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Inventor breaks in to US stove trial

DELWYN DICKEY
Last updated 05:00 11/06/2013
Jason Stewart
FIRE GUY: Jason Stewart hopes to take his invention to a woodburner competition in the United States.

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Jason Stewart is fired up about his latest invention.

A cheap way to turn inefficient old woodburners into low emission heating powerhouses has earned the Rodney man a finals spot in a United States heating competition in November.

While Mr Stewart is thrilled, as a part time university student studying architecture the costs of getting himself and his system to the states, and setting up at the National Mall in Washington DC, are beyond him.

The industrious Mahurangi West former police officer is no stranger to a challenge to help the environment.

Mr Stewart was at the helm of Peter Bethune's biodiesel fuelled vessel Ady Gil on its ill-fated trip into the Southern Ocean in 2010 to oppose Japanese whaling. The boat was in a collision with Japanese support vessel MV Shonan Maru 2 and later sank.

Luckily, Mr Stewart escaped serious injury. His story featured in the Rodney Times on February 16, 2010.

Mr Stewart was also a volunteer on the boat Earthrace, later renamed Ady Gil, during its trip around New Zealand in 2009 highlighting environmental issues.

Now the heat's on to get to the US. The Wood Stove Design Challenge is organised by the Alliance for Green Heat along with the Popular Mechanics publication, Washington State's Department of Ecology, the US Forestry Service and heating and appliance organisations.

The aim is to get combustion engineers, inventors, university students and stove manufacturers to come up with more efficient, cleaner burning wood-fired stoves and heaters. Of the 14 finalists, Mr Stewart's Firemaster is one of four from outside the US.

The competition was originally meant to be just for new wood stoves, but Mr Stewart's invention - to retrofit old woodburners to make them much more efficient, saw organisers change the rules to let him in, he says.

The Firemaster is a cheap retrofit that includes extending the flue down, close to the fire, which sees the burner giving off around 60 per cent more heat from the same amount of wood, with much lower smoke emissions.

Having the competition final in the US would also give Mr Stewart exposure in a much bigger market. About 10 million US homes use woodburners for heating, most of those old belchers.

A more efficient, low-smoke burner saves money if buying wood, and reduces emissions and electrical heating costs. Benefits also extend well beyond that.

Burning wood from sustainable forests is carbon neutral. This has real possibilities for low carbon sustainable energy production and puts it in the same league as wind, solar, and geothermal power.

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Using wood for heating has risen in the US by a quarter in the past few years, where half of all electricity still comes from high greenhouse gas-emitting coal burning. But woodburners can be big smoke emitters if inefficient or used incorrectly.

In New Zealand, rules around them have tightened since the 1990s to stop air pollution, especially in urban areas.

For households on less than 2 hectares, any new wood burner must comply with the National Environmental Standards (NES).

The NES requires the number of grams of smoke particles for every kilogramme of dry wood burnt to be less than 1.5g/kg.

Visit facebook.com/Intensifire for information and to help Mr Stewart get to the USA.

- Rodney Times

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