Okay, I'm going to start playing around with some serious alternatives to wood. When I first started that over in brick-oven land I was drawn & quartered but this is a kinder, gentler place so there may be potential for creativity here.
My two areas of investigation are going to be coal (anthracite) like the coal ovens of Lombardi's & Pepe's. There's a lot of difference in heat from various wood sources (we've seen some posts about that -- pine having only 1/2 the weight of oak has about 1/2 btus too) but it's about the same amount per pound (just that softwoods tend to weigh less then hardwoods). Coal on the other hand has about 75% more btu content by weight then wood so should deliver a hotter more dense fire. A small wood fire is required to start it but then the coal takes off. I am looking for local sources of coal in various sizes so I can do some research on what works best. (Our local coal guy retired a few years ago, oil was too cheap to compete with.)
The other thing I want to do is a robust & controlled propane burner setup. The big burner I built is a great honking fast heater but I'd like something with a wider flame pattern that's more readily adjustable. I think that's the key to being able to use its radiant heat. All of the ones I've seen in commercial ovens are long and flat in terms of their flame patterns.
Anyone have any ideas along these lines?
Ah propane and propane accessories. No reason not to use it to heat the volume up. My parents house in NorCal use propane for heating and cooking. No matter what the fuel is available, mom still manages to burn dinner once or twice, she has cooked on wood stoves, electric (managed to melt a pan onto a burner) natural and propane gas.
check out this idea to heat your pool
something on a smaller scale could be done to use the flue heat that is currenlty not tapped for use. I'm thinking something more in line with a foced air heater
edited to add the btu's of charcoal: 16000 btu's per pound
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