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Roger Priddle
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For those planning on building from scratch, I suggest you look into masonry wood heaters. I built 5 years ago and, having read about these (but never seen one) decided to use this instead of a furnace. Man, it works beautifully. The only electricity required (on the design I chose) is a small pump that pushes water through a pipe in the firebox.

It doesn't retrofit into an existing fireplace and, since it must sit on undisturbed soil, would be a challenge to build into any existing house but it creates passive radiant heat that looks after my main level (1200 sq.ft. , in Central Ontario) on 1 burn a day, 2 if it's really windy and cold.

I like the fact that I load it once a day, burn it hot and fast, then shut it down. The mass then radiates for the next 24 hours. Even, draft-free, and silent. What a treat compared to the standard forced-air furnace!

Oh, and the house was built from used 2x4s and reclaimed insulation. Looks conventional, but isn't.

BTW, No - I don't sell or install masonry wood heaters, I just really like the one I have <grin>.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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I believe this is one of those 'put you on the map' untapped permies niches. Someone should come up with
a basic DYI plan, maybe some molds for the internal chambers, and write the book! A 'handy' guy could
retire on this one untapped market alone

Do a search here at permies and read about why I prefer Masonry Stoves or Rumford fireplaces/stoves.
Amazing things these Masonry Stoves are: Here's a link to some info - http://max.firespeaking.com/?p=152




 
Roger Priddle
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I got my stove (including assembly on site) from Norbert Senf (near Ottawa). I think DIY is very possible but not something I would attempt - I'm not a mason and there's a lot of mass involved.

If anyone is interested, there seems to be a lot of resources at:
http://mha-net.org/

Be sure to check out the Gallery - there are some beautiful designs.

Anyway, in short, I've been thrilled with my stove. Efficient and effective, and the fuel is carbon-neutral.

Roger.
 
Roger Priddle
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Oh, and if I were doing it again, I would re-design my floor plan to allow for a cook-stove to be part of it instead of relying on a conventional gas oven year round. The house is off-grid so if I could cook without gas, my energy input would be negligible. Just a thought.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1095
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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I designed and built my own masonry wood heater. There is no electric nor water to be pushed. It works great. It is a tiny little heater and it keeps our house toasty warm without overheating be it fall, winter or spring. We only burn about 3/4 cord of hard wood a year and it is our primary heat source aside from the solar gain through the windows and appliances, body heat, etc. We're in the mountains of northern Vermont. If it works here it will work most anywhere. Minimal cost too.

See: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/2008/01/fire.html

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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I work as a foreman for a refractory contractor. That's industrial scale firebrick and masonry. There are lots of changes coming to the industry, some good, some bad, depending on your point of view.

I'm not a mason, but I can lay brick with some idea of what is going on. I tend to the behind the scenes duties needed to keep a job organized and the men safe. It's a bit more than slopping mud onto a brick and stacking it neatly. There is a level of art involved. If you watch a master mason at work you can get a feel that there is a method to the madness. I've worked on jobs with hundreds of thousands of shaped brick going in over the course of several weeks being laid by maybe a dozen masons, with another 3 dozen support staff. They earn their money, there is plenty of hard work involved, and the work done holds up under extreme conditions for years. Outside of an industrial environment, the work done by these guys can last, without exaggeration, for centuries.

Masonry is a doomed craft. The experienced masons are getting older. Entry level positions are going the way of the dodo. The pool of skilled craftsmen is shrinking as the wheels of progress roll steadily onward. There are probably less than 100 master masons who work their craft in this state at any given time. Materials are a great concern to the masons. Lots of new ideas, new materials, new technologies. Where a vessel was once lined with a particular type of brick to protect the steel shell, newly developed composite metals can remove the need for brick altogether. Rather than put a piece of equipment down while it is lined with brick, specialized shotcrete or castables can be applied in half the time by people with lesser skills. Monolithic slabs, while more expensive, can be installed in very short times, bringing the plant back online with minimal lost production time.

Modern conveniences have removed much of the demand for masonry in the home. Electric appliances, thermostatically controlled central HVAC, fireplace inserts, and cheap energy are on the list. Brick ovens are a thing of the past. Bread comes from the store and who in their right mind would pay 5 grand just to make a good pizza once every couple of months? There is still call for bricklayers to build up the exterior, but this is not quite the level of skill required for a masonry fireplace.

Don't listen to me as being an expert. In 8 years I have laid one (1) brick just to see what it was like. The guys I work with are the pros. They can build whatever it is you can imagine, using the very best of materials. Form, function, durability, aesthetics-you can get it, but there is a pricetag that goes with the pro work. A project such as a masonry fireplace takes time to erect, has to be right the first time, and there is not a great deal of demand so these craftsmen have to travel-this all adds to the cost.

Don't take this as diminishing the efforts of Roger Priddle or Walter Jeffries, thats a job well done! It is certainly possible to design and install your own creation which will give you years of dependable use.
 
Roger Priddle
Posts: 14
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Walter - sounds like a great stove - and you're a braver man than I am, building your own!

I like the hot water coil in the back - the pump uses 75w for about 3 hours/day. From that I get about 40kcal of heat into the water.

But, yeah, they're incredibly efficient and easy to run.

Roger.
 
Roger Priddle
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Hi Ken - thanks for the post.

I'm fairly lucky in this area - we've got a couple of master masons who live and work around here. Further, there's a number of "pre-fab" heaters available, one of which is the "kit" I bought.

The components are all formed from refactory cement and shipped to the site. Then the home-owner (if s\he's orders of magnitude more competent than I <grin> can assemble it or hire a mason, which is what I did.

This is not DIY, which is fine by me, and, fully assembled, cost about as much as a forced-air furnace and ducting. Not cheap but it has the advantage of not requiring fossil fuels to fire. Instead, I use about 1.5 bush cords of hardwood for a winter (which, as I type, is about -16c with a light wind from the NW.) The house is 1200 sq ft, open plan, and stays nicely warm with about 1.5 fires a day.

The heater is described as a "contraflow heater" - I have no idea whether this is a common term or not - but 10,000 lbs of masonry make a great radiator! Mine still needs a "decorative facing" (oh well, function over form <grin> If I hadn't wanted the water coil, there would be no electricity involved at all but the advantage of heating water for the in-floor radiant in the lower level outweighs the cost of power. My electricity budget was designed with this use in mind.

Anyway, in short, I wanted (and got) a heat source that is independent of all grid connections, that will work even "when all about me have lost their's and would like to join me". (Ok, horrible mis-quote, but I couldn't resist.) My heat costs me $300/year, a fact I mention regularly to my neighbours. They still seem to like me....

Roger.
 
Ruyii Yee
Posts: 1
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I'm from China, a village among mountains. This winter is colder than ever, and I want to build a masonry wood heater by myself because no manson has listened "masonry wood heater".
Can you kindly tell me where to get some detail instructions, sketch maps to build one?
Thank you!
My name is Ruyi YE, 870035@qq.com yery@cnis.gov.cn is my email.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Walter Jeffries wrote:I designed and built my own masonry wood heater. There is no electric nor water to be pushed. It works great. It is a tiny little heater and it keeps our house toasty warm without overheating be it fall, winter or spring. We only burn about 3/4 cord of hard wood a year and it is our primary heat source aside from the solar gain through the windows and appliances, body heat, etc. We're in the mountains of northern Vermont. If it works here it will work most anywhere. Minimal cost too.
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa


How did you deal with the water turning in to a steam bomb as the pressure builds up.
Or how did you deal with the extra mold/humidity if you had a open top hot water container.

I ask this mainly because I want to use a RMH to heat my water and also use the water partially as a thermal mass.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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How did you deal with the water turning in to a steam bomb as the pressure builds up.


Use a pressure relief valve.

 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1095
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
45
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S Bengi wrote:How did you deal with the water turning in to a steam bomb as the pressure builds up. Or how did you deal with the extra mold/humidity if you had a open top hot water container. I ask this mainly because I want to use a RMH to heat my water and also use the water partially as a thermal mass.


Our masonry wood heater is solid state. There is no water involved. We store the heat in the masonry. Surrounding our steel box stove and chimney is a large mass of masonry that connects to the 100,000 lbs of masonry which is the structural shell of our house. This stores the heat and keeps us from overheating.

I'm not sure why the the link ended up pointing towards our CSA. I had meant to point to our cottage page. See:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/cottage
and
http://www.google.com/search?q=site:sugarmtnfarm.com+%22heat%20exchanger%22%20OR%20%22wood%20stove%22

If I was going to use water in the system then I would have an expansion tank and a pressure relief valve. Check out the plumbing (and other) codes. Even if you are not required to follow them they are good reading. There is a lot of thinking that went into developing the codes which explains good practices. They are a source of information and ideas.
 
Vern Faulkner
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Ken Peavey wrote:
Masonry is a doomed craft. The experienced masons are getting older. Entry level positions are going the way of the dodo.
[...]
Don't take this as diminishing the efforts of Roger Priddle or Walter Jeffries, thats a job well done! It is certainly possible to design and install your own creation which will give you years of dependable use.


I empathize. I spent 12 years as a tile installer, and did a wee bit of masonry. I do plan on building my own masonry heater: after a deep discussion with Albie of Maine wood heat - and explaining my past career, he pretty much endorsed the idea of a DIY project.

I think your post speaks to why I want to do it myself - because the art of building, of constructing, is being lost. Is lost, in many cases.

Ages ago, I learned the art of hand-formed, dry-pack mortar beds to create sloping showers. I'm pretty certain that such art is not taught any more: the technique now involves pre-formed styrofoam... no art, no craft involved. I renoed our existing house using that technique, and it felt ... wrong.

I'll hand-form the shower at the new digs. More work? Yeah, but someone has to keep this art alive.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1095
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
45
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I built our bathtub, shower and sink all out of ferro-cement and cast fiber concrete. They came out beautifully. They have a very pleasing form and are solid, things that won't break or wear out. I also did a number of shelves this way that came out very nicely and are very strong. In the center of our cottage we built the desk out of concrete. It is a double arch design. Fun to make and finish off as well as being wonderfully solid. That one we cast in place. In our butcher shop I'm planning to make the USDA inspector's desk out of a single large slab of granite, a waste skin from the nearby quarries. When we poured the walls for the inspector's office I left a key hole in the wall where the desk will lock in.

It may be a lost art in the general trade but it's fun stuff to do and hopefully hobbyists will keep the knowledge going.
 
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