Russian Masonry Stove Heats High-Performance Home


During the cold winter months, it is such a treat to sit in front of a warm fire. Fireplaces and wood stoves create a cozy, inviting setting. Unfortunately, many wood-burning appliances do not use wood efficiently and aren’t well suited for a high-performance house. When Chip Wick was envisioning his new home in Northport, Maine, he was inspired by using solar energy and locally-grown wood for power and heat.

Russian Masonry Stove for Heat

His new home features an innovative Russian masonry heater made by Sheridan Brick & Stone Work as the primary heat source for the home. Its intelligent design allows heat to gradually disperse throughout the 3-bedroom house, creating even temperatures from a modest amount of wood. Combined with air sealing and generous amounts of insulation, the hexagonal home is exceptionally comfortable and energy efficient.

“Because of the R-value of the house, I would be surprised if the Wick family uses much more than 2 cords of wood per year,” says Edward Sheridan, owner of Sheridan Brick & Stone Work in Midcoast Maine. “On winter days, they will probably light two fires a day and sometimes only have one. When you have a fire, you burn it full tilt, upwards of 1700 degrees or higher, so it gets as hot as possible and burns all the oils and gases in a secondary chamber.”

Higher temperatures boost the energy efficiency of the heater, explains Sheridan. “You don’t burn continuously; you get complete combustion in a short, hot fire, and you extract all the heat possible. You want to just have a fire once or twice a day. That means you can light the stove in the morning, go to work, and when you get home in the evening, the stove is still throwing off heat. Then you can light a fire again before you go to bed and the home is super warm when you wake up in the morning.”

The masonry stove uses locally-quarried stone for the bench and mantle and regionally produced, hand-molded brick from the Boston area. Imperfections in the brick give it texture and a historic appearance. The local stone has an attractive blue tone, similar to soapstone, which goes well with the brick.

Even Home Temperatures

The double-bell Russian masonry stove with an Austrian eco-firebox is located on the first floor of the hexagon-shaped home. The stove features a heated bench and pizza oven and is engineered to hold the heat as long as possible.

“If you want to heat with wood, you are going to get more retained heat energy in the house with a Russian masonry stove,” says Sheridan. “You have 5 tons of brick mass that are absorbing that heat like a battery and it will hold onto it for 12 to 15 hours. From an efficiency standpoint, you are getting that maximum heat retention from wood. You aren’t sending really hot gases up the chimney, they are at a fairly low temperature unlike with many wood stoves. That’s the genius of it!”

In addition, the home has many energy-efficient features. Triple-pane windows and doors help prevent air infiltration and meet the Passive House standard. The exterior walls and ceiling have a high R-value due to generous amounts of blown-in cellulose insulation. An air-source heat pump, powered by solar power will efficiently heat and cool the home and is a good secondary heat source when the masonry stove isn’t in use. Because the home has been air sealed to save energy, a ventilation strategy is important for occupant health and home durability.

Excellent Indoor Air Quality

To promote proper home air health and energy efficiency, the Wick home has a Zehnder heat recovery ventilation systems. The ComfoAir unit is located in the mechanical room in the basement and ensures balanced ventilation throughout the home.

A constant stream of fresh filtered air is provided to the bedrooms, living room, pantry, and office. Stale air is removed from the bathrooms and kitchen. The heat recovery ventilation system was seamlessly integrated into the home. In the winter, heat is recycled from the exhaust air to the intake air, saving energy.

The Wick family will soon move into their new cozy home. They are sure to enjoy forested views, the heated bench, and very low energy bills.