Ceramic Wood Stoves
Often when one reads what is published on the subject of sustainability or "green" practices, there's the impression that something truly new is happening. However, saving energy, living in harmony with nature, and building sustainable houses was common practice up until the the end of the 19 century. Urbanization changed all that in giving rise to a new kind of human being, one who had only a distant relationship with nature. One excellent example of sustainability from the past is the ceramic wood stove - an invention that not only was very energy efficient but at the same time didn't sacrifice beauty!
The ceramic wood stove as we know it today is descended from a very old class of stoves known as inertia stoves, the first known example of which was the Hypocaust, a stove used 2,200 years ago in Roman hot springs. Very common in Russia and in Alsace, France, these ceramic stoves were sometimes so beautifully designed and well crafted as to be considered works of art! Their principal utility was to collect heat in the ceramic material that lined their interior. As these stoves were often built to heat entire houses, they were massive, heavy and thus difficult to move. Nevertheless, two hours of fire in an old wood burning ceramic stove was sufficient to heat a house for the entire day. And the type of heat produced was less dry and thus healthier than what comes out of many heating systems today.
The European ceramic wood stove uses the principle of post combustion to increase its efficiency. Housing two chambers, the stove collects the gas from the wood burning fire in the lower chamber and rekindles it to create a fire in the upper chamber which can thus raise its temperature to as much as 1000 d. Celsius.
Ceramic wood stoves fell in abeyance in the second half of the 20th century. However today with the rediscovery of nature's constraints this kind of stove has found a new life and along side it, the artisans who create them. Currently in France one can find a wide selection of very beautiful ceramic wood stoves at "Atelier du Poële en Faience." The stove maker, Didier Claudel, both builds and restores old stoves - and as a matter of interest, he's a distant relation of Camille Claudel, the famous sculptor and lover of Rodin!