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In a masonry heater, a big charge of wood is burned rapidly, usually 2 hours, which
releases heated gases into a network of tunnels within the masonry mass. The
masonry absorbs the heat and then slowly radiates it into the house over a period of
12–20 hours.

The first firing of the season takes 2 or 3 days to bring the heat up to a comfortable
level. Once this level is achieved however, you can depend on non-drying warmth for
the entire heating season with minimal firing.

A  single firing consumes 50 - 60 pounds of seasoned hardwood. One firing per day for
a month would use approximately 1/2 cord of firewood.

The firebox is lined with firebrick, refractory concrete, or similar material that can
handle temperatures of over 2,000°F (1,093°C). Since the firewood is burned rapidly
at such a high temperature it burns cleanly with maximum efficiency and minimum
pollution. Masonry heaters commonly reach a combustion efficiency of 90%.

An equally important benefit of rapid combustion is the near total elimination of
creosote deposits in the chimney flue which minimize the risk of a chimney fire.

In addition to a firebox, the parts of a masonry heater include, a large masonry mass,
cast iron doors, dampers, and decorative masonry facing. Optional extras, such as a
bake oven, heated bench, glass doors for flame viewing, or a hot water coil can be
incorporated into the design.

A completed masonry heater weighs 3 to 6 tons and requires a specially designed
foundation to accommodate the substantial weight. While a concrete foundation is
ideal, lolly columns or structural steel can be substituted to save money.

Retrofitting your home with a masonry heater is possible if it has an open floor plan,
but they're best suited for new super-insulated home construction and additions
designed with a radiant heating system in mind.

Masonry heater cost
According to Marge Padgitt, president of Padgitt Chimney & Fireplace in Kansas City,
Missouri; "The average cost a homeowner may expect to pay is from $15,000
to$30,000, with price depending on the complexity of the heater, material costs, and
labor. The expected time to get a return on your money is approximately 10 years."

Masonry stoves, decorated with tile, stone, or adobe, are also very attractive from an
interior design standpoint, and often downright stunning.    

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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.

Conceived in Europe as an
efficient way to heat
individual rooms, the idea of a
whole house masonry heater
actually originated in North
America.
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