Improved Cookstoves

Ashok Gadgil at a Global Technology Development conference describes lessons learned from development of fuel-efficient cookstoves.

Ashok Gadgil and the Cookstoves team at Berkeley Lab have moved on to improve, modify and innovate cookstoves for use throughout the world. The researchers focus on the areas of efficiency, emissions, combustion and stove use.

Researchers use comparable quantities of firewood and food to compare the efficiency of improved cookstoves with the traditional cooking method in the majority of developing countries, the three-stone open fire. In each stove test, researchers cook a fixed quantity of food on a three stone fire and the improved cookstove to compare fuel usage between the two. Efficiency tests allow researchers to compare different design alterations to estimate impact, predict the reduction in firewood use, and determine the carbon emissions reductions that will result from substituting an improved cookstove for a three-stone open fire.

Efficiency tests allow researchers to:

  • Predict the impact that the stove will have for women. The more efficient the stove, the less wood the women will need to collect or buy for cooking.
  • Determine the carbon emissions reductions that will result from substituting the stove for a three-stone open fire.
  • Compare different design alterations under consideration so that we can estimate the impacts of each change on the stove.

Researchers are currently characterizing the particles emitted by the traditional three-stone fire and the stoves and comparing the results. The results of these tests will be used to examine if the widespread implementation of advanced stoves such as the Berkeley-Darfur Stove and Berkeley-Ethiopia Stove might reduce undesirable impacts on climate change while also improving public health in developing nations. Black carbon and other soot particles emitted by cooking fires may be contributing to climate changes such as reduced precipitation and the melting of glaciers. See an evaluation of the Berkeley-Darfur Stove’s emissions and efficiency here.

Each stove saves a little over 1.5 metric tons of CO2 per year. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the average US car (traveling 12,000 miles per year and getting 20 mpg) emits 5.2 metric tons of CO2 per year. With stoves lasting an average of 5 years, each stove in the field reduces more CO2 emissions than removing an average US car off the road for an entire year.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.9 million people die prematurely each year from exposure to indoor smoke from burning solid fuels.

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