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I installed my antique wood stove in the off grid living camper. Free heat, hot water and cooking.

December 4th, 2011


I finally got my wood stove installed in the off grid living camper. It took longer to plan it than the actual work itself. I wanted to make sure that the stove would not cause anything to overheat. Living in a camper there is not much space to play around with. Everything has been maximized by the manufacturer. They squeeze as many household things in there as they can. The only place I could find for the stove without major modifications was near the entry door, in front of the sofa.


I already had the ceiling torn down due to repairing the water leaks before. So I placed the stove in the best location and practiced coming and going through the door to make sure it would not be too inconvenient. I want to make sure that if I have guests over, they will be able to come in and take their shoes off by the door without burning themselves. So I went through the moves with the stove in place where I wanted it.


When it looked good, I cut the hole in the roof for the chimney pipe to pass through. I simply traced the pipe with a marker and then drilled a bunch of holes in the roof. Then I took tin snips and cut the sheet metal all the way around. I left the strips in place so I could fold them around the chimney pipe later to help water proof the new hole.




This is an insulated chimney pipe and professional ceiling mounts designed for a flat roof. Not very cheap I must say, but this is the only thing in my off grid camper where I will not try to save money by making things myself. The idea of loosing it all in a fire is not nice. I reinforced the ceiling frame where the chimney passed through so it could hold the weight. There is 3 feet of chimney pipe above this hole. The requirement for safety is at least 3 feet above the highest point on the roof.


I looked around the property where I live (I rent a room in a house on 90 acres. They used to dump junk all over the place), and found an old metal card table. Perfect to put under the wood stove to catch any sparks, ash or wood dust. It has a 2 inch rim all the way around. This will help keep my floor clean as well and keep the dirt inside the wood stove area. I punched out the rivets holding the legs in place and got a perfect floor pan for my camper wood stove.


On top of the camper I used some aluminum duct tape to tape the metal strips I had cut out of the roof. I taped it around tight against the chimney pipe. Then I used some aluminum and tar tape around the base of the chimney pipe to prevent any leaks. Then to make extra sure I used some roofing tar on top of that. Then came the storm shield and more tape and roofing tar. When the tar cures it will be covered with more aluminum tape to keep it out of the weather. The only place I skimped on parts was the $50 chimney flashing. Instead I tarred and taped everything heavily.


This is an amazing little wood stove. Only 2 feet high but has a water heater built in and two cooking plates. It only takes 2.5 x 8 inch pieces of wood though, but the camper is not as large as a house, so it should be enough.


This morning it was 36 degrees out when I fired up the stove and got it to 90 degrees at the ceiling and 70 at chest height about an hour and a half later. I have a 10 inch battery powered 12 volt fan hooked up to my golf cart batteries to help circulate the hot air. The whole 32 foot camper was comfy.


Behind the wood stove is a stack of bricks that will heat up while the fire is burning and then later give back the heat during the night. Behind that is a fire extinguisher which I hope will never be needed.


I got the water kettle to boil when I filled up the stove with wood and got a nice, roaring fire going. To maintain the heat in the camper does not take much wood at all. I had cut up some old 2x4s and other scrap wood to burn for the day. The fire was burning from about 10 am to 3pm while I worked in the camper caulking up window frames to keep the heat in. I probably used about half a cubic foot of wood during this time. Maybe about the size of a large log for a normal fireplace.


In the next day or so I will hook up the wood stove water boiler and have it heat up an insulated tank to give off even more heat during the night. Just need to figure out how to have it circulate at night. I already have a car heater core that will be used to transfer the heat back into the air using a 12 volt fan. I will need some kind of thermostat and electronically controlled water valves to turn on the water flow to the heater core at night, after the fire goes out. I may just manually adjust it for now and simply turn the valves on before I go to bed at night. A 12 volt water pump will circulate the water from the hot water tank to the car heater core while I sleep. I plan to use 50/50 car antifreeze mix in the system to prevent freezing if I am ever gone for a while. To heat up hot water for cooking or washing I will have a heat exchanger connected to the main water heating system and heat up potable water.


The main goal is to be fully off grid with this camper. That means no propane or other heat sources. Only free, natural heat. I will probably use some propane in the beginning during the most extremely cold nights until I get the natural heat system working well. The wood stove does not keep burning long at all after I pack it full and close off the air vents. The burning chamber is just too small to hold enough wood for more than an hour of burning at a time. By then, there are just coals left over.

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Troy Reid


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