are dirt cheap to make. People who have these love them. They give you so much heat so quickly out of so little wood.

Rufus Cracklecorn
#6 Posted : Thursday, November 26, 2009 3:57:32 PM
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  I run a CNC cutting table at my job. We build large steel tanks. One of the welders wanted an outdoor wood furnace. the type with water around the fire box. So Hank knowing how i am comes walking over and starts talking about them. I of course go to library, get on internet, think all day. He eventually against my advice buys some plans. So i stay after work cutting out all the pieces and he welds them together two nights and then looses interest.

Its a couple years later and it occured to me that that design would be much easier to fabricate if we used rolled sheets. One a few inches in diameter larger than the firebox and just weld the back and then the door. So that is how i plan on doing it. I'm going to have to take smaller pieces of steel and weld into the size sheets i need. We have plenty of say 36" x 96" that is scrap here. I'm in charge of scrap so getting material is no problem. We have rolls and the only thing i can't get real cheap so far is a hot water pump to pump the heated water into the house.

  I also just got a shell of a tank they scrapped out at work. Its 4' x 20" and cost me $30 scrap price. I'm thinking of making a simple wood heater for my shed-shop. I can cut some legs, fab a door and have me a stove for $30.

Another guy at work just finished making one for his shop from two 55 gal barrels with one of those kits.

I have a cold house and a foundation to fix and when i find time i will get some pics of the furnace being built. Its all in my mind now.

#7 Posted : Monday, December 07, 2009 7:40:48 PM
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That is really cool to have that access from where you work. 3 foot by 8 foot scrap? Oh boy, what i could do with that! I have to travel a good ways to haul it, and then pay almost $.60/pound for "scraps" like that... Having the use of large slip rolls, shears, and press brakes would sure be handy. I can, of course, order those services from my suppliers, when I buy new steel,  but having them right at hand where you work everyday sure would be nice. The waterheatertank steel is handy because it is free, and the glass coating inside is actually a really nice plus from a durability standpoint (the steel is actually quite thin, but the glass coating makes it quite a bit tougher).

 My costs for materials for these waterheater tank stoves can run me about $50-60 (or less for smaller stoves). I have to get creative and do things such as make my own coil spring handles, and shop for as much used (scrap) steel as possible to get costs down that cheap.

Here is a more direct link to my Waterheater Tank Woodstove Construction Pictures (with instructions) webpage:



These are a well-proven design and folks using them are very happy with the heat output and fuel economy.

#8 Posted : Monday, December 07, 2009 7:48:35 PM
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Posts: 134,494

Photo of 2 stoves, one 18" diameter tank with 8" flu, and one 16" diameter with 6" flu collar.

#9 Posted : Monday, December 07, 2009 7:48:35 PM
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Posts: 134,494

Greetings to all,

I a long time fan of ME, first time poster. I was motivated to join and post because of my situation.

We live in an all electric house in Nova Scotia, and I read about the plans on ME to convert an electric hot water heater into a wood stove. (http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/1978-01-01/The-Amazing-500-Wood-Burning-Stove-That-You-Can-Build-for-35-Or-Less.aspx)

I have an old water heater and was curious if anyone here has built one? The pictures and directions supplied seem vague to me, and would love some assistance/advice if possible.

Thanks in advance!!!


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