Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Meet the Contestants; SmartStove

With the first Wood Stove Decathlon only a few months away, we are doing weekly blog posts to showcase the Decathlon teams and the innovative technology they are developing.

The SmartStoveTM control system was developed to introduce very affordable, modern technology to wood-burning products that seem locked in the past. SmartstoveTM uses a thermocouple, microprocessor, and controller to automate airflow throughout the combustion cycle of the stove. Thus, stoves are not allowed to smolder, not to overfire, but rather to operate at optimal temperatures.

In 1998, Dan McFarland, an electrical engineer, began heating his home with an EPA certified fireplace insert. After six years of what began feeling like babysitting the stove, he searched the web for a control system product to take over for him. After discovering it did not exist, he began formulating a method to develop his own. In 2005, the first functioning proof-of-concept prototype exceeded his expectations, reliably managing the draft control for him, keeping the fire burning clean and maximizing the burn time. As Plato stated, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

With the encouragement of some close friends, McFarland continued the self-funded development of what evolved into the intelligent and versatile SmartStoveTM control system, a powerful device the size of a regular thermostat.

By the winter of 2006, he developed an upgraded system that added proportional control of the insert’s blowers, enabling the system to efficiently manage a fire and also optimize heat transfer into the home, reducing the need for backup heat on cold nights. 

The next year, SmartStoveTM made its first public appearance at the HPB Expo in Reno, Nev. While some expo attendees and fellow exhibitors could not imagine computerized controls on a wood stove, others were excited by the project and encouraged McFarland to continue.

The following year, after developing upgraded system architecture, a stove manufacturer requested to evaluate the system on one of their new stove designs. After delivering a stove fully retrofitted with SmartStoveTM, and excitement by the manufacturer about the success of the project, the subprime economic crisis stalled development as stove manufacturers moved to protect their finances. SmartStoveTM system was upgraded again in 2010 to add a radio link between the User Interface wall panel and the stove.

SmartStoveTM system is now shipped to individuals who are searching, much like McFarland was, for a control system to integrate into their own stoves.

SmartStoveTM will be hosting an open house and fundraiser, including demonstrations of the system, on Saturday, Oct. 12. Further information and updates about the system and event will be available on the Inven Inc. website, Twitter, and Facebook.

We are looking forward to seeing SmartStove in action at the Wood Stove Decathlon November 16-19, 2013. Vote for your favorite stove at Popular Mechanics.

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