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Thread: Masonry heaters

  1. #1

    Masonry heaters

    I've been doing some research into masonry heaters, and I'm getting very convinced they are the way to go regarding a wood fueled heating system for a nominally sized home. The advantages, as I see them, are these:

    [list]Virtually complete combustion of wood fuels. This is virtually unheard of by any other wood heater, except the forced air wood pellet system. All other stoves and wood furnaces are no more than 60% efficient in burning fuel, (and most are far below this.)

    Heat is delivered gradually, rather than suddenly, (which is typical of metal stoves.) More radiant heating is more comfortable than heated air, and is self regulating. Air temperature can be cooler while the body is comfortably warmed by the radiant heat coming from the mass of masonry.

    The heater is far more durable than cast iron or steel stoves, and is a major design focus in the house. It can serve as a room divider, while providing heat for the whole house.

    Additional bake ovens can be incorporated, providing free cooking heat and excellent baked goods, (which cannot be duplicated with an iron or steel stove.) A stove cooktop is a further option.

    There are more reasons to like them, as they have been used in Europe for centuries, and even today in countries like Sweden, (no stranger to cold weather,) they're used in almost 90% of new homes. Their complete burn is not only efficient, its very clean and non-polluting as well. Extremely little creosote buildup is generated, and can mostly be brushed off of the main combustion chamber without needing a chimney sweep.

    The disadvantages are a significantly increased initial expense. But I just see this as the price of admission for a better heating system. It eventually pays for itself with lower yearly fuel costs, while being a great and comfortable heating system in the first place.

    There are a couple of very good sites for these heaters I've found:

    Anyone with any practical experience with these heaters is encouraged to post their impressions. I'm personally very eager to incorporate one into any house I might construct.

  2. #2

    Masonry heaters

    I'm also extremely interested in masonry heaters, and plan to eventually build a log home with a masonry heater as the primary heating system.

    Another organization to look at for these heaters is Maine Wood Heat. Apparently some of the folks there know a few of the Log Home Builders crew. You can find their website at:

    I'd be very pleased to hear from anyone who has worked with Maine Wood Heat, or who has incorporated one of these heaters into the design of a butt and pass log home.


  3. #3

    Masonry heaters

    I am planning to build a masonry heater in my log home as the main source of heat. I have bought the plans from Maine Wood Heat for a Finish style contra flow heater. I also have Thomas Epel???s book Living Homes and he has plans in there for a heater he built.

    I have never built a heater but am a 3rd generation mason so I am going to do it myself. Also Thomas Epel has proven people with little or no masonry experience can do it if they are determined and put in the time and research and pay attention to detail.

    If you do decide to try it yourself and have no masonry experience I recommend you get a book and at least do some small masonry projects first with bricks and get a feel for leveling brick and keeping corners plumb etc. Some planters or veneer would be good first projects. I am working on a book and video for home and backyard masonry but it won't be ready for a while.

    I am most likely going to build a modified version of the Main Wood Heat Contra flow heater I have plans for.

    I would recommend if anyone is going to build a log home as there permanent home they should seriously consider a masonry heater. They do make kits with cast cores so you can't screw up the flu systems but they are expensive but still not as much as hiring it all out.

    I read somewhere masonry heaters put out fewer emissions then a gas furnace.


  4. #4

    Heat vs atmoshphere

    I was also interested in building a masonry heater for it's efficiency.
    One negative that I did hear is that you build one or two good fires a day, and burn them quickly. The flu is constructed in such a way that you have to have a fast fire and not a smoldering fire.
    The concern was that this would NOT be a fireplace that you would just light and leave for atmosphere or guests or just the pleasure of looking at and leaving going all day. It must get burning at a good rate, and then you shut the flu.
    Can anybody support those comments?

  5. #5

    Masonry heaters

    Yes and no. It depends on what kind of heater you build. The Finnish style heaters can be used as a regular fireplace by adding a bypass dampener that bypasses the heating flues and you open the front doors. But then you're sending your heat in the house up the flue and out.

    It also depends on how much square footage you want to heat with it. So yes originally they were not designed to look at the fire but to heat efficiently. They use a fraction of the wood a conventional fireplace or woodstove does, that is not a negative but a positive for those who heat with wood.

    A twenty or thirty minute fire can heat the house all day as all the heat is not going up the chimney like a conventional fireplace. Yes it has to be a hot fire. Once the fire is down to coals and all the hot gasses are gone a dampener is closed on Finnish and Swedish style heaters. German and Russian style heaters never close the dampener all the way.

    If you just want a fire to look at then build a conventional fireplace or get a woodstove with a glass window. Or a Rumford style fireplace is better then conventional. Conventional fireplaces send 90% of the heat up the chimney. Masonry heaters achieve 80-90 percent or better efficiency.

    I would suggest going to the links listed in this thread and do some research to decide what you need and want.


  6. #6

    Masonry Heaters


    I remember reading an article a few years back on masonry heaters. If you have your own supply of logs, it would seem like a good investment. I like the idea of no emissions. The only real disadvantages are the up-front costs and need for a foundation to support it. But, considering how much I have paid out this year in heating costs, freeing yourself from that obligation would be well worth it. I always felt that a fireplace was such a waste of space. I hardly ever use the one in my house, yet it takes up an entire wall of my family room. After a fire, you cannot close the flue until the embers have cooled, so all of your home's heat gets sucked up chimney during that time. A centrally located masonry heater is a MUCH wiser investment.


  7. #7

    Masonry heaters


    You hit the nail on the head, lots of people shy away from masonry heaters because of the initial cost or learning curve. But in the long run they will be saving money.

    These fit right into Skips philosophy he imparts about building log homes and not having a mortgage. Why pay a monthly heating bill when you can heat cleaner and more efficiently with wood which is a renewable energy using a masonry heater.


  8. #8

    Masonry Heater

    Of course, you could put in the foundation and retro-build later, spare yourself the $$$ up front, and spread the capital investment, but it's a messy job doing large masonry indoors, and there are seismic issues too.

    Also, you'll need a back up heater to keep your place from freezing solid if you are away a couple of days. Log houses take a while to warm once they've cooled down.

  9. #9

    Masonry heaters

    Of course back up heat is a given if your going to be away in the winter. A good southerly window that lets the sun shine on the MH can also heat the masonry and give you heat while away, or a large or full side southerly window on an enclosed porch like in a earth ship can keep the place from freeazing while away.

    But it might be easier and cheaper just to have a propane wall heater on a thermostate like Skips place for back up.


  10. #10

    Masonry heaters

    We had a "moniter"(like skip's) heater as a back up for my woodstove in a home that we lived in. The moniter heater was used primarily for when the woodstove was not being used, such as when you were gone for extended periods of time or even if you didn't stoke the woodstove before bed it may kick on. We would generally set it for about 60 degrees give / take some according to the situation. The monitor was a kerosene one and we filled the tank in summer when the price was low and didn't need to fill untill the next year. (We lived at about 4000 ft elev. with several feet of snow each year) We want to go with a masonary heater in the log home we will build. They are costly, so if we are not at the place($) to build one when when we are building our log home, We will put the foundation and necessary floor framework under the floor to be able to build one later. That should not cost too much. We love heating with wood, I have a part time hobby with a friend re-building woodstoves/ wood cookstoves that may soon become full time. A possible solution to the wastefull fireplace in a good stove insert, they kick out alot of heat! Steve L.

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