Author – Rishil Anthony
Kitchen is an integral part of an Indian household. However, we could say that Indian kitchens are highly energy inefficient and unhealthy, primarily because of the traditional mud stoves (chulhas). This is true for most of the Indian rural households that depend on firewood or local biomass as the source of fuel.
Traditional firewood stoves are uneconomical and harmful in many ways. They use firewood that is non-renewable and is a major cause for deforestation. Rural women have to travel long distances to fetch firewood and finally, they spew noxious smoke, which is extremely harmful. These stoves use the natural draft of air to feed oxygen, which causes inefficient burning and thick smoke. It was observed that just a day’s exposure to smoke from traditional stoves can lead to accumulation of a carcinogenic compound Benzopyrene, which is equivalent to 14 days of cigarette smoking. Thus, rural women have to bravely face fire hazard, along with the risk of cancer and other lung-related diseases.
In such a bleak scenario, there is an urgent need to switch to better low cost stoves that are smokeless, efficient, affordable, and that are not detrimental to the environment. We have to ensure that such characteristics are present in modern stoves that are easily available to rural dwellers. Fortunately, many companies have innovated energy efficient, low smoke eco-friendly stoves in India. Here is a compilation of the well known brands:-
First Energy Pvt. Ltd has designed an innovative stove named ‘Oorja Stove’ in collaboration with engineers at the Indian Institute of Science, which is reportedly as efficient as an LPG gas stove. Oorja stove uses fuel pellets as the source of fuel that is basically made of agricultural waste. The stove runs on a gasification process to control combustion, resulting in a gas fuel that is much cleaner than firewood. The stove has a perforated chamber with a fan, which is powered by a rechargeable battery, and burns at high temperatures with relatively low smoke.
Oorja stove is quite easy to use – simply fill the combustion chamber with fuel pellets and ignite them with a bit of kerosene. After the flame stabilizes, it could be monitored and controlled through a flame regulating knob. The flame regulating unit could be detached from the main unit and charged. Once fully charged, the stove provides 10 cooking cycles, each of 3 hours. The stove can withstand a load of up to 150 kilograms and thus could handle heavy utensils used in commercial purposes. The Oorja stove cost up to INR1,500, and the fuel pellets INR12-14 per kg.
ARTI Bharatlaxmi Stove
Pune-based NGO Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI) has been a pioneer in designing low cost chulhas for rural poor. Since the early 1990s, ARTI has been working on various stove technologies such as Samuchit Sarai System, Sampada Gasifier Stove and ELFD Smokeless Stove. Among them, Bharatlaxmi Stove is the low-cost stove that has become quite popular in Maharashtra state due to its simple design and affordable price.
Bharatlaxmi Stove is basically a single pot hole stove that consists of cement bricks and a cast iron fire grate and a pot holder, which are held together with a wire mesh. The set up is then fixed to the ground with a mud covering. This smokeless chulha uses firewood and has been tested for its efficiency, durability and smoke emissions. The stove can reduce fuel consumption by 50%, bringing down the cooking time by 30%. Currently, Bharatlaxmi Stove costs around INR700.
Philips Low Smoke Chulha
The Philips Low Smoke Chulha is the result of collaboration between a multinational philanthropy initiative and a grassroots NGO named ARTI. These chulhas were created as the company’s CSR initiative in India, but looks like they have discontinued the program and are not available for sale now. This eco-friendly low smoke stove is a modular cooking device that is easy to access, reduces indoor air pollution and is available at low cost. There are two variants of this stove: Sampoorna a complete stove with a steam cooker; and Saral, an easy-to-use stove with two cooking hotpots.
The unique feature of both the Philips Low Smoke stoves is that they are modular in construction, which ensures easy portability and installation. Maintenance is also easy and parts of the stove could be easily replaced. The stove also has a chimney connected for easy cleaning and installation, along with a soot collector. It also helps in saving 10 kilograms of firewood everyday in every household which is equivalent to 4 tons of firewood a year!
IISc ASTRA Ole Stove
ASTRA Ole is the earliest improvised traditional stove innovated in India by the scientists of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). Created in early 1980s, the chulha is an eco-friendly stove that utilizes agricultural waste as the main fuel source. Another improvised version “Ojas Chulha” uses fuel pellets and has forced draft. These stoves were originally designed by the Centre for Sustainable Energy & Technologies in IISc, formerly known as ASTRA.
Easy availability of agricultural waste has contributed to the popularity of this Ojas Chulha stove. This eco-friendly stove uses a small fan, which comes packaged with the main stove unit, to blow air in order to ignite these pellets, which primarily consist of paddy stalks. There is a flame monitoring knob to adjust the flame according to your need. One kilogram of fuel gives a continuous blue flame for an hour. The commercial model stove is being used across many cities of Karnataka state, which has brought down LPG gas stove usage by around 25%. This product is now easily available in the market at a cost of INR3,000.
Greenway Smart Stove
Greenway Smart Stove is an all-steel stove that consists of a single burner. The stove aims at delivering 65% savings in fuel consumption and a 70% reduction in smoke. This stove increases the efficiency of fuel burning by more fully burning the fuel placed in its hearth. An innovative lampshade-shaped reducer cone pulls air up from the bottom of the stove into the combustion chamber.
The best part about the Greenway Smart stove is that it utilizes biomass fuels consisting of agricultural wastes such as firewood, crop waste, animal dung etc. Another advantage is the absence of any movable parts in the stove so there is no need of any training for operating this stove, thus making it highly flexible and increasing its usability. The stove has undergone stringent testing and has been certified by the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India. This stove could also be bought online also and is priced at $23, however they only support a minimum of 100 stoves order online.
TERI SPT_0610 Stove
The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) has been most reputed private research organization, working in the fields of energy efficiency and environmental conservation. After studying the low thermal efficiency (~17%) of traditional mud stoves, TERI realized the need to utilize the forced draft micro-gasification technology (using a fan to inject air into the combustion chamber) to develop an improved biomass cooking stove.
TERI developed its TERI SPT_0610 stove, a single port metal stove that can cater to cooking requirements of a family of 7 members. A variety of fuel such as wood, agriculture residue and cattle dung cake can be used as fuel for this stove. The power charger has dual charging mode (both AC and DC solar power supply) to cater to households without power. Stainless Steel has been used to fabricate the stove body and Lithium Cobalt Oxide batteries have been used to power the fan. Since the stove has high (~37%) thermal efficiency, it also reduces fuel consumption by 54% as compared to mud stove.