DIY Biomass: Briquettes, Presses, Logs, and More

biomass briquette
Image credit: dam at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

“Biomass” is one of those terms like “alternative energy”: it could be a sustainable approach to energy generation, but isn’t always. I once sat through a talk by an energy services company executive in which he argued that forest biomass (think trees, undergrowth, etc., cut for burning) was carbon-neutral because “the plants could grow back.” Seriously.

On the other hand, though, an awful lot of waste – from shredded paper to sawdust to greasy pizza boxes – could be used to generate heat. As we move into the winter months, and you start to consider the prices of heating oil, natural gas, and/or electricity, you may want to start taking a look at some of the waste that goes into the trash can… there are BTUs in much of it that could be harvested cheaply without creating much pollution.

Want to start putting some of that waste to work? Take a look at these ideas for making use of waste biomass for home heating, or even cooking. Most of these plans below were created for the developing world, where the harvesting of wood for cooking or for making charcoal (an income source for many impoverished people) has led to deforestation, erosion, and ultimately complete degradation of productive land. While you might not be facing such dire choices between short-term fuel needs and long-term land use, these ideas can save you some money, and keep useful biomass out of landfills… still a win-win.

Biomass Briquette Presses

Sure, you can buy a briquette press, but if you’ve got even the slightest handy streak (or, as you’ll see, none at all), you can put together your own press.

The Full-Sized Briquette Press

This was developed by the Legacy Foundation, and they sell plans for it (and, no, that’s not an affiliate link).

The Micro Press

Lee Hite shares instructions at Instructables, and has also produced a step-by-step video (below) for building a smaller version of the typical briquette press.

The Caulk Gun Briquette Press

This video is a bit lower quality than some of the others, but the idea is pretty simple: use a caulk gun as a press for small biomass briquettes

holey rocket stove for cooking with biomass briquettes
Image credit: Biomass Briquettes Stove Library under a Creative Commons license

A Rocket Stove Specifically For Biomass Briquettes

As we pointed out in an earlier post, the rocket stove was created to give people in the developing world a cleaner, less fuel-intensive option for cooking. Now, combine this with biomass briquettes, and you’ve got a very forest and wildlife friendly option for outdoor cooking. Dubbed the Holey Roket, you can find text and photo instructions for building one at the project’s website, or follow along with the video below.

Rok’s YouTube channel has a couple of alternatives for building the stove, as well as a video on cooking with it.

The Paper Log

Finally, if you like something a bit more like the traditional fire log (or the manufactured fire log that’s a lot like the typical manufactured charcoal briquette), this project at Instructables shows you how to make one from old newspaper. Essentially, it’s a longer version of the briquettes from the first page… but no press required!

Know of other creative ways to turn waste biomass into fuel? Share them with us… I’d love to update this post with even more ideas.

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