Masonry heaters have one of the highest efficiencies that can be achieved by burning wood. The heat transfer efficiency of masonry heaters of the best design is within the range of 80 to 85%. This is considerably higher than the efficiency of standard metal stoves and fireplaces. Masonry heaters are wood stoves with a welded steel or cast iron housing replaced by bricks and mortar.
They are very efficient at heating an entire house and produce much higher temperatures with their fuel than standard metal stoves. Like all forms of heating, they have certain advantages and disadvantages. An effective, efficient and trouble-free masonry heater requires a chimney with a good and reliable draft. Keep in mind that modern, efficient stoves, when properly turned on, release less heat to the fireplace, so the fireplace in the basement should be optimal.
Considering that masonry heaters are efficient and emit little pollution, the United States should take a closer look at them. In Northern Europe, 500-600 years ago, a prolonged cold wave caused local wood to become scarce and masonry heaters became common due to their efficiency. Creosote is produced when wood fuel doesn't burn efficiently, which is the hallmark of a “normal” wood stove with a metal case. Instead of a cast-iron wood stove that would need to be constantly powered, I installed an efficient and less labor-intensive masonry heater in my house.
One of the great advantages of using a masonry heater is that it is just as effective and efficient regardless of the type of wood used as fuel.