Lately, Frisch, 75, has noticed a renewed interest in masonry heaters, which can incorporate many elegant and popular modern features, such as heated benches and brick ovens.pauls-masonry-heater.JPG

A custom-built masonry heater can cost $10,000 to upwards of $50,000, but it can cover 60 to 90 percent of a given home’s heating needs, and that appeals to a lot of people, he said. “I think we’re beginning to see North American endorse the masonry concept.”

Paul Richardson, a retired electrician who lives in the Cascades nearing Redding, California, hired Mr. Frisch to install a masonry heater (see picture, right) after exhaustive research on the topic. “I wanted to do something that was economical and good for the environment. This was the best solution,” Richardson said. He’s been quite satisfied with the river stone and slate-top heater, which manages to heat his new 2,300 square foot home.

“It’s not a blaring heat when you get it going, it just stays a constant heat and you only burn two fires every 24 hours. I burn one in the morning and one in the evening and that’s it,” he said.

Richardson and his wife Karen did install extra insulation and a forced air furnace as a back up system — for times when they don’t want to load wood and also to help blow some of the heat to other parts of the house.