Russian stoves produce long-lasting whole-house heat with a single wood-burning masonry heater. Building your own Russian stove requires extensive masonry work, but an accomplished do-it-yourselfer can make one, or an inexperienced DIYer can build one with a kit. Installing a Russian stove to vent into an existing chimney can save some construction time and costs -- but only if the chimney is capable of handling the extremely high temperatures of the Russian stove's flue gases.
Russian stoves are the predecessors to modern catalytic burners, which use a catalytic convertor to burn particulates in the smoke. A masonry heater or Russian stove has an undulating interior portion between the firebox and chimney. As the smoke passes through this, it becomes superheated up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes the stove more efficient; it produces more heat, and less soot and smoke, than traditional wood-burning fireplaces. With a Russian stoves, you'll burn a fire for several hours rather than all day. While it might take some time to heat the house, the masonry will retain the heat, slowly releasing it over a long period of time for long-lasting warmth.
The firebox size for a masonry heater will depend on the amount of wood you intend to burn. Generally, you will need at least 15.5 square inches of space in the firebox for every 2.2 lbs. of wood you burn, according to Masonry Heaters: Designing, Building, and Living With a Piece of the Sun by Ken Matesz.
The size of the flue needed to vent a masonry heater will depend on the amount of fuel burned. Burning more fuel in the Russian stove produces more smoke and gases to escape up the chimney. The chimney diameter should generally be the amount of fuel in pounds divided by five, minus one. For instance, if you need to burn 40 lbs. of fuel, the diameter of the chimney should be 40/5 = 8 - 1 = 7 inches in diameter. The height of the chimney will be based on the diameter. Check your existing chimney to see if it will fit the parameters for a Russian stove. Masonry chimneys must be lined with tile, and steel chimneys must have double-wall construction.
An entire Russian stove is made of masonry, including the footing supporting the heater. The International Code Council's 2012 International Residential Code for One and Two Family Dwellings requires at least 4 inches of masonry between the base of the heater and a 12-inch thick concrete or masonry footing. This footing needs to extend 6 inches out from the edges of the heater to create a noncombustible perimeter. Check with a structural engineer to verify that your floor will support the weight of a Russian stove. Some models weigh several tons, according to The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy: Achieving Energy Independence Through Solar, Wind, Biomass and Hydropower by Daniel D. Chiras.
If you choose to install a Russian stove kit in your home, you must choose a code-approved model. According to section R1002.5 in The 2012 International Residential Code for One and Two Family Dwellings, the kit must be listed and labeled according to the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) section 1482. Look for a UL approved tag on the kit to verify this.
- The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy: Achieving Energy Independence Through Solar, Wind, Biomass and Hydropower; Daniel D. Chiras
- Masonry Heaters: Designing, Building, and Living With a Piece of the Sun; Ken Matesz
- Homesteading in the 21st Century: How One Family Created a More Sustainable, Self-Sufficient, and Satisfying Life; George Nash, Jane Waterman
- Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction; Thomas J. Elpel
- Masonry Heater Association: Masonry Heaters and the Law
- The 2012 International Residential Code for One and Two Family Dwellings; International Code Council