A Tiny Range for A Tiny House: Our Origo 6000

** NOTICE **
At least one aspect of the following post differs from that which we implemented
in the end-design and/or the actual construction of our Tiny House.
For the most accurate and up-to-date information please refer to our eBook.

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that in an effort to distance ourselves from non-renewable sources of energy, we have undertaken all kinds of lifestyle modifications, many of which have been detailed in earlier posts.

For instance, we purchase about 60% or more of our food from local producers, most of it organic.  This year especially, I’ve really cut back – and in fact almost completely eliminated – buying fruit from California and Florida.  The exceptions to this are whole organic lemons and Fair-Trade bananas (the latter of which comprises a Central and South American product and thereby a highly transportation intensive vice I cannot yet bring myself to eliminate).  We ride our bikes and walk instead of driving or busing, keep our central heat low while safely utilizing a tiny electric space heater to keep the space immediately around where we sit warm, use CFL bulbs in every possible fixture and do all kinds of other things to minimize our energy impact.

There is, however, one area of our energy consumption that still needs our attention – our use of cooking fuel.

We cook alot, so our consumption of gas for cooking fuel is and, without an alternative, will continue to be substantial.  While our tiny woodstove will allow us to relieve ourselves of the “need” for natural gas heating, which here in Burlington is the norm given our connection to a major supply line that comes from far away Alberta, Canada enroute to New York City, another recent find will allow us to eliminate our use of natural gas, propane and electricity for cooking.

The Origo 6000

Enter the Swedish-designed and EU manufactured Origo 6000 Alcohol Range.  Designed primarily for marine applications, this range is specially designed to burn various forms of alcohol.  The form we’re most interested in is pure ethanol, better known as grain alcohol or good old fashioned ‘moonshine’.  It is legal in Vermont to manufacture ethanol for fuel-only purposes and ethanol in the form of retail grain alcohol can be purchased “over the counter” as well.  If you’re not a big drinker, having a bottle or two of something like Everclear (190 proof grain alcohol) around would not distract one from important life goals.

So why not propane, natural gas or electricity?

Hydraulic fracturing, a more and more widely used natural gas extraction process that has been anecdotally linked to contamination of groundwater, is used extensively in the Alberta gas fields, the source of our “local” natural gas supply.  In other words, the gas we currently burn to stay warm, heat our water and cook our food is contributing to the destruction of entire aquifers.   Energy companies have turned to ‘fracking’, as this practice is more commonly known, because traditional processes are no longer producing sufficient supply.  All of the easy to get at energy has been used up and so now companies are exploiting unproven and highly dubious methods for getting at what’s left.  We’ve seen similar desperation in the petroleum industry, most recently exemplified by the deep sea drilling techniques used in the Gulf of Mexico.

Propane is a by-product of oil refining and natural gas production.  Therefore, it is no better an option, given it’s direct ties to the natural gas and petroleum industries.   Beyond that, both natural gas and propane are highly explosive, expensive, and require plumbing to transport the fuel from the tank to the appliance.  They also produce asphyxiation and death if allowed to leak into an enclosed space.

As far as electricity goes, it might be a good alternative if we could trust that the supply comes from 100% renewable sources.  It would take a huge battery bank and a field of solar panels to produce enough latent energy to power an electric burner.  Plugging into our local grid/municipally-owned electric utility would allow us to tap into a decent energy source, almost 60% of which is generated via renewable energy sources.  However, its the other 40% sourced from nuclear & the burning of coal and natural gas that eliminates this as an ideal option.  Plus the practical issues like AC electric load limits in the tiny house make this option tough to warrant.

So why alcohol?

First and foremost, we can make it ourselves using waste flora for the mash, and use waste biomass to fuel the process.

Secondly, the many safety advantages of cooking with alcohol that make it such an attractive fuel for use aboard ship also make it ideal in any tiny enclosed space.  Amazingly, the byproducts of burning pure grain alcohol are water vapor and carbon dioxide; so there’s nothing to worry about in the way of noxious or toxic by-products of combustion.  This is huge, since the simple act of firing up a propane or gas burner in a small space without adequate ventilation is asking for trouble.

Another nice feature of alcohol fuel is that once ignited, it can be easily extinguished with water.  So, in the highly unlikely event that spilled alcohol catches fire, a little water is all that’s needed to put it out.  Try doing that with a gasoline, diesel, propane or natural gas fueled fire (actually don’t, that would be bad).

Finally, alcohol as a fuel is not explosive and its fumes are safe – so it is not at all dangerous to leave open bottles of it lying around the place (not that we would, but you get the idea).

Finding an Affordable Origo – Be persistent

For more than a year, I scoured craigslist, eBay, Kijiji, sailing forums and retail sailing, canal boat, and caravan sites in the US, UK, Australia, and Germany, all in the hopes of finding an Origo range for less then the $1400 (US) price tag.  However, like most everything made of steel (especially stainless steel), and/or imported into this country, the price of these ranges has more than doubled in recent years.  In fact, only several years ago, this cooker retailed for ~$600 (US).  Its current retail price makes acquiring one difficult for many, including us.  And when these stoves do come up for auction or are otherwise listed for sale they tend to be well-used models and the folks selling them tend to expect today’s “new” prices for their old stove.  So, as far as my search went, things were not looking good.

Then, a few weeks ago while checking recent Craigslist posts, I came across someone on the West Coast selling a brand new Origo 6000 for an incredibly affordable price.  Typically when I myself prepare to sell something pre-owned, I generally kick-off my asking price at somewhere around half of what I paid for the item.  To my disbelief, so too did this seller.  After an exchange of emails and a phone call or two, the range was packed up and on its way to our home in the back of a UPS truck.  A week or so later it arrived in perfect shape, if the photos are any indicator.  I am so thankful that we were able to find a new and unused range for such a great price.  This just goes to show what a little persistence can do.  In the end, we ended up paying less than half what this range costs new!

Project Gaia

My internet sleuthing produced an interesting back-story concerning Dometic, the parent company of the Origo line of alcohol-burning appliances.  Apparently they are involved in a charitable program called “Project Gaia” that in part aims to put alcohol burning cook-tops in the hands of people who currently burn wood for cooking, as part of a drive to provide folks in poorer parts of the world with an alternative to scavenging wood (which contributes greatly to deforestation) to power open fires.

A component of the project is also focused upon creating local sources of ethanol produced from non-food sources to power the stoves.  As we know in this country, ethanol produced from food-stuffs does nothing to combat climate change (it takes more energy in the form of petroleum inputs to produce corn-based ethanol than is contained in the final product) and much to drive up the price of certain foods (like corn).  The goal is to teach folks how to use local non-food biomass as both the energy source for powering stills and as the raw material used in the production of ethanol.  This provides people with the self-determination that can only come from self-reliance on locally produced energy.

It’s really good to see a corporation like Dometic putting its money where its mouth is.  Here’s a link for additional information.

:::::

 

To find out more about “fracking”, watch the movie Gasland by Josh Fox,

or visit his site for an online tutorial.

 

36 comments to A Tiny Range for A Tiny House: Our Origo 6000

  • Hi Shelia and Kai!

    Thank you so much for this blog post! We found this same model of range/oven on craigslist and its a wonderful solution. We also had watched the documentary “gasland” that described the terrible process of “Fracking” for natural gas. We didn’t want our home to be apart of that destruction, also we didn’t want make a huge impact to buy anything new and have it shipped. :) Thanks again and good luck on your wonderful trip! Perhaps when Tammy and I take our transamerica bike tour next summer we can visit y’all back east. :)

    • Hi Logan,

      That’s fantastic! I love Craigslist – a virtual yard sale at your fingertips (plus I think it helps prevent people from just throwing stuff in the landfill – it’s so easy to sell online, make a few bucks and have someone come take your stuff away for you).

      Yes, the fracking “solution” is so destructive on many levels, especially in relation to contaminating groundwater which is another precious, precious resource we can’t afford to waste anymore.

      We most likely will not be here next summer as we’re planning on being on the road for at least a few years. But if you come through our area, please do let us know, we have several folks in town who would love to meet/host you and you can stop by and see our tiny house if you’re interested.

      What about you and Tammy – are you still set to start building your tiny home this summer?

  • Hey There,

    Thanks for the hosting and tour offer! :) We are still in the planning phase of a transamerica bike tour so we’ll keep Vermont in mind. :) I’m trying to keep Tim Travis’ advice in mind regarding bike touring: “When planning a bike tour, double your spending budget and halve your miles”. ;)

    Yes, construction starts next week on the tiny house! We hope to move in around September 2011! :) By the way, we ended up purchasing this same model alcohol oven based on your recommendation and love it! Its so simple to use and operate! :)

    Best of luck on your 3 year endeavor! We can’t wait to read about your adventures by bike! :) Cheers!

  • […] an alcohol stove? You can read a detailed description about the range at Kai and Shelia’s blog. We bought the same tiny […]

  • When I first started reading this I was thinking that while alcohol is a good fuel for all the reasons you mention, it is also very expensive compared to the natural gas you intend to replace with it. Until I got to the part where you will be making your own fuel – that’s fantastic! It lets you use a clean, safe fuel while actually saving money and recycling.

  • et

    Don’t forget that the alcohol flame is clear and you will be more susceptible to burns (until you learn to stay away).

    • Kai

      Eva,

      So true. I read many a scary tale of people warning of the same thing. I think this (minor) fear is what scares people (particularly sailors) away from this great fuel source. Personally, I was hooked when I read that you can make it yourself using renewable materials (no supporting the untenable fossil fuel system), that plain water puts out alcohol fires and that the only by-products are water and oxygen (perfect for small, confined spaces) – all major advantages in my book.

      We’ll definitely take care. Thanks! :)

  • Matt

    Water and Carbon Dioxide, not oxygen :-)

  • Ella

    Hi! I’m in the process of building my own tiny house (http://littleyellowdoor.wordpress.com/) and am interested in how you have found the origo. Among the great things I have heard about it, I also came across a few negatives such as it taking longer to cook things, contributing to condensation because of the alcohol and using a fair bit of fuel. Could you share your experience? I’m quite into my cooking/ baking and love the idea of not having propane.

    • Kai

      Ella,

      Sorry for the late reply! Just checked out your site and had fun reading of your progress. Good for you! As far as the Origo 6000 is concerned, aside from being the proud owners of a new model, we have zero experience actually using it. As you may have discerned by now, we left on our bike trip prior to finishing the interior of our own tiny house. And while we did live in the unfinished house for a couple of months before our departure we kept the Origo mothballed opting instead to use our MSR camp stove to cook with (good practice for our trip). Tammy and Logan over at Rowdy Kittens, however, have actual experience using the Origo in their recently completed tiny home. I would fire off your questions to them for actual user data.

      Good luck on your build and we look forward to following along as you navigate the nuances of construction. :)

      Kai

      p.s. On a somewhat related note, we are currently in Santa Maria, CA, headed south following the coastal route and are wondering where you (and your tiny house) are located? If you’re up for it (and are somewhat near our route) we thought it might be fun to stop by and meet you in person. We’re travelling a little slower than usual to nurse a sore achilles tendon but plan to be in the L.A. area sometime over the next month or so. Send us private message if this sounds at all like fun. Thanks!

  • FD Corey

    I’m selling my Origo 6000 this month. I’d lived onboard a 28′ sailboat for two years with an Origo 3000 and bought the 6000 used (in nice shape)but never installed it. I also have a set of new gimbals somewhere! I’m outside Boston and cannot drive. Vision challenges force me to change plans. EM me at stampguy427 at geemail if you want pics. I’d rather it go to someone who values the simplicity and virtues of minimizing the impact on the planet…sailing is bliss!

    • Kai

      FD,

      Thanks for the offer! However, to reiterate, we are already the proud owners of a brand new Origo 6000. I’d suggest ebay or craigslist (if you want to sell locally) as places to unload yours. Mention “tiny house” in your title and/or description to maximize your exposure. Good luck! :)

      p.s. You might want to email Ella, the young woman who is building her own tiny house (she commented above). You can track her down at: http://littleyellowdoor.wordpress.com/

    • Ann Gonzalez

      Plse let me knw if you have already sold the 6000 alcohol range. If not Plse let me knw how much your asking for it. Sincerely, Ann Marie Gonzalez

    • Comment:
      Hi FD Corey, I am interested in buying your 6000 Origo if you still have it for sale. It would not be much trouble for me to pick it up as I am in Old Lyme, CT 860-876-1695

  • […] When we heard about alcohol stoves from Kai and Sheila at 2cycle2gether.com we realized that alcohol fuel offered a good compromise compared to the above options. Although […]

  • […] we heard about alcohol stoves from Kai and Sheila at 2cycle2gether.com we realized that alcohol fuel offered a good compromise compared to the above options. Although […]

  • […] for tiny living and baking and we both had concerns regarding energy sustainability. Sheila’s article on their Swedish alcohol cooking appliance had a big impact on me. I hadn’t even considered alcohol as a fuel source but her reasoning […]

  • Trevor Walsh

    I wanted to write in because the comments at the end of your post about…

    “ethanol produced from food-stuffs does nothing to combat climate change (it takes more energy in the form of petroleum inputs to produce corn-based ethanol than is contained in the final product) and much to drive up the price of certain foods (like corn).”

    just aren’t true. I’d highly recommend a book “Alcohol can be a gas” by David Blume. For one thing fuel and other transportation costs, and the cost of pesticides and fertilizers (made from petroleum) are much more impactful to food prices than corn price. Much of the corn grown in the US is used for livestock feed, production of ethanol removes only the starch (which is indigestible to the livestock) and the resulting mash called distillers dried grains retain almost all of the nutrients, protein and minerals. The spent mash is a better food the livestock then the corn itself!

    The myth that ethanol production takes more energy than it generates is based on “research” paid for by the oil industry. Corn ethanol is an energy positive solution, and it also one of the lesser efficient crops for ethanol. Look at Brazilian sugarcane. Will oil tell you straight that in Canada extraction of oil from oil sands takes 5 barrels of oil for 4 barrels of oil returned? It’s all thanks to government subsidy to oil and dissociated costs.

    Read up on the Alternative Fuel research groups, Alternative Fuels Data Center, and the Dept. of Energy.

  • Red Suzi

    I Agree that most farmers grow GMO corn, which I don’t believe should be used in human food, or animal food either, for that matter. (But it is.) But as someone from a huge farm background, one complaint I hear from many farmers is that non-GMO varieties of corn are simply not available in the quantities they need to plant. Sweet corn for a home garden, or even a truck garden can be done, but thousands of acres worth of seed corn is simply not available to many farmers who wish to remain GMO free.

    • Kai

      A sad state of affairs for sure since demand rules availability. And with ~88% of the corn grown in the US being conventional AND GMO, its as you say no doubt a difficult task to procure large quantities of organic seed. But the more that consumers and farmers demand it, the more it will be made available….

  • Great post guys! Well written, and easy to digest. I am also looking in to no lp heating sources that are pet safe. I would love to hear more about your experiments with producing the fuel.

    -Mitchell

  • Ann Gonzalez

    I NEED HELP can someone tell me what I can use that’s the safest,& not exspensive to heat, & cook in a tiny hse? Also the water issue. I dnt have a clue how to get water for washing dishes, taking shower ect… compose tiolet. How does that work? Im sorry. Im new to all of this ,& wld really appreciate this if I cld get answers to these important questions. Thank you so very much.

  • Vickie

    This was a very informative post. However, why not use solar to power an electric stove or the whole house for that matter? Then you would be off the grid, or better yet, if you produce enough solar power you could sell it back and make some extra money.

    • Kai

      Ah, if only it were that simple! A solar array and battery bank sufficient to power an electric range (not including the rest of the house’s electrical load) would cost tens of thousands of dollars and require far more square footage in terms of mounting surface area than a tiny house provides. Even a single electric burner would be out of the question in a modest solar array. Case in point, according to this site. In comparison, our planned array will be rated at far less than 1000 watts (or 1kW). An electric stove (or even just a single burner) is a high-drain device and thus not normally spec’d for off-grid applications.

  • Lee

    Can you give an update on using the alcohol stove? I tried an alcohol camp stove, and it took forever to boil water or cook. Did using it match your expectations? Thanks!

    • Kai

      Thanks for your question. By now you may have realized that we are currently in the midst of an around the world cycling attempt. Check back in future years for real world user updates! :)

  • I appreciate your review on this oven. I am a sailor with a sailboat but looking into tiny house since 2007. I would like a tiny house to be as off grid as possible. So a stove like this looks like it would be good to use. Thank you for the ideas.

  • Marc

    ”use CFL bulbs in every possible fixture and do all kinds of other things to minimize our energy impact.”, LED lights are more efficient, and CFL bulbs containe mercury which is highly toxic. They even want us to recycle them in a specific stores because they should not be thrown out. Look into it ;) I would also go with the alcohol stove and buy a small still ;)

  • Hello!

    Love reading your pages and pages. My wife and I also have an Origo 6000 for the very same reasons you do! We’re pretty happy with the stove top, but the oven just under-performs all over the place. Mostly it leaks heat… a lot of heat. Do you have any tips/tricks for cooking in the oven? Thanks for all you do!

    Joseph

    • Kai

      As you’ve likely figured out by now, our Origo is still in the original shipping box, just waiting for our eventual return. So, as of now, we don’t have any advice regarding its use to give! :)

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