Over the past decade a large amount of research has been dedicated in academic literature to improving the technical capabilities of improved cookstoves; primarily the performance efficiency and reduction of emissions. Unfortunately, as published literature has highlighted, the trade-offs that result from placing such a concentrated emphasis on these technical objectives is that improved cookstoves lack the same level of usability as traditional cookstoves. Thus, users often return to using their traditional stoves and the potential impact of the improved cookstoves is never fully realized. In order for improved cookstoves to have greater impact, there must be better balance between the two competing design objectives of technical capabilities and usability. This research explores the challenges and benefits associated with achieving the appropriate balance, and provides guidance on how to more effectively achieve this. A list of the most common customer needs from around the world is provided for cookstoves. Interestingly, there are needs that are common to all cookstove users (global needs), and needs that apply to only a subset of users (local needs). Due to the diversity of such needs, there are many unique challenges that come with trying to satisfy these in the design process. A design methodology is presented that accounts for these challenges and helps balance the competing design objectives. This methodology is demonstrated through the modification of a traditional cookstove used in the Tambogrande region of Peru. This modification includes an inexpensive set of pot skirts that integrates directly with the traditional stove. These pot skirts allow for varying sizes and number of pots, and the use of traditional fuels. Laboratory testing, using the Water Boiling Test (WBT), identified the skirts' technical improvements: 41.7% increased thermal efficiency, 32.7% decreased fuel consumption, 28.8% decreased time to boil. Field testing was performed to determine the pot skirts' acceptance and compatibility with the traditional cookstoves, with over 75% of the participants recognizing some type of benefit. Although the technical improvements of these pot skirts are less than other cookstoves on the market, the higher levels of usability are likely to lead to a more positive end-user reaction, which could potentially lead to higher rates of adoption and impact. Though this research is primarily focused on the application of improved cookstoves, the need for more balance between technical and user objectives is applicable to nearly all products being designed for the developing world.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





improved cookstoves, developing world, design, user needs