Masonry stoves originate from prehistoric times.
The taming of fire was one of mankind’s most important discoveries. Even today we are still learning how to control its frightening power. From cooking to global warming, it remains central to our lives and a force of nature we must all learn to use with respect.
The English word ‘Focus’ meaning ‘the centre of attention’ is the Latin word for ‘Fireplace’.
However the principles of Masonry stoves originate from much earlier times.
. Since fire was first harnessed, humans have struggled to conserve its glowing embers and life-giving heat. Covering a fire with stones which could later be slept on or moved indoors was happening well before any recorded ‘history’. Preventing the heat from flowing straight out of the home was and still is a key goal.
Underfloor heating or Hypocausts may have originated in the foothills of the Himalayas or the Far east where they were known as K’ang in China or Ondols in Korea.
Recent digs in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska have discovered underfloor heating dating from 4000 years ago.
This cutaway of an ancient Masonry Stove shows the basic principle.
Masonry stoves evolved from basic nearly horizontal chimneys that could be slept on combined with various improvements in combustion and heat storage.
The Romans attribute heating with hypocaust to Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (born c. 80BC) a famous inventor who heated their famous baths and houses using very long chimneys under the floors. The picture above is of an ancient Roman Hyopcaust with the tile flooring removed. The combustion must have been fairly complete, otherwise where are all the soot/tar deposits? I wonder if they had the occasional underfloor chimney fires?
The understanding of how to build bridges as reliably as the Romans was lost in Britain and much of Europe during the ‘dark ages’ of religious persecution and witch hunts. That same era repressed scientific progress so that even the Roman underfloor heating technology was lost, until recently. We are in the process of developing a modern hypocaust, we have the ideal ceramic material and technical know how to build a safe and sustainable one.
This man is sat upon a Chinese Kang or heated platform.
In the 1760’s The Swedish government sponsored improved stove designs and the grand era of Prussian tiled masonry stove innovation flourished.Over the next few hundred years Scandinavians and other cold countries produced a huge variety of ‘heat accumulating’ stoves, known variously as Swedish kakelug, German Kachelofen, and Russian Groop Ka, Finofens, Ceramic stoves and Masonry heaters.
Since 60% of our energy is still spent on heating in the UK, we believe that we should be applying those lessons again today, here and globally.
In 1800, Benjamin Thompson invents the first metal wood-fired stove.
Two enormous Russian stoves, plain and ornate demonstrate clearly the principle of thermal mass.
By 1850, much of Europe was heated with well-designed, reasonably high efficiency stoves and by 1927 the first air-circulating fireplace patent was passed.
During 1929, due to the Great US Depression, corn becomes a popular heating fuel and in 1974 there is a revival of wood burning following the oil crisis. Throughout time necessity has often been the mother of invention, people have found new fuels and new technologies to provide secure warmth. In our modern era this holds true. Concern with ‘Security of supply’ and the knowledge that forests provide the lungs of the planet are driving us towards modern super efficient Masonry heaters like the Homeheater.
Technology as old as the hills bring us the safest, most environmentally friendly heating system in the world…
“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.”
Mark Twain, 1891.
(after seeing a masonry stove in action)