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Super Moderator and Walking Methane Refinery
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Mike K,

THANK YOU for teaching me that there was a thank you button! (I've only been here a month or two, consider myself "alert", but had no idea!) What a wonderful feature for a forum!

(My first thank you was thanking you for pointing this out... (Totally laughing at myself here!)
There's a bit of a learning curve, isn't there? We all went through it. :D:

As you poke around the site's controls, you'll find a lot of useful tools and options. I encourage everyone to explore them, in order to make the best use of the site.
 

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Well, heating YOURSELF when theres no power would be significantly easier, but hey, thats not what you asked for :)

Fireplace or equivalent. Generator or other alternate power supply. Candles. Someones already sad kerosene heater.
 

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Hey everyone, wanted to see what ideas are out there that could be useful in heating my home when the power goes out. I live in a smaller bi-level house with no fireplaces and so-so insulation in Northeast Ohio, and my biggest concern is the power going out for an extended period of time in the middle of winter. What would you suggest as alternatives to keeping my home warm without electrical power given this information?

Thanks!
There are many things you can do to improve insulation in a home without spending a lot of money. (Such as caulking small cracks around windows and doors, covering windows with plastic during the winter, using inexpensive plug covers in outside walls, etc) I went around my house with candles identifying areas were air was coming from the outside and then fixed them myself. That helps a lot, it even allowed me to turn down my furnace during winter and I live in Minnesota. I do have a kerosene heater for emergencies but everything helps to keep a house warmer. I agree that moving into one room is a good idea, less to heat.
 

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how about asking the OP a few questions about the current heating system? .... if there is piped in natural gas it can be as simple as closing off the kitchen and turning on the stove .... already mentioned are the gas-fired wall hungs .... available in LP or NG with a spark ignition .... the OP is a newbie to SB and possibly to prepping .... start with the basics and go K.I.S.S.
Not really. I asked the person from the gas company what happens in a electrical blackout regarding the natural gas and he told me that they have backup generators but they are not used to keep pumping gas to homes for very long, but rather to places like hospitals. Even in that case it's not for very long.
 

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Not really. I asked the person from the gas company what happens in a electrical blackout regarding the natural gas and he told me that they have backup generators but they are not used to keep pumping gas to homes for very long, but rather to places like hospitals. Even in that case it's not for very long.
how long is not long?
 

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Pantomime Villain
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If it's only a few small rooms you need to heat you can do it for pennies with a couple of ceramic flower pots, a pot base and 8 tea lights - 4 for the morning and four for the afternoon.

Put 4 lit tea lights on the pot base, cover with a flower pot (slightly raised to draw air in) block the hole in the flower pot (cover it with a coin or similar) and then cover that pot with a slightly bigger flower pot. You'll be surprised just how warm you can make a small room with this system.

Repeat for each room you want to heat.
 

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MattB4: A rocket stove is NOT the same thing as a rocket mass heater. The mass heater is storing heat that otherwise would have been vented to the great outdoors. The stored heat is slowly released into the room, long after the fire has gone out. A basic wood burning stove is not capable of releasing heat for hours after the fire has burned out.

As an example, I want something to warm my feet, so I light a candle and set it next to my feet for a couple of hours. When I blow out the candle, the heat ceases. Now, if I go a different route with the candle, I can have heat a bit longer after I blow out the candle. By covering the candle with 2 clay flower pots, the pots heat up and create thermal mass and radiate the heat from the candle. When I extinguish the flame, the flower pots are still radiating heat for quite some time after the flame is gone. This is what the rocket mass heater does. It stores the heat that would have gone out through the flue.

It is the same way with the rocket mass heater or any mass heater. Why would anyone let 100's of degrees of heat escape via the flue, if they could contain that heat in some kind of mass that would slowly radiate into the home?

Please don't confuse the twig burning of a rocket stove with the amount of kindling that is used in a rocket mass heater. Earlier, you mentioned something about a wood stove using 80 lbs of wood per day, while a mass heater used 60 lbs per day. I like the idea of saving 20 lbs per day; over the course of 5 months, it is a considerable amount (3,000 lbs).

If burning a fire for two hours will generate enough thermal mass heat to radiate into the home for several hours, then the savings are probably more than the 20% you have mentioned. I am inclined to believe that a 2-3 hour burn in the morning and a 2-3 hour burn in the evening, would be adequate to heat 1000 sqft. With my wood burner, I had to burn wood all day long. That's 18 hours compared to 6 hours with the mass heater.

The woman in the earlier posted video, who lives in the NE, states that she has to heat for 6 months. She is adamant that the amount of wood used is greatly reduced since she started using the rocket mass heater. She has no reason to lie. The amount of ash that she cleaned out of her heater, over a 3 month period of time, is about what I would clean out after a month of using my wood burner.

I used to laugh at straw bale homes, until 2 of my aunts constructed 2 straw bale homes. Neither of them have used their heat this year. They usually kick on the heat in January to bring the inside temp up 10 degrees. Straw bale homes are capable of maintaining a constant temp. Our nights have been in the mid 20's this week. I'm one of those people who have to experience something in order to believe it. People wouldn't be using mass heaters if they didn't perform well.
 

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MattB4: A rocket stove is NOT the same thing as a rocket mass heater. The mass heater is storing heat that otherwise would have been vented to the great outdoors. The stored heat is slowly released into the room, long after the fire has gone out. A basic wood burning stove is not capable of releasing heat for hours after the fire has burned out.

As an example, I want something to warm my feet, so I light a candle and set it next to my feet for a couple of hours. When I blow out the candle, the heat ceases. Now, if I go a different route with the candle, I can have heat a bit longer after I blow out the candle. By covering the candle with 2 clay flower pots, the pots heat up and create thermal mass and radiate the heat from the candle. When I extinguish the flame, the flower pots are still radiating heat for quite some time after the flame is gone. This is what the rocket mass heater does. It stores the heat that would have gone out through the flue.

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I appreciate the thought process and the nice explanation that you wrote, but it is simply wrong. Heat is heat. The heat from your candle whether used to warm the flower pot, or the room does not matter. The room requires a certain BTU/hr to maintain a indoor temperature. It is not magically stored by a thermal mass. The candle must first warm the pot before it warms the room. That time is accounted for at the end when the pot cools back to room temperature. It is a science and no amount of personal testimonials can change it.

I frankly believe the rocket mass heater is a scam. The designs on the web (and this thread) would not work without a means to artificially induce and maintain a draft. Heat must rise, it is physics. I suspect that those promoting the concept do so for the money they charge for the prints they sell. If they have a demonstration fireplace it has a electric powered draft fan hidden in it somewhere. Not to mention they flat out get wrong the efficiency of air tight wood stoves on their website.

Where thermal mass has it's use is when you can generate more BTU's than necessary. The mass absorbs the heat (greater than room temperature) than radiates it back when the heat from heating device has stopped.
 

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Yes, heat is heat. The whole concept is to not let any of it excape to the outdoors. As for the draft, I have seen some mass heater videos where they did use an electric fan in a COLD flue to help pull/blow the smoke along the flue, when they first lit the kindling. After the flue warmed and the draft was flowing, the fan was removed. I have no problem with that. The fan doesn't seem to be necessary if the flue is still warm from the previous night.

I think what a lot of us like about the mass heater approach is the fact that we can cozy up to the thermal mass, i.e., the stuccoed benches that are warmed and make for a warm place to sit or lie. I do use the clay pots and candle to keep my feet warm. I'm using it right now. I like to let my feet and ankles cozy up to the sides of the pot, as it sits between my feet. I couldn't do that with a bare candle. Also, I can drape a wool blanket over my knees and let it fall around the clay pot, trappping the heat under the blanket..... oh, it feels so nice! And, the blanket won't catch fire, because the clay pot keeps the blanket from touching the flame. However, I would not use this with small children in the home.
 

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We had the power go out for a few days a few years back in Kentucky. My basement is well-insulated compared to the upstairs, so that's where we spent most of our time. We used wool blankets to cover our sliding glass door and windows at night, but left them open during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat the basement when it could. Slept on mattresses next to the gas fireplace in the basement. Nice and toasty.

Supposedly we're out for another bad winter this year in Kentucky. If Mother Nature feels like setting me back in front of a nice fire every night, I've no problem using that excuse.
 

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Here's a pic of my clay pot heater. Luckily, the clay saucer is permanently attached to the large pot and it makes a nice handle. After the pot is thoroughly heated, I extinguish two of the flames and use just one. This candle came with three wicks, but when I pour my own, I will put one wick in this type of container, so I can use them exclusively for the clay pot heater. EDIT: My Den floor is brick. I took the pics while it was sitting on my wool throw. It does not sit on the wool throw when it's in use. I do have a small rug in front of my chair and the stand with heater does sit on that. Also, I change to a different candle when the wax becomes too hot. Hot wax can become flammable, so it's a good idea not to use all three wicks.
 

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Chains keep us together.
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My power went out last week along with 8000 others from a wind storm.
it took them 22 hours to restore power to me. Some went two to four days.
I ran my boiler and pump on a small coleman generator I bought for $150 at a garage sale.
in between I ran a fridge, freezer and the computer( still had internet and phone)
I probably could of ran my neighbors too but he hasn't bothered to introduce himself since he moved in this summer. fridge didn't really like the generator, I could hear the potential relay buzzing after a few hours. but the freezer was unaffected, it was a lot newer.


I didn't even get this stuff out till power was off for 8 hours, I just kept the wood stove going, it was about 10F above through all this. wind stayed for two days which Im sure slowed repairs a bit.
it was the longest in 17 years the power was ever out, but now I have a better plan and everything is in one bag in the utility rm ready to go next time. 3 days would have sucked but now I know I could do it and I know fuel rate of consumption and max loads and combinations of loads that work well.
 

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Chains keep us together.
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...it's a good idea to have your heating unit rewired with a regular 110v cord, considerably cheaper than a mechanical interlocked switch, from a gen. to landlines.
the newer LED bulbs allow you to run much more lights cheaper and with less power also. I don't trust them completely yet though, lot of fires from a few cheap Chinese LED bulbs.
 

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ROVER: Thanks for all the info. About 10 years ago we had a freak ice/snow storm that knocked out power for two weeks here..... a lot longer in Arkansas. Luckily, I was in New Orleans.:D: You've made me think about getting my large kerosene heater up to snuff, just in case. Plus, get my small generator repaired or sold, and buy a bigger one.
 

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I think what a lot of us like about the mass heater approach is the fact that we can cozy up to the thermal mass, i.e., the stuccoed benches that are warmed and make for a warm place to sit or lie. I do use the clay pots and candle to keep my feet warm. I'm using it right now. I like to let my feet and ankles cozy up to the sides of the pot, as it sits between my feet. I couldn't do that with a bare candle. ...
True, as a source of point heat, the candle in a flower pot is akin to a hand warmer. You can get some relief from cold with such devices but they are not designed for room heating. Simply too small of BTU's produced.

Warm thermal mass is more comfortable, as I stated already, because of the slowly radiating heat. People unfortunately take that to mean that they are getting more heat out than they are putting in. They forget that a cold thermal mass is a bugger to warm up. Indeed it is a principal of surviving outdoors to shield your self (insulate) from all that cold mass of the ground.

That is the problem as I see with this rocket mass design. To heat up all that mass is going to take a lot of BTU's. There is no way a few sticks is going to do so and until they do, the hot air (and smoke) will rise straight up into the living space. Unlike a airtight stove the burning chamber is exposed in this design they show. Even worse is the contorted flow path for combustion gasses including a side wise exit.

A fire has to have a certain amount of heat escape through its chimney. Just like a gas furnace, or any combustion device. A well constructed air tight, high efficiency stove takes it to the limit and you can have creosote buildup due to too cool of flue temperature. It has been tested through the years and a temperature above 350 is necessary.

At any rate I hope I have explained it. If not, I guess it will have to be let go. :)

ETA: Here is a explanation of chimneys for those that are interested http://woodheat.org/how-chimneys-work.html
 

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I have a coal stove which use to be our main source of heat until we went Geothermal. Now it's our back up heat and I have 1 ton stored in my coal box just in case. 1 ton will heat my house for more than a year.

Consider this, coal never goes bad, it won't rot like wood, won't leak from rusty bottles like propane and won't go bad like diesel or gas. I think it's the perfect back up fuel.
COAL!!!???? That's one of those 4 letter words you must never utter!

Just kidding! I was allowed to take 15ton a year from the coal mine I worked at. Never did because I had no place to store it and no stove to use it. A co-worker heats his 1400sqft garage with it all winter, thermostat, auger fed. I'm a little jealous.

It does make excellent fuel. More than likely that big switch in your breaker box , the one that says "MAIN" was probably supplied with coal power at one point or another.
 
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