1978 - Volume #2, Issue #5, Page #03[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Look! A Stove That Requires No Fuel
Sound too good to be true?
"You bet," say some observers who claim the whole thing's a hoax-that it defies a basic law of physics. But others, including a host of small manufacturers and distributors have jumped at the chance to get in on the ground floor of a "breakthrough" development they feel can help solve the energy crisis. They have invested in franchises and hope to be taking orders for Eugene Frenette's fuelless furnace early next year.
It all started during the winter of 1977-78. It was costing Frenette, father of 12 children - 10 of whom are still at home - a whopping $230 a month to buy fuel oil to heat his huge, old, uninsulated 12 room "Pillsbury mansion" in Londonderry, New Hampshire. He launched a crash program to perfect his invention -a simple but unorthodox 'fuelless' furnace which he maintains will be able to heat an average size home for only 50 cents a day and which he feels can be retailed "for $600 to $800".
Frenette installed his prototype friction heater in a 10-year-old washing machine. It's made up of two cylinders spinning in opposite directions. There is a clearance of 1/s in. between the two cylinders which are lubricated by a quart of light motor oil. Spinning action of the cylinders and resulting friction produces the heat, according to Frenette.
He claims franchised models will be odorless (they don't require any chimney since no fuel is burned and there is no flame, soot or odor) and are as quiet as a refrigerator. All models will plug into a regular 110 volt outlet and will occupy no more space than a washing machine or dryer. Estimated operating cost to heat an average size, well-insulated home with a 200,000 btu friction "centric" heater is right at $15 a month (for electricity to operate the motor).
One of the first successful prototypes was built in August by Max Johnston, owner of Johnston's Metal Specialties Co., Creston, Iowa. "I'll admit I was skeptical at first. Sounded like a hoax to me," says Max, who was hired by the owner of the "Frenette Furnace" franchises for Alaska and Kentucky to build a prototype. Following basic design specs supplied by Frenette. Johnston built a prototype which, in his words, "made a believer out of a lot of skeptics around here, including me. It cost about,$800 to build, including about 40 hours of labor. Now that we've built one, we could build another in a lot less time. We estimated its output at between 100,000 and 150,000 btu's. The friction stove produced no odor, made no more noise than you'd get with a furnace motor, and we had no vibration or other problems with the rotating circular drums which create the friction heat," Max told FARM SHOW.
According to Larry Nickerson, Frenette's son-in-law, all franchises except Washington, D.C., and Hawaii, have been sold. Some individuals bought up 3 or 4 states. Cost of a state franchise, based on population, was $2,500 cash, plus an additional down payment payable on availability of the first approved stoves, and a remaining balance spread out over 20 years. The Iowa franchise, for example, was priced at $145,000. Of that, $2,500 was payable immediately to hold the franchise, with $36,250 payable upon availability of Frennette-approved stoves for sale. The balance ($108,750), plus interest, is payable over 20 years in monthly installments.
"I bought two states and others from this area bought up many of the other state franchises during the short time they were available," Harold Schweiss, of Sherburn, Minn., told FARM SHOW. Schweiss has hired a firm to produce a working model which was completed and ready for testing just as this issue went to press.
"Frenette came up with the idea but doesn't have manufacturing or marketing expertise," explains Schweiss. "Individual franchise holders are taking the patented idea to local manufacturers to get a working model. These mo
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