Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The True Cost of Brick Ovens

Here are three factors in calculating the true cost of a brick oven.
#1 Does it work.  Seems like a no-brainer that having/buying an oven that doesn't perform jumps the cost of having an oven that does work.  Tearing down a non-functioning oven is almost as expensive as building one.  Then you have to replace it.

Factors that must work are: the draft of the chimney and the heating curve and retention of the oven mass.  Without these two factors performing well, if not perfectly, the fun and beauty of the experience will be lost.  Adequate mass combined with sufficient insulation makes the brick oven an efficient device.

Cob oven w/o chimney vented with massive hood
#2 How long will it last.  Brick ovens in the past were built to last until the present.  They didn't have built-in obsolescence.  Sprung arches in ovens that are contained by steel will fail when the steel fatigues.  Ovens should be all masonry.  No brick oven owner should have to replace it in their lifetime.  Cob ovens, inexpensive to build, need to be repaired or replaced periodically.

#3 Convenient use decreases apparent cost.  A snowmobile in Alaska is a constant tool.  Brick ovens should be sited so that they get used, if not daily, weekly.  If the oven is associated with a space that is a major living space (outdoors, adjacent to the kitchen, or in the the kitchen) it will be used frequently. 
If it is a  portable oven (as for caterers and cooks on-the-go) it will be used in many places.
Thinking out of the box about community brick ovens would include a traveling oven that could serve multiple communities by relocating on a rotating schedule.

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