Developing Standard Testing Protocols
Standard testing protocols and procedures have been under development for the past two decades based on international standards. In 1982, USAID organized a series of international conferences that resulted in three tests, one in the lab and two in the field (the 1985 VITA protocols). Revised VITA protocols and procedures have been used by many organizations all over the world. In 2003, Dr. Kirk Smith at University of California at Berkeley, Shell Foundation, and ARC revised these tests and created Excel spreadsheets to help users with calculations. Since 2007, meetings have been held at the annual ETHOS conference in Kirkland, WA, to further improve those protocols. Recently, Dr. Tami Bond has led this effort. The stated intention of these protocols has been to continually evolve and improve to meet the changing needs and technology of the cookstove community. Decades of input from the field's leading experts have led to the most useful protocols for stove testing and evaluation.
The three standard tests needed to thoroughly evaluate a stove from lab to field are:
- The Water Boiling Test (WBT) -- a laboratory test that compares stove performance while completing a standard task in a controlled environment to investigate the heat transfer and combustion efficiency of the stove.
- The Controlled Cooking Test (CCT) -- a field test that measures stove performance in comparison to traditional methods when a cook prepares a local meal to investigate stove performance using local fuels, pots, and practice.
- The Kitchen Performance Test (KPT) -- a community field test that measures fuel use in homes after stoves have been distributed to ensure real-world savings and use.
These tests validate the stove from initial optimization of the technical design all the way to what happens when cooks are using them in their homes under highly variable circumstances. The tests are used in series, moving from one to the next after satisfactory results are achieved. This is because it doesn't make sense to do an expensive and time consuming KPT if the stove did not meet expectations on the first two tests.
The protocols, training slides, and data calculation sheets are available on our Testing & Protocols page.
The latest addition to the standard testing protocol is the Gold Standard Cook Stove Methodology, for project developers that want to secure carbon credits. The Gold Standard Methodology is essentially an extended KPT. More information may be found at the Gold Standard Foundation web site.
Clearly, the topic of stove testing merits ongoing discussion. Dean Still and Nordica MacCarty continue the dialogue in this January 2012 PCIA podcast on laboratory test results of cookstoves.