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To Burn or Not to Burn?

    So, you are off or partially off the grid and are trying to figure out how to keep your toes warm this winter. There are any number of old-world solutions. Today we will feature one really amazing system!

    The modern term for this system is Masonry Heater. The older terms are Finnish, Russian or European Heater, but my great-great grandmother would have called it the fireplace. I recommend this to our clients all the time if there is a fireplace mason in their area; but you can order them as a kit as well and finish the exterior in any number of materials such as stone, brick, plaster and even ceramic glazed tile. 

    These suckers burn in the high 90 percentile of efficiency and radiant heat from their thermal mass, thus reducing your need for wood; and have the added option of a cook/pizza oven incorporated into the design. I can literally put my face over the chimney and breathe the hot steamy air and smell no smoke. That means almost never having to clean the flue as it burns hot and heats the mass surrounding it, to then radiate warmth for many hours; and almost no chance of flue fires.

    These fireplaces often have a heated bench or bed platform due to the purposefully convoluted style of constructing the flue. It is best to locate a radiant heat source like this in the center of your home. The secret of these systems is a beefy glass pane and a small insulated burn chamber that burns very hot and very efficiently. Then the excess volatile gasses left over from the burn chamber are caught and used in flue system.

    We once installed a DIY’er version of this system, commonly called a “rocket mass” heater because of how they sound, and an old kitchen wood stove in a 1000 square foot off grid home. Both got stainless steel chimney’s exiting the building. After one year the kitchen stove chimney was black at the top 18 inches or so with soot, while the rocket mass chimney to this day (15 years later) looks like it was installed yesterday!This system (#1) combined with an in-floor heat system (#2) and passive solar thermal mass gain (#3) meets our Northern Climate = 3 Heating Systems rule.

    When it comes to beauty and functionality, whatever your style, there is a masonry heater for you!

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