Homestead Hacks: DIY Radiant Heat with a Rocket Stove Boiler

This “Homestead Hack” shows how to build a rocket stove boiler to power DIY radiant heat in your house.

| December 2016/January 2017

  • The "Dragon" rocket boiler is designed to heat water for radiant flooring in the Luce home.
    Photo by Sheena Pendley
  • Search your local salvage yard to find and fit the components for your own "Dragon" rocket boiler.
    Photo by Timothy Luce
  • The fuel chamber grate to hold fuel wood in the "Dragon" rocket boiler.
    Photo by Timothy Luce
  • Outer skirt for the "Dragon" boiler's riser tube.
    Photo by Timothy Luce
  • Dry-fitting the riser tube and burn chamber components for the "Dragon" rocket boiler.
    Photo by Timothy Luce
  • Wrap the copper tubing around the burn chamber to add even more heat-capturing surface area. Concentrate the coils around the bottom third of the chamber to gain the most heat.
    Photo by Timothy Luce

My wife and I designed our house for DIY radiant heat. I installed copper heat exchangers in the firebox and stovepipe of the Fisher Grandpa Bear stove I grew up with, and pumped water through it to heat our radiant floors. After a hard winter spent feeding the stove, I realized that a rocket stove would better fit our needs. (Rocket stoves are efficient, convection-driven, biomass-fueled stoves that burn hotter than conventional stoves.)

It took me two to three days to build what I call the “Dragon” rocket stove boiler. It has three main components: the burn chamber, where combustion starts; the riser tube, which is the convection engine that fires the stove; and two heat exchangers. The heated water is stored in a 330-gallon tank separate from the stove. I designed a closed system, meaning no water enters or leaves the system. To build your own “Dragon,” take a trip to your local salvage yard and size up the scrap-metal components, avoiding aluminum.

Learn more about this rocket stove boiler project.

Materials

• 1⁄4- to 3⁄8-inch-thick steel for base/grate
• 1⁄16- to 1⁄8-inch-thick steel for burn chamber inner and outer walls
• 1⁄16- to 1⁄8-inch-thick steel for riser tube base
• 1⁄8- to 1⁄4-inch-thick steel for riser tube/connecting tube and riser tube outer wall
• Two 50-foot coils of 1⁄2-inch soft copper tubing
• 3⁄4-inch rubber hose rated for hot water



Tools

• Hammer
• Welder
• Jigsaw
• Reciprocating saw
• Torch
• Grinder or plasma cutter for cutting metal

Burn chamber. The burn chamber consists of a base, a grate, an inner wall, a soft copper tubing heat exchanger, and an outer wall with a lid. The diameter of your outer wall should be approximately 1 1⁄2 inches larger than the diameter of your inner wall.










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