Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Partial Solution to our Winter Heat Problem

Thanks to all who weighed in on my Sun Oven woes. You all gave me food for thought and I have not given up the fight! Now, for something completely different...
I spent the majority of my prepping budget this month on a few tools to help keep us warm if the power goes out.

This is the Mr. Heater Big Buddy, plus a hoseand propane tank. The good thing about this heater is that it is approved to use indoors and it automatically shuts off if it tips over. You can run it off 2-1 lb propane canisters OR a 20 lb tank (like those for grills). According to the manufacturer, one 20 lb tank will heat 400 square feet for 25-110 hours, depending on how high you have the heat turned up.

I use the major ice storm we had a few years ago as the benchmark for a winter power outage. That time we were without power for 8 days. Assuming that is the length of an archetypal winter disaster, two 20 lb tanks would provide enough heat to get us through. Four tanks would give us considerably more cushion.

But wait! We have one of these in our yard:

We always keep our 500 gallon propane tank topped up during the fall and winter. Wouldn't it be handy if we could find a way to refill our little propane tank from this big one? I did a little online research, and it appears that it is indeed possible to fill grill-type tanks from a big tank like this one. You need to have a special hose or something (love my technical terminology?) installed, but it can be done if you own your propane tank rather than rent it. I'm thinking about calling our propane co-op and seeing if this is a possibility.

A wood stove and a generator are definitely in our future, but a propane heater is certainly better than nothing.

Now that it is officially fall, it's time to be thinking about the challenge of keeping warm during the winter. What preparations have you made in case your heat goes out in the winter? 


  1. Where would you use the heater in your home? Would you all sleep in one room? Move the heater around the house to take the chill off each bedroom?

    We have my dad living with us and it wouldn't be feasable to move him in our room with us, I don't think. Our master bedroom would fit the girls on the floor in sleepingbags.

    Do you think we should have two propane heaters? We have two fireplaces (basement and 1st floor in the family room) and need to get wood to get us by for a few days for emergencies and "atmosphere". ;)


  2. Hi Brenda! The plan is we would all bunk in our master bedroom. At the moment, my kids are small enough that we would put the two littles in bed with DH and I and the two big kids would sleep on the floor. In the day time, we could move the the heater into the kitchen/dining area if need be.

    Yes, it would certainly be more comfortable to have two heaters, especially in your situation. They don't take up too much space and are reasonably priced, so it would probably be a good idea.

    I wish our house had a fireplace, much less two!


  3. We have a woodstove/fireplace that heats the main living area (living room, kitchen, dining room) without any problem. If the power goes out, we'll all just camp out on the floor in the living room. Not the best situation, but better than nothing.

  4. I'm always worried that the pipes will freeze. Do you think this heater would be good to move to different areas of the house to prevent frozen pipes during a winter power outage?

  5. Anonymous - Sure! That should work fine. Don't forget that you can keep your taps running (just barely - it only takes a thin stream of water) and that will keep your pipes from freezing. Of course that will only work if you still have running water!

  6. I used one of these heaters during a 5 day power outage in February of 2010; for 1 person who tolerates the cold well, it was still bad! I got less than 30 hours out of 1 20 lb tank, sometimes less than 20. Even though it is supposed to be ventless, cracking open a window is a good idea, and a CO monitor is a must!