Masonry Heat: A Formula for Health, Comfort and Ecology


tulikivi, masonry heater Photo Credit susan GlazerOh baby its cold outside! Time for sweethearts to head indoors.

Soft music, a bottle of wine, a dozen red roses, chocolate truffles… the accoutrements of romance lay out on a soft white sheepskin in front of….. a hot air vent. What’s wrong with this picture?!?!?

When it comes to creating atmosphere nothing beats the warmth of a toasty fire. The deep penetrating heat, dancing flames and crackling roar delight our senses. Having a relationship with this powerful element evokes a deep sense of home. The hearth is the heart of home and this is why so many homes have one, even though, as a rule, a they produce very little heat in the home and lots of smoke pollution in the neighborhood.

There is a way to have it all…romance, energy efficiency, and healthy heating, by following the example of Northern Europe.

Our European ancestors were no strangers to energy crisis. Their big ah-ha occurred in the 13th century when it dawned upon them that the wood supply was not endless and, in fact that they would soon be shivering in misery if they did not curb their rapid consumption of the forests. This is when the evolution of the masonry heater began. The German Kachelofen, Finnish Tulikivi, the Russian stove… each country invented a way to provide home heat efficiently with a sustainable use of the available wood fuel. Using the principles of contra-flow, mass, surface area and central placement, regional versions of the masonry heater have continued to serve Northern Europeans generation after generation…knowledge, passed down and perfected over a 700 year evolution. The masonry heater works by burning a small wood fire full bore for a short amount of time. A series of chambers built into the heater circulate the hot air, warming the masonry mass. The spent air finally exits through the chimney without the polluting combustion bi-products emitted by other fuel burning appliances. The heated mass continues to radiate warmth into the space for many hours after the fire is spent.

From the standpoint of Building Biology which considers the natural environment to be the gold standard for human health and planetary ecology, a radiant heat source is ideal. Consider how nature heats us. The sun is our renewable source of radiant heat. Life on earth is possible because that heat is stored in the mass of the Earth sustaining us through the night and the winter. It is because radiant energy heats bodies and not the air that we can be comfortably warm on a sunny day, even when the surrounding air is cool.

Hannan Ahmad
12/13/2013 4:37:49 AM

The idea and design you shared are both superb and practical. However, the areas to get heavy snowstorms in the winter, houses there are to be made waterproof and they must be capable of keeping you warm. The incorporation of better spouting and will contribute to the idea you have shared a lot more than its present performance.

11/24/2013 3:07:51 AM

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