Why Use A Masonry Heater?

Masonry heaters are also known as "Russian," "Siberian," and "Finnish" fireplaces. They produce more heat and less pollution than any other wood- or pellet-burning appliance. Masonry heaters include a firebox, a large masonry mass (such as bricks), and long twisting smoke channels that run through the masonry mass. Their fireboxes are lined with firebrick, refractory concrete, or similar materials that can handle temperatures of over 2,000F (1,093C).

A small hot fire built once or twice a day releases heated gases into the long masonry heat tunnels. The masonry absorbs the heat and then slowly releases it into the house over a period of 12-20 hours. Masonry heaters commonly reach a combustion efficiency of 90%.

Most are intended for burning wood, but they were historically designed to burn almost any type of solid fuel. The relatively small, but intense fire also results in very little air pollution and very little creosote buildup in the chimney. Because most of the heat from the fuel is transferred to the masonry and slowly released into the room over the day, this type of heater does not need to be loaded with fuel as often as other types of wood heating appliances. In addition, if the masonry heater is built where sunlight can directly shine on it in the winter, the heater will absorb the sun's heat and release it slowly into the room.

A wide variety of masonry heater designs and styles are available. Larger models resemble conventional fireplaces and may cover an entire wall. Smaller models take up about as much space as a wood or pellet stove. They can be custom-built or purchased as prefabricated units. Plans and kits are available, but they are not easy do-it-yourself projects and require experience in working with masonry.