Almost half the world’s population cooks over an open fire at least once a day. As simple and natural as that may sound, it’s horribly inefficient. Aside from safety—and burn victims are relatively common in developing countries—fires consume a lot of wood and put off considerable CO2, leading to more time gathering wood and an impact on both the local and global environment.
The solution is obviously a stove. But stoves are expensive.
The EzyStove, developed by Ergonomidesign in conjunction with United Nations Development Program and Global Environmental Facility Small Grant Program, was designed to accommodate "the world’s poorest populations," according to Director of Design Engineering August Michael.
But it couldn’t be free. "One thing we knew is that if you are given a product for free you do not care as much about it as if you save money and pay for it yourself, then it is more kept after and appreciated," writes Michael. "Therefore we realized that we did not want to develop a stove that is totally depending on financial support."
The irony is that, by asking their potential customers to pay for the stove, Ergonomidesign would actually have to build it for less than were the product entirely subsidized by grants. Whereas the stove of today starts at $35, the EzyStove is projected to run less than a third of the price: $10.
The resulting product is "as simplified as it can be—using minimal material in order to give maximum effect," writes Michael. Based upon a well-known design called a rocket stove, essentially a chimney that maximizes a fire’s heat output and burning efficiency, the EzyStove adds a few modifications to lower price and increase safety. Shipping via flat-pack and assembling with just basic tools, a wireframe exoskeleton steadies the structure, a fuel plate accepts multiple combustible materials, and every major component is modular and exchangeable. Beyond this, the surface-to-thickness ratio of each part was assessed (and stretched) to keep material costs down.
Despite all these design cutbacks, the EzyStove still burns 40% less fuel than a campfire and leads to 70% increased thermal efficiency (faster cooking). The partners expect that 5 million EzyStoves will be distributed by 2020. And it raises the question, just how efficient are the stoves in our own houses?