Wood-fired comfort

Wood-Fired Comfort

When considering the pros and cons of various wood and gas home-heating techniques, the ultimate indicator of efficiency is: ‘How much energy is being consumed to achieve a desired level of comfort?‘  Listed below are a number of key factors:

1 – Combustion efficiency: How thoroughly is the fuel being converted into heat?  With solid or liquid fuel-burning stoves and heaters this is measured primarily by CO (Carbon Monoxide) levels and/or PM (particulate matter of 2.5 microns and less) in flue exhaust gasses.  For slow-gassifying metal box stoves the CO and PM are best measured per hour of burn time.  For masonry heaters (with a fixed rapid burn rate and long-flywheel heat distribution) the numbers are best measured per kilo of wood loaded into the fire chamber.   Both approaches can achieve close to 85% efficiency.  Some masonry batch-box haters are getting into the 90s, a few points below propane and LNG.   However, all of the wood-burning numbers get MUCH worse if the wood is damp.  Evaporating moisture from anything takes a tremendous amount of energy no matter what, and any fire is bound to run cooler until the wood is dry.  Fast-burn masonry heaters are less likely to crash into a smoulder than slow-burn gassifiers, but regardless, the best thing anyone can do to optimize the combustion efficiency of their stove or heater is make sure the wood is as dry as possible.

2 – Harvesting efficiency: How much of the heat generated is available for use within the dwelling?   Every liquid or solid fuel burning device surrenders a portion of its heat to flue exhaust for drafting function.  Metal box/pellet stoves with draft-enhancing electric fans can improve upon the heat harvest somewhat.  Masonry heaters do so with super hot gasses (usually over 800c) moving through heat-absorbing hollow earthen chambers and leaving 80c or so to float up the chimney.

3 – Utilization efficiencyHow much of the generated heat is warming our bodies?   Here is where masonry heaters have a distinct advantage.  The large radiating surface areas make them comfortable to touch.  Some have warm benches for gentle conduction of far-infra-red heat deep into our bones.  Given that we are ultimately generating heat to warm our bodies, the more directly we can connect with the heat source the less fuel we will consume.

4 – Operating efficiency: How much effort is required to run the device?  With electric, propane, or LNG one merely has to set a thermostat (or maybe flick a switch), pay the fuel company, and try not to think about the insanity of fracking.  With highly efficient wood-burning heaters now consuming 1/5th to 1/10th the solid fuel of the old metal box stoves… a little bit of exercise while connecting with the primordial elements can be good for the soul.

5 – Embodied energyHow much energy is required to manufacture the heater and provide the fuel supply?  This includes a proportional fraction of all the energy expended in infrastructure development, resource extraction, processing, transport and storage of materials involved.  A realistic assessment will also include the costs of ongoing and end-point waste disposal, and all environmental damages from the above.  As challenging as these elements may be to quantify, there can be little doubt that a simple, durable masonry heater constructed from minimally processed earthen materials, and fueled by locally-available, readily-renewable bio-mass… expends the least embodied energy and thereby has the smallest ecological footprint.

September fire

Hi Folks.

Well, I have been too busy playing with mud to reload many of the pictures of past projects.  But my friends Joe and Michelle sent me a pic of this heater nearing completion at their place.  A bit more shaping… insetting some tile mosaic… then time for finish plaster


HI Folks,

Welcome to the remnants of my website.

Sometime in early May it was hacked into and all the content (including dozens of pictures) that I had added in the past 2 years was removed and replaced with a cached version from 2019. This occurred just after I had begun blogging about my Dad’s success with natural medicines in resolving covid 19 infection.

Natural building, natural living and natural healing are inherently woven together. Many of us who have gravitated into manifesting shelter and generating warmth with minimally modified natural elements, are also naturally inclined to trust minimally modified natural foods and medicines in resolving all manner of dis-ease. Some of us have further explored the possibilities of natural healing by journeying well beyond the parameters of consensus reality and systemic allopathy.  For the most part I have gone about this quietly, studying with highly adept medicine people… fathoming the commonalities between eastern, indigenous, and modern mind-body healing arts; helping like-minded friends and family clear up their health issues.

When my Dad asked for my help last year (to treat leukemia and covid) we began a profoundly enriching journey together as he explored natural medicines for the first time in his life. This evoked quite a stir in his community. All of a sudden, friends and family who had never heard of modalities like TCM were now considering signing up for it…

Over the years I have witnessed time and again natural medicines being suppressed by the big pharma racket.  For the most part I have just accepted it as the way things are whilst quietly abiding amidst like-minded community. But with all that has gone down this past year of covid 19; with the obvious suppression of inexpensive off-patent pharmaceuticals such as ivermectin (see; flccc.net) to make way for extremely expensive vaccines… and with the millions of unnecessary deaths as a result… well, these are unprecedented times indeed –  if not in pattern, at least in magnitude.

And now, June 2021, as I receive emails from my kids’ school principals assuring us that everything will be fine once everyone is vaccinated… I cannot help but shake my head in disbelief.  The manipulations of perception are so gross; and the manufacturing of consent so reprehensible… that I have been impelled to speak up.  Blogging about my Dad’s recovery was one way of doing so.

As an unprecedented numbers of scientific researchers, doctors, naturopaths… healers and lay practitioners of all sorts are now being gagged into silence… and as the average Joe remains oblivious to the sheer fascism at play… I find myself wondering how to proceed with the restoration of this website.  I will probably gradually reload some of the articles and photo essays about natural building and radiant earth heating. But I doubt I will attempt to reload the story of my Dad’s healing journey here, simply because the entities capable of said malicious censorship undoubtedly have far more capacity to mess with my cyber-life than I have to defend it.


So… lets see what happens…


Welcome to my humble attempt at ‘having a web page’.  I am not very active in cyber-space, as i am often busy exploring the ancient building and fire making techniques.   And if i am not busy doing that i am in the garden or hanging out with Sadie and our boys.

Many friends like to bug me about never taking pictures of my work.  But my retort is: ‘My hands are too muddy’, or: “I have no idea where my camera is.’  And there is truth to all this…  So, ya, i guess i am a bit of a throw back to simpler times.  In fact, the way i see it, there is no point opting for high tech building and heating processes when simple ‘low tech’ will do the job.

Case in point:  A modern conventionally constructed house requires a plastic vapour barrier lining to try and stop the (inevitable) migration of indoor atmospheric humidity into wall and ceiling cavities.   Said house must then have a ventilation system to discharge 50% of the house’s indoor air per hour.  Then it must have an even more complex HVAC system to try and recover the heat from the exiting air.  Granted, these high tech systems can work (for 10 years or so til they malfunction and require either costly repair or replacement…), but there is a whole nother way to go about heating, ventilating and regulating moisture that you will not hear about from the profit-driven building industry.

To find out more about these simple, durable, time-tested approaches to building, please click the above tabs to have a look at the pages.  I hope you enjoy…