Home Heat – An Archive of Stories and Experiences About People Building For Fire to Heat Home & Family

The stories are gathering fast so a new archive has been created! The saying “Only mass can hold energy” has been rattling around the press for some months now and this is the result. A collection of stories by people who are experimenting with different techniques of building for fire in order to burn cleanly and retain the most heat possible within their homes. An activity where art and science come together – where the intuition of sculpture and the discipline of measurement are kindred spirits.


Riding a “Russian Rocket”

photo credit: Norbert Senf, MHA


Alex Chernov grew up in the former USSR, where masonry heaters are a common appliance in millions of homes. Now living in Canada, he works as a certified heater mason designing and building heaters and ovens, and consulting on projects all over the world through his company, Stovemaster (his website offers a wealth of background info). In the article below, he combines his professional and design expertise with his own background and experience in a culture where most people have long experience heating with wood, and where building one’s own heater was not unusual. The ideas (and drawings) offer

How to Make a Rocket Powered Kiln of Clay and Sawdust


Jon and Flip Anderson have been working with stoves and ovens for some years now (HPP regulars may remember their rocket powered oven design.) Last February, they helped teach at the Winter Stove Workshop put on by Aprovecho and InStove. Aprovecho Research Center (ARC) was consulting for Mercy Corps in East Timor, who had sent their Program Manager for Renewable Energy, Will Baron, who has responsibility for all programming related to energy, poverty, lighting, electricity, appropriate cooking technology and sustainable cooking fuels.

Mercy Corps’ East Timorese stove program imports stove components from China and trains locals to make and sell …

Mass Heater for a Greenhouse Using a Wood Stove


Visiting in the Winter Time
Step-by-Step Photos of the Construction Process
Analysis and Suggestions for Improvement
A Call for Support
Additional Resources

Kiko Denzer and I were hired to build a heater in a greenhouse for some very avid gardeners. They had experimented with using a wood stove but there simply wasn’t enough heat retained for the stove to heat the greenhouse from one day to the next throughout the winter. Our task was to incorporate the old wood stove, mostly taking advantage of the glass door and firebox it offered, and plug it into a system with channels …

Continue reading

Testing the Limits – Adobe Heaters in Argentina


I have recently built three single-skin masonry heaters in Argentina using unfired bricks and would like to share some thoughts and an account of the experience.  All three were based on the design presented by Alex Chernov at the 2012 MHA Annual Meeting at WildAcres, with minor modifications to accomodate brick sizes, hardware, and site considerations.

I have spent the past 4 years living in the Patagonia region of Southern Argentina.  Natural gas is cheap and widely distributed, but many people here, and in neighboring Chile, continue to live with wood fires as part of daily life for much of …

Cob + Firebrick = Masonry Heater Experiment


When I was 27, I moved back to my hometown in northern Minnesota to start a small organic vegetable farm. I sold produce to the wife of a stone mason, and he was looking for help in the winters. I told him I didn’t know anything. “Don’t worry,” he calmly replied, “I’ll train you.” I learned, of course, that hauling an endless supply of block and stone from one place to another doesn’t take much training. But he also handed me a copy of David Lyle’s history of masonry heaters. Three years later I was working for Albie Barden, building …

Recent Research on Rocket Mass Heaters (and Bell Design)


There appears to be a huge amount of traffic and discussion through different internet forums about rocket mass heaters and reports from the authors on sales of the book on the subject confirm this incredible surge in interest. I am quite certain that this excitement stems from the tangible possibility that the rocket mass heater concept offers to individuals and families to build their own affordable efficient wood-fired heating system. I thought it would be interesting and useful to offer the following synthesis of recent research I have been directly involved in and links to information that others have provided …

Masonry “Heater Hat” Videos: Construction Details

about 300 pounds of masonry moderates a small space

This little heater hat continues to work superbly! I think it’s a great do-it-yourself option for anyone interested in turning their box stove into a much more efficient, cleaner heater for their home or shop.

That said, a heater in the home poses serious risks — potentially much greater than what you’d expect of an outdoor oven. But it’s not rocket science; masonry heaters were developed and designed by amateurs — people who work for love, not money (for the whole story, look up David Lyle’s Book of Masonry Stoves: Rediscovering an Old Way of Warming).

The videos below …

Video: clean & hot: how to light a fire in your oven


How you prep and lay a fire makes a big difference to how things work — or not — in your oven (and other stoves). It’s really pretty simple: dry fuel, small sticks (plenty of surface area), plenty of space for fuel and oxygen to mix — and put your kindling on top, so the fire burns down, clean and hot, like a candle. The video here is a (pretty poor) attempt at sharing some pix of how I do it. It’s too long and wordy — a rough draft. I’ll try and get the next edition done soon! Meanwhile, …

Solstice, 2010: bring in the mud! (into the house, that is)

about 300 pounds of masonry moderates a small space

This time of year I don’t usually get too muddy, but I brought some mud into my office last month so I could have a better and more efficient source of heat — finally! This little “heater hat” effectively turned my little iron box stove into a mini-masonry heater — with an oven! (note the wooden door on the right, just above the iron stove door). The wood that used to over-heat me, briefly, in the morning, now keeps me comfortably warm all day, and into the next morning (depending on how long I fire it and how cold it …

Continue reading

waterglass for binding earthen surfaces & pigment


“Waterglass” for protection & paint

Waterglass has become my preferred binder in places where it’s needed. The chemical name is sodium or potassium silicate. It’s an inert mineral compound similar to window glass, but under heat and pressure, it’s soluble in water. I get it from a ceramic supplier for $9 a gallon. It’s clear, viscous, and pours like heavy cream. It dries into a clear, brittle substance that crushes to a fine powder, but it has significant binding power, and is used in some refractory cements, as well as numerous other industrial applications.

I’ve only discovered it in the …