Carmen Davis-Stevens, our honorary Fiercely Frugal Savage Sister, recently sent us pictures of her stove-conversion project. Jennifer and I are impressed. We thought you would be, too.
Carmen purchased an old wood-burning cook stove to use in her summer kitchen.* Not only was the stove in need of repair, but she’s also never had much luck in getting stoves to draw correctly without smoke seeping into the room. So she decided to convert the wood stove to propane.
A knowledgeable friend told her it could be done, and she convinced him to accompany her to Home Depot to price components. While he looked through boxes of parts, she spotted a full-sized barbecue on sale for $79.99. “Why can’t we just modify that?” she asked.
The friend looked surprised, then interested, then intrigued. He spent at least twenty minutes reading information on the box before he agreed it might work.
Now Carmen had all the necessary parts except something to use as a brace for the jets. The friend fashioned a brace from a piece of scrap metal and a few self-tapping screws. He installed it inside the stove and hooked up a standard-sized propane tank.
Since the barbecue came equipped with an igniter, Carmen doesn’t even need matches to start a fire. The high, medium, and low settings work great, and she can cook on the modified stove just as if it burned wood. She hasn’t tested the oven yet, however. The door still falls off.
More pieces of the barbecue unit remained, and of course Carmen couldn’t let them end up in a landfill. She placed the now-gutted firebox next to one of her ponds where it makes a lovely contained spot for a campfire. Whenever she’s done using a campfire, she can simply close the lid and walk away without fear of fire spreading.
The barbecue’s wheeled stand was also left over. Since the stand was very lightweight, Carmen cut a piece of plywood to fit the top and fashioned a portable table for camping or to hold supplies when she works on other projects.
Thanks for showing all of us Fiercely Frugal folks some “hot” new ideas, Carmen. Can we come over now and toast marshmallows?
Because propane is a colorless and odorless gas, manufacturers are required to add an odorant that makes the gas smell like rotten eggs or boiled cabbage. If you can smell the scent of propane, a potentially dangerous situation may exist. Extinguish all open flames and immediately leave any area where propane fumes are present. Avoid touching electrical switches or appliances when a leak is suspected. Propane is heavier than air, so the vapor will descend to the lowest point–your basement, for example. Avoid these areas when you suspect a leak, and be sure to seek professional help.
When propane burns, it gives off carbon monoxide, which is a colorless and odorless gas, too. It’s also toxic. Therefore, proper ventilation is imperative for indoor use. Please have your propane system checked if you experience any of the following symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headaches, dizziness, loss of muscular control, vomiting, and watering of the eyes. Cherry-red skin is a very late sign of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Be sure to read our Legal Babble page.
*The traditional purpose of a summer kitchen is to keep the main house cooler in the summer by relegating the cooking duties to a separate building.
Written by Fiercely Frugal Savage Sister Diana
Photos by Carmen Davis-Stevens
© 2009, The Savage Sisters
I have an old cast iron wood stove that I would like to convert to propane. It’s about 14″w x 28″d x 20″h, with PLAINSMAN written on the front door. It’s a funky old stove that came with the house and I’d like to use it for heat. But I’d rather burn propane than wood. So do you Sisters or any others have suggestions other than the modified barbecue unit?
What were the components that Carmen’s friend was looking for at Home Depot?
Thanks for any suggestions.
I forwarded your questions to Carmen, and here is her reply.
Diana for the Savage Sisters
Adequate ventilation is extremely important. My modified stove is in a 30’x40′ cedar board-and-bat building. It has excessive ventilation all by itself like empty knot holes and gaps below doors. There is no insulation, and has a 10′ opening with stairs and a landing leading to the upper floor.
I did not do this modification by myself. My friend has had many jobs in his life, and one of them was installing propane units. He is a maintenance man for a school district and works with propane, boilers, and other jobs that require certification for each one.
The modification was done with barbecue parts, which means it is simply a glorified barbecue because of the wood-stove housing. It would not heat a home properly because it doesn’t have the fans and venting that is installed in a house.
Uncle Clarence turned 95 this year. He is a tough old man, and when he was unable to feed his woodstove, he paid to have a propane system installed in his house. He bought one of the smallest propane units available from a qualified vendor who installed it. He had it installed when he was about 86 and has never regretted it. It cost him about $1500 at the time. He roastingly heats a small old house built sometime in the 40’s. I highly recommend his approach for heating a house. Use the woodstove in a drafty garage or outbuilding.