The Kachelofen Comes to Canada: an Eco-friendly, Healthy Heating System
(Definition: Kachelofen is a European-built masonry tiled stove for home heating. Pictured here, the Kachelofen at Klaus Ferlow’s house)
Born and raised in East Prussia (known today as Russia and Poland), I spent the first seven summers of my life at the small farm of my maternal grandmother. She had a hunter-green Kachelofen as the only heat source in her farmhouse. Later in Tilsit we had two Kachelofens, one of which had the famous Meissner tiles with gold corners.
From 1945 to 1955, I spent the rest of my childhood in the northern part of West Germany in a small farm village. There, almost all farmers had Kachelofens. Then after immigrating to Canada, my family had a Kachelofen in Mission, B.C. from 1986 to 2017. It was located in our custom-made log home in the beautiful Fraser Valley. And since February of this year I continue to heat my home with a Kachelofen in Roberts Creek, B.C.
Why Do Europeans Love these Masonry Stoves?
These special Kachelofens have been built here in Canada by oven specialists from Europe (Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland). An apprenticeship for an oven builder can take up to five years, and the skills must be updated regularly after completion.
For a homeowner, a Kachelofen is considered an investment – not an expense. A conventional heating system has a life span of about 25 years or so, and would need to be replaced numerous times throughout its life cycle. But for a Kachelofen you invest only one time!
This alone might offset the cost difference between the two systems, especially if you look at the steadily rising cost of electrical, gas and oil heating! There is hardly any maintenance required, and if kiln-dried wood is used no creosote develops in the system and it is pollution-free because of the total combustion of heat!
Because of their exceptional efficiency, Kachelofens fall outside the general definition of wood stoves and consequently are exempt from regional or federal wood-heating requirements.
No other heating system is as efficient as the Kachelofen and each unit is a piece of art – no two are alike! All components of my Kachelofen are from Europe. The efficacy applies to total combustion up to 1,000 degrees Celsius with only one firing. The generated heat is stored in the firebricks, and is then radiated for up to 24 hours into the building.
Wood burning heat is environmentally-friendly and creates no pollution, the best, the healthiest and cheapest…we have the wood on our property.
The concept of masonry heaters, or stoves is a new concept to most North Americans and since energy costs for gas or electric heaters are steadily increasing, a Kachelofen is a valuable solution. What’s more, Kachelofens possess character and charm.
Consider these aspects of the Kachelofen.
- One firing is enough for the whole day
- The cost to operate it is next to nothing.
- Its surface is not hot and you can put your hands on it anywhere and not get burnt, yet it provides a comfortable heat source for the whole home.
Hundreds of Years of History Behind this Ultimate Lifestyle and Art in Heating
These clean, efficient units have been serving homeowners in Europe and Asia for hundreds of years. Traditional designs include the Kachelofen, Swedish, Russian and Finnish Soapstone, Buderus, Roman Hypocaust, Chinese K’ang and Korean Ondol. All can be used to heat a single room or an entire building.
Through the relaxing and healthy atmosphere which it creates, we improve also our personal well-being. You will find that you can be at your best in the environment created around a Kachelofen – it is not a heating system which makes you tired, dull or allergic; instead it creates vitality.
Some homeowners may desire to own a Kachelofen because it has been a part of highly evolved cultures for centuries. These individuals recognize that the presence of a Kachelofen in their home brings them to a higher level of consciousness due to its practical and symbolic expression of the ultimate lifestyle and art in heating.
The Austrian father and son team of Carl and Stefan Sidl were the ones who built our Kachelofen. It is the only one on the sunshine coast. They have built a few other Grundofens which have the same heating system here on the sunshine coast, and instead of tiles they are using bricks and outside stucco. The Grundofens are cheaper to build, however these ovens don’t have the same efficiency radiating the heat to the room like the Kachelofen.
Here is an interesting quote from Mark Twain:
“The slowness of one section of the world about adopting the valuable ideas of another section of it is a curious thing and unaccountable. This form of stupidity is confined to no community, to no nation; it is universal. The fact is the human race is not only slow about borrowing valuable ideas – it sometimes persists in not borrowing them at all.”
The above quote is relevant in regards to the German Kachelofen because – to the novice it promises nothing: but he will soon find that it’s a masterly performer. The process of firing is quick and simple. Within 10 – 15 minutes the wood is red hot and the work is done. All day long and until past midnight all parts of the rooms will become delightfully warm and comfortable.
The Problem with American Woodstoves
North Americans could benefit greatly from adopting this stove technology. But instead they stick to their own outdated inventions of which are there is not rational one in the lot. In my view, the American woodstove, of whatever breed, is a terror. There can be no tranquility of mind where it is. It requires more attention than a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time, and the reward for all that is you are roasted for half the time and frozen the other half.
The American woodstove warms no part of the room but its own part, it breeds headaches and suffocation and makes one’s skin feel dry, itchy and feverish. And when your bill for firewood arrives, it appears that you have been supporting a volcano. Woodstoves and open fireplaces lose 80 to 90 percent of the heat generated from the fire!
Because of their preconceived ideas about solid fuel heating, Americans have failed miserably in developing and using the technology described above. The description is of a German-style heating system, a brick stove, a masonry stove, a Kachelofen which has been used in thousands of European homes for over 600 years.
In an age of energy crises and conversation, efficiencies and environmental concerns, the Masonry Heat Storing Tile Stove offers the greatest potential for development. Testing done over a period of many years indicates the system attains up to 100% energy efficiency. The system uses very little fuel for firing once or twice day (only if you have high minus temperatures) and it is environmentally safe – it does not pollute since combustion is complete.
My Kachelofen contains custom-made tiles from the oldest European Keramik/Tile manufacturer known as Sommerhuber, founded in Austria in 1491!! https://www.sommerhuber.com/?lang=en
That Kachelofen, as well as our outdoor pizza oven, was built by Carl Sidl & his father Stefan of Sidl Masonry Heating, Courtenay, B.C., www.masonryheating.com and I can highly recommend them for their excellent professional craftsmanship, a lasting piece of art which I and many of our relatives and friends will enjoy for years to come.
Thank you Carl & Stefan, job well done!
Klaus Ferlow can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org