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The main factor that distinguishes a masonry heater from other wood stoves is the ability to store a large amount of heat. This means that you can rapidly and cleanly burn a large charge of wood without overheating your house. The heat is stored in the masonry thermal mass, and then slowly radiates into your house for the next 18 to 24 hours.
What Is A Masonry Heater?
The stove is made of masonry such as brick (firebrick), soapstone, tile, stone, stucco, or a combination of materials, rather than steel or cast iron. It is freestanding, and usually requires special support to bear its weight. It consists of a firebox and heat-exchange channels or partitions that provide additional surface area. These absorb heat from the hot exhaust gases before the gases exit into the chimney. The fire in a masonry heater burns much hotter than in a metal stove.
Very hot fires reduce emissions significantly. When not being fired, the connection from the masonry heater to the chimney sometimes has a damper to prevent heat from escaping up the chimney; the heat is then radiated from the masonry. Masonry takes longer to heat than metal; but once warm, the heater will radiate this heat over a much longer period of time and at a much lower temperature than a metal stove would use (the metal is hot only when there is a fire burning inside the stove and for a short time thereafter).