Monday, August 19, 2013

Meet the Contestants; Woodstock Soapstone

With the first Wood Stove Decathlon only a few months away, we are doing a weekly blog to showcase the Decathlon competitors. Take this opportunity to learn more about the design teams and their stove’s innovative features.

“When we started, stoves were basically six-sided boxes, and you put a fire in it. Now we’re making equipment, with a lot of moving parts. The technology is much better and increasing rapidly,” said Tom Morrissey, owner of Woodstock Soapstone Co. in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, which has been building cordwood-burning stoves for 35 years. For the Decathlon Woodstock Soapstone has entered their Union Hybrid stove.

Design Team (clockwise from lower left); Jason Guimaraes, Lorin Day, Harold Garabedian, Larry Young, Tom Morrissey, Ken Blum, Lewis Thibodeau, missing: Dan Batchelder & Kristie Haupt
The stove includes many technological aspects that make it a strong competitor in this year’s Decathlon. It uses an advanced hybrid combustion design incorporating both catalyst and secondary combustion. It has variable and self-regulating air/fuel ratio in order to maximize combustion efficiency and minimize emissions at all burn rates. Also, the soapstone body helps radiate heat for high heat transfer efficiency.

“We are essentially making a gasification stove,” he said, “If you look at this thing when it’s burning, the fire does not look like what you would think of as a wood fire. The whole top of firebox is like an inverted gas burner; there are 120 holes with a tube of flame coming out of each one.”

In development at Woodstock Soapstone are two beta-test modules: a Thermoelectric Module and a remote Woodstove Monitor. The module powers a small fan that assists with heat transfer. The power produced may also be used to charge a cell phone or LED light.

User responsibility and effectiveness are key to an efficient and low emission wood stove. Computers have largely cut out the need for a human operator in many technological fields, but Woodstock Soapstone hopes to avoid the added expense of computer controls. Instead, they will employ a remote Woodstove Monitor. It will provide real-time feedback on burn rate, BTU output, efficiency, emissions, and stove temperatures.

“Burning wood without this information is like driving a car without a speedometer and gas gauge,” said Morrissey. Knowing this information will help stove owners use their stoves more responsibly and effectively.

“Ten years ago, you could never imagine having a little computer on the stove. If you were in a small industry like ours, you couldn’t dream of having a graphic-user- interface, but now it’s available and affordable,” Morrissey said. The Union Hybrid stove, with its 21st century technology and efficiency and emissions capabilities, is certainly a far cry from a six-sided box with a fire in it.

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

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