It is an old world answer for modern heating concerns. Masonry heaters, also known as Finnish fireplaces, have been used for centuries in Europe and now are gaining notice here as a heating alternative. Faced with rising prices for fossil fuel, and at the same time environmental restrictions on charming, but smoke-spewing wood-burning fireplaces, homeowners coast to coast are experiencing the unrivalled efficiency and clean burning technology of masonry heaters.
According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, the leading international trade association for hearth products, shipments of wood burning appliances, which includes masonry heaters, increased 54% in the first half of 2008, compared with the same period the year before. Leading the charge for a change to masonry heating is Finnish based Tulikivi. The company has adapted a centuries old hand-built home heating method to modern production techniques. Today, Tulikivi (too-lee-kee-vee) manufactures and exports fireplaces that operate at up to 88% efficiency.
While a masonry heater may look like a fireplace, it works differently. It stores a large amount of heat from a rapidly-burning fire within its masonry mass and slowly releases that heat into the home throughout the day – for as long as 18 to 24 hours after the fire is out. A Tulikivi’s thermal mass is made of soapstone, an exceptionally heat-retentive natural material, of which Finland is blessed with deep deposits. A Tulikivi’s fire burns hot inside its closed hearth, converting more of the wood into fuel, meaning less wood is needed to produce the same amount of heat as a traditional fireplace or other wood-burning device. Just two or three loads of wood – about two baskets full – burned over two hours time are sufficient to generate long-term heat for as much as 1,400 square feet. The near complete combustion of the wood also means less smoke and ash is produced, too.
The EPA recognizes masonry heaters as inherently clean burning, but it does not require them to be certified. Some state and local governments with localized emissions regulations do require testing of masonry heaters in order to be approved for installation. Tulikivis are approved nearly everywhere in North America, including three of the most difficult areas for wood-burning appliances to gain approval – Colorado, Washington and San Luis Obispo County in California.
In addition to the cost savings of heating a home with wood and the benefits of using a local, renewable resource, masonry heaters are also highly valued for the comfort they provide. Masonry heaters, like a Tulikivi, combine the ambiance of a crackling fire with a safe and healthy form of heat, emitting only soft, radiant heat – universally considered to be the healthiest form of heating. What strikes most people as a key difference is that no matter where one is in the room, there is warmth, not just next to the fire, as is the case with traditional wood-burning fireplaces.
While masonry heaters will never altogether replace conventional heating, a Tulikivi does an incredible job of heating a home. “Customers specifically select Tulikivis for their exceptional radiant heating capabilities,” says Ron Pihl of WarmStone Fireplaces & Designs, a long-time Tulikivi distributor in Livingston, Montana. “But, in the long run, they’re guaranteed unmatched efficiency, ease and comfort. They also get a striking centerpiece for their home.”
Tulikivi fireplaces and bakeovens are available through a network of dealers in the US and Canada. For more information and a distributor listing, visit the website at www.tulikivi.com or call 800.THEFIRE.
For more information on Tulikivi, hi-res images or an interview with an energy-efficient heating expert, please contact Shannon Burton at French/West/Vaughan, 212.213.8562 x 309 or firstname.lastname@example.org.