While reading an article in the Alaska Magazine yesterday, I came upon a reference to Russian wood stoves (Pechka) that were commonly used to heat the typical Russian cabin. The stoves were efficient, comfortable and made from local materials.
I researched the matter more and came upon this beautiful description.
The Masonry Stove
"To the uninstructed stranger it promises nothing. It has a little bit of a door. Which seems foolishly out of proportion to the rest of the edifice. Small sized fuel it used, and marvelously little of that. The process of firing is quick and simple. At half past seven on a cold morning the servant brings a small basketball of slender pine sticks and puts half of these in, lights them with a match, and closes the door. They burn out in ten or twelve minutes. He then puts in the rest and locks the door...The work is done.
All day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and comfortable...it's surface is not hot; you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt.
Consider these things. One firing is enough for the day; the cost is next to nothing; the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns.
America could adopt this stove, but does America do it? No, she sticks placidly to her own fearful and wonderful inventions in the stove line. The American wood stove, of whatever breed, is a terror. It requires more attention than a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time; and for all reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half... and when your wood bill comes in you think you have been supporting a volcano.
It is certainly strange that useful customs and devices do not spread from country to country with more facility and promptness than they do.
By Mark Twain"
I'm curious to know if anyone on Home Energy Pros is familiar with these wood stoves and would care to post their thoughts and experience.
aka swedish stoves, soapstone stoves & the list goes on
The biggest catch is the size of them - beyond that yes they absorb & radiate a ton of heat during the day and work best where everyone is congragated in one communl area - once you go into a bedroom & shut the door it won't be helping you
The pictures of the Swedish stoves do not look too big to me, especially when compared to the large footprint and constant care and feeding required for conventional metal stoves. I would think that the benefits of high efficency, very clean burning, and comfort for the primary living space more than compensate for the extra size. A circulating fan could take care of moving the warmth throughout the house and into the bedrooms.
Some of the Russian stoves also have the added feature of a built-in oven that can be used for baking bread (yum).
Sorry James, those aren't the ones I am talking about & the size truly is dependant on the area you are trying to heat. While some get placed against a wall most are located towards the center of a room. As for the fan idea, that defeats the reason for one (slow even heat released throughout the day / night) and will decrease the usefullness of it.
I think Jack nails it all quite well below --- Jack as for condensation, as they are made of stone they can absorb some and release it over time assuming the wood was to wet - beyond that it isn't like a gas burn where water is a byproduct
I think some of the Russian stoves pictured at http://pechka.su/photo/ are BEAUTIFUL and do not appear to take up much more room than a conventional fireplace. In addition to high energy efficiency, comfortable/even heating, along with easy care and feeding; they have ability to bake bread and cook pizzas.
Conventional America fireplaces bring in enourmous quantities of outside air that often require more energy to heat than the fireplace adds to the home. I would much rather have a fireplace that only draws in the amount of air needed for efficient combustion, and then retains that heat to be slowly released in the home throughout the day. Compare that to the heat that is stored in the mass of a conventional fireplace which is completely wasted. Most of the heat of a conventional fireplace goes up the chimney. Adding insult to injury, after the fire has burned out in a conventional wood fireplace, the heat stored in the mass goes straight up the chimney creating an even greater stack effect, that continues to increases the air infiltration into a home.
These remind me of adobe home designs as well, very nice indeed.
Here are some more photos of modern Russian fireplaces with built-in ovens and stoves. I found these at http://www.stovestroy.ru/.
Yes, they are large, but the mass absorbs almost all of the wood's heat and slowly gives it off throughout the day. There is a slide damper on each fireplace that is closed to keep the heat from going up the chimney after the fire burns out. They not only warm your house, they can cook bread, pizza and cinnamon rolls.
The Russian fireplace above has cooking surface above the firebox and an oven 90 degrees on the right.
From what I understand is that some Russian stoves use the bell system.
I set out do something similar. My novel way of constructing (as far as I know ) was without mortar and forming the concrete building blocks myself. It made it relatively fast to build up. A spirit level was hardly used. Only for the first layer really.
The simple chamber/bell system enabled me to become more flexible in the design. It was pretty cheap too.
Here is the link showing a time-lapse movie of the build.
I also designed my own door which I have incorporated and works great.
If anyone is interested in a build I am more than willing to advise.
My daughter and I were very entertained by the time lapse movie you put togther that showed the construction of your stove.
Glad you both enjoyed it. That was my first discussion/forum entry. Glad to have had a positive response.
This is what they had to say about their fireplace, "Our masonry heater is the center piece of our 2000 square foot home. Being in a central location allows the heat to radiate evenly throughout the house. Radiant heat is the most comfortable and healthy type of heat, the masonry heater is like having the sun in the center of the house. Our firebox faces the living room so we can enjoy the aesthetics of the intense and dramatic fire. We also have a bake oven that faces the kitchen for convenience."
Guess if one incorporated the type of firing in the link from straw bale house above
it would be even more efficient. Instead of water heat exchange use the rocks for exchange. There is a German company called twinfire. They have a fireplace that does this with two viewing windows. If onyone has ideas on this let me know as I may try to incorprate it into a masonry stove.
Being Russian I also have special feelings for Russian Stoves. My grandparents missed those from their youth - yeah, it's very hard to find these days even in Russia. You'd have to go far into countryside where a few of those still exist.
My grandparents tried to recreate a Russian Stove in their summer house. But here is a second reason (first being the size) why we don't see a lot of these around - building them is not just a skill, it's art. So my grandparents could not find someone to recreate it, ended up with a smaller, non-efficient version of it.
Century and more ago people who could build 'em were very valuable masters and were in very high demand. The main challenge there is to ensure that they have sufficient but not excessive draft. And it's a challenge because combustion air is not drafted directly up, it's forced to go through a network of convoluted channels where it gives off its heat to the brick.That makes me think of condensation issues too. Never heard of how that aspect was addressed.
And another point is - the description of a Russian stove in the article quoted earlier in my opinion is not quite accurate. From what I know it's main feature is a ton of thermal mass, not miracles. I don't think it's possible to heat a house for a day with the amount of wood described there, it simply does not contain enough energy. My understanding is you would keep a fire in it during the evening, for at least a few hours and then it would give off heat throughout the night. And traditional Russian houses had only one room with the wood stove being in the center, so multiple rooms where not an issue.
So while I think Russian stoves are a wonderful part of our heritage and culture, in the modern day they have extremely limited use and even fewer people who can build them.
Here is page in Russian that is aimed to help those who want to build one of those. You can scroll through just to take a look at pictures: