Fossil fuel costs are sending many folks looking to wood as a renewable source of heating a home. One option that uses centuries old technology to provide heat is a masonry heater. Often called a Russian stove or European stove, these heaters offer some distinct advantages for homeowners who would like to eliminate some of their dependency on heating oil, propane or natural gas. Because of their unique construction, masonry heaters can cost more initially, but maintenance and fuel costs offset the initial investment in a relatively short timeframe.
Because masonry heaters are so clean burning, they have no more impact on global warming than the normal growth and decay cycle of a tree. Their technology is simple yet elegant and requires no special catalytic converters, exhaust fans, pellets or other accessories to provide heat. In fact, they use considerably less wood fuel than a traditional wood stove, because the heat is stored within the stone, brick or other masonry from which the stove is constructed.
Your interior home environment will benefit from the gentle heat of a masonry heater, with no overheated air and dust to be blown, enabling a higher humidity level inside. Less dust can have a positive effect for family members with allergies.
Families with children find that masonry heaters have a much lower surface temperature—about 160 to 170 degrees—and less chance of spontaneous combustion of nearby non-volatile materials. And because the firebox burns in a quick three hours, you can sleep easy knowing there are only coals or ashes in the heater. Creosote buildup in the chimney (the cause of most chimney related fires) is non-existent because the masonry heater burns the fuel completely. Creosote is formed by unburned material collecting on the interior of the chimney.
Masonry heaters can come in many shapes sizes and designs, depending on the needs of the homeowner. Many masonry heaters include built-in cookstove surfaces or small bread and pizza ovens located above the main firebox door. The heaters can be faced with just about any type of stone or brick, though soapstone is employed frequently because of its heat retaining properties. Decorative touches such as ceramic tiles, arched masonry work, or stylish firebox doors can add to the individuality of a masonry heater, and make it the centerpiece of any home. For more information, visit the Masonry Heater Association’s website.