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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am preparing a source for emergency heat and/or power. We experience ice storms that can knock out power for 1-7 days at a time. My home is 100% electric (no NG or LP). It uses a large heat pump. A generator large enough to handle the heat pump's start-up surge is beyond my budget at the moment. I have a fireplace insert and a ton of wood, but it barely puts off any heat. What would you folks recommend as a heat source that could run for 1-7 days per year? I was thinking 1 of 2 routes:

1) A portable, ventless propane heater with a few 100# tanks - no electricity. This could warm one room for the required time.

2) A smallish generator (5500-8000 watts) tied into the breaker box to power ONLY 2 circuits in the home - TV, light and a 1500W space heater.

What are your thoughts on these two options? Is there another option you'd suggest over these?

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I know what you mean we lost ours for 13 days in the storm last year.So this year we have a generator and we're getting a kerosene heater that will heat 1,000 sq. feet.While kero is a little bit expensive it's not to bad to have 10 gallons put back.BTW atwoods has kero heaters [email protected] 100 bucks.
 

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backup space heating part 1 (kerosene)

I would check out both kerosene space heater and LP ventless stove options for back up heat. I use both. Having a generator is nice, but expensive, and with heat you want to think about the KISS principal (keep it simple stupid). having to depend on the generator to keep from freezing might be something to think about. the following two options are less expensive and very reliable. get a generator but have one of these as well.

Kerosene (wick type) space heaters are simple, no outside electric power required, simple and safe if you exercise proper caution, and don't leave it unattended, same goes for the LP variety. The two common versions of the kerosene heaters are the cylindrical shaped heaters at about 20,000 BTU's output and the rectangular box shape at about 10,000 BTU's output. Both can be lit by a built in battery powered ignitor, or with a BBQ gril type lighter. The smaller 10,000 BTU heater will heat a well insulated space of say 350+ square feet pretty well. The larger unit will heat maybe twice that space. With kerosene there is an odor issue for some. Lighting and extinguishing the heater outside will reduce about 90 percent of the odor. Using the expensive "clear-lite" fuel will completely eliminate the odor. You should always refuel the heater outdoors in any case. There are additives to put in the fuel to add pine scent and others if that helps. Either clear or red kerosene work well and the red color does not clog the wicks as some say. Fuel for off road and heating purposes is colored red to be identifiable as not taxed for highway use, don't get caught, ha. Now the math, knowing the BTU content of the fuel will provide you with the approximate burn time for the heater, simply take the fuels BTU rating, for kerosene about 135,000 BTU (close enough for the estimate) and divide by your heaters heat output, say 20,000 BTU and you get something over 6 hours of heat per gallon. The tank is 2 gallons (for 12 hours total run time). The smaller kerosene stoves have a removable 1 gallon fuel tank (12 hour run time at half the heat output of the bigger heater), which might be something to consider if it helps make it easier to use. Knowing the heaters run time will help you know how much fuel to stock. I buy my kerosene at a service station that has pay at the pump red kerosene, and not in the expensive small containers sold in home improvement centers. I recommend keeping your kerosene in a properly color coded plastic fuel can (traditionally the blue color gas cans) so there is no chance in confusing gasoline with the kerosene. kerosene will last for years and years, if properly stored. As with all these back up heat sources, I would make your bedroom toasty, then turn off the heater before sleeping, and pay attention to proper ventilation.
 

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backup space heating part 2 Lp gas (propane)

Ventless LP gas (Propane) heaters can be wall ,mounted or with a kit be set on the floor supported by legs. I prefer the type that heats via radiation (infra-red) verses the blue flame that just heats the air around the flame. My particular heaters provides 6000, 12000, or 18000 BTU's of heat by selecting how many of the ceramic plaques to turn on. The lowest 6000 BTU setting will heat a 350+ sq. ft space. There is no odor, and the heater ignition is from a built in click type piezoelectric source or by the same BBQ grill lighter in part 1. Propane has about 91000 BTU's per gallon of gas. So your 5 gallon (20 pound tank) BBQ sized LP tank would run the heater for about 60 hours on the low setting ( 91000 divided by 6000, times 4 gallons). FYI LP tanks are only filled to 80 percent capacity to allow for expansion, so your 5 gallon tank only has 4 gallons when filled. You will also need a pressure regulator and hose, to set this up. I would recommend you buy more than one tank, so you always have a full tank, nothing like running out of gas when it gets cold, or your food is on the grill.

This is probably more than you want to know, but may help your decision process.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Reddirt, that's a great idea and it's within my shoestring budget. Are they designed to be ventless (used indoors)? Is THIS similar to the one at Atwoods? Thanks for the reply.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Ken,

Thanks for the in-depth response. I guess I'm sold on the kerosene versions. I like the fact that the fuel is stable for the long-haul. Being paranoid, I will look for a battery opperated CO detector to go with it. I like the thought of the propane versions as I have several 20lb. tanks already. But, the kerosene heaters sound equally safe based on your info.

You're right about the generator concept. I don't think I could afford a reliable genset and I'd hate to rely on that as my only source of heat.

Thanks again.
 

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Have you figured out why your fireplace insert doesn't put out any heat? I'd think that would be a good backup for anything you come up with...
 

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Ken, do you have a good link for kerosene heaters? My aunt lives alone in Tulsa, and last year she had to deal with this, and was out of power for nearly 3 weeks. She had all the neighbors stay at her house (God knows that would drive me crazy)...I may pass along the idea of a kerosene heater.
*and let me just say again and again and again...if you have a generator, NO NOT use it indoors, and DO NOT set it near a window or a door. People in Galveston and Houston died in their sleep because their generators were outside (good intention) but near open windows or doors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Have you figured out why your fireplace insert doesn't put out any heat? I'd think that would be a good backup for anything you come up with...
BrowserCat, in short - cheap home. It's a new "cookie-cutter" home and we didn't pay attention to certain items during the build...too busy picking paint colors to upgrade the important stuff. It's a Lennox Superior brand BR-42-2 fireplace if that helps. There's no powered fan (not that it would help in an ice storm) and it basically takes the heat up the chimney with the smoke. In hindsight, I would have gone with a cast iron wood stove. You don't really see them around these parts but I will go with function over form any day of the week.

EDIT: I guess it's not an insert...it's just a fireplace. I don't know the proper nomenclature. HERE'S what I have.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ken, do you have a good link for kerosene heaters? My aunt lives alone in Tulsa, and last year she had to deal with this, and was out of power for nearly 3 weeks. She had all the neighbors stay at her house (God knows that would drive me crazy)...I may pass along the idea of a kerosene heater.
*and let me just say again and again and again...if you have a generator, NO NOT use it indoors, and DO NOT set it near a window or a door. People in Galveston and Houston died in their sleep because their generators were outside (good intention) but near open windows or doors.
FireHiker, check out Northern Tool. If you're in the DFW area, there's probably one nearby. I bet you could order it for her and have it shipped from their warehouse OR pick one out for her and have her phone in the order. What she'd pay in freight, she might make up in (no) sales taxes.
 

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GoPokes i think that is the same one they have at atwoods, but at Atwoods it was only 99.99,they also have K1 kero in a metal can 5 gallons for @44 dollars but i think you could beat that price at a filling station or fuel outlet.Also lowes has the the blue plastic kero cans for @ $ 6.00.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
GoPokes i think that is the same one they have at atwoods, but at Atwoods it was only 99.99,they also have K1 kero in a metal can 5 gallons for @44 dollars but i think you could beat that price at a filling station or fuel outlet.Also lowes has the the blue plastic kero cans for @ $ 6.00.
Thanks, RedDirt. It looks like I'm off to Atwoods this Saturday. I wish I had one closer than Norman or Stillwater as I'm N of Edmond. I'll look into that filling station kerosene. I've got several jerry cans and plastic cans around. I'm thinking 20-30 gallons should outlast our typical ice storm...how much do you try to keep on hand?
 

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I have had a "Toyo" kerosine heather for my home for the past six years and it works great, in consumes only 0.04 gallons per day year round..........for winter I also have a "sun heat box" facing south which keeps the temperature steady in sunny days.

I do have five generators from 1,000 w to 5,000........my favorite one is the 1,000 w two strokes, one gallon of fuel will last 8 hours and I can powered my lap to, small tv, satellite dish, Toyo heather and about eight light bulbs........... for anything longer than one day I use my 5,000 w for one hour a day for my two freezers, hot water tank and so on.

As a matter of fact I like my 1,000 w generator so much that I have two of them, got it from "Cheaperthandirt.com" for $129.00.
 

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Thanks, RedDirt. It looks like I'm off to Atwoods this Saturday. I wish I had one closer than Norman or Stillwater as I'm N of Edmond. I'll look into that filling station kerosene. I've got several jerry cans and plastic cans around. I'm thinking 20-30 gallons should outlast our typical ice storm...how much do you try to keep on hand?
I'm going to keep at least 30 gal. around as it also works good in the old style kero lamps.I'll see if i can get a better idea on prices for kero around here.
 

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there are surge reduction devices. I do not know much about them but they are designed to help with high inrush current devices on jenny power or batteries. they may only be industrial type... I do not know. you may want to google them if you have not done so already.

how cold does it get in your area? how warm do you really need it to be? I understand you need good heat if you have infants or small children but lots of people can get by just fine in the cold. if you have no power and are dependent on it for everything that means no hot water either so no showers. will you be bugging in after a storm or do you have a white collar job you have to go to?

personally, I would pinch pennies and save up for replacing that fireplace with a proper air tight wood stove. get some quotes to see what it would cost compared to the jenny and propane options. even a small stove would keep the house livable and the glass door ones are also decorative.

another thing to think about is what needs to be protected from cold in your house.

the thing that will cause the most damage fast is frozen pipes. if you have town water and the inlet pipe bursts you will be flooded out when it thaws. if you have lots of water in your area you can just let a faucet trickle... but that may be a problem as it will cost you and may deprive others of pressure unless you have really good water system all around your area. if you have a well and pump the pump can be damaged by ice inside it and/or it can still cause a nasty mess if the power comes on in the middle of the night and no one wakes up to notice. you should have a plan for draining your system and deactivate it.

does your dishwasher have a trap that might freeze and break? ditto for the washer? where are you cans and jars stored? can that area be heated with a small source? do you have a thermometer in there? these are all basically no cost measures you can take if you are on a tight budget.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
there are surge reduction devices. I do not know much about them but they are designed to help with high inrush current devices on jenny power or batteries. they may only be industrial type... I do not know. you may want to google them if you have not done so already.

how cold does it get in your area? how warm do you really need it to be? I understand you need good heat if you have infants or small children but lots of people can get by just fine in the cold. if you have no power and are dependent on it for everything that means no hot water either so no showers. will you be bugging in after a storm or do you have a white collar job you have to go to?

personally, I would pinch pennies and save up for replacing that fireplace with a proper air tight wood stove. get some quotes to see what it would cost compared to the jenny and propane options. even a small stove would keep the house livable and the glass door ones are also decorative.

another thing to think about is what needs to be protected from cold in your house.

the thing that will cause the most damage fast is frozen pipes. if you have town water and the inlet pipe bursts you will be flooded out when it thaws. if you have lots of water in your area you can just let a faucet trickle... but that may be a problem as it will cost you and may deprive others of pressure unless you have really good water system all around your area. if you have a well and pump the pump can be damaged by ice inside it and/or it can still cause a nasty mess if the power comes on in the middle of the night and no one wakes up to notice. you should have a plan for draining your system and deactivate it.

does your dishwasher have a trap that might freeze and break? ditto for the washer? where are you cans and jars stored? can that area be heated with a small source? do you have a thermometer in there? these are all basically no cost measures you can take if you are on a tight budget.
Those are all great things to consider, Mac. You hit on two points for my situation - I've got an infant and a young child & we're pinching pennies. My wife and I can rought it. I know northerners are the only ones who can really complain about the cold...but, it gets pretty darned cold and windy here too. We've only been in this home since June and we've already lost power twice to high winds. The winter ice will certainly knock it out this year. Some folks in my state only lose it for a few hours while some of my coworkers lost it for more than a week. I don't care about the contents of the refrigerator (we've got rations) or what's on the tube so a generator is not a must. I've already got several catalogs on wood burning stoves. If we experience a major blackout this year I'll end up buying one. I really just want a SAFE means of heating my house for a short period - no more than 2 weeks. As for the pipes, I don't know why, but our pipes have never burst in an outage. Maybe it has something to do with our frost line. It usually just freezes at night here. We just open the cabinets and leave the faucets dripping.
 

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I did not read all the post here but if you have "a ton of wood" I would recomend getting a real wood stove (you have learned that fire places are for looks) stick a stove pipe out a wall and enjoy!
 

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I did not read all the post here but if you have "a ton of wood" I would recomend getting a real wood stove (you have learned that fire places are for looks) stick a stove pipe out a wall and enjoy!
Agreed. You can get a wood burning stove insert that will replace that fireplace. It will put out enough heat with 4 logs that you will need to step outside because of dizziness due to the heat! They are also insanely efficient. 3-4 logs can burn 8+hours withut a problem.

I highly recommend Vermont Castings inserts:

http://www.vermontcastings.com/content/products/productline.cfm?category=11&sc=13

That should be your solution ... it is your best -- and safest -- option.
 

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+5 on the wood burning stove! one word of advice. if you get a wood burning stove, get a kettle and pot stand for it it holds water in the kettle just above the top of the stove, and will help with re-humidifying the home. the wood burning stoves will really dry the air in a home. the wood burning stove is a very efficient way to heat, and if you know where you can go to harvest dry lumber near you, it's virtually free to feed. you can also use it for heat when you have power. this will keep that heat pump barely turning on, and save power!

hope which ever way you choose works out. we're getting close to the cold season.
 
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get a kettle and pot stand for it it holds water in the kettle just above the top of the stove, and will help with re-humidifying the home.
Ziggy is absolutely correct. Without that pot evaporating water into the air, many a nosebleed can occur -- especially if you are burning for 7+ consecutive days. It can get really dry.

Excellent point that I failed to mention.
 
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