Installing masonry heaters

The biggest issue with masonry heater installation is the weight. These heaters are too heavy for a single person to move into place. In fact, the larger units may take a forklift, which is why they should be installed while the home is being built. Some units come disassembled, which makes installation much easier (if you know how to assemble things, that is). In general, installing masonry heaters is similar to installing a heavy wood stove. Refer to Chapter 15 for more details on installing wood stoves, in particular, the chimney and venting requirements.

The biggest factor in terms of a masonry heater's effectiveness is its location. It should be in the center of your home, preferably in a large room. If it's not, you're sacrificing potential efficiency. Masonry heaters work best in homes with open floor plans, where the heat can spread throughout the entire living space, slowly and evenly. In fact, most masonry heaters are installed in new home construction, where the home design is centered on the masonry heater.

You can't put one on a floor unless it's built to support a lot of weight. Masonry heaters have a tremendous amount of thermal mass, which translates into a lot of mass, period. Your existing fireplace pad may not be suitable for a masonry heater. Although you can install a masonry heater yourself, I wouldn't advise it. Better to hire a contractor who knows all the ins and outs.

For more information about masonry heaters, go to the Masonry Heater Association's Web site at www.mha-net.org. You can get kits, or you can find contractors who will do the whole job for you.

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