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  • buenijo's Avatar
    Yesterday, 09:17 PM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (10/19/19) in buenijo
    Still no additional work done on the furnace. However, I am getting lots of good quality cactus fruit brandy. I am also fermenting figs. With respect to the furnace, another change I will make to the next build is to eliminate the hopper enlargement change I made. To anyone actually following my progress, I made a change early on from using a single 5 foot long 8" diameter duct as the fuel hopper to enlarging the diameter and adding additional steel pails to serve as the hooper. However, there are three reasons to return to the previous design: (1) The pails are difficult to seal, (2) The change in diameter puts constraints on the fuel shapes because bridging takes place. A single hopper with constant diameter will allow for using a much wider range of fuel shapes including stick wood. (3) It is easier to build. The only disadvantage is a lower fuel capacity. However, I think it is sufficient for the settings I have in mind.
    0 replies | 28 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-13-2019, 03:09 PM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (10/13/19) in buenijo
    Nothing substantial to add. I did receive the parts for rebuilding the furnace. However, it will be a couple weeks before I can start. I will be busy off and on harvesting and processing cactus fruit for making my brandy. I hope to get about 150 pounds of fruit this season. With respect to the furnace, there are some interesting results from my very limited testing. At this point I have only fired the furnace twice. On two occasions the furnace failed to start. The first time it failed to start I determined the cause was wet fuel. I had saturated the fuel with water after the first run, and the fuel had not yet fully dried. I had dry fuel the next time, but the ceramic fiber in the combustion chamber was wet. I could have got it lit with persistence, but I didn't have time to monkey with it. So, it is clear everything has to be dry. This is no surprise, of course, but experiencing it first hand makes a difference. I will share one interesting minor change I will be making to the furnace. My furnace has two tubes adjacent to one another that extend into the base of the combustion chamber. One tube carries wood gas. The other carries heated air. If I machine a crossover notch in the ends of the tubes, then cap the ends of the two tubes, then the blower fan will force air INTO the base of the furnace AND through the upper air supply ports in the fire tube wall. In effect, with the furnace lid removed it will become a Top Lit Up Draft gasifier furnace (TLUD). Once hot, then the cap on the ends of the tubes can be removed and the furnace lid replaced to force the wood gas and heated air into the base of the combustion chamber. This should allow for a quick cold start up and with an minimum of smoke. So, while I am interested in devising a furnace that eliminates the blower fan, making use of a fan is not a deal killer. If this proves to greatly facilitate start up from cold, then I would keep a blower fan and devise an alternate means to operate the system should the fan fail for any reason.
    0 replies | 337 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-11-2019, 12:40 PM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (10/11/19) in buenijo
    I am busy this weekend, so I won't be able to work with the furnace. However, I did buy another steel pail and some larger square steel tubes. I have decided to build another furnace with larger fuel gas and air transfer ports. There are a few reasons I want a new furnace: 1. The ports were too small and I believe the output suffers for it. I will also be enlarging the air supply holes in the base of the furnace. I hope to increase the draft sufficiently to eliminate the blower fan. Unfortunately, this would radically change the control systems required. Fortunately, I have already devised a system that should work well - and it is so simple that I dare say development won't take too long. Without providing details, I will say only that it uses a very small and inexpensive hydraulic actuator operated by the water side of the steam generator to position a furnace damper. The damper closes as pressure increases. This combined with a thermostatic damper designed to shut down the furnace on high furnace exhaust temperature can be sufficient to control the system. Of course, there will be a relay on the motor/generator used to automatically start and stop the engine with inputs from control switches. 2. The first furnace has some basic problems that are easily fixed. Also, I will be containing the combustion chamber inside an insulated steel vessel that will eventually house the steam generator as well. 3. A sufficient draft will solve the problem of sealing the furnace because it will be at a negative pressure. I can even keep the fuel hopper open - like a rocket mass heater. I can play around with the combustion chamber dimensions to get the draft I need, and I can even add a furnace exhaust flue in the final design to boost the draft further. In short, unless I become convinced otherwise, I think I should move in the direction of NO blower fan. Although, there are marked advantages to using a blower fan.
    0 replies | 298 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-10-2019, 12:10 AM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (10/09/19) in buenijo
    I replaced the furnace seals with fiberglass rope and fired it up. No luck. If anything, it leaks more smoke than before. I have another alternative to try. If this does not work, then the only solution I know is to start over using a steel drum with a locking ring. I need to make another furnace anyway, so it is not a terrible loss. However, I would like to rack up some time testing the existing furnace before spending more money. I will let you all know what takes place, but know it will be a while. On a side note, I am thinking the test engine I eventually build must be minimal. This means NO control systems. If all goes well, then the plan is to present a basic test engine via a crowd funding site like Kickstarter to earn money for a prototype. The simple test engine would be designed to showcase the major features. In particular, I would emphasize (1) the wide fuel capacity by creating a series of videos showing the engine operating with different fuel sources, (2) quiet operation, (3) highly efficient heat recovery, and (4) a reasonably compact system that can be partly disassembled for easy transport.
    0 replies | 296 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-08-2019, 02:09 PM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (10/08/19) in buenijo
    Not much to add. I did order seals for the furnace. I will also share another configuration I have considered. A vertically oriented combustion chamber induces significant draft. So, in principle, it is possible to do away with the blower fan. However, the steam generator would present more obstructions to gas flow and change the output, so it is really too soon to know if this will be viable with my design. I tend to think it's a reasonable prospect based on the performance of rocket mass heaters that often burn very fast for short periods and using similar fundamental design (high temperature insulated and vertically oriented combustion chamber), and often providing extensive duct work that presents obstructions to gas flow. However, a mechanical means would be required to control the furnace output. I will be using a hydraulic mechanical control system (using feed water pressure) to actuate control switches, and I may be able to use this system also to position a damper to control the furnace. That is a year or two down the road. All I need determine soon is whether or not the furnace can generate heat at the required rate - and then some, hopefully - and without the blower fan. Of course, I want to see how fast it can burn wood with the fan as well. So, I am looking at a lot of testing in the near future. There are advantages to eliminating the blower fan that include (1) not being dependent on the reliability of a blower fan, (2) likely a more robust mechanical control system, (3) no need to seal the top of the furnace and hopper extensions as the furnace would not be under a positive pressure. However, there are disadvantages: (1) I suspect it would be much easier to start the system from cold using a blower fan, (2) the output of the system would likely be more consistent with a blower fan - especially one with fairly high static pressure which I have sourced, and (3) while I am not sure, I suspect it would be easier to configure a system that stops a blower fan with simple switches rather than a hydraulic mechanical actuated damper.
    0 replies | 291 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-05-2019, 09:40 PM
    The cheap materials I used have reared their ugly heads again. I fired up the furnace again. I got the combustion chamber ignited as before. There was NO smoke from the combustion chamber as before. However, the seals on the furnace and hopper lids are not designed for the high temperatures under these conditions. So, they are failing. This was apparent by smoke escaping from the seals on the lower furnace and the top lid of the hopper extension. So, I need to source some seals for these lids that can handle the conditions. Once I do so, then I can commence testing. The plan for now is to replaced the seals, then fire the furnace many times and for extended periods in order to: (1) verify wood can be burned at the required rate, (2) see how low it can go while still burning cleanly (i.e. assess the turndown ratio), and (3) get an idea what sizes and shapes of wood fuel can be used without problems. After testing, the plan is to construct a second furnace using superior materials, then construct a new combustion chamber designed to integrate with my steam generator design (and minimize thermal losses).
    0 replies | 335 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-05-2019, 04:52 PM
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/184818924@N02/48849122473/in/dateposted-public/ This is a pic of the base of the furnace with the coals from the previous run and a small load of small wood chunks. For the next run I will light these, then pack wood in the following way: https://www.flickr.com/photos/184818924@N02/48849481461/in/dateposted-public/ ...then pour in the remaining wood chunks seen here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/184818924@N02/48849482141/in/dateposted-public This will be a test to see if the furnace can handle wood fuel of varing sizes and shapes. The total weight of the wood is approximately 13 pounds. The full sized hopper I have planned for the final test furnace should hold 20-30 pounds of wood depending on type of wood and shape.
    0 replies | 296 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-05-2019, 10:45 AM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (10/05/19) in buenijo
    The furnace test described in the previous post was very informative. For example, it is clear that wood must be present above the primary air admission holes (roughly in the center of the fire tube in the base furnace) otherwise the fuel hopper will be exposed to flame and radiant heating causing it to get hot and lose energy to ambient. This is no different than any downdraft gasification furnace, and it is not a problem. For the test I just used a couple handfuls of wood blocks, but a functional unit would have two drums on top of the furnace base and filled with fuel for a combined fuel capacity of roughly 1.5 cubic feet. For the applications I have considered, the furnace would require refueling at most twice daily. Indeed, it would be easy to design an alarm indicating time to refuel since the hopper would start getting hot. You see, the wood shields the hopper walls from the radiant heating. However, the furnace could be allowed to burn out without damage. The furnace base design proved excellent. It was remarkably easy to start from cold - and that is a major quality. There was no visible smoke from the combustion chamber after ignition. Also, I could hold my hands on the furnace wall during operation. The outside of the combustion chamber by contrast was hot! I made this simple combustion chamber for testing only, but I was hoping the ceramic fiber could do more. In summary, the furnace design is now proven. A final product will use this basic furnace design - but with superior materials.
    0 replies | 300 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-04-2019, 10:08 PM
    OK, so I just had to fire it up. Verdict: A RESOUNDING SUCCESS!!! This does not mean there were not problems. For example, the butterfly valve I fashioned failed early on (no surprise there). Based on my limited experience in working with small furnaces in the past, this is not necessary provided the primary and secondary air flow paths are properly designed to set up a roughly equal volumetric flow rate (which I did). It worked perfectly without the valve. Here is how it went down. I added a small quantity of wood in the form of blocks about 3" by 1.5". I poured no more than an ounce of a 75% solution of ethanol and lit it with a balled up paper towel dipped in the solution. After only a minute or so the wood was lit. I had not yet attached the combustion chamber to allow air to enter the base of the furnace through the wood gas supply tube, and I turned the fan on low to supply a little secondary air to burn any smoke. There was NO smoke for several minutes. I then connected the combustion chamber and put the lid on the furnace. This directed all wood gas and secondary air into the combustion chamber. At this point there was smoke for several minutes. So, I dipped another balled up paper towel in my "lighter fluid", lit it, and dropped it in the combustion chamber. It took a minute, but the wood gas suddenly lit and from that point on there was ZERO smoke and I could control the output of the furnace by turning the dial on my variac! FURNACE PIC: https://www.flickr.com/photos/184818924@N02/48845233148/in/dateposted-public/
    0 replies | 312 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-04-2019, 12:26 PM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (10/04/19) in buenijo
    The furnace and combustion chamber are finished. The butterfly valve I fashioned leaves much to be desired, but I chose to use what I had on hand. The combustion chamber was easy to fashion. However, next time I intend to get 1/2" ceramic fiber as the 1" is difficult to work with in small areas. Tomorrow I will fire the furnace. The wood was quickly processed with a cordless saw. I will use a little lighting fluid to fire up more quickly. A little moonshine may work well. BTW, a cordless chainsaw can very quickly chop large branches and even small trees up to about 6" in diameter. Many models are 24v, and this is another reason to choose a 24v system over a 12v system. It is very easy to convert a cordless tool to a corded version that can be powered directly from the 24v house battery. So, I would use the cordless configuration only when cutting large pieces of wood in the field for loading onto a vehicle, then use the corded configuration when processing the wood for the furnace (same chainsaw).
    0 replies | 280 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-02-2019, 10:28 AM
    Exactly right. See the Duck Curve. Grid tie solar systems can displace a significant proportion of electricity production during the day. However, the power plants that supply the grid must remain available to meet peak demands when these solar systems do not produce (especially early evening and during inclement weather conditions). So, the utility companies lose revenues. However, their operating costs do not decline. The process is easy to understand, it's predictable, and can be readily observed. See any region where grid tie solar systems have become popular, and you will see electricity prices higher in direct proportion to the electricity production displaced by these systems. Yet another boondoggle made possible by a corrupt system that rewards parasitic behavior.
    8 replies | 821 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    10-01-2019, 06:32 PM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (10/01/19) in buenijo
    The test furnace is finished. I need only assemble the combustion chamber. Over the next few days I will be gathering wood fuel from a small sawmill where I work. Hopefully, I can start testing this weekend. I also need to start making my cactus fruit brandy - so I will be busy this weekend. This is one more application for my steam engine system - making moonshine. The output of this furnace would be too high to directly fire a still. However, directing steam through a copper heat exchanger placed in an insulated still would be effective. I will have to wait until I start testing the steam generator to configure such a system. I will note the furnace I built looks nothing like any furnace I have ever seen - or heard of. I am very interested to see what it does. I do not expect favorable results at first - but it sure would be fascinating if it did very well right out of the gate.
    0 replies | 319 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    09-28-2019, 04:06 PM
    My limited experience with fabricating the previous furnace has led me to a relatively simple design suitable for burning wood splits efficiently. Of course, I have no intention of constructing such a unit until after thoroughly testing what I have now. Unfortunately, using wood splits would necessarily increase the overall footprint of the system. So, it is probably better suited for a steam system with higher output. If the steam system proves out in the end, then perhaps I will return to this idea for a larger and more powerful system designed specifically for wood splits. However, I am more interested a small system suitable for tiny houses, cabins, RV's, and camp sites. Large wood splits are definitely overkill in these settings. Furthermore, 1 KWe output from the generator is likely overkill in some settings. However, the system can be configured for lower power and different voltages. 500 watts dc is about right for a 12v system. Remember, this system doesn't operate like a typical generator because the energy is stored (both the electricity and the heat). So, unless one is using electricity at a high rate for a significant period, then a high power rating is not necessary. Five KWh of electricity consumed each day in the settings I have considered is unusually high, and this corresponds to less than 1/2 duty cycle for a 500 watt generator. Incidentally, the design engine speed for my engine at this output is less than 500 rpm. So, it can potentially last a long time at such low speeds. The furnace I am working on now should accommodate wood chips and chunks perhaps 3" across, it is definitely not suited for traditional firewood splits. One of the most efficient ways to process fuel for this furnace would likely be to cut thick branches up to 3" in diameter into 3" lengths and using readily available hand held power tools. Anything larger can be cut into 3" rounds and split. One advantage of processing the fuel into smaller sizes is much more rapid drying. So, I think there may be net advantages to moving away from traditional (large) wood splits.
    0 replies | 132 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    09-28-2019, 12:26 PM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (9/28/19) in buenijo
    I am feeling extraordinarily lazy today - and I have a persistent headache. So, I will almost certainly not be productive. Although, I did locate the AC case fan I intend to use to test the furnace, wire a cord, and test it on my variac. It works just fine to vary the speed at will. I can also double the output of the fan when powered by the variac at full power. Of course, this fan has a poor design for this application. I just need it to force enough air into the furnace to get an idea of its performance. ADDENDUM: Well, I got something done at least. While a hack job, I mounted the fan to a base for the furnace that is suitable for testing at least. Of course, I will not know how well it performs until testing commences. The work that remains can be completed in a couple hours. I expect testing to reveal minor problems at least. That is fine as I need only prove the basic configuration. Once I correct any problems, then the goal is to rack up many hours of testing. Once this is completed, then I intend to construct a second superior unit based on the design including the high quality 24v blower fan I discussed in a previous post.
    0 replies | 76 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    09-26-2019, 01:51 PM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (9/26/19) in buenijo
    Not much to add. That is, I have not advanced the furnace project since the previous entry. However, I did find an excellent furnace blower fan. It has all the features for which I had been searching (24v, PWM compatible, highly efficient, high static pressure, reasonably priced). It's not cheap, but low cost enough to make for easy replacement and to keep spares around. By all accounts it is a highly reliable unit (based on reviews and engineering specs that claim 40,000 hours average operational life). I will be testing with a 30 watt AC fan and controlling speed with a variac. However, the final unit will be 24v DC.
    0 replies | 113 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    09-23-2019, 08:45 AM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (9/21/19) in buenijo
    I am halfway done with the new furnace design. I am getting better at fabrication already. I removed the previously laid refractory cement, made the necessary metal cuts to reflect the new design, then poured new refractory all in under 3 hours. The ceramic fiber insulation arrived, so I can continue today only if the wife proves amenable. The inside of the outer wall of the furnace will be insulated with the ceramic fiber and I may secure it with thin sheet metal. BTW, this is a double walled furnace and this thin sheet metal to secure the insulation is not exposed directly to flame. Rather, primary air is injected into this space to be preheated on the outside of the thicker inner wall that contains the primary furnace - so the fuel is inside this thicker inner wall. Some of this preheated air is injected into the wood fuel mass via 316 stainless nozzles to protect the thicker sheet metal from the high temperatures likely at the injection holes where combustion of some wood gas will take place. There is a separate path for the rest of the preheated air (called secondary air) that is shunted through a steel tube next to a second steel tube that carries the hot wood gas. Both tubes enter an attached highly insulated combustion chamber. Sorry if my description is vague, but I cannot reveal the architecture of the design. ADDENDUM: I nearly finished. I still have to add the primary air admission holes. I was going to use stainless steel nozzles, but I will save that for a later unit. This one is suitable for testing purposes. I will probably test with the current unit, then build a second furnace before starting on the engine. At this point I could build a second superior unit a single day. If the unit tests well, then I will keep the basic design, but use thicker steel for the interior and sheet metal over the insulation. In the current unit I just placed the insulation which actually holds in place well and placed a conical insert on the top which seals against the insulation at the top of the furnace. In summary, all I need to start testing is machine the primary air ports, add a base to accommodate the blower fan (I already have the fan), fashion a butterfly valve in the secondary air supply tube, find a suitable grate for the furnace base, and build the combustion chamber which is straightforward (just a length of capped 8" duct lined with ceramic fiber insulation into which the fuel gas and secondary air tubes insert).
    0 replies | 176 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    09-23-2019, 08:45 AM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (9/17/19) in buenijo
    I constructed the new furnace design before arriving at yet another superior configuration! Fortunately, I will not have to radically modify the existing unit. However, the modification will take more time. That's OK - developing something genuinely unique must be done incrementally. This change allows me to mount the blower fan UNDER the furnace. So far, the final layout of the system will be very clean with only the major components visible on the foundation including the furnace (with fuel hopper), combustion chamber, engine, generator, battery, and thermal mass. The blower fan will be under the furnace along with the feed water cooler, electrical components and other controls. The feed pump itself is also hidden from view. However, I have decided to keep the pulley drive system accessible to facilitate maintenance. So, it will be on top of the base and covered with a guard.
    0 replies | 114 view(s)
  • buenijo's Avatar
    09-23-2019, 08:44 AM
    buenijo created a blog entry PROJECT UPDATE (9/8/19) in buenijo
    I was very slow to start the project (as expected). The base furnace is constructed. However, during construction I considered a superior configuration that will enlarge the hopper capacity and facilitate testing in some ways. I am currently waiting on parts to continue. The hopper capacity will be about 2 cubic feet. I hope to be finished with the furnace and combustion chamber and start testing before the end of the year. I continue to find ways to simplify the design. For example, I have simplified the control system including having arrived at an exceedingly simple way to stop and restart the engine automatically. A major design feature of my system is, after the furnace has been started manually from cold, the system will stop and restart automatically based on either (1) thermal mass temperature (when heating applications are the priority), or (2) battery voltage (when electricity is the priority). The purpose of this feature is to greatly reduce the size, weight, and cost of the thermal mass and battery systems (leveraging the fuel itself as an energy storage medium). A second key feature of my system is the ability to operate the furnace and generate steam WITHOUT operating the engine (HEAT ONLY MODE). The system can be reconfigured for engine operation in less than 30 seconds. The purpose of this approach is to provide heat for off grid homes that have plenty of electricity production from other sources. For these homes, the primary purpose of the system may be for heating applications, and this feature avoids unnecessary engine operation. However, the system is always ready to make electricity when necessary.
    0 replies | 109 view(s)
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Navy veteran. Degrees in math and physics.
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Alternative energy. Economics. Political philosophy. Exotic reptiles.
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“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” - Confucius.
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Recent Entries

PROJECT UPDATE (10/19/19)

by buenijo on Yesterday at 09:17 PM
Still no additional work done on the furnace. However, I am getting lots of good quality cactus fruit brandy. I am also fermenting figs. With respect to the furnace, another change I will make to the next build is to eliminate the hopper enlargement change I made. To anyone actually following my progress, I made a change early on from using a single 5 foot long 8" diameter duct as the fuel hopper to enlarging the diameter and adding additional steel pails to serve as the hooper. However, there

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Updated Yesterday at 09:45 PM by buenijo

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PROJECT UPDATE (10/13/19)

by buenijo on 10-13-2019 at 03:09 PM
Nothing substantial to add. I did receive the parts for rebuilding the furnace. However, it will be a couple weeks before I can start. I will be busy off and on harvesting and processing cactus fruit for making my brandy. I hope to get about 150 pounds of fruit this season.

With respect to the furnace, there are some interesting results from my very limited testing. At this point I have only fired the furnace twice. On two occasions the furnace failed to start. The first time it

Read More

Updated 10-16-2019 at 11:46 AM by buenijo

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PROJECT UPDATE (10/11/19)

by buenijo on 10-11-2019 at 12:40 PM
I am busy this weekend, so I won't be able to work with the furnace. However, I did buy another steel pail and some larger square steel tubes. I have decided to build another furnace with larger fuel gas and air transfer ports. There are a few reasons I want a new furnace:

1. The ports were too small and I believe the output suffers for it. I will also be enlarging the air supply holes in the base of the furnace. I hope to increase the draft sufficiently to eliminate the blower fan.

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Updated 10-16-2019 at 11:11 AM by buenijo

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PROJECT UPDATE (10/09/19)

by buenijo on 10-10-2019 at 12:10 AM
I replaced the furnace seals with fiberglass rope and fired it up. No luck. If anything, it leaks more smoke than before. I have another alternative to try. If this does not work, then the only solution I know is to start over using a steel drum with a locking ring. I need to make another furnace anyway, so it is not a terrible loss. However, I would like to rack up some time testing the existing furnace before spending more money. I will let you all know what takes place, but know it will be a

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Updated 10-16-2019 at 11:15 AM by buenijo

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PROJECT UPDATE (10/08/19)

by buenijo on 10-08-2019 at 02:09 PM
Not much to add. I did order seals for the furnace. I will also share another configuration I have considered. A vertically oriented combustion chamber induces significant draft. So, in principle, it is possible to do away with the blower fan. However, the steam generator would present more obstructions to gas flow and change the output, so it is really too soon to know if this will be viable with my design. I tend to think it's a reasonable prospect based on the performance of rocket mass heaters

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Updated 10-08-2019 at 07:19 PM by buenijo

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