Last week, I returned from a nine-day visit to Antigua, Guatemala. Working with D-Lab partner organization Soluciones Comunitarias (SolCom), I performed field tests on a couple of their improved, wood-fired cookstoves. And, I participated in a meeting of the working and task groups for the International Standards Organization (ISO) Technical Committee on Clean Cooking Solutions. Read my blog about the ISO meeting here.
Following four days of the ISO meetings, I had had enough talk about stoves and was ready to get out and hands on! I found out that of all the attendees at the ISO meeting, I was the only one who brought equipment to do actual stove testing.
So, I heaved my four suitcases of equipment into a taxi with Holley Gaskill and Wilson Martinez of SolCom to visit the homes of several Estrella stove (SolCom's locally built, improved plancha cookstove) users, measuring fuel use and chimney emissions (CO, CO2, SOx, NOx, respirable PM), and listening to their impressions on how these new stoves have affected their cooking practices.
We tested Estrella stoves at three homes in the nearby pueblo of San Miguel Escobar, and a kindergarten in San Pedro Yepocapa above Antigua at the foot of volcano Fuego.
We also tested a SolCom MicroCocidora rocket stove in the common room of the SolCom office. The intermittent rainfall caused some challenges during the testing, but luckily no catastrophic failures. The major outcomes of these tests are:
Initial evaluations of Estrella and MicroCocidora cook stove were not comprehensive and statistically significant tests, but give us some initial insight into performance of SolCom's stoves. Unfortunately we weren't able to test a traditional block stove, so it's difficult to assess improvement. It will be interesting to compare these results to those from Kirk Smith's in-depth study on a plancha stove intervention in rural Guatemala (see the Randomized Exposure Study of Pollution Indoors and Respiratory Effects).
- Familiarize D-Lab with improved stove technology in Guatemala.
- Offer some stove design recommendations to SolCom stove designers.
- Stimulate ideation for further design improvement and testing interaction w/ SolCom: A couple of ideas: Exhaust heat recovery water heating option on plancha stove. Standardized Kitchen Performance Test campaign to measure impacts of improved plancha on fuel use and indoor air quality/pollutant exposure.
A big thanks to the SolCom team for providing support during these tests, and the gracious hospitality that several households offered by allowing us to set up lab in their kitchens. It's exciting for our team at D-Lab to utilize some of our tools and expertise to assist an organization that is improving air quality, reducing wood fuel consumption and cost burdens on households, and producing a lot of proud owners of improved cookstoves!
Dan Sweeney, Research Scientist