Sunday, 3 January 2016

Making a fuel efficient stove in the Himalayas

Making a fuel efficient stove in the Himalayas

Wood is the commonly used fuel for cooking and heating houses in the Himalayan valleys. These stoves are cheap, inefficient and of poor quality. They are very polluting and use up a lot of wood. The houses as such are badly insulated and the inefficient condition of these stoves uses up a lot of fuel, in this case, wood. Deforestation in India is rampant and needs a quick remedy. Another problem is that these stoves generate noxious fumes indoors due to inefficient combustion and are very polluting to the environment. As part of my internship with Himalayan ecotourism, I was involved in a project to build a wood stove.

The design

To build an efficient stove, we worked with the basic principles used in existing efficient stoves (especially rocket stoves that are documented pretty well in the internet). We visited families in the surrounding villages, interacted with them and figured out their needs. This helped us modify the stove to the local context. Here stoves are primarily used to cook food and to keep the house warm. We also added a water heating feature to the stove as wood is used to heat water instead of electricity.

Building the stove

After we had come up with the initial blue print of the stove in 3D, we built the stove with the help of a local blacksmith; this gave us the liberty to adjust the characteristics of the stove depending on the tools and materials available for building. An interesting part of making this stove is that the whole stove can just be made from sheets of metal. An easily available insulating material needs to be added during the installation at home like stones, bricks etc. And voila the stove was ready to use.

Successful trial

The prototype was built in a few days and it was tested. The villagers were very happy with it.

 For Himalaya Ecotourism, the goal is to replace the current, inefficient stoves with efficient ones that can also be manufactured locally. We are now trying to produce these stoves in large scale to reduce the per unit cost of the stoves, so that the villagers can have it for a lower price.