Radiant Masonry Heater Economics – Part 1

I’m finding that word can get around.  Like the guy who likes the veggies everyone else hates, when you can heat with wood that others can not use, you find your plate filling up!

With this in mind, I’d like to take a minute to analyze the cost of installing and operating a Radiant Masonry Heater in any home.

We’ll assume a 2,000 square foot home in the Northeastern US.  A masonry heater has a 50 – 80 year run before any major servicing is required.  You might spend 300 dollars on a firebox rebuild depending on how hard you push the unit and what construction methods were used 10-15 years post installation.

There’s a number of benefits of a Radiant Heater that can’t be costed out.  What’s it worth to have a healthier, dust free, more pleasant radiant heat source creating a cozy family gathering spot in your home?

What price do you put on cleanliness of burn, local fuel sourcing, carbon neutrality, and ambience?

If those things sound good to you, remember them as you read the prices below, because the options we’re comparing to offer far less of those things.


Cost of installation:

Assumptions: chimney existing, foundation to be built (included in cost)

You can get a basic installed radiant masonry heater that will heat 2,000 square feet for 13,000.

COST OF OWNERSHIP install cost longevity annual fuel cost*  operating cost
(mean) (years) 2,000 square feet annually
Boiler 6500 35 3116 $3,301.71
Furnace 4000 20 3116 $3,316.00
Heat Pump 8500 20 3116 $3,541.00
Boiler fired radiant floor system 17,000 35 3116 $3,601.71
Masonry Heater (premium hardwood) 13,000 80 900 $1,062.50
Masonry Heater (free fuel) 13,000 80 0 $162.50
* Fuel cost based on average per household oil consumption in Northeastern US


MIT estimates* a 20 year average life for a furnace and heat pump.  A boiler, they say, will go 35.

A new boiler might cost $5,000 to $8,000, or  228.57   per year.

A new furnace might cost $ 3500 to $4500, or 225 per year.

A new heat pump might cost $5000 to $12,000, or 600 per year.

Please note that these prices do not include any duct work, piping, or (in the case of heat pumps) collection system buried in the ground outside your home.


For a more accurate comparison, let’s consider an installed radiant floor system.

Boiler: $5,000 – $8,000.

Pumps, plumbing and concrete pour: $8,000 – $14,000.

Total installed price for a radiant floor system: $13,000-$22,000.

Now, I can explain how the radiant heat that a masonry heater gives is better than the radiant floor for most people, (see:  http://radiantstoves.com/why-point-source-radiant/) but I don’t need to:  A radiant masonry heater actually costs less to install than the average radiant floor system!

If you’re like most people, you don’t save up for your next boiler each year starting from the moment you installed the last one.  I’m figuring you might start saving five years before the boiler will need to be replaced.  If your boiler is 5 years from replacement, you’re 5 years away from a $5,000 to $8,000 bill, and since you need to stay warm while you save, you’ll need to put away $4,716 each year to stay warm while you save up to replace your boiler!

Maybe in the same way that you’re not going to put X dollars in the account each month for 35 years to save for the boiler, you’re not planning on an 80 year payback cycle for your masonry heater.  Me neither!  Check this out:

Operating cost to pay off initial investment over different time periods.
 initial outlay  years  annual fuel cost  total annual cost of ownership.
20 years Masonry Heater (premium hardwood) 13,000 20 900 $1,550.00
Masonry Heater (free fuel) 13,000 20 0 $650.00
10 years Masonry Heater (premium hardwood) 13,000 10 900 $2,200.00
Masonry Heater (free fuel) 13,000 10 0 $1,300.00
5 years Masonry Heater (premium hardwood) 13,000 5 900 $3,500.00
Masonry Heater (free fuel) 13,000 5 0 $2,600.00

If you pay the same amount each year as you would to operate a simple boiler system,  you’ll have paid off the Radiant Masonry Heater in 5 years!


Where will you be in five years?  I know that I want to be done paying off my heating system and investing my energies in other things.  You could be living in all the warmth of point source radiant heat, and not be looking at another 30 years of paying for your heat source.






** http://www.eia.gov/emeu/consumptionbriefs/recs/heating_oil/region_oil.html

*** All my units come with a replacable liner for the firebox which can be installed easily.

2 responses to “Radiant Masonry Heater Economics – Part 1”

  1. Ed

    Enjoying the read, keep up the fight!!

  2. Gordon Soderberg

    We are retrofitting 13,000 sqft. two story, wood framed and brick first floor facade for veterans housing in Detroit. Slab first floor with 8.6ft ceilings, wood second floor deck with engineered 2x4x15 floor joist 24″ on center. Photos available. suggestions?