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ShadRS
Emergency Winter Heat
ShadRS

Is past winter my wife and I felt we got very lucky. It seemed every area around us at least temporarily lost power. This year my wife is pregnant and we don't want to press our luck. We have decided to get two backup sources of emergency heating.

The first is to repair our fireplace. The hearthstone was cracked when we bought the house a year ago and here is some chimney work needed as well. We're uncertain how soon this work will be done simple due to the costs (and other pressing household repairs).

The second (and why I am writing) is a kerosene space heater. I have a good handle on picking out the heater itself, but I'm concerned with how to store the fuel and how much. How much should I keep as an emergency supply? How much can I safely store in my garage/basement? What is the better location to store it in? What should I store it in?

Any help or resources would be appreciated.

Dobbs
Re: Emergency Winter Heat
Dobbs

When it comes to emergency heat nearly every house is unique---you have to tailor your choice of emergency heat according to what best will work for your particular house.

For example, some houses have natural gas heat, but still lose their heat during a winter storm because the gas furnace requires electricity to work---in such a case a small electric portable generator may be the best solution; this would be the same problem if you have an oil-fired furnace or boiler-----so, what type of heating system do you have???

Portable kerosene heaters are widely used & the fuel can be stored in those 5-gallon plastic containers sold at the home improvement stores (red color to store gasoline; blue color to store kerosene); these can best be stored in a garage or outbuilding; however, kerosene heaters emit some carbon monoxide & use up some of the air supply in the enclosed room/building-----for safety measure, a window has to be cracked open & a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector (CO detector) has to be used to monitor the air quality, especially in view of having a pregnant wife on the premises.

For most modern double-hung windows, the top half can be removed & a large piece of plywood with a stainless steel sheet insert can be temporarily installed so that a 4" exhaust flue can be use to temporarily hook up a wood stove or propane stove as an efficient, safe way to provide heat & cooking capabilities until the power comes back on.

Another option in your case would be to install a THIMBLE in the wall above your fireplace into the chimney (assuming the chimney is repaired & OK) so that you can install a wood stove, & connect the wood stove exhaust into the new thimble & remember to have an adequate supply of firewood available---any untreated odd pieces of lumber can be used for firewood as well; another great advantage of a wood stove is that it allows you to cook meals & hot drinks on the stovetop.

There are scores of other options that will work; as I expect other contributors will note.

http://offthegridnews.com/2014/01/06/3-emergency-heat-sources-when-the-powers-out/
http://extension.missouri.edu/p/gh5117
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/emergency-heat-for-winter-storms.html

dj1
Re: Emergency Winter Heat
dj1

Good answer from dobbs.

Kerosene can be stored in the garage or a shed, for longer periods of time than gasoline. It won't freeze in normal winter temps.

Your main concern should be the poisonous gasses. How many times we're read about families who perished when operating such heaters at night. But, if you open a window to let the gas out, you'll get freezing air coming in. No win situation.

Lynne
Re: Emergency Winter Heat
Lynne

Do you have natural gas or ability to store liquid propane? If so, you may want to consider a freestanding gas stove such as Lopi, or an insert for your fireplace.

sissy
Re: Emergency Winter Heat
sissy

I have heard good and bad about pellet stoves ,pellets you can even get at walmart for around 6 dollars a bag .Not sure how much they use but there are video's on you tube i have watched .Back up generators are expensive .Kerosene heaters have to be cared for and not sure about fresh air if they use up the good air .There is a company that now offers to install solar and you rent it from them and they maintain it and you get money from some electric companies for unused electric .Not sure how good they are and cost .

Jack
Re: Emergency Winter Heat
Jack

A personal generator, about 5 or 8 KW will handle almost all emergency situation along with the generator a Reliant transfer switch http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200317085_200317085 which is easily installed. I have had one for several years. Along with the I have a ventless gas fireplace insert.

Jack

sissy
Re: Emergency Winter Heat
sissy

Remember there will be a newborn in your home and you do not want to risk the babies tiny lungs and you don't want a newborn sick .I would look around for the best price for a new heating system with a budget in mind .

keith3267
Re: Emergency Winter Heat
keith3267

If you have a source of firewood, then a wood stove is a good option. A fireplace insert would provide adequate warmth for survival, everyone would have to live near the insert though and you want an insert that does not need to power a blower motor in order to provide heat into the room.

If you don't have a good supply of firewood or don't want the mess and hassle, you could look into a vented gas stove to go into the fireplace and have a gas line (NG or LP) piped to it. Again you want one that can operate without any electricity, you just need a match or butane lighter to light the flame.

Or you go with a generator to power the heater you have now. Be sure the generator is located an adequate distance form the house as the CO has ways of getting into a house, even when it is outside. Absolutely do not run a generator inside your garage. Every year, a few families are wiped out because of this. We lost a family a few years ago because the generator was located outside about 4' from the house but under a window and the wind was blowing the wrong way that night.

Mastercarpentry
Re: Emergency Winter Heat
Mastercarpentry

I haven't needed the portable kerosene back-up heater here since I moved in about a decade ago, but it's still there if I need it and it can be perfect for this purpose. But like anything there are pro's and cons involved.

The good:
Kerosene stores better than diesel and more safely than gasoline. You should always rotate any fuel stock; kero cleans oil-based paint tools almost as good as thinner which makes that easy for me. These are relatively simple to keep in working order. When the flame is adjusted correctly they burn somewhat clean and somewhat safely as far as fumes and CO. The larger ones can easily heat a few rooms. Nothing needed to run them but fuel and nothing to mechanically die but the wick and adjustment mechanism- simplicity at it's best. Wicks are cheap and that's all that wears in use. Fuel is widely available and the heaters relatively cheap, even when new. And they provide light too!

The bad:
As with anything, you need some experience with them to operate them well, Get the flame wrong and you get fumes, CO, and oily smoke. You need an additive like 'keroclear' and very water-free kero or you get the same effect. The real killer is that while just sitting around, the fuel bowl and the fuel tank in the heater collects condensation which causes a bad burn or no operation at all if the wick gets wet all around; this can happen with just six months storage in humid places. It's a 20 minute fix if you have a new wick and are familiar with the process, double that if it's your first time. Either way is a messy smelly job. Avoid it by taking it apart late summer, cleaning it, and doing a test-burn before you put it away ready to go with a partial tank of fuel. The small ones which have a removable tank rely on a rubber cap gasket which will got old and brittle leaking kero all over if you're not careful- very dangerous when it's lit! And with either kind there is really only one setting: full hot. Anything less will give a dirty burn no matter what the instructions may say.

The small ones burn ~<2 gallons a day, the larger ones ~2 1/2 to 3 1/2 gallons a day. I've used these for primary heat for a few years in my younger days and they did OK, but in one short winter the ceilings were yellowed from the smoke. One more short winter and everything was covered in an oily dust. Having a pot of water on top helps a lot with that- not sure why but it does work, but you can't avoid that oily smoke completely. That water can also burn you if you knock it over so kids and dogs must be kept away. The heat is intense up close and you need at least 24" clearance to anything flammable with nothing above except ceiling. Even with 'keroclear' and a correct burn you're going to smell it and that smell gets into anything cloth but will wash out. These days for a similar emergency heat source I'd use a portable LP heater because they're no maintenance and they burn cleaner, but if all I had or could get was a kerosene job I wouldn't be concerned. LP has it's issues too but so does anything- there's no free lunch.

And that's the skinny on portable kerosene heaters from my experience. Not my first choice these days and to use them well you need some experience using them but not bad for this purpose and a darn sight better than an old fashioned open fireplace as far as heating goes.

Phil

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