Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Eli is famous for finding simple solutions to complex problems, although also aware that while every complex problem has a simple solution it is often wrong.  Be that as it may, the recent post about indoor air pollution pointed out that the problem, and it is a big one, is not the cooking stove, but the exhaust, better put the lack of it, because it is real hard to ween anyone away from their accustomed way of fooding and because of that, introduction of fancy dancy cooking stoves has not worked.  Worse, although many are burning shit (dried shit, but shit none the less) or dead plants, and these are not ideal fuels, they are cheap fuels and there is no hope of weaning the poor away from them as long as they are poor.

Now the moral of the tale here is that Eli is perturbed, nay angry, that the following simple solution occurred to the bunny when egged on by Tom Fuller.  Angry?  Well it means that Eli can no longer think of Tom as useless, but here it is.   Tom ended a comment with

Your argument about the ventilation being the problem rather than the cooking is true, but really reminds me of what a SF comedian used to say--'Guns don't kill people. It's those darn bullets.' 
To which Eli replied off the tip of his ears
For venting, even a small fan run off solar electricity in the wall near the cooker could make a significant contribution.
But this is not such a bad solution, because moving the effluvia out of the house, while it would not completely solve the problem, would certainly minimize it and save much health and lives.  So, of course, there is always the google and the google found a solution, a small exhaust fan with an integrated solar cell panel that could easily be put into just about any house or hovel.  Turns out, and on reflection, no surprise, that such things are made for RVs.  Still probably too expensive, this one is $25.67, but in large quantities, maybe not made so well, it looks like it could make a difference.

Put a simple screen filter on it and it would be even better.  The fan units are designed to be mounted on RV roofs, on top of plumbing vents and come with a one year guarantee.  Just the sort of thing that people could donate to organizations like Heifer International or Oxfam or the Gates Foundation could buy by the millions.


Russell Seitz said...

Is Eli suggesting that he is prepared to expose the innocent to the existential threat of not completely solving the problem of indoor exposure to pneumotoxic and carcinogenic combustion and thermal decomposition products from vegetable matter exposed to heat?

Is he suggesting people should be voluntarily allowed to congregate in such places , and even , gasp, work there ?

Such flagrant unsciencyness must be outed and punished, lest its scariness lead to overcrowded safe spaces and give former vice presidents the vapors.

EliRabett said...

Eli has been known to frequent pubs, bars and dry cleaning establishments in the distant past.

Bernard J. said...

One needn't necessarily go for the expensive RV option. My own composting toilet uses a simple computer fan as a standard component, and they can be bought new for as little as $7, and probably less. And there are generations of old boxes kicking around the world - I'm sure that African ingenuity could easily adapt these to provide some utility in this area.

EliRabett said...

IEHO the integrated solar cells are key here.

JamieB said...

I don't know how much air those shift but would it be enough to keep up with smoke production? A flue would be better as it would prevent most of the smoke from ever mixing with the air in the first place.

Florifulgurator said...

Problem is, in the humid tropics some smoke is necessary to keep the roof from rotting away. They learned that the hard way when good people gave them chimneys. Maybe the easiest solution is to teach people to keep the babies away from smoke.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Eli, good idea. Hope this gets more publicity.

EliRabett said...

The idea here is to reduce exposure. Eliminating it is probably a bridge too far. That should leave enough smoke to discourage the weavels in the roof.

Brian said...

Lots of cooking happens at night and pre-dawn. Add a battery?

Tin roofs solve the rotting problem for people that can afford them. And there's always the dry season.

anthrosciguy said...

Yes, you do need to add a battery. Not just for late and early cooking, but for many places where in-house open fires are used for heating on cold nights. Hill tribes in Thailand, for instance, have to contend with nighttime temps in the 30s and 40s F.

However, you can find by Googling instructables and such building such fans for less than $10. There's no reason a simple all-in-one solution couldn't be made for $10 or less. I'd suspect much less.

Aaron said...

Many issues in fooding.

Complete combustion to get as much heat as possible out of fuel and leave as little material as possible in the form of particles of incomplete combustion.

Transfer of heat from flame to pot, to reduce amount of fuel required.

Then, we have to get the smoke and fumes out of the shelter.

Many options, here are 3 flavors from one shop:




Tom said...

Okay. (Fuller again.) Start a foundation, club, weblog to increase dissemination of fans for ventilation to 167 million rural families in India, as well as many millions more in other parts of the world.

I will support it in any way I can. I will contribute money. I will evangelize. I will contact all my former clients in the high tech industry, many of whom are Asian. I will beat every climate blogger over the head until they come out in strong support of it.

For a variety of reasons I cannot spearhead such an initiative. But I will support it.

EliRabett said...

First Eli will ask around to people who know more if it makes any sense