For efficient, comfortable, and clean-burning wood heat, a masonry heater is the answer. The concept’s not new — Romans heated their baths this way, and Scandinavians have been using this method for hundreds of years. It was Frieda’s husband, Alan, who really pushed for a masonry heater. They chose craftsman Rod Zander to design and build theirs. Here’s how it works: A wood fire burns rapidly, and hot gases from the fire flow back and forth through a network of channels built inside the heater. The resulting heat transfers to the masonry mass — in this case, soapstone — which radiates the stored heat into the room for 12 to 24 hours. Like many homeowners, Frieda likes the low-tech simplicity and reliability of a masonry heater: There are no fans, pipes, burners, or boilers to crack or fail when the power goes out. Theirs has a built-in bench and a bake oven, which turns out everything from pizza with a perfect crust to delicious slow-cooked soups and stews.
Rod Zander has custom- built nearly 200 masonry heaters. Prices start at about $12,000 for a soapstone model that will heat 500 to 900 square feet.
Rod Zander, New England Hearth & Soapstone, Goshen, CT. 877-491-3091, 860-491-3091; rodzander.com