, Thinking Outside the Box: UMD Students Launch Low-Emission, High-Efficiency Wood-Burning Stove, Harrington Group Inc
University of Maryland Fire Protection Engineering PhD Candidate, Taylor Myers

Taylor Myers was a natural-born engineer. The son of a University of Maryland educated fire protection engineer, Myers was one of those tinkering kids who always took things apart and had an innate interest in science and math. Now a PhD candidate in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at UMD himself, Myers has teamed up with classmate Ryan Fisher to launch a business in an industry he had never before considered: wood-burning stoves.

In 2013, Myers and Fisher caught wind of a contest being held by the Alliance for Green Heat, a Maryland-based nonprofit that promotes cleaner, more efficient residential heating technology, particularly for low-income families. The competition challenged teams of students and industry manufacturers to build wood-burning stoves with low emissions. So under the guidance of UMD professor Stanislav Stoliarov, the two grad students joined forces with a group of fire protection engineering undergrads (Joe Praydis, Nate May, Sara Royle and Jeyson Ventura) and entered the contest.

“We didn’t know anything about stoves so we really had no idea what we were doing,” Myers said. “But we knew a little about fire because we’d studied it for a while, so we just threw everything we could think of at the problem.”

Turns out some of the ideas they threw stuck—the team of students won the top prize in the Emissions category for their Mulciber stove in the 2013 competition, which emits less smoke in an hour than a single cigarette. (Categories considered in the competition included emissions, efficiency, safety, innovation and market appeal.)

“Traditional wood-burning stoves put out a lot of particulate matter, smoke and soot, which is really bad for people to breathe in,” Myers said. “If people are using dirty stoves, the smoke can circulate and linger around the house. When they inhale it can cause problems like asthma, heart disease, lung disease.”

Figuring they might be onto something, Myers and Fisher continued working with a smaller team to improve the prototype, submitted the stove in the 2014 contest, and ultimately brought home the Grand Prize.

Myers described the Mulciber as a “more old-fashioned, general purpose” stove. It features a forced air flow system and smart control system that optimize temperature and oxygen concentration, and it achieved 0.2 grams per hour of particulate emissions—more than 20 times lower than existing Environmental Protection Agency regulations. And not only is it clean, but it’s efficient, with a lab-tested efficiency of 93%, compared to the industry average of 65%. The intelligent controls and heat recovery systems extract heat from the exhaust to then put back into the home, thus using less fuel and saving money for users. It burns inexpensive, renewable hardwoods instead of processed pellets, and it’s designed to be easy to use, burning clean “without user intervention.”

If this type of heating system appeals to you, we’ve got good news—the guys have started a business, MF Fire, and the Mulciber stove will soon be available on the market.

Turning an award-winning prototype into a marketable product, and Taylor said he and Fisher had a lot to learn in terms of the regulations around putting a fire in someone’s living room. But they’re well on their way, and now that stoves are burning in a few people’s homes for the beta testing phase, they’re able to collect information and make tweaks before putting the Mulciber on the market.

“We’re interested in the emissions from the stove and the efficiency, and we have scientific instruments installed to monitor those things,” Myers said. “But we also want to know whether or not people actually enjoy using it. It’s pretty easy to measure the other stuff in a lab, but it takes living with something to determine what’s good and what’s bad about using it.”

When Myers chose to pursue fire protection engineering as an undergrad, he was interested in consulting and investigating. He had no idea he’d be using his education and knack for problem-solving to design a product and start a business.

“Obviously there are lots of different things for fire protection engineers to do,” he said. “Things seemed to change really quickly, and I learned that it’s best to just take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves.”

, Thinking Outside the Box: UMD Students Launch Low-Emission, High-Efficiency Wood-Burning Stove, Harrington Group Inc
Taylor Meyers (left) and classmate Ryan Fisher (right) with their Mulciber stove.

For more information about MF Fire or to pre-order a stove for a late-summer delivery, check out www.mffire.com.