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secure 10-13-2008 08:39 AM

Home Heating Back Up.
I have a forced air heating system. In the harsh Michigan winters, occasionally the power goes out. When this happens I can still have flames from the gas pipe, but without the air movement, depending on the heat rising is not the best.

I have a few kerosene heaters for backups in case this happens. It may not make the house "cozy" but it will keep from freezing the pipes and surviving the day or two it may take the electricity to come back.

Yesterday I was at Lowes and noticed the standalone blue-flame and ceramic ventless gas heaters. They are as low at $159 and take both LP and Natural gas and are 99.9% efficient. And range from heating 400 sq. feet to 1000 sq. feet.

I had a buddy heat his entire 800 square feet house with 2 of these. A larger one and a smaller one. But I was looking at more for a back up use.

Anyways, I was wondering if anybody had used these in this capacity and would it be worth investing into? Or should I just stick with my Kerosene and hope for the best?

glennjanie 10-13-2008 12:54 PM

Hello Secure:
I think you have hit on a real deal. If you alredy have the natural gas, it can't miss. I always hated the kerosene odor, especially on start-up and shut-down or when they went dry.
I personally use ventless gas logs in my fireplace which has carried us through so far.

inspectorD 10-13-2008 07:26 PM

I would save all that money, and look around the classifieds for a generator or even buy a new one. I bought mine at 4 years ago for 500 bucks, best thing ever. I even can help my neighbors who are older with heat at their home.
I live in the backwoods, we always are the last ones with power.

You get lights, heat and keep the fridge going. You paid for the generator with the first spoilage of food, or stubbed toe.:D

And there is usually always some extra gas in the car and lawnmower if you forget to fill it. No risk of carbon monoxide from heaters, or fires from something to close when the dog wanted to sleep with it next to the heater at 2 in the morning.

You also only need to run it sparingly, when it is needed.
That's my 2 cents, I live cozy.:)

secure 10-14-2008 08:20 AM

inspectorD - quick question. Are you referring to a portable generator type or a permanently mounted whole house back up generator?

I have seen the "Hardy" diesel type whole generators advertised a lot in Mother Earth. But I would not think you could come across one for $500.

If a portable generator type, do forced air have a chord to plug in with? I am not that well versed in HVAC. I thought it was hard wired to its on circuit on my fuse box.

Now I am going to have go check it...curiosity and the kitty ya know?

Also, what wattage are we striving for? I would think for heat and fridge you will need at least like a 5000 watt or something, right? A smaller 1850 peak is probably going to have a hard time each time the freon pump start up spike hits it won't it?

inspectorD 10-14-2008 05:25 PM

mine is a 5500 watt continuos load. Not peak load. You want a portable you can move around. That way I can bring it to the neighbors to help them in emergencies.

There will be other suggestions I'm sure, but mine has a transfer switch on the panel. I do not run the electronics, the sine waves from portables will do them no good. Then do a wattage test, and see what you can run at the same time. I usually just run one major appliance at a time, no electric stove, and a few lights. The generator works fine for that.

Get an electrician for a hook up a quick disconnect cord for your heat if you need to, that way may be less expensive than a transfer switch.

I would go for the transfer switch, it is always a good selling point for when you move.

Like I said, mine was cheap, as long as you can run your essentials, you should be ahead of the game. The big units are for the whole house usually, I do not see a real need for big ones ones nowadays. Just a waste in my opinion. And with cold weather stay away from diesel, when the power goes out ,there is nothing to heat the crankcase. Plain old gasoline is something everyone has around and handy in case you run out.:)

handyguys 10-15-2008 06:26 AM

I have never had a generator but it seems like a winning solution. I'll comment on he blue flame and radiant wall mount heaters you asked about.

I have an un-insulated cottage that I use three seasons. For heat I use a single blue flame (convection style) wall mount running on LP gas. The convection style heats the air and is not super hot right in front. A radiant style heats the objects near it and feels warmer when standing in front of it. Both have the same BTU.

The drawbacks of these kind of units:
They are permanently mounted to a wall
They aren't that attractive
They use the air in the room for combustion (un-vented)

Advantages of this type of heater:
No power required to run or start

It will cost a lot more money but you can get a similar setup installed that actually looks like a fireplace and will do the same job. There are tons of styles. I have two in my primary residence. One is a natural gas fireplace in my living room and the other is a natural gas stove in my basement. These can keep off the chill when the electric goes out and the furnace cant blow.

I also have a Kerosene heater. I use that when working in the shop when its cold. When I was a kid we used a kerosene heater for supplemental heat in the house (70s energy crunch). Worst case scenario I could bring he kero heater into a bedroom and slightly crack a window for fresh air. My natural gas fireplace and stove have their own outside vents so no worries about O2 depletion.

The Handyguys recently discussed space heater options as a way to save on home energy costs. We mentioned each of the things I talked about but did not discuss them in the context of a power outage. That show will go online on Thursday. I do not have a direct link for it yet. Go ahead and subscribe to The Handyguys Podcast and you will get notified of that show when it comes online. The link is in my signature.

racsan 03-21-2009 11:14 AM

ive been using a kerosene heater this past winter to supplement the furnace, have been able to turn down the thermostat and cut the gas bill by half. it wouldnt be the way to go as far as totally replacing the furnace, but you could get by for awhile that way.

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