In New York City, it’s been considered a real coup to land an apartment with a fireplace. Now, according to The New York Times, those once lucky urban dwellers are having second thoughts. New concerns about the environmental and health hazards of wood smoke, an article this week said, are outweighing the charm of those cheery winter fires.
High-efficiency wood stoves do a much better job of providing heat, with less pollution, than an old-fashioned fireplace. Yet there’s been a sharp drop in interest even for wood stoves. Citing industry sources, the newspaper reported the number of wood-burning appliances sold in the U.S. fell from 800,000 in 1999 to 235,000 in 2009.
These facts seem a little odd at a time when energy costs continue to rise, and in truth concerns about wood burning may not translate to rural areas where local sources of hardwood are abundant. Wood heat remains an attractive alternative to grid electricity and fossil fuels.
John Hess likes the idea. As he notes in a Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor, a masonry heater looks like a good option for a superinsulated house he’s planning to build. Masonry heaters stove heat for up to 12 hours in a large mass of masonry; they produce very little ash and low emissions.
In particular, Hess wonders whether anyone can offer advice on plans he found at the Masonry Heater Association Web site for a heater he could build himself.
“How large of a building can this model heat, in a cold New England climate?” he wonders. “Are the plans complete enough for an owner-builder to make a serviceable stove? What would the materials cost to make one?”
They’re great, but pricey
“It’s the only way to go if you want wood heat in a conventional well built green…