Ryan Fisher knew he wanted to be an engineer but had no idea he'd someday use those skills to build a better wood stove.
Fisher and Taylor Myers co-founded MF Fire, the Baltimore-based maker of a high-tech wood stove designed to burn more efficiently, while reducing carbon emissions and saving users money.
"We're bringing a modern technology and a modern look of a product into a traditional space," Fisher said. "There hasn't been much innovation in this space in a long time."
The 26-year-old Canton resident and Myers met at the University of Maryland, where they both studied fire protection engineering.
Fisher said he landed in the niche after taking a half-credit course on the topic. He had come into Maryland's engineering school without a particular focus, but said the potential to apply engineering skills in a way that improved efficiency as well as helped protect the environment was a natural fit.
"Within maybe two weeks, I was sold," he said.
Fisher and Myers started working on the wood stove in 2013 as part of a business competition. They licensed the technology from the university and formed their company in 2014.
MF Fire's Catalyst wood stove differs from traditional models because of advanced technology that makes it possible to control the temperature remotely from a smartphone or tablet. Fisher compared the features to those of a smart thermostat, which can be programmed to prepare your home to a toasty 72 degrees when you arrive home, while keeping temperatures lower while no one is around.
Sensors that identify what Fisher calls "the sweet spot of burning" makes it possible for the stove to burn more efficiently, meaning wood last longer, and up to 60 times cleaner than a traditional stove, Fisher said.
The stove can heat a space of 2,000 square feet for up to 12 hours, according to MF Fire.
Fisher thinks the wood stove will appeal to homeowners concerned about the environmental and health impact of their home appliances.
"Emissions or particulate matter, soot from wood, in high concentrations is harmful to lungs," Fisher said. "When you have people burning with poorly emitting wood stoves, it just sits in the atmosphere."
Basic models start at about $4,000, according to the company's website, with custom colors and finishes at an additional cost.
These days, home improvement is top of mind for Fisher even when he's not tinkering with wood stoves. Fisher and his wife, newlyweds, spend their spare time fixing up the rowhome they bought in Canton, he said.
Despite being built in 1910, the house is in good shape and most of their renovations have been cosmetic, such as pulling up old carpets and restaining hardwood floors.
"Mostly it's just putting on our own touches," Fisher said.
One update that's still to come: a state-of-the-art MF Fire wood stove.
chief operating officer at MF Fire
Education: bachelors and masters in fire protection engineering from the University of Maryland
Hobbies: Hiking, home renovation projects