The Traditional Masonry Stove: A Modern Option for Sustainable Heating

HEAT

Since the dawn of man, the need to stay warm has encouraged the development of good (and many not so good) innovations created for the sole purpose of keeping the human body at a comfortable temperature. The heating industry has come quite a long way since early man first discovered fire and there exists not only a myriad of ways in which to generate heat (geothermal, solar, steam, combustion) but an even greater jumble of devices with which to generate it.  And there appears to be no shortage of new designs and technological innovations on the horizon.

But in the words of my father: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Sonka Soapstone Fireplace by Tulikivi.  Courtesy Tulikivi

Sonka Soapstone Fireplace by Tulikivi.  Courtesy Tulikivi

As we discussed during last #DesignLUX this past week with Finnish soapstone fireplace and bake-oven manufacturer Tulikivi, sometimes looking backwards can be just as if not more beneficial than keeping a steadfast focus on the future.  If there is one thing the Europeans, especially those in the Scandinavian countries, understand about the appliances they use for cooking and heat generation, it is that traditional, old world practices can be successfully applied to modern houses constructed today.  Making use of radiant technology that has existed as far back as the Neoglacial Period, the masonry stove as we know it came into existing in primitive form as early as 5,000 BC, eventually evolving with Roman, Asian, and Russian improvements, becoming the modern, multifunctional heating source still in widespread use overseas.

So just why do the Europeans covet this nearly 7,000 year old way of heating? The truth is that, in this world where "Green" is an over-used marketing buzz word and being Eco-conscious could simply mean driving a Prius, the masonry stove is a sustainable product making efficient use of a renewable fuel source, that is ultimately more respectful of Mother Nature than many more technologically advanced heating practices. 

The Sustainable Features of the Modern Masonry Stove

Radiant Heating

Inside the closed construction of the typical masonry stove, wood fires burn substantially hotter than their metal counterparts, with temperatures reaching 2,000 degrees.  At high internal temperatures, hydrocarbon gases ignite, taking advantage of the high percentage of heat contained in the released gas.  At lower temperatures, non-combusted volatile gasses escape as wasted heat with the added enhancement of polluting emissions.  Heat from the burning fire winds its way through an internal maze of baffles, warming the surrounding masonry before finally exiting through an external flue.  Even after the fire is extinguished stored heat in the masonry radiates slowly often up to 24 hours. 

Courtesy Tulikivi

Courtesy Tulikivi

Near Carbon Neutral Emissions

First remember that trees, as part of their growth process, make use of Carbon Dioxide in the development of leaves, twigs, and wood.  At some point, if the tree is not harvested, there is a likely chance the tree will rot, a naturally occurring process of decomposition which releases CO2 back into the air. Burning wood in the chemical sense is a similar process rotting, both resulting in near equal amounts of CO2, CO, and Methane being emitted.  Firewood can be sustainably harvested - limited logging based on the annual growth of the forest, the environmental effects of of harvesting being less intrusive than coal, oil, or gas drilling, and harvesting wood from local sources, limiting transportation and vehicle emissions - unlike fossil based fuels, the harvesting of which can result in severe environmental impact, often permanently scarring the surrounding habitats. 

Use of Wood, a Renewable Resource, as a Fuel Source

Firewood can be sustainably harvested - limited logging based on the annual growth of the forest, the environmental effects of of harvesting being less intrusive than coal, oil, or gas drilling, and harvesting wood from local sources, limiting transportation and vehicle emissions - unlike fossil based fuels, the harvesting of which can result in severe environmental impact, often permanently scarring the surrounding habitats. Additionally, wood cast offs - leftover construction materials, shipping pallets, and replaced utility poles - typically destined for landfills, can instead be as a viable fuel source, keeping them out of the trash and giving them a second purpose.

Courtesy Tulikivi

Courtesy Tulikivi

Re-useable Byproducts

With the burning of wood in a masonry stove there remains only one byproduct - ash.  A single cord of firewood can produce 50 pounds of ash, mineral rich dust with a multitude of practical uses including de-skunking pets, enriching compost (ash helps raise the pH of acidic soil and provides a source of Potassium), melting winter ice, make soap, and shining silver.

[10 Uses for Wood Ashes]

Soapstone Construction

The characteristics of natural Soapstone enable balanced and rapid warming across its entire structure.  The result of a dense structure and mineral composition, Soapstone has a better thermal conductivity as compared to other materials, not to mention its higher than normal heat capacity is typically 20% greater than the average natural material and 3.2 times greater than concrete.  Additionally, Soapstone's non-porous structure prevents moisture and chemicals from penetrating.

Today's Informative Post is brought to you by:
Tulikivi  | www.Tulikivi.com


DCoopMedia received compensation for this post under a sponsorship agreement with Tulikivi.  Images copyright DCoopMedia unless otherwise noted and may not be used without permission.