This house has a masonry heater which, until you take the time to learn a little about them, as well as how to use them, it’s hard to appreciate just how fantastic they are. The masonry heater burns wood. The beauty of it is that you can load it up with a lot of wood, all at once. The fireplaces are designed to take it and they count on you doing it this way. After the firewood is reduced to coals you can shut the vent to the outside, trapping the heat to be absorbed by the rocks.
The shut-off vent at the top has a hole in it so you can’t shut off the fireplace completely for safety reasons. The path the heat takes inside the fireplace before it exits out the flu resembles a labyrinth so that all of the intense heat is absorbed by the stones before leaving the fireplace. By the time the heat gets out of the fireplace and up the flu, the temps are between 350 F – 450 F according to the Cold Climate Housing Research Center located in Fairbanks Alaska.
You only need to start the fire or load it about 1 – 3 times in a day, at least at this house. You can get away with loading it one time in a day as long as it’s still warm from the night before. If the rocks has still retained a lot of the heat, it’s just a matter of loading the heater up again, waiting for low-to-no flames, and shutting the upper and lower vents. You leave the vents shut until it seems as though the rocks have peaked and are starting to cool off. Depending on what time of day this is, you’d add more wood.
The bottom line is that the rocks or stones absorb or captures the heat as the heat travels through the labyrinth type maze to get up the flu. It takes about 6 hours for this fireplace for the rocks to get very hot. That might take 3 loads of wood and going through the procedure of seeing the low-to-no flames and shutting the vents.
You might just get so involved with the process that you’ll be “bummed” when summer comes. Well . . . maybe you’ll just have to hike up South Sisters to cure yourself of the “bummers”.