About 6 years ago, with the cost of heating my house rising, I began looking at designs for wood stoves. In The Mother Earth News (Issue # 49- January/February 1978) I found a promising article about using discarded hot water heaters. Using that article as a guide, I constructed a wood stove that I have been using for about 6 years.
The stove is used in the first floor of a 20 foot by 36 foot uninsulated brick house. When the temperature is 20 degrees outside, the basement is 80 degrees and the floor above is 55 degrees. The temperature difference would be reduced by connecting the floors with ducting.
Here in the city, it takes about 16 square blocks of scavenging territory to scrounge up enough discarded wood to supply one house with one years worth of fuel. It helps to have a car or truck to transport the wood that people throw in the alleys. Discarded furniture made from particle board is great because it is easy to break into small pieces. Keep an eye out for folks with dead trees that you can offer to remove.
The Mother Earth plan calls for electric water heaters. My variation uses a gas heater, which is much more common in cities. For this instructable, I made a second stove and documented what I did. Since there are so many metal scavengers in my area, it is very difficult to find a heater in the alley, so I traded an old car battery for a water heater from a nearby scavenger.
Note, before starting this project, check with your homeowners insurance to make sure there won’t be a problem.
Photo A shows the heater with the covering and insulation removed.
Step 1: Materials needed.
1. A 40 or 50 gallon gas water heater. The 40 gallon heaters are about 4 feet long and 16 inches in diameter (with the insulation, base, and outer covering removed).
2. A large helium gas container of the type used for balloons.
3. A saber saw and plenty of metal cutting blades.
4. A Dremel or Rotozip tool fitted with a metal cutting saw.
5. An angle grinder with a metal cutting saw.
6. A 3/8 inch drill.
7. An assortment of bolts and two hinges.
8. Some fiberglass cloth or ceiling tile.
9. A knob for the door.
10. A latch for the door.
11. Scissors to cut the fiberglass and stapler to secure the pieces.
12. Measuring tape and marker.
13. Enough 5 inch stove pipe to reach to the chimney.
14. A wrench to remove the gas valve and remaining pipes