Monday, October 31, 2011

Inset Stove Design and Testing Part 2


Insert Stove
Design Factors and Testing
Part 2

An Inset Stove called Firewarm

So to recap -


A standard stove is simply a single sealed box. It can be made of iron - steel  -or other fireproof material.  Let us simply call this:


A controllable amount of air comes in one end to feed oxygen to the fire - and hot gasses and smoke goes out the other end and up the chimney. The heat from the fire is dispersed both by radiant and convection means from all sides of the stove.


An Inset or Insert stove, by contrast,  is stuck into the wall or chimney breast and therefore it cannot radiate or convect heat - except from the front. That leaves 5 other surfaces which cannot give out any heat

An Inset Stove has TWO BOXES,  one inside the other. The inside box is a complete stove in and by itself.

The outer box is there for ONE PURPOSE ONLY. It is there to create convection air channels to take the heat from the sides, back, and top of the fire box, and GET THAT HEAT OUT INTO THE ROOM. This box let us call it:


Apart from getting the fire to burn well and fully controllably in BOX NUMBER ONE, an inset stove needs to have a convection air current established in BOX NUMBER TWO (the outer box, in order to take the heat from the back -sides and top of the stove out and into the room.


What we are testing:

Is the burn rate of the fire fully controllable? This is a basic test for any type of solid fuel stove.

This test is really easy to establish. When the fire is fully lighted and burning really hot, simply turn down both the primary and secondary air controls fully.

The fire should immediately begin to dim down and within five minutes or so should be burning a dim red. After an hour or so - if the stove is in very good airtight condition, the fire should go out completely.

Most stoves are not completely airtight - so the fire may not completely die down but may continue to burn. However, it should only burn at a really very low rate!!

If it continues to burn at a faster rate, you have a faulty stove. The problem could be one of several things. Here are a few to think about:

(a)    Poor door seals.
(b)    Poorly fitting air vents.
(c)    Joints in the stove sections not properly sealed.
(d)    A crack or break in the stove wall. This could happen in manufacture, shipping or fitting.
(e)    And - of course, the possibility of bad design!!

In the next post I will publish a simple test that is very easy to do, and is specific to inset stoves.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Blacksmith Artisan and Inset Stove Design Part 1


How an Inset Stove
Should Work - part 1

Some concern about the functioning of a friends Blacksmith Artisan inset stove has sparked this series of posts concerning the design, efficiency, and function of inset stoves generally.

Above is a diagram of a typical inset stove. An inset stove is essentially two boxes - one inside the other. 



The inner box is the "Fire Box" in which the fire burns. It usually has two air supplies, a primary air supply which allows air to come in underneath the fire, and a secondary air supply which allows air in above the fire. In some designs the secondary air is arranged so as it acts as an air wash to keep the door glass cleaner by wafting the combustion fumes away from the glass.


The outer casing forms the "Convection Heating System". It is absolutely vital that the air in the "Convection System"  DOES NOT MIX IN ANY WAY with the air used for combustion. If it does mix, at the least it will cause the stove to be very inefficient, and at the worst, it may allow noxious fumes into the room. 

Possible causes which might allow the two air flows to mix are:

(1) a crack in the casing, or 
(2) poorly sealed joints, or 
(3) bad design.


The Vital and Distinguishing Part of an Inset Stove

The distinguishing and vital part of an inset stove - and clearly different from a free-standing stove, is the outer "Box" or "convection airway" which causes air to circulate in and around the back, sides, and top of the inner box or "Fire Box" - thus carrying the heat from these surfaces out into the room.. 

Without a properly functioning convection system, an inset stove would be no better than a simple door on a fireplace, as the heat from the back, sides and top of the stove would simply be lost up the chimney..


How should the air flow systems work in an "Inset Stove"?  

First point to remember is that there are -  2 -  TWO DISTINCT AIR FLOW SYSTEMS to consider. The FIRST rule is that these two air flows should not mix.

I will write further on this very soon. Look out for the next post on this subject.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Heat or Eat - Screw the Environment


By next year 
the Irish Government 
will have almost 20% tax 
on Home Heating Oil

Heating oil prices are currently pushing towards  €900 per fill.  Last time I checked the quote was €835 per 1000L. The Irish government is soon going to add another hunk of tax onto to this price - in the next couple of months in fact.

They will add a further 8.40% Carbon Tax - on top of which will be loaded VAT at 13.50% that adds up to 9.534%. The current cost of a fill at €835 will increase to €914.60.

Most households use a fill and a half over the winter months. The yearly heating cost will rise to €1371.90. Plus of course add in your electrical usage and any stoves or fires you use.

What is my answer? 

Well I have decided to go more with coal as the main heating method. Yes  - - I full well know that it is more carbon intensive - and that by using it - it goes against environmental policy and the government’s policy.

Reduce Carbon or Stay Warm

Buy hey - it is cheaper a lot cheaper - and if the government used some joined-up-thinking, they might figure that people - at least ones like me -  who have to watch their money carefully, will go with the cheaper way of heating regardless. Efficient stoves and using smokeless coal at €14 per 40Kg bag.

The carrot will always work better than the stick - not rocket science!! If poorer people are expected to go "Green" and "Environmentally Friendly" then there will have to be financial inducements to do so. Like, may I suggest, cost-price and government subsidised carbon fuel alternatives like biomass and wood briquettes etc. at really attractive prices. Instead of the price inflated and highly taxed current situation.

In the next post I will discuss the use of coal in stoves and give some pointers on coal price and availability.

Sustainability Stresses our Poorer Citizens

So am I going against the Sustainable Energy ethic?  You bet ya - as long as the "Green" movement penalises the less well-off!! As it stands, sustainable energy is a luxury for the rich.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Blacksmith Stove Review Part 4 - Alert -


Possible Problems with the
Blacksmith Artisan

I have been doing some close up checking of an installed Blacksmith “Artisan” inset stove. I recon that there are fundamental problems with the level of heat output, and with the hot air convection from the back and sides of the stove

There would appear to be no convection of heat from anything other than the exposed front of the stove. How do I come to that conclusion?

In a normal freestanding stove, heat is dispersed from the back, the sides, and the top of the stove. In the Artisan inset, there are no sides, back or top. The only exposed surface is the front.

If the heat from the sides, back and top of the stove is to be used in the house and not dispersed up the chimney, it would have to be gathered, by air convection, from the hot surfaces of the fire box.

One of the Convection Air intake vents seen on the right  side

Looking at the stove, it would appear to have the necessary features for this convection air flow to happen. It has two air intake slots at floor level either side of the frame which roughly 8 x 4 cm.

Hot Air exit grill on top?? - The Air-Wash damper knob on the right?

It has a large grill, in the frame above the door, which runs the full width of the stove. I would assume that this grill is an exit grill for the hot convection air to get into the room.

Here is the dilemma: 

Air is drawn into both of the intake slots - I checked this with a sheet of paper held near the slots, and sure enough, there is a good flow of air which sucks the paper onto the opening.

In the course of things, you would expect this air flow to be heated around the sides and back of the stove and then to exit as hot air through the slotted vent at the top, wouldn’t you?

But here lies the core of the problem. Instead of an outflow of hot air from the upper grills, air is being sucked in causing a cooling effect. I checked this simply by placing a length of tissue across the top of the grill - it is clearly being sucked in - instead of being gently blown out by the hot air convection.

The airwash damper does not affect the air flow - nor should it - it should have a seperate air way.  So where is all of this air from the room going? What is this telling us?

What appears to be happening is that air is being sucked in both at the top grill, where hot air should be coming out,  and at the bottom air intake slots. This air is effectively cooling the front of the stove and reducing the heat from the one radiant surface.

Poor Heat Output from this stove

The manufacturer rates the stove output at 5 Kw. I have no means of measuring this in any scientific way - but let me say this much, it is well under 3 Kw of heat when compared to a 3 Kw electric heater.

Now, I am hoping that this case might be just a one off problem, and hopefully it does not represent a problem of poor design.

Contacted Blacksmith Stoves

I contacted Blacksmith and had a callback from one of their senior reps. however, he could not directly answer the technical questions, did not seem to understand the principle of the convection process, or of the need for the combustion air and convection air to be completely separate. I was left no wiser by the call.

I have asked for some technical diagrams of the Artisan stove which might clearly show the layout of the airways. I am hoping to have these early next week, and that they will clarify things a bit.

If the convection airways are incorrectly designed and unable to gather heat properly from the back and sides of the firebox, the efficiency of this stove could be no greater than 30% to 40% rather than the 70% claimed. The heat output to the room based on what I experienced is no-where remotely close to the 5 Kw quoted.

I will also request a copy of the independent labs test results, especially the details of the criteria used to determining mean output and fuel to room transfer efficiency.

Best Wait and See

We, that is myself and the owners of the Artisan stoves, will await some technical clarification and assistance, and detailed diagrams and instructions, and I will inform this blog of the outcome.

In the meantime - Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) applies. Personally, if I were considering a purchase or installation of the Blacksmith “Artisan” stove, I would postpone until the design, heat output, and efficiency can be fully assessed.

I will post information as it becomes available.

Added 11th January 2012

I have since received a copy of the standards certification cert of the Artisan stove along with a set of technical drawings showing an exploded view of the stove from the people at Blacksmith. It all looks 100% kosher. As far as I can tell from the drawings, all the bits are there and in the right places.

I acknowledge that I have only closely observed one installation and that any inefficiencies may well be associated only with this one stove and installation.

The bottom line however, as far as this one installation goes, is that the output of this stove is substantially less than a similar size of stove, the Blacksmith  "Anvil", which I have no hesitation in recommending.  I would however put the output of heat from the inset "Artisan" as somewhat disappointing.

I would also point out that I have not so far been able to compare the Artisan inset against similar stoves by different manufacturers.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Multi-Fuel Stove Tips & Tricks part 1 of 4


Multi-Fuel Stove 
Tips & Tricks 
for economy and efficiency
part 1 of 4

1.    The Stove Itself.

If you don’t have a well-designed stove in good condition - you simply won’t get good heat output or fuel efficiency.

Apart from superficially looking nice and pretty, a stove must have certain well-designed and properly functioning technical features in order to work efficiently and have a reasonable working life.

Fire Grates.

The fire grate/s should be cast in high chromium iron in order to sustain high temperatures without burning out and warping. Check this carefully before you buy any stove, or you could find yourself replacing the grates after a couple of years, this is especially true if you use smokeless coals which can burn at very high temperatures. The grates are quite an expensive part of a stove. They are complex in shape and come in several parts. This is because they are usually remotely activated by an external lever to move them in order to shake down excess ash from the fire.

The Importance of Air.

Any stove should essentially be an airtight box, so having good door seals and well-jointed sections etc. is of the essence. A stove should have precise controls on both the primary and secondary air inlets. It is the mixture of fuel and air that causes combustion. Control the air and you control the level of combustion.

The Primary Air Inlet.

The primary air inlet or control is the one underneath the firebox that allows air to come up under and permeate through the burning fuel. This is the most important control to regulate the rate of burn. It should be capable of controlling the air supply to the fire in a quick and accurate way.

With some fuels, especially smokeless coals, it can be almost closed down completely. This will give slow burn and will keep the stove going for up to 9 hours or so over night or while you are at work. Slow constant heat 24 - 7 will keep a house very comfortable and stop fluctuations in temperature. When a house cools down, it can take up to half a day or more to get it fully warm again.

It takes a bit of practice to get the right settings. Basically, open the primary air right up when lighting a fire, as the fire gets going, begin to turn down the air. When the fire is good and hot further reduce the air until the fire starts to dim down. At that point gradually - over a few minutes - open the valve a fraction at a time, until you reach a point of burn that you require.

Secondary Air Inlet.

The secondary air inlet allows an air supply in above the burning fuel in order to allow burn-off of the gasses released from the fuel. I personally do not ever open this inlet, as I use mainly smokeless coal which tends to glow rather than create a flame. Opening the secondary air supply, where gasses don’t need to be flame burned, can reduce the efficiency of the burn. When wood is burned, the secondary air supply needs to be opened a crack in order to get full and proper combustion of the gasses released.

Subsequent posts on this subject will be spaced out over a few weeks - so keep a look out for them.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Batteries Super Capacitors Obsolete


This Might just be 
the BIGGEST Thing
in Energy Storage History

Researchers from the National University of Singapore Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative are developing what might turn out to be a world first in energy storage - a fabric like foldable energy-storage membrane.

The basis of the discovery is a polystyrene-based polymer soft, foldable membrane. This membrane does not hold gel or liquid electrolytes which are less stable. It behaves the same as an electrolyte in a capacitor.

The material, converted from organic waste and sandwiched between two graphite plates, can store charge at 0.2 farads per square centimetre. This is an extraordinary amount of charge if the quoted figures are accurate. Ordinary capacitors typically store a maximum of 1 microfarad 1/1,000,000 of a Farad per square centimetre.Than means this discovery - if true - has a capacity 200,000 greater than a standard capacitor WOW!!!!!

In fact this announcement, if fully verified, is ground breaking, Volta and Faraday would be envious, BUT I am holding back my excitement - because I have been disappointed so many times in the past, by EEstor, Ecolocap, Fluidic Energy etc.

Mr Wang Yuzhan, Dr Xie and Ms Wang Qian the inventor

 The key inventor on the team is a young woman called Wang Qian, seen on the right above, who actually devised the breakthrough. But as usual, the head guys and the men crowd-in and take most of the lime-light - oh hell - when will it ever be different!! Will Ms Wang Qian's name go into the history books?

Ultra Low Cost - Ultra Stable - Ultra Capacitors?

If this research effort holds true to the finished commercial product, the cost of high-capacity energy storage will be dramatically reduced. Currently, ball-park costs are about $7 US to store a one farad charge using gel or liquid electrolytes. The research team estimate their membrane to cost no more than about $0.62 sixty two cents per farad.

Added to the financial advantages are: (1) Very High energy density and capacity, (2) Long term and mechanical stability, (3) Safety.

The cost - performance ratio of this capacitor membrane would appear to way surpasses those of lithium ion batteries and even the latest supercapacitors.

The team have successfully filed a US patent for this extraordinary membrane energy storage technology.

I wish the team and the project every success. I really hope this one gets to the finishing line - but I have learned, from past experience, not to hold my breath in anticipation of the outcome.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fuel Poverty Ireland


Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte 

this winter
Could Kill 10 Times
the Number of Road Deaths

A killer will stalk the Irish countryside this winter. He will kill perhaps ten times more people than traffic accidents will kill in a full year. What is the nature of this rapacious killer? What are we doing to prevent this mass destruction of human life?

Many of our most vulnerable citizens are faced this winter with the stark choice of EAT or HEAT. Several published estimates indicate that the sad outcome could run to several THOUSANDS of deaths.

STOP - Think about it for a moment please - - - - - TEN TIMES x10 the number of people killed on the roads. This many people could perish miserably - simply because of the cost of fuel. 


Road traffic deaths draw a huge investment from the government in the form of 
(1) Police input into prevention.
(2) speed cameras.
(3) Speed vans.
(4) Massive advertising budget.
 Hypothermia and cold related deaths on the other hand draw just about NO INVESTMENT. In fact, the government see fit to make the situation worse by taxation, and by lack of price control on essential home heating fuels.

Taxation is a Massive Factor

A massive contributory factor is the higher Irish cost of fuel,  heavy added Republic of Ireland taxation burdens. These include an 8.40% carbon tax, on top of which is added a 13.50% VAT rate.

Just up the road in the North of Ireland the VAT rate is 5% and no carbon tax. Additionally the oil retailers are some 10% cheaper up North than in the Rip-Off Republic. Are the Government doing anything to control the rip-off merchants when a semi-state company, Bord na Mona, is leading the wolf pack?

The man you see above could substantially change this situation, if the will to make any REAL changes existed, and bring the cost of heating oil down by some 20+% - thereby greatly easing the burden.

Don't have the death of thousands on your conscience Minister - when you can now easily mitigate the situation. Please act swiftly.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Callous Helping Hand for the Fuel Poor


Sutton Oils
aka Bord na Mona
Callous in their Assistance
for Fuel Poverty

Sutton Oils have installed a self service Home Heating Oil pump to assist those who cannot afford to order a delivery. Ahhhh -  ain't that nice of them - you might say.

HELL NO - it is not one bloody bit nice at all - because they are charging roughly a 15% premium on their already high price for the privilege of self-serving and self-delivering your own oil, and up front payment into the bargain.

They are skimming from the very people they say they are helping. Shame on you and bad move Sutton Oils aka Bord na Mona!!!


Ireland's Heating Scandal


High Fuel Poverty Rate in Ireland
Oh go on add to it
Tax it some more!!

A couple of posts back I asked on heating oil prices, "who is ripping the public off in the Rip-Off Republic". I have been trying to answer my own question since. So far I have come up with the following:

The biggest contributor 
to the Fuel Poverty Crisis 
in the Republic of Ireland
is the Irish Government. 

The oil companies are certainly NOT BLAMELESS. But, they are the lesser offenders.

Here is how it breaks down:

Gallagher Fuels N. Irl. £560 for 1000L or  €652 inc 5%VAT
Cheaper Oil (Oh Yea) N. Irl.  £587 for 1000L or €694 inc. 5% VAT

Take away the 5% UK VAT:

Gallagher Fuels you get  €621
Cheaper Oil (Oh Yea) you now get €661

Add the HEAVY 8.40% Irish Carbon Tax:

Gallagher Fuels  beomes €673
Cheaper Oil (Oh Yea) goes up to  €716

Then add the very special Rip-off Republic VAT at 13.5% icing on top of the Carbon Tax Cake:

Gallagher Fuels  peaks at €764
Cheaper Oil (Oh Yea) rises to €812

So after being robbed by our own government the prices still should be lower in the Republic. Somewhere between €764 at the cheapest to €812 at the dearest.

God bless the Rip-Off Republic. It is about time the Irish Government taxed the rich and not burdened the poor with their Tax on essential fuels.

Mind you - the Irish Government are doing a lot to encourage Cross-Border trade - especially in Home Heating Oil!!


Heating Oil Price Rip-Off Scandal


Heating-Oil Price Scandal
The Plot Thickens

I have been doing a bit more digging on prices of Home Heating Oil and another obvious scandal appears to be emerging.

Prices from lowest to highest quoted on the Internet in Irish Republic per 1000 litres:

Jones Oil - - €815
Emo Oil - - €820
Sutton Oil (Bord na Mona)  - - €827

Do you notice anything about these prices? Can you observe any pattern? Well - there is less than 1.50% variation in the quoted price from lowest to highest.

But does that 1.50% maximum variation in the prices quoted say anything to you?????  Does that start any alarm bell ringing in you head??

The big red light that is flashing in my head says: "PRICE FIXING CARTELS" and  "BEWARE RIP-OFF SCENE"

By comparison the lowest and highest price I found in Northern Ireland per 1000l:

Gallagher Fuels £560 for 1000L or  €652
Cheaper Oil (Oh Yea) £587 for 1000L or €694

Republic Price is 27% higher 
than N. Ireland price

Apart from the GLARING - SICKENING - IMMORAL price difference with the Republic - do you notice any other factor in these prices?

The difference between the lowest and the highest is a healthy and good-for-business 6.50%. While in the Rip-Off Republic there has to be price fixing going on when the greatest price difference to be found is a insignificant and piddling 1.50%.

Ireland - you never lost it - you are still the king of the Rip-Off.

Please write - phone, or email your representatives - Government Offices - The Competition  Authority - The News Papers and Radio - and get this Rip-Off story out there and dealt with.


Oil Companies or Government Robbery?


Home Heating Oil Prices
Who is Robbing the Irish Householders?
The Oil Companies?
or the 
Irish Government?
or maybe

I have just been checking out the price of Home Heating Oil in Northern Ireland against that in the Republic of Ireland. And do you know what???

There is a mighty big rip-off going on.

In Northern Ireland 1000 litres of Home Heating oil will cost you somewhere between the cheapest at £563, and the dearest at £587.

Put that into Euro and you get:

Cheapest €659 per 1000 Litres and the
Dearest at €688 per 1000 Litres.

Jones Oil is quoting €815 just now per 1000 Litres of Kerosene.

EMO Oil is quoting €820.04 per 1000 Litres of Kerosene.

The cheaper Republic price above is over 18.50%  DEARER 
than the HIGHEST Northern Ireland price.

The dearer Republic price is just under 19.50% DEARER 
than the HIGHEST Northern price.






Question is WHO is doing the most ripping-off? 

Please write or phone the Competition Authority and complain about this major rip-off.

The Competition Authority
14 Parnell Square
Dublin 1
Tel: 01 8045400 (intl: +353-1-8045400)
Fax: 01 8045401 (intl: +353-1-8045401)
LoCall: 1890 220 224