When one thinks of The Himalayas, it is an overly romanticised representation that hits the memory. Snow-capped mountains, stalls of sizzling noodles and warm cups of coffee. However, the stark reality of the 50 million people living in the North Indian Himalayas is detached, remote from basic rights and access, and much awareness. Wood consumption in the region comes from anecdotes of usage from various other regions, methods that dot the ozone with a black ball of doom.
This story travels from Australia to the Himalayas and begins with a youth fuelled by wanderlust, who later settled to the call and natural needs of the mountains. The Himalayan Rocket Stove Pvt Ltd is a company founded by Russell Collins that primarily focuses on heating local homes with zero fuel usage. While the Rocket Stove Technology is famous and old, this one is designed to fit the Himalayan context and terrain.
Russell Collins spent his early twenties living in an alternative community that required residents to sustain themselves. The community built their own homes, grew their own vegetables and lived in a tranquil harmony with nature. This community living inculcated in Russell several qualities that have assisted him till date. Caution and awareness lines his every move given several years spent with scarce resources and limited consumption. His experience working with solar power, using a composting toilet, working in the garden, etc drew him closer to natural ways of sustenance. His travels to the Himalayas was enriched by his heightened sense of ecological requirements for sustainable living, which now branches itself through the Himalayan Rocket Stove.
The Himalayan Rocket Stove Pvt Ltd is a social enterprise with a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Its products are primarily designed for heating and have been modified and tweaked to fit the needs of this region. The Rocket Stove comes with the added benefit of no fuel emissions, as opposed to the 1000KG per year usage in the Kullu-Manali region. The more remote areas like Upper Kinnaur, Spiti and Ladakh consume 4000 KG fuel per year.
The Rocket Technology is globally famous and is a clever design that mixes air and burning gases together inside a vertical insulated combustion chamber that raises temperatures to a point of near combustion. This oxidises the smoke and converts it to heat energy which makes the stove both efficient and clean burning. His past experience as a tour operator drew him close to risk one too many times after several roadblocks cut him and his team from essentials or civilisation. It was then decided that he would remain an occasional tour-operator for school trips. His need to help the people across backgrounds in the Himalayan region has brought them warmth, sustainably. The Rocket stove is a range of products designed to substitute the traditionally used wood-burning heating stoves called Bukhari that vent outdoors via a fuel pipe. The Himalayan Rocket Stove is appealing to the locals who are used to stoves with a fuel-pipe.
The Himalayan stove is an innovation of several rocket stove ideas that is adapted to fit the unique topographical /holistic features of the Himalayan regions. These stoves need to be similar in shape and size to the traditional Bukhari style of heating stove that is commonly used throughout the Himalayas in order to fit its unique context. Height is of primary importance as it forms the epicentre of the innovation as the hot gases are drawn upwards through a vertical insulated combustion chamber. The taller the vertical chamber, better the chances are of effectively drawing gases by enhancing the high temperature combustion process.
Deciding on the perfect height that blended with the local culture of floor seating was a challenge. In the Himalayan context, the stove is located in the centre of the room as a feature around which the family position themselves, low to the ground. They must be able to see over the stove to look at each other. The cook is seated close to the ground and needs to access the top of the stove from his low position. Yet, the team managed to create a stove that was low in height but effective in results.
The test product facility was operating at The Ladakh Ecological Development Group- LEDeG in 2016. The primary purpose was to develop the Himalayan Rocket Stove also known as the Eco1. A typical Bukhari heater is 15% efficient and sends a majority of its heat out from the fuel pipe into the atmosphere. The Himalayan Rocket Stove is close to 85% efficient due to its unique combination of near-complete combustion of the fuel and effectively trapping heat into the room.
The Himalayan Rocket Stove: The earliest HRS prototype was a metal box unit designed as a heater and used less than 1 kg of wood per operating hour. The sticks used were small and readily harvested without requiring the massacre of a tree. Rocket stoves create an environment of optimal combustion where produce of conventional fire are combusted to release additional heat for fuel inputs. It works by starting an initial reaction to the burning wood and the byproduct heat, gasses and materials from that reaction move naturally to a chamber where the heat has accumulated to a high steady state temperature. The exhaust then serpentines through a mass until it vents outside the chamber.
One receives a 100% transfer efficiency if the temperature of the outgoing exhaust matches the incoming air. A range of heaters are being developed by The Himalayan Rocket Stove Company, including the ECO1 which doubles as highly efficient clean-burning heater as well as a cooking stove. This combination is achieved by a combination of rocket stove combustion technologies to burn the smoke and a clever design to manage the flow of gases inside the metal box.
Russel Collins has now dedicated his life to inventing sustainable and vital essentials for people in the mountains. While testing materials for the Himalayan Rocket Stove, they also discovered a method to make smokeless cook stoves which can be created by adding puffed rice and cut straw to the clay mix. The bets part about the Himalayan Rocket Stove is that it is available to people from all backgrounds with one common goal: to turn up the heat in the homes but keep the mountains cool.