Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Masonry Heaters Good Value for Home Heating

By Marge Padgitt
HearthMasters, Inc

Masonry Heaters are arguably a the best value when considering heating alternatives.  They are old world technology at its best, having been in use for over 500 years in Europe, and a carefully guarded secret until now. Masonry heaters are designed with a site-built or pre-cast heater core inside of a brick, stone, tile, stucco, or soapstone exterior, and built on site by a heater mason.

Components of a masonry heater: The masonry mass of a heater will be at least 1,760 pounds whic needs to be supported correctly.  The heater has tight fitting cast iron or steel doors with ceramic glass that are closed during the burn cycle. Heaters have an interior construction consisting of a firebox and heat exchange channels built from refractory components. A masonry or Class A stainless steel chimney is also required.  Specialty manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe supply these components.

Soapstone heater kit
Courtesy of HearthMasters, Inc.
How Masonry Heaters Work: The heat is stored in the thermal mass, then slowly radiates out for the next 18 to 24 hours. This produces a quiet, comfortable, radiant heat. Many arthritis and fibromyalgia patients prefer radiant heat, because it penetrates deeply.  This is an added benefit of using a masonry heater.
Loading of wood is only required approximately once every 12 hours. The heater burns the wood quickly and all of the energy in the wood is used so there is virtually no waste. The heater burns very clean, and practically no emissions are produced, so masonry heaters are definitely environmentally friendly and "GREEN." The EPA is currently looking at masonry heater guidelines, and heaters are listed in the International Residential Code.
This type of heater, designed and used extensively in Europe, is now gaining popularity in the U.S. The initial cost is more than other types of heating, but due to the savings in energy bills that cost can be recuperated in as little as seven years. The heat is evenly distributed through the home without the use of ductwork, fans, or forced air.  It is best to design the home around a masonry heater to get the maximum efficiency—homes that have large, open spaces and tall ceilings are well suited for this type of heating appliance.
Home builders should investigate masonry heaters as an alternative heating method in order to address concerns about environmental inpact and green building. Masonry heaters are built with natural non-toxic components (firebrick, brick, stone, etc.).  They can be used for primary heating or supplemental heating purposes.   
Custom-built granite heater with bake oven and
heated bench.  Courtesy of HearthMasters. inc.

Feature Options:

  • Pizza/bread/bake oven on the kitchen side
  • Heated bench to sit on
  • Mantles
  • Wood storage spaces
  • Fireplace on one side
  • Cook top

A masonry heater should be built by a qualified heater-mason contractor.  Codes must be followed, and heaters are on the high end of difficulty for masons. Find a Certified Heater Mason, see photos of heaters, find component supplier and heater kits, and find out more about how masonry heaters work on the Masonry Heater Association of North America website at   

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