Father-son team construct masonry heaters

The ancient Romans used masonry heating to heat bathrooms and houses.

Stefan Sidl and his son Carl are pictured with a masonry heater in their Comox Valley home.

Stefan Sidl would like to clarify some misinformation about wood heating — which he says isn’t a bad thing.

If the process is conducted properly, and energy is used rather then sent to a chimney, he says wood-fuelled heating is efficient and less polluting than the public is led to believe.

“When we burn wood correctly, it can be very beneficial,” said Sidl, who, along with his son Carl, custom builds masonry heaters. “It’s like electricity. It’s the same as when you heat. If you don’t burn wood constantly in the wood stove, you get cold. With mason heat, it extracts the heat and stores it in the masonry. It’s similar to hydronic floor heating.

“You can burn things and still be environmentally friendly — much more friendly than gas and oil,” he added. “With a normal wood stove you continuously have to feed it.”

Father and son build Austrian masonry heating systems and wood fire bake ovens at their Forbidden Plateau Road property. They import refractory brick from Austria — Stefan’s homeland.

“The bricks here in North America are reflective,” Carl said. “They won’t take in heat, they just bounce it back.”

Each heater is different. Once they calculate the amount of wood to be combusted on a 12-hour cycle, for instance, and the length of channels, they can build a heater to any configuration. A stove could be two storeys, or one metre tall and five metres wide.

Carl says the average price is $14,000.

While the lifetime of a cast iron stove might be 30 years, Stefan said mason stoves will last 80 or 90 years “because there’s no movement, nothing. It’s all natural material. There’s no metal involved.”

Carl learned the trade in Nova Scotia from an Austrian stove builder. He has since worked with numerous stove builders in Austria and northern Italy.

The process is based on physics. Heating systems use a series of internal channels to extract heat from burning wood. Energy is then released into a home or workshop in the form of long-lasting heat.

The concept is not a new one. The ancient Romans used masonry heating to heat bathrooms and houses.

“In Europe it’s widely used,” Stefan said. “They’re building more mason stoves now than the last 10 years, because people want to get independent of gas and oil.”

He notes the United States is a bit ahead of Canada in terms of masonry heating.

For more information, visit www.masonryheating.com

Comox Valley Record

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