Building the kitchen was my favorite project when we converted the bus. I enjoy doing most of the cooking in our home and love to explore different recipes and culinary genres so a comfortable, functional kitchen was very important to me. A key appliance that we spent a long time discussing and researching was our range.
Since we hoped to travel and maintain the ability to survive off-grid, an electric stove was out of the question. They use far too much electricity for our battery bank.
My husband, Chris, was against propane from the start. Despite it being used safely in thousands of households and RV’s, there are risks and potential complications of plumbing a combustible and potentially explosive gas into a small living space. We hoped to travel regularly in our home, so the added concern of leaks after bumpy travel or shifting terrain was a big concern. Additionally, safely installing propane requires extra equipment and expense and after a hefty pro/con list debate I agreed that propane wasn’t right for us.
After months of research we decided on purchasing a non-pressurized alcohol stove and oven, the Origo 6000 by Dometic. Here’s what our experience has been like living with this range for the past year.
These types of ranges are frequently used in boats. They’re hardy, simple, and easy to use and fix. Since the alcohol is not pressurized, it’s not explosive. In fact, it’s actually the vapor that comes from liquid alcohol that catches fire. You can have a glass of alcohol and light it on fire but only the vapor at the very top will have a flame and the bottom will remain liquid.
When you lift the lid of the stove you can see the two vapor-canisters held inside. Inside the fuel canister is wool that absorbs the alcohol and releases the flammable vapor. It’s a similar concept to the butane canisters you see under catering trays.
The stove is started easily by opening the flange over the fuel canisters and igniting with a lighter. Cutting off oxygen, by turning the flange to zero, shuts the stove off instantly. The oven works the same way as the stove except the heat is distributed up the walls of the oven for even heat distribution.
Setup is extremely simple. The stove is gimbaled to sway with the waves so you just mount a bracket on either side of your counter opening and drop the stove into place with two large bolts that slip through each bracket and the stove hangs between them. A pin at the bottom corner can be slid into a hole in your cabinetry to stop the stove from swinging. We parked on a very uneven surface during our last trip and I just unhooked the pin and the stove automatically became level for even cooking.
Our range is one of the most expensive items in the bus. At right around $1500 they’re definitely an investment. I tried finding a used range online but they retain their value and last for so long there were virtually none available. I do remember finding one. It was for sale for $1300 but was in Europe and not worth the shipping cost so we bought one new from a marine store. I’m sure with lots of patience and time you could find a used one somewhere.
This alcohol range is very expensive on its own, however everything you need to install and use it is included in the box. There’s no additional holding tanks, wires, plugs, gauges or safety features required. Remember to take into account all of the components required before choosing a range that’s right for you. Also, if you don’t require the use of an oven, there are alcohol one and two burner stoves available in the $200-500 range.
I’ve been cooking with our range for the past year and truly enjoy using it. It took some getting used to but once I got the hang of what kind of heat each setting provides I’ve been able to cook everything I was used to cooking in the past on our electric range.
I haven’t used the oven much this summer because it heats up the bus when on for long periods of time. Last winter I used it to cook many things including baked goods and casseroles. I’ve found that there are a few “hot spots” in the oven where cookies turned out a little crispy. I intend on adding some ceramic trivets to the oven to help maintain and distribute the heat a little more evenly. Additionally, it’s important to keep an eye on the thermostat in the oven to ensure it’s heated to the correct temperature. The knob to control the flame only has 4 settings so getting the oven to be not too hot and not too cold takes some practice.
Each of the range’s fuel canisters last us 2-4 weeks depending on how often we use them, that’s about 4-10 hours of cooking time . We purchase denatured alcohol from the hardware store for about $15 per gallon every few months. Although this is a hefty price difference from propane, we like that it gives us less of a dependence on fossil fuels and should the need arise, alcohol is extinguishable with water. It’s also possible to distill your own ethanol and this is something we intend on looking into in the future.
I’m very happy with our Origo 6000 Alcohol Range. It provides the functionality and simplicity that our household requires and is a great conversation piece with friends and family tour the bus. Although they may not be right for everyone, this range is Just Right for us.
Kelly Ross is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings. She lives in a converted school bus that is neither too hot nor too cold with her husband and two dogs. You can learn more about Kelly and her “Just Right Bus” at her website or Facebook Page.