General Question

anartist's avatar

Why, with the cost of home heating these days, has the US not discovered the Kachelofen?

Asked by anartist (14732 points ) October 29th, 2012

The principle has been around since Roman times. They have been traditional ways of heating northern European homes since the Middle Ages. They are incredibly fuel-efficient and provide even, safe heat. Kachelofens, more kachelofens, more kachelofens, and still more!

They are making a major comeback in Europe and the varieties of design are endless. Modern kachelofens are usually custom designed for the intended space.

This is both their glory and a weakness—because they are very expensive. But, the money upfront will work itself off with energy savings over the long term.

Still, why have not US masons and ceramicists/potters gone into business together and started making these?

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18 Answers

skfinkel's avatar

Do these burn wood?

anartist's avatar

@skfinkel yes, and in very small amounts.

Linda_Owl's avatar

If these ‘Kachelofens’ burn wood, it would greatly increase the problem of clear-cutting our remaining forests.

anartist's avatar

@Linda_Owl clear-cutting? what is that?

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have a high efficiency, 3rd generation woodburning stove with internal reburners. It is rated at 72.7% efficiency with 0.2 grams of particulate per hour. There is no visible smoke coming out my stack. Amazing. It fits in my conventional fireplace, installation took one day, cost $4200, and it takes up no additional space in the house. I live in a cold climate so my heating bill would be $3000 per year if I heated with oil. I also have an endless supply of free wood on my property so wood burning is a perfect solution for me.

In general Kachelofens are large, expensive, take many days to install. They become the focal point of the room. Most people in the US do not have a source of free wood nor do they want to be bothered with bringing wood into the house (dirt, insects, space). Typical heating bills for natural gas customers is $1200 or less and you have the convenience of just turning up the stat if you need extra heat. Natural gas is clean, low maintenance, no smoke, and offers instant heat.

When natural gas and oil become much more expensive (like it is in Europe) people will begin to look at alternatives. When it only costs $800 to heat your house for a year most people don’t want to bother thinking about it. Especially if they have to lay out big bucks up front, lose floor space, and need to buy $600 of wood they then need to store and handle .

fremen_warrior's avatar

Some of them are electric, some burn stuff – my experience is they’re all a waste of money.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@LuckyGuy Agree, I brought wood growing up and when I bought it was all electric…lol In the coldest months it’s still under $150/ per month.

Coloma's avatar

I think a lot of people, are looking at alternative means of heating.
I am on propane heat and hot water and the cost has been outrageous the last few years, especially last year. I had an $800 fill in Jan.!!!
It used to be natural gas was the most economical heating, not anymore with prices soaring to $4.00 a gallon.

I just topped off my tank which was still at 55% with a cap of 80% and it was $277.00 for a 25% top off.
I am on a major conservation mission over here, have two new space heaters and am only using the heart briefly in the morning for about 5 minutes to bring the temp. up to maybe 62–65 for about 10 minutes, if that.
I used to have wood heat as well, but do not miss all the hassle of firewood.
I am very happy with a new Duraflame faux woodstove heater I just bought through amazon a couple months ago, it looks really cool and warms up my living room and kitchen in less than 20 minutes.
My electric bill is very reasonable, but the effing propane is killing me!

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Coloma Piped in Natural Gas, (not available where you and I live) is ⅓ the price of bottled, delivered propane. In my “neighborhood” the utility company does not want to bother putting in a line for so few houses over such long distances.
I pay $0.12 per kWh for electricity. That is cheaper than propane on a per BTU basis. You save money every time you use a “wasteful” incandescent bulb indoors. All of the power is retained in your house and you get light from it as well.

Coloma's avatar

@LuckyGuy Yes, even when I keep my hot tub hot 24/7 in the winter my electric bill is never over $60 something. I also like lots of lights on on stormy days, I hate dark, gloomy houses. My mood lighting fetish is hardcore. haha
I tell ya, I am about ready to bomb my propane carrier. lol

Nullo's avatar

I could use one of those about now.

I think that there are two major challenges to overcome.
First, most of our modern buildings are designed for central heating and treat wood-burning fixtures as decoration instead of functional devices. Renovation to accommodate the Kachelofen would be expensive in the short term, when you have a perfectly good furnace.
Second, our culture is in many places fearful. To some people, fire is unfamiliar and dangerous, and they’re afraid of actually having it around unless they can watch it closely.

ETpro's avatar

I’d love to have one right now. Our gas boiler is on the fritz, and it requires both a plumber and an electrician to service it since all its controls are electronic and there is no pilot light. With Hurricane Sandy still howling outside, when we will be able to get an electrician over here is an open question. We’re just wearing lots of clothes during the day and throwing extra down comforters over us at night till the heat is back on.

anartist's avatar

@ETpro I wish you had one too! They seem such a simple elegant idea and once built you are at the mercy of no one [and no touchy technology]—except maybe for finding some firewood.

jerv's avatar

TL:DR

High upfront costs will always scare those Americans who can afford something away, and put it out of reach for many. Many don’t look at cost-over-time or even comprehend the concept. Why do you think electric cats are so unpopular here?

That, and many of us rent; we have no say in what sort of heat we get anyways.

Coloma's avatar

Well…no heat over this way, a perfect 70ish degrees at 6:30 and the house is wide open and the ceiling fan is on.
How long can I go before the big burn. lol

Nullo's avatar

@jerv What on God’s green Earth is an electric cat?

Coloma's avatar

@Nullo You know…they come with little cords and heating dials like an electric blanket and you can adjust the cats temperature to keep your bed warm. They are not washing machine safe though and it is recommended to not use more than 2 cats at a time for safety reasons.

Nullo's avatar

Maybe they could make a kachelofen that exhausts out of a window.

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