Since I’ve known about them, I’ve loved the concept of masonry heaters. These don’t seem to be all that common in the US, but are becoming more popular. It centers a fireplace in the middle of a home, works by a constant radiant heat rather than blowers, allows one to build unique features into the structure such as an oven or heated bench, releases heat over a long period of time and is able to burn any kind of wood efficiently (pine or hardwoods). That would be my dream fireplace. But, retrofitting this type of heater into existing homes, even for smaller units, can be challenging given weight and floor plan issues.
So, we tried to make the best decision for what we had – and we had an outer wall fireplace with no liner. An energy audit showed us we have an average drafty home, and we didn’t want to make the house colder overall if we used the existing fireplace as it was. We started prioritizing and came up with this list:
- High energy efficiency
- Back-up heating without electricity
- Back-up food/water heating
We both like the charm of the old-fashioned wood stoves, but the existing fireplace opening was too small for anything with legs. We didn’t want to lose the cook surface idea, so I did more searching. We came across something that fit all three desired features, and local availability – a Lopi stove. This isn’t meant to be an ad for Lopi of course, but we were happy to find a wood stove insert that had these features for a smaller fireplace. My sister gave us some starter ash, so as our unseasonably warm 80 temps slip into the 50s and below, we’ll give it a go. Below is a before and after picture. For code we needed the extension surface in the front, and it was too hard to match colors with the wood floor so we went with basic black. Although it’s not soapstone, we like it.