Haiti Clean Stove Project

How might we design a clean burning, efficient, intuitive and affordable stove for the people of Haiti?

Task

To create an intuitive, clean burning, affordable and eco-friendly stove for the people of Haiti

For

The Haiti Clean Stove Project Group
Environmental Protection Agency P3 Design Competition

Duration

Fall 2011 – Spring 2013

About

Haiti, with a GDP per capita of 819 USD, is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It has 69% of people below the poverty line struggling to make ends meet every day. Up to 70% do not have the means to afford gas or LPG stoves and thus have to use traditional charcoal of wood stoves. The burning of charcoal, while low on particulate matter (PM) emissions, generates a large amount of carbon monoxide (CO). Wood burning stoves on the other hand generate high amounts of PM. This is detrimental for the respiratory health of Haitians.

The large scale reliance on such wood based fuels has also resulted in a massive deforestation problem. This is unsustainable in the long run as the dwindling supply of wood will slowly put an upward pressure on fuel prices. Furthermore, it is a contributor to soil erosion which results in the loss of fertile land that could be used for agriculture.

Field Research

Over the course of the project I led mutlidisciplinary teams of engineers to Haiti for research, market studies and testing.

The first trip we made was to the agricultural village of Komier, a 30 minute drive from the town of Leogane. There we investigated potential sources of biomass fuels such as widely abundant mango husk from the orchard and sugarcane bagasse, which are the fibrous leftovers from the processing of the plant.

During the trip we also surveyed the local manufacturing scene and its capabilities. We found that the manufacture of stoves was mostly done by artisanal metal workers. Machine shops were rare and did not have many of the precision tools that we take for granted in the United States.

Lastly, we conducted interviews and observational studies on the cooking habits of Haitians. The most common meal was diri ak pwa or rice with beans. This required careful control of heat so as not the burn the rice near the end of the cooking process.

It was from these findings that we developed our specifications for the stove we were to design.

Testing and Results

The stoves were testing using the standard water boiling test which involves bringing 5 liters of water to boil before simmering for 45 minutes. CO and PM emissions were measured in the lab. At first, the stove did not meet fuel consumption requirements as it only managed a thermal efficiency of 16%. However, after adding rock wool insulation, thermal efficiency reached 40% putting it in the best of its class. PM and CO met requirements as well, although PM emissions at ignition and at the extinguishing step were high compared to charcoal stoves.

In Haiti, the team mostly performed usability testing against a popular TLUD stove model and a charcoal stove. We broke down stove operation into a set of tasks such as fueling, ignition, turning down heat, refueling and extinguishing the stove. We then observed for critical incidents that were weighted by severity of error. Overall we found that our stove had lower critical incident scores for all steps except the ignition step compared to the other TLUD. However compared to the charcoal stove there were more errors.

These findings were presented at the 2013 National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington D.C