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Efficient household energy use in Uttara Kannada District, Karnataka
Authors: Dr Ramachandra T.V
Issue 40: Household energy and health


The energy consumption in Karnataka state, India, reveals that non-commercial fuels like firewood, agricultural residues and cow dung cakes are used for cooking in rural areas. The resources are deteriorating as short term objectives in development lead to deforestation, and soil erosion. It is necessary, therefore, to promote conservation activities within the local communities, and to apply traditional, environmentally sound technologies.

The severity of the energy crisis is evident in the densely populated settlements along the coastal belt. Most families still use the three-stone fire or homemade mud stoves. Improving the efficiency in the use of household energy increases the availability of fuel, and reduces women's workload in fuel collection, allowing time for more productive activities. Studies to compare traditional and improved cooking stoves for cooking and water heating, and to determine factors influencing the acceptability of improved stoves and the extent of fuel saved.

A survey of four villages in the Uttara Kannada District has shown that fuelwood represents about 82-88% of the energy supply. The whole terrain is undulating, with 26 hill peaks with altitudes ranging from 584 m to 618 m. The mean annual rainfall is in the range 2600 mm - 3000 mm, which falls mainly from June to September. Within these four villages, there are 82 households, accounting for 661 people, of whom 105 are children. The major communities are Havic brahmins (65 households) and Gauda (8 households) with the eight remaining households belonging to other communities. An initial survey revealed that the per capita consumption of fuel wood is quite high averaging 1.7 kg for water heating and 1.3 kg for cooking.
Figure 1: Conventional stoves used for cooking

Types of stoves

Conventional stoves

These varied from 3 stone fires used by the households of landless labourers to stoves made of stone and mud, but without proper air inlet or outlet systems as shown in Figure 1. The efficiency of these stoves is in the range (8% ± 2.5%)

Figure 2 shows various designs used for water heating. Efficiencies of these stoves are in the range (10 ± 3%), while the stove with a chimney has an efficiency of 14-20%.
Figure 2: Conventional stoves used for water heating

Improved stoves

The ones used in the project were ASTRA stoves, designed by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The design comprised a grate on which the fuel was burnt in an enclosed fuel box, primary air under the grate to burn the char, and secondary air entering slightly above the grate, to mix with the hot gases, in order to burn them. The inside of the stove was lined with a mud mortar with rice husk included, to improve insulation. A chimney helped to create a draught and dispersed smoke away from the cooking zone. Figure 3 illustrates the improved design used for cooking, depending on the type of vessels used. The overall efficiency is in the range 32-42%.
Figure 3a: Improved cooking stoves for round and flat-bottomed cooking pots

Figure 3b: Improved cooking stoves for round and flat-bottomed cooking pots

The cross-section of the improved stove used for water heating is given in Figure 4. Figure 5 shows the improved design with a minor modification. The pot is supported by the maximum diameter of the vessel itself. This reduces the wall height and construction is easier. However, the efficiency of this stove is about 1% lower that the one shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Improved water-heating stove

Figure 5: Modified improved water-heating stove

Dissemination of stoves was undertaken after discussions with the villagers involved and local NGOs. A few youths were given training to build stoves suitable for the local household requirements.

Fuel consumption study

A random selection of 23 households took part in the cooking stove investigations and over 100 households were surveyed to find out the consumption pattern for water heating. The weight of fuel wood used per day for cooking was measured on various days to account for daily and seasonal variations. The daily weight of fuel used, adjusted to its dry weight equivalent was determined for each household. Knowing the calorific value of each type of fuel, the amount of energy consumed was determined. Enough tests were performed to allow the results to be considered using statistics, so that differences were shown to be related to the changes in cooking practices, and not just random variations.


For cooking, it was found that there is a 42% saving in fuel when families changed from traditional to improved stoves. For water heating, the improvement was between 19% and 24%. Figure 6 shows the percentage of households with improved stoves of various types used for cooking. Water heating is done using an improved stove with a chimney in 50% of the homes.
Figure 6: Distribution of stove types used in Uttara Kannada district

Land holding, income level and literacy level are the forces driving the adoption of the new devices, as shown in Figure 7. It can be seen that the medium and medium/large landowners tend to use improved cooking stoves the most. Large landowners use mainly biogas for cooking and improved stoves for water heating. The improved water-heating stoves are modified by this group to burn the areca husk and coconut husk from crops grown on their land.
Figure 7: Adoption of energy-efficient stoves

It has been found that women with formal education are more receptive to new technologies, so dissemination of new devices can be started more easily in families which are formally educated. The increased adoption of new technologies may be attributed to the keen interest of the local villagers and the increased level of literacy. It was found that the community to which a household belonged did not affect the degree to which improved fuel savings could be made when improved stoves were introduced.

The size of families affected the per capita use of biomass fuel for cooking for both traditional and improved stoves, as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 8: Comparison of fuel consumption using traditional and improved stoves for differing family sizes

Large families tended to use less wood per person than smaller families. A further set of tests found that this is mainly due to the use of appropriate cooking pots for the improved stoves. A similar result for water heating is shown in Figure 9.
Figure 9: Comparison of fuel consumption using traditional and improved water-heating devices for differing family sizes

User preferences

Most cooks preferred a 3-pot to a 2-pot improved stove, and recorded reduced time spent in cooking of about 50%. Many highlighted the improved condition of the kitchen, although some of the poorest users complained about the space taken up by improved stoves. A few households with thatched roofs were concerned about the chimney being a fire hazard. Improved stoves are used by 70% of households in these villages for water heating, and it was found that copper and aluminium vessels use less fuel than clay pots. About 18% of users expressed a preference for traditional stoves for water heating because of flexibility in using a wide variety of fuels of different sizes available in different seasons.

Energy transition

In order to see the changes in attitude of individuals about the energy-efficient devices over a period of 10 years, a study was recently conducted.

The results of this study show that 95.14% of households who adopted energy-efficient improved cooking sroves in 1987 still use these stoves and maintain them regularly. Of the balance, 3.65% have switched over to bio-gas and 1.21% use LPG.

The high percentage continuing to use the stoves properly shows that close monitoring during the introduction and in the initial stages of use, and proper training of users to repair and maintain the devices, makes for successful functioning and acceptance of improved designs. The transition from fuelwood to biogas or LPG can be attributed to increases in houshold income.

This study illustrates that individuals, once convinced of the advantages of improved devices, and with proper training to maintain the devices, do not revert to conventional stoves.


This study highlighted that successful dissemination can be achieved through:
  • education
  • motivation
  • feedback and dissemination through involvement of local NGOs
  • training of NGOs and young people in building and repair of new devices
  • close monitoring during introduction and in the initial stages of use
  • identification of the targets group who are receptive to new technologies.

Fuelwood saving in improved design is of the order of 33%-42%. There are additional advantages such as reduction in cooking time and easy maintenance of the fire. Hence, most of the users considered the improved stove as an ideal option in the context of the energy crisis and in terms of reducing the drudgery of women.

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Last edited by Miriam Hansen .
Page last modified on Friday 01 of October, 2010 12:17:05 GMT. @HEDON: DDVB

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