PREPS

Where There Is No Electric Heat

where-there-is-no-electric-heat

How many of you have electric heat in your home, as opposed to oil or gas heat?

Given the winter season, for those of you who rely on electric heating systems, what would you do if the power went out for more than a few hours and how would you stay warm?

Here’s the problem, and why you might want to give it some thought…

 
For homes with electric heat (typically baseboards in every room which contain electrical heating elements), the heating coils require LOTS of electricity. In fact, so much so – that a typical home generator is not anywhere near powerful enough to supply the capacity that would be needed to feed them.

Many of these individual baseboard heater panels may typically draw 1,000 watts or 1,500 watts, or thereabouts, and a typical room may contain several of these. A home’s overall power demands for electric baseboard heat adds up very quickly and is well beyond the capabilities of a typical home generator – not to mention the other demands which would be placed on the generator as well…

So, what is one to do during the winter if you are stuck with electric heat and wish to do something to be better prepared for a power outage from a major winter storm or otherwise?

There are several alternatives, some more expensive than others, which you might consider.

 

Gas Heater-Furnace

direct-vent-gas-wall-heater

You might consider augmenting your electric heat with gas heat. You could approach this as a major renovation, or you could consider installation of a single gas heater-furnace or several (depending on the size of your home).

There are many varieties of such gas heater wall units that are designed to attach to a wall (either exterior wall or interior). The least expensive option would be to select a heater that is designed to attach to (and through) an exterior wall in which the gas feeder line and the heater’s exhaust would be routed. These are called direct-vent natural gas heaters. If your street has a gas line running through it, you might consider the expense of tapping into it. However a probable much less expensive approach would be to sign up with a bottled gas company whereby an appropriate size gas bottle would be set outside and would directly feed your heater(s).

This project would cost some money for sure, but not terribly much (e.g. 30,000 Btu direct-vent furnace for ~$600 ea., plus labor, gas bottle installation, etc.), but would potentially provide you with the BTU’s necessary to maintain a reasonably safe temperature in your home during a longer term winter power outage. Not only that, but by augmenting your electric heat, you will reduce your electric bill, while incurring a corresponding gas bill – which may cost less $$.

 

Portable Propane Heater

portable-propane-heater

If you don’t want to spend the approximate $1K – $2K to set yourself up with a permanent gas wall heater, then you might think about smaller portable gas heaters, but be sure that what you choose is safe for indoor operation (many are not).

For example, for a little more that $100 you might choose to purchase one or more of a portable propane heater like this model,

Mr. Heater Buddy Indoor-Safe (4,000 , 9,000 and 18,000 BTU)

…which produces up to 18,000 Btu. Although my home is currently heated with gas heat, I also have this model (Mr. Heater) as a portable emergency solution (for whatever). If you go down this road, you will want to get yourself an extension hose which allows you to connect to a bottled gas tank such as the one for your BBQ grill. Otherwise you will be changing LOTS of those little 1-pound cylinders (which costs lots more too).

There are other portable heater solutions too. Just do your research and settle on what works for you.

 

Wood or Pellet Stove

wood-stove-insert

Another obvious solution to your problem of reliance on electric heat during a power outage, is to utilize a wood stove or pellet stove. If you currently have a fireplace, be aware that if you use it (as is) for heat, you will heat up the room nicely, but it will actually draw the heat out of other rooms. A fireplace insert is the best way to ensure a more efficient way to heat your home.

Ideally you would purchase an appropriate size wood stove insert for your fireplace. This would seal off the fireplace itself while accommodating the exhaust of the wood stove. A wood stove can be AMAZINGLY effective, and you might be very surprised how even a small size stove can heat up the place…

If you don’t already have a fireplace in your home, then you could choose to install a stand-alone wood stove or pellet stove. This would cost more due to the appropriate efforts to properly and safely exhaust the stove to the exterior of your home.

A wood stove insert might cost between $1K and $2K depending…

 

When all else fails

Okay, lets say you don’t want to spend any money to augment your electric heat in case of power failure. At a minimum, at least consider this…

Since you could potentially be stuck in your home (assuming the weather is bad and the region is out of power for awhile), and your home will quickly get c-c-cold, be sure that you have appropriate winter weather warm clothes, very warm blankets, AND a very good winter weather sleeping bag. While your house will become very cold, at least if you are wearing quality insulated clothing, thermals for under your clothes, a well-insulated coat, hat, gloves, insulated socks and boots, etc., then you will probably not perish from hypothermia.

If you have candles, the flame from a single candle can make a surprising difference in psychology during the emergency, and you will be able to warm your hands. Just be careful that you don’t burn your house down…

 

 
It’s all about HEAT in the winter (especially for those living in northern latitudes). If your home is heated solely by electric heat, then consider what you would do in an emergency where an ice-storm strikes the region and topples countless trees onto power lines, bringing your section of the grid down, while travel is impossible and your are stuck in your home for days or longer until the power is finally restored…

By the way, if you have an oil or gas heat furnace, they still require electricity to run pumps and blowers. The solution though is simply procuring a typical home generator which can easily feed the relatively small power demands for this. Electric heat though — you’re outta luck.

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32 Comments

  1. That wall heater pictured above is the one I bought last year. 30,000 btu and only 70% efficient, as opposed to the 90% efficient central gas heater that heats my whole house.

    But my central furnace requires electricity for the blower and for the thermostat. It is worthless in a power outage, which happens fairly often here.

    My vented gas wall heater doesn’t require any electricity. It heats by radiant heat, turns on by a push button, and has some type of manual thermostat. So no electricity needed. It does a very good job of heating the main areas of my house. I just close off the unused bedroom and the back porch and basement. In the long run, since I am only heating the main areas of my house, it saves me money. I love it. I spent about $1,200 which included labor and materials. You could save half if you can do your own electric and plumbing.

    My gas company says that they would be able to supply heat for a period of weeks even in a grid-down situation. I have a Mr. Heater and a couple dozen bottles of propane in case of that event. It gets 35-40 below where I live.

    BTW, you can rig my gas wall heater up with an electric blower and there is a fixture you can buy to rig it up to propane, but I didn’t do that.

    1. I randomly found that picture of the wall heater…I believe it was from the Lowe’s website, and I believe it was listed at just above $600 (obviously no labor-installation included). I too have a direct-vent wall heater in addition to my central gas-heat system. Although I also have generators and a battery bank with a high power inverter, the extra wall heater provides extra assurance (and helps to heat the great room ;))

  2. In even a cursory reading of pioneer life, one learns that they struggled to cut enough wood to heat their homes for winter, besides having enough feed to feed their livestock. Because rainfall is minimal due to temperature changes, and snowfall might not be sufficient for water needs, and game animals were were hibernating, and unless enough food was grown and preserved for Winter, then all of these many factors contributed in pioneer families giving up on their dreams.

    Life on the prairie might offer the dream of owning land and freedom, but it could be so difficult as to be beyond the skills and backbone of many. Upwards of 2/3 gave up that dream for all of those reasons, and their mettle was most tested in Winter.

    Heating a homestead in Winter under disaster conditions is surprisingly difficult. Americans don’t consider this since we have some measure of security versus 3rd world countries. I can assure you that it’s a major topic of assisting villagers. A tremendous amount of energy and resources has been spent to find a safe means of heating homes.

    Why? Fuel must be acquired and in inexpensive, renewable, and non-hazardous ways to increase the temperature to a survivable level. This often means combustion, or else it will not release enough exotherrmic energy. The manner of that release often leads to other gases being released like carbon monoxide which doesn’t support life.

    Carbon monoxide is a competitor for hemoglobin. That substance in our blood grabs on with four branches to oxygen and works to transport oxygen in a super efficient way. The problem is that there is a higher affinity for carbon monoxide to hemoglobin than oxygen to hemoglobin. As such, any release of carbon monoxide (a colorless odorless gas) is a frequent health hazard and even a killer of families who use devices that release it. They suffocate on carbon monoxide and cannot absorb oxygen even if present.

    In addition to this major issue, any fuel burning heater while immediately heating the region, must generally use an electrical fan to recirculate the air and disburse the exothermic release. That means one more energy source that villagers won’t have.

    Consider that under a sustained disaster, that burning fuels like kerosene or wood pellets or propane may be available, the demand and desire for them will be many fold the normal inventory for them. That demand will outstrip desire. Even if trade was not affected by a disaster (which it always is), then the existing transportation of those materials requires they are created somewhere such that they could be routed to that locale. If the demand area of the disaster is higher than normal, by even a small amount, then it becomes impossible to route those supplies as they haven’t been manufactured because of Just-In-Time manufacturing practices as well as inventory controls.

    What to do? All of these suggestions are for temporary use only, for while they do improve the situation, they require those alternative fuel substances.

    I can tell you that last Winter, one of the biggest issues with heating occurred with Hurricane Sandy. That disaster which spread over a larger region, caused the demand for these fuels to be higher than normal. In addition, some preppers who thought they had a solution with rocket stoves, discovered to their surprise that those rocket stoves released gases like carbon monoxide and soot in higher amounts then they assumed would be released. Rocket stoves are only meant for outdoor use, or by venting those harmful gases, and doing the latter in a chimney meant losing the heat up the chimney.

    In addition to all of that, many homes were damaged by the hurricane, and thus larger amounts of cold air entered the affected homes, as well as making many chimneys unusable.

    Here’s some ideas, all of varying benefits, and with some ill effects as well.

    One can heat a room under disaster conditions with a kerosene or paraffin oil lamp, but imperfectly since it cannot hold very much fuel and acquiring the fuel is the biggest issue. It will be releasing a small amount of carbon monoxide, but since small give the a very small energy release.

    Alcohol stoves while offering a lot of heat per the amount of fuel, still requires a lot of fuel ultimately to heat an area in sufficient BTUs. You also must buy the alcohol of some kind as long term distillation of that kind of fluid requires a set up and is illegal and is very flammable and prone to historical issues.

    There are free plans for waste oil heaters. Waste oil can be burned in them, and the specific kind of oil burned is that which fast food restaurants have in grease pits located outside. Under collapse conditions, one could use that waste oil as few will find a use for them. That also can be made into a rudimentary version of biodiesel.

    If one possesses a wood-burning stove, and since fuel shortage will be an issue, may I suggest that you burn desiccated cow manure instead. That method was used long ago, burns with high BTUs, is a renewable heating fuel, burns as clean as wood if not better, and is generally free. The only problem is sourcing it. Cow manure because it contains digested grasses, is composed of combustible fiber, and burns leaving only ash. This method is used in many villages, but often they add in other yard or agricultural waste to burn that as well.

    The main-most technique utilized is wood gassification. The Lucia stove produces the least amount of carbon monoxide in that is doesn’t burn wood, but only burns the gases released by the wood. The problem is acquiring one.

    Everyone can make an Everything’s Nice stove. There are free plans for them and they are inexpensive and made from scrap around your home. These stoves are ideal for preppers as they burn any waste material and emit almost no carbon monoxide, but they are small.

    The best long term solution is a wood gassification project of sufficient size to heat a larger section of the house. That solution is a rocket mass stove. It is similar to a rocket stove, but instead it acts to burn off the dangerous gases and vents only steam. There are plans available for free, and they can be cheaply made with low levels of technology. The problem is that they are not UL (Underwriter Labs) listed and hence would void home fire insurance policies. Special preppers called permies (permaculture enthusiasts) have been discussing rocket mass stoves as a long term economical and practical solution for heating.

    Because they can burn yard waste, can be made to both heat and cook within a home, and heat up a mass of rocklike material, that heat is released slowly and one can sit upon the mass or it diffuses into the environment and heats the area it’s located in. They burn as little as a tenth of the normal firewood requirements. It’s highly likely that preppers thinking long term could use these to survive a collapse.

    1. re: Fuel

      Most of us have never cut a cord of wood by hand, and have no idea how much work it is.

      1. Re: fuel

        There are two outdoor reality series that drive home how difficult it is to cut enough firewood to sufficiently heat the small cabins that families used to live in.

        Frontier House, which is a reality show dealing with a simulation of multiple families building log cabins in Montana and using old technology is one. They were guided by mentors who were trained in history so that it would be as authentic as they could make it. One of the mentors tells them that, “you must cut firewood constantly to keep up and put away enough for Winter.” Remember it has to season as well as be cut and stacked…and those were very small in terms of square footage compared to the smallest rental and owned homes today.

        The other is the second season of the Alaska Experiment. There’s a scene where they are taking a crosscut saw, the two man kind, and really going to town and frustrated at the amount of work doing that versus just splitting wood, for the former is quite easy by comparison to felling and cutting one up.

        Now compare your neighborhood and burning wood for both cooking,boiling water for drinking and washing (dishes and equipment), and heating too. That a LOT of firewood.

        If you do the math and then look at the population density, and then look at how many trees are available, and what the effects would be on the climate locally from cutting them down (no windbreaks then or habitats for squirrels or harvesting from trees that might produce a wild edible like maple syrup or acorns, etc), then wow, how long can one afford to simply cut down wood even if you can do it?

        Practically no one.

        In 3rd world villages, as folks deforest around the village, then they alter the pH of the soil since perhaps natural items are not being deposited on a regular basis. What about the cut down trees that might produce valuable medicine or vitamin C sources? The cut down trees that might be used for scaffolding for a project, for branches that might be woven into baskets?

        As you cut down what trees you have, then wood must be gathered further away, and unless one has a way of dragging and transporting the logs back, then you’re sunk. Not to mention that all of your neighbors will be doing that and therefore fights will break out. In fact other neighbors blocks over from you will want to harvest trees too from that same area.

        This is why strategic prepping is a must, for even if wood is abundant, the rate of growth of trees is SLOW as molasses. There are certain poplar( a variety like Populus deltoids) trees that are fast growing while still producing fairly high BTUs, but still they need time to mature or else it becomes ridiculous.

        Government aid workers and NGOs will go into a deforested region and try to educate them how to plant certain species that will successfully grow to harvest and not compete with existing species and produce the most benefits for lumber, tools, medicine, food, etc.

        The problem is halting cultural practices because, “We’ve always done it this way…”. The best way is to create new methods of heating with things like cow manure, using brick outdoor rocket stoves, using interior rocket mass heaters, using passive solar by heating up a mass whether stone or masonry or volumes of water in barrels, etc. It might be solar ovens for that requires no fuel but won’t always work because of climate, sun levels, or season.

        Let’s say you live in the wilderness with an abundance of trees. Do you have the upper body strength, the tools like a peavey/rope, various saws, and ways to keep your tools sharp? Is the idea somewhat ridiculous because you’re too old or maybe too slight to do such things? Do you have pre-existing health conditions that preclude felling trees? Can you control the tree as it falls so it won’t hit your home?

        A strategic prepper is thinking far down the line. Then even with the best plan, then somehow you need a tribe to help do the work. You need to have the persuasive and diplomatic and leadership skills to negotiate that, plus the authority to get them to listen.

        If not, then you’d better have huge stores of fuel of various kinds. That will run out.

        Side note: don’t forget that you need an outdoor cooking method too since cooking with firewood indoors will be WAY TOO HOT in Summers. A large communal cobb oven is one way to create a neighborhood oven that is way more efficient and achieves high temps sufficient for cooking large masses of meat or baking bread. It maintains its temperature and so many folks can use it as you finish your cooking. It produces little smoke and hence that doesn’t drift into neighbors windows in Summer too.

        1. One thing to consider here is that most everyone stores the bulk of their firewood outside with only a day or two’s supply stacked by their fireplace. Twenty years ago I was stationed at a military base in Northern Va and lived off post. Returning from a two week TDY I discovered that half my firewood had been stolen while I was gone. A lazy neighbor had been helping himself while I was away.

          1. Indeed. Firewood will become an extremely precious resource, because the wood will be harder and harder to acquire, and it will require more and more energy expenditure to get it, and it will require issues of strategically timing the felling and seasoning of it.

            This is why I am all about strategic planning of tribal resources.

            A single family on the prairie was quite defenseless. Anyone would overrun them, and bandits (like ex-Bushwhackers and ex-Jay Hawkers after the Civil War) as well as roaming Native Americans who were hostile, would do so. The bandits were out of work and skilled at guerrilla warfare from the Civil War and acting as irregulars. Many Native Americans felt quite upset at broken treaties and at the encroachment of settlers on tribal territory.

            It’s easier to steal from the helpless than to fell and chop firewood yourself. Because of that, bandit parties while dangerous, are even more dangerous when organized.

            What to do? We must stop thinking as if each prepper family is a single unit, and instead think of organizing tribes. Historically tribes were able to repel invaders, although not always successfully. If we hand pick who we wish to cooperate with, and we support others with other skill sets, then we have a far better chance of surviving and protecting the group.

            I know this will not make sense to some of you, for you have been thinking solely of protecting your supplies and family members. That will not ultimately work.

            Organized raiders might elect to create feudal societies and enslave folks to do manual labor as well as agricultural labor and also dastardly things. Look up Big and Little Harpe and other river pirates who preyed upon settlers who came down the Ohio River on flatboats. They tried to create such feudal societies and with little in the way of law enforcement we can expect similar things to happen.

            Back to firewood and heating, it doesn’t matter if you’re carefully managing forestry if your neighbors are not. This is why I am a strong proponent of organization in comprehensive ways, a thread of almost all of my postings here. As a leader or as a follower, you have to convince tribe members that a long term well thought out strategy will save them. Otherwise everyone is doing what they think best and this will cause conflict. If there is conflict and waste of resources than no one can risk cutting down firewood. It will be dog-eat-dog, and truly we’ll be back to despotic societies where the strong preyed upon the weak and justified it.

            On a side note, consider stacking your firewood in a Holz Hausen. It’s an old method, perhaps dating at least to medieval times in Germany and brought over and adopted in the American West. Which could be as close as Kentucky and Indiana in those times.

            This method keeps the firewood drier, as it’s stacked in a circle and piled high and helps it to season, and might make it more apparent how much has been pilfered. It also acts as a minor niche for rodents and snakes and usually in a controlled manner. Thus you might make a meal of snakes on occasion.

  3. I guess I’m old school but I use kerosene heaters. Granted there isn’t much of a air flow as they require no power for a fan, only a flame, but they will heat a room. I also use Colman’s cook stoves for cooking and for heating. I agree Ken those little bottles cost a lot so I ran an adapter for lines from a bigger bottle. But for long term, say a year I would have to think about other burners like the old coal burners or oil burners like I had in my house growing up. Our for fathers didn’t have electric power and they survived. Remember to think BACK before thinking AHEAD. Most answers are in our past you just have to look.

    1. People will be amazed at how much heat a Coleman lantern will put out. I have heated small rooms this way. You do need to be careful on the co2 so I would open a door or window every now and then to get fresh air.

    2. It really depends upon the severity of Winter, the geographic area that is most affected, the logistical problems of routing needed supplies to the affected region, the normal use of fuels shipping into that region vs. the normal use of fuels used outside that region, then comparing the manufacturing capacity of industries who supply things like wood pellets/kerosene/propane/kerosene heaters, etc.

      Say we had a major ice storm in the Northeast and affecting the original 13 states. Much higher demand would be needed for gas in that region plus inevitable electrical power issues for that region. Manufacturing would love to take advantage and sell more products, but that means rescheduling and overtime and then being able to fulfill orders by shipping. It also means probably hiring additional drivers to get the materials to the area. This all creates terrible lag in the time the products get to the consumer.

      That’s a normal situation. Say there’s a pandemic and so the primary vectors of contagion are contact from outside an affected disease zone into a known disease zone. Serious care would be needed to prevent contagion spreading. Very high numbers of drivers and workers might be affected who couldn’t work. Those workers can’t be replaced but other industry could try to pick up the slack. Other drivers could be hired, but could you get them to travel to the contagion zone? That means the governors are not limiting egress and entrance out of and into their states, which is certainly an aspect of your state pandemic mitigation plans. Those came to light during the H1N1 Congressional Pandemic Hearings.

      Or economic collapse. Or a major earthquake. Or lots of things.

      Whatever fuels you have on hand would likely be all that you have but some variability based upon severity and the area of effect. Wood is not shipping in, but a local resource. Most people rely upon seasoned firewood, and that’s a planned fuel due to drying to specific moisture levels else it won’t burn with adequate BTUs.

      Only those who cut their own firewood and seasoned it would have any reasonable peace of mind about adequate heating fuel.

      Side note: I highly agree with the statement about the adapter hose for propane tanks. Little propane tanks are expensive by comparison. Many folks have a large propane tank or some of us have several since nothing is worse than running out amidst BBQing a large batch. Subsequently if one purchases an adapter hose for their large propane tank, then you can use that reserve on your propane camping equipment for lanterns, stoves, and ovens.

      Again, if you lose the recirculation fan, it matters not if you have natural gas available as it won’t heat up much. This is why prudent preppers have researched and prepared for power outage in Winter.

      Please everyone research the EverythingNice stove as the plans are free, the materials are cheap, the carbon monoxide levels low from scientific data, and the BTUs good for cooking and alternative heat in a single room. It could save your life. It does mean having a tiny bit of handiness to drill some holes and being careful as you use a unibit or stepdrillbit.

      While lots of our ancestors made it through Winter just fine, they suffered through it. They also had coal and wood plus supplies and were far more reliant. If you are colder than normal and low on food supplies and water, there is a much higher chance of getting sick since your immune system gets depressed.

  4. We just got down into the 30s people!!! Wow. Us Texans are cold! We have bern shivering. This does make me think since our house is all electric. We have a fireplace, but it is more for looks. I am now making arrangements so we don’t get stuck in the cold. Now granted it doesn’t get too cold very much but sometimes it does. (stop laughing 50 degrees is cold to us)

    1. I guess it’s all a matter of adaptation. I’ve lived in the sunny South as well as the frozen North. Many times I can recall bitterly being cold, but then stripping off layers and sweating at 30 deg F when skiing or sledding.

      I was reading an old Innuit tale and one of the older wise women was complaining because the youngsters were keeping the igloo too hot. I think she though 40 degrees F was unhealthy.

      It’s easier to wear layers with silk underwear underneath than heat a home and cheaper.

  5. I have a 2700 sf 50 year old home in Canada that I can heat with a 1500 watt ductless heat pump when outdoor temperatures are 0F. This can be easily run off of my 3200 watt generator. Check out aerothermal in your search engine.

  6. My home is all electric, and I live in a rural area, where NG is not available. I have a forced air wood fired furnace, as well as a heat pump. I haven’t used the heat pump since the furnace was installed five years ago. I put a couple of air to water heat exchangers in the plenum, which heat my domestic hot water via a natural convection circuit.

    With the two major energy uses in the home, space heating, and water heating taken care of, my winter electric bills are quite low, and we keep the home much warmer, and use more hot water, than we otherwise would. We actually wash most our clothes in hot water in the winter. They really do get cleaner. I can heat my home, and hot water with no more than 300 watts, and that’s only when the distribution fan is on, which is a small fraction of the time.

    I have a “super Jack” furnace. I burn wood in it, but you can easily replace the grate, and burn coal. The manufacturer also makes dual fuel furnaces, that will burn wood, and oil, or gas. They can use gas to light the wood, so that you don’t have to start with matches, and kindling. These furnaces are quite a bit cheaper than a wood fired boiler. Here’s the URL for my furnace.

    http://yukon-eagle.com/FURNACES/SUPERJACK/tabid/59/Default.aspx

    1. I don’t know if they still make them, and I’m not endorsing them, but a method that was utilzed during the energy crisis of the seventies was to burn your wood outside in a enclosed shed, then this heated hot water into a tank and then using recirculation pumps which ran the hot water through a home. I believe there was some experimentation with using sand as part of the thermal mass and introducing hot water to that sand, but that probably would result in clogging of grit into the recirculation pump.

      An old timer once told me that it was smarter to build a fireplace outside and let the heat radiate in, rather than have a fireplace inside that suck hot air into the flue. That’s what got me investigating alternative heating as above.

      Many homes during the seventies didn’t rely upon old fashioned fuels like wood or coal, as forced air natural gas was considered cheaper and healthier and ultimately more economical since few people acutally felled trees, cut them, split them, and stacked them.

      I guess theoretically one could run a recirculation pump purely on solar energy with a battery bank for cloudy days? The weakness might be leaks eventually and wood damage and mold. It is a possbility though for post-collapse heating, though you can’t beat the rocket mass heater.

      Realistically post-collapse, underground homes would be the true solution. Since the earth has a natural stable temperature of 55 deg F (think any cave or the principle of root cellars), then building a modified Earthship design (do an internet search) with underground sections and a minor source of heat (mostly for intermittant heat or cooking based upon season) would be the most likely long term survival strategy. Then fuel use would be minimal, and could be provided by raising a single cow for milk, manure for burning for fertilizing, and beef.

      1. I agree. My furnace is in a shed, beside the house. Duct work carries air to, and from my house, and adjacent small green house. The wood, and ash never come inside, and the house does not smell like wood smoke. Of course, I have to go outside to fuel it.
        I considered a boiler. I would have bought a wood gasification boiler if I had gone that way, they use much less wood, and burn much cleaner. The reason I did not, is that for the cost of the boiler alone, not counting the installation, and the heatexchangers, and plumbing, was more than I spent on the furnace, the shed, the installation, and the water heating system. If I had a larger home, already set up for hydronic heat, and particularly if I lived somewhere with colder winters than here in piedmont North Carolina, I would have gone that way. You can buy a boiler that is designed to stay outside, and place it well away from the home.

  7. Ah…18oos tech is still alive and well…search (I don’t google) ‘Thermal mass rocket stoves’ then build one. Then ditch your flush toilet for a composting toilet. Then take an intro to permaculture course and ignore the AGW/peak oil spiel….THEN build a simple rocket stove for cooking, then look into steam powered home generation systems etc. Heat with twigs or heat with coleman fuel…or cords…no brainer.

    1. Earnie and Erica are two very sincere and likable permies who have created youtube videos on the construction of rocket mass heaters. Many are very detailed. Ernie made a great cobb oven video, one that demonstrates a lot of technology to make it super efficient. Can’t say enough great things about them and the heartwarming permie community.

      1. The greatest take ‘anywhere’ weighs nothing skill you possess is knowledge. If you have resources to do so take a PDC.

        1. A PDC is an acronym for a permacuture design course, and when you finish all the components of it, you get a certificate.

          Many of the various things I’ve discussed are touched upon when taking one of those courses. Only from living decades have I learned some of them, and learned slowly by reading copious books and from experiences.

          I’ll bet that many preppers when they make strategic planning by commiting ideas to paper that they have learned from numerous reading, and the start adding up the supplies needed, tools, skillsets, etc that they will realize a huge amount of strategic planning could be learned quickly with permaculture.

          No system is perfect. Permaculture doesn’t touch upon the martial arts or truly medicine, though herbal lore and first aid might be mentioned in passing. Permaculture is largely about agriculture and homesteading life and altering the way humans live in communities to live efficiently and in a sustainable way.

          As such, permaculture is definitely part of the the grand vision of preparedness and truly living the good life.

          To bring it back to heat, permaculture might explore the best renewable fuels to raise upon a ten acre homestead, such that certain trees might not only provide fuel for rocket mass heaters, but medicinals, food, tools, lumber, thatching, baskets, prevent soil erosion, windbreaks, Hugelculture to minimze agricultural watering, etc.

          In many ways it is the culimination of the Back-to-the-Land movement to restore humanities natural role living in harmony with Nature as caretakers or stewards.

          Even applying a few principles of it, one might pragmatically gain higher BTUs of heat to heat a homestead for far less, and be able to reduce how many trees are cut down, and thus be able to use those same trees to make your envirnment cleaner, more beautiful, and calming.

  8. Living in the “Great Northeast” we get one or two ice storms a year, usually with a one to four day power outages. So I have maintained the oil fired forced hot air system that came with the house, but added a country “T” top 260 air tight wood stove that saved me a tank of oil by accident the very first year.

    As I get older (lazier?) I found buying tri-axles of fire wood logs (7 to 8 cords) about 40% less that buying it cut & split. It also works out because its all in one stack on the property. So I still have to cut the rounds, split with the splitter, then haul by trailer to the front where I have a pole barn wood arbore for drying. Even with power tools and the forks on the bucket of the tractor to lift the logs to waist level to cut, its a ton of work.

    So it takes one weekend each month during the summer to process most of it. By October, the first in is dry and is withdrawn as first out. Just a lot of work but a good family gathering on those weekends getting it done.

    My biggest problem of no power is water. If I have advanced warning of a storm, I can stock as needed 50gals is the norm. Not for drinking mind you, but, for sanitary needs.

    Think ahead, prepare for the worst, and when things go down it might not be as bad for you.

    1. Re: Ed’s and Marty’s Remarks

      7-8 cords is considered the average amount of firewood to release enough BTUs to heat an average American home that is heating only by that methodology.

      The reality is that for almost everyone, cutting that much wood, even if one had non-fueled equipment, then almost 95% of those folks couldn’t accumulate 7-8 cords to burn.

      Why?

      Violence from arguing over resources would be one, for those with access to that much firewood couldn’t agree upon cutting it from nearby land, and would come to blows over chopping it down, theft, secretly cutting it, or worse things. Conflict alone would cut down on the ability to do work like felling, cutting, splitting, stacking firewood.

      The overwhelming majority that have minor firewood cutting tools are those only good until their fuel runs out. Most chainsaws are tiny and without fuel they do nothing. The only splitter you will likely have is a maul post-collapse, not any hydraulic one.

      Most don’t live anywhere close to such density of firewood but a very high population density of people. Let’s be honest, most people do not have 10 acres with a lake or river access that they need to truly survive.

      Most people don’t have the will, upper body strength, and the physical fortitude to do that much work and then also grow enough food, haul enough water, raise enough animals, forage for medicinals, and do all their other chores. That gets back to human failure during the pioneer era.

      Even if one had the money to buy super-efficient furnaces that burn less wood by wood gassification, the ones that are UL listed and allowed by your home codes in your region and UL listed for accommodating to your insurance policies, it would mean not having that money for other preparedness equipment, education, and supplies.

      This is the quandary of postmodern prepping: money, it always comes to money.

      The permaculture folks, well they skirt the law, or they don’t have insurance, and could lose everything in case of a fire.

      Solutions in the next post.

  9. In a true sustained disaster of any size, especially in Winter conditions where the disaster affects the whole country without any real way of mitigating it with outside advisers and staff, then a lot of your neighbors will not make it. As a spiritual person, I wish I didn’t have to consider that possibility, but it’s reality.

    In Winter, with a sustained disaster, and no food and water coming in, in as little as three days many weakened (especially the elderly, those with pre-existing medical conditions, those dependent upon regular medical care, those supervised by others like asylums and jails, etc) and those who have no supplies and can source supplies…will start to die.

    Not having water alone will be an enormous issue year round. The government during Hurricane Sandy proved that they didn’t have bottled water or a means of providing water, but rather to save money using Just-In-Time inventory controls, had to place last minute bids. Then they needed shipping by whomever could provide the water to that location. Dehydration is the number one worry for civilians who are largely in shelter of some kind.

    The US military and certain agencies have a way of extracting water from the humidity in the air, though it might not be in full production. That’s only for their personnel, not for helping civilians in need. They are relying upon companies who do possess the capability to get water to purify it under sanitary conditions and bottle it so it is portable.

    That’s under normal conditions when the barges and the rails and the trucks can route it to you. The vast majority of goods travel through those mediums. A barge can take many times what rail can take and many many times what trucks can take. 15 barges connected together hauls as much as two 200 rail cars or up to 900 truckloads, a very common statistic that most people don’t know.

    In Winter, the second most common problem is exposure. You will be freezing. Smart folks can cope, but I think most people are in the sheeple category, the ones you see as herding zombies on Black Friday. Those folks do not act with any common sense.

    Civilians who adopt survival strategies during wartime and during Winter can manage to survive somewhat, but the way that they do this is by cooperating with their neighbor until relief efforts arrive. If we suffer a massive economic collapse, a pandemic, an EMP, etc then other countries may be in the same situation as us.

    While prepping with supplies is certainly part of the equation of survival, that only works until the supplies run out. Real prepping is about having the skills and a leadership nature to work in community and having a strategic plan for not only your family surviving but those around you.

    If one tabulates all of the things that are likely to happen to the unprepared, and then considers potential rioting from lack of skills and supplies, then I think you’ll come to a conclusion that you’ll need to band together with the other intelligent survivors, help some folks to survive long enough to acquire more supplies, and to deal with the aftermath of those who didn’t survive.

    Then you’ll need to organize the survivors to most efficiently cut down trees and prepare the fuel for seasoning in the case of trees. You’ll most likely be fabricating heating devices for the short term like the EverythingsNice stove so they can huddle and survive and barely be warm, not be sitting in front of a roaring fire. You’ll be in a leadership role, or at least in a adviser role, for a whole host of issues to deal with the cold.

    We have a lot of leaders today who literally know nothing about ancestral skills, and so while they may be good leaders, I doubt they will be the same leaders who get tribes and communities reestablished post-collapse.

    I encourage you to think this way, otherwise you and your family won’t survive by only thinking of yourself. That would only work if in complete seclusion away from others and with 10 acres of land upon which was a great deal of trees, a water source you could purify, and meadows for agriculture.

    This means you need a ton of information in your noggin like: 1) What kind of BTUs are produced from that species of tree if seasoned? 2) What kind of devices can be inexpensively made for heat? 3) How can I repurpose those devices to minimize making another device? 4)How can I utilize what we think of as garbage or waste and make it heat a home? 5) How can I deal with the inevitable illness in Winter and from malnutrition? 6) ETC

    Otherwise most preppers only have enough supplies, skills, and backbone to get them through six months at maximum before they too fall prey to a sustained disaster.

  10. Re:Hopefulnothopeless 7 to 8 cords…

    I use at the most 3 of those cords per year and barter with one of my neighbors for gardening area(s)with 2 or 3 (cords). I can say there are like minded folks in my neighborhood who attempt to be ready for the worst, and are quite aware that we will need to rely on each other for things no single family can do. We have some plans already laid out for weather, power grid, and some other possible problems that no one wants to see. I can’t tell you how great it is to have really good neighbors like that, living here is a joy.

    Its more then just bullets and beans, ya know. Horses are nice to keep around too. If tri-axils are’t available, well there is the tree farm over the hill, the owner of which likes to keep the deer population down. Year round deer on that tree farm, its huge 200 or more acres I guessing.

    Anyway, I’m lucky to have a fair amount of resources in this area.

    1. It’s all dependent upon how many BTUs of the tree species you are burning, the manner in which you are burning your wood as fuel, the amount of square footage that you are heating, the temperature to which you are heating to stay comfortable, and the intensity of Winter in your region. Those are the most important factors.

      Some wood burns very well and hot like Osage orange (rated at 30.0), but can damage most woodstoves because they are not made to handle the intensity. If all one has around their property is white pine, then while it initially releases a hot of heat due to the resins of pine, it then burns out fast with very low BTUs (rated at 13.2).

      Then, was the wood sufficiently dried, or did one have to cut it and use it up faster because of a severe Winter and a late start cutting firewood because of conflict? If the moisture of the firewood is way more than 20% then it’s not going to produce near the amount of BTUs, will it?

      The need for firewood in Florida will be a lot different than Minnesota, right?

      A person heating an underground home and which is year round preheated to 55 degrees F is far different than an above ground home on the second floor with poor insulation.

      Because of conflict, a surviving family may be totally unable to burn wood due to conflict to avoid detection.

      A person might have a very tiny cabin and so need hardly any wood compared to heating a 2,000 square foot home or to heating a home that’s 3200 square foot home.

      What happens if there’s climate change, like the mini-Ice Age that affected all of Northern Europe and Scandanavia? One might see not only massive firewood usage, but then decling season for plant growth and thus an inability for sufficient firewood to grow each year.

      All of those factors come into play, and I’m just getting warmed up. 7-8 cords is a standard answer based upon averages…nothing more. I think you’ll see that in a lot of articles.

      Concerning your other comments, I know a place that I’d go to if things got dire. It’s remote and well within an emergency radius of an hour and a half. It’s well stocked with abundant firewood, game animals, fish of all kinds, water, defensible cliffs, meadows shrouded by trees on the outskirts, etc. The problem is the rural community that lives within an equaly emergency radius of it, and who also have been known to poach upon it, even though it’s private land.

      How long do you think the most abundant game will last when suddenly all of the normal hunters plus all of the gun owners simultaneously attempt to harvest from it? A month perhaps at best…

      I agree about horses. Can you think of a more stolen piece of livestock during a collapse? Since most people have no idea about the needs of horses, I would suspect that a lot of stolen horses would either end up lame, malnourished, or on the dinner plate. Likewise, the first animals hunted would be cows in the field, for they mostly mill around and are defenseless and in herds. Post-collapse, I doubt people follow the law and might just hunt them since then the poacher would get a lot of meat instantly.

      All bets are off under collapse conditions. Even if there is tons of firewood around, say in Maine, then that firewood becauses a matter of life or death, and there literally be wars over resources.

      I maintain that the best solution is to live upon supplies until the great die off of nonpreppers due to lack of supplies, and then working with survivors to rebuilt community, and then shifting to underground homes with rocket mass heaters (hot water, heating, and cooking), for that means a tiny fraction of fuel by comparison.

      I cannot believe purely from a carrying capacity standpoint that anyone in urban regions will survive in a seriously sustained collapse, for there are not the resources within it, nor could trade networks exist in high enough normal amounts to maintain the urban population. That’s especially true to lack of money, for all of those nonpreppers will have no way to pay for their needed supplies and resources.

  11. HNH,

    I can agree on all your points, especially about the horses, current plan is for them to be stabled under 1 of 2 watch towers. Under collapse conditions, we expect roving pick up truck(s) loads of armed desperate men pillaging, robbing and such from the cities. That’s only going to last as long as they can find and steel gas. As far as “how long the most abundant game will last”, well the normal hunters I know, will not splurge, but will preserve the game. The other gun owners who do not normally hunt game are more likely to run out of bullets the knock of much game, Heck I’ve seen on more the one occasion law enforcement personnel take 6 or 7 rounds to kill a raccoon from 20 feet with a rifle.

    Speaking of law enforcement, how much of private resources are they going to want to commandeer? Horses are likely right?

    I think there could very well be a big die off. A lot of 20 and 30 year olds can smoke their I-phones but not 20lbs of meat. How many can bait a fishing pole, Or even have a clue where to fish?

    I suppose I have 700sqr foot of below ground space I could modify for living if needed. It’s not exactly at the ready, humm, I’ll think about that one the next day or two. Figured that one more for a nuclear event!

    1. Re: roving bands
      The easiest way raiders could enter your home is by ramming your domicile with a truck. Raiders will not be polite and do the expected shootout as that wastes ammunition. They also might stage a test of defenses days before with a minor probe to measure response time and the amount of armed response. The simplest way a raider could take over is blocking a chimney and smoking out the inhabitants, something that happened frequently in the American West.

      Re: wild game
      I live in a state in which at least 1 out of 3 homes possesses firearms. Many of course don’t hunt. Many hunters practice wildlife conservation even donating towards that endeavor. The folks without hunting experience will likely scare the wild game further into the wilderness regions. That’s all they have to do, not necessarily kill them. This will ruin areas where hunters or trappers traditionally hunted.

      Overharvesting will result in younger creatures being taken and doom the wildlife population ability to cope. There’s an order with ecosystems, and when one creature’s role is changed due to either wild edibles being gathered higher than normal (like acorns, grass seed, cattail tubers, etc), or encroachment into another species foraging/watering area, or lack of participation in another creature’s area means lack of nutrients in the soil from their manure, etc then all of those cumulative things affects other species, and most often adversely. It doesn’t take much to cause many species within a niche to die off or migrate from intrusion.

      Expect a die off even in human populations from similar effects. If there’s conflict, then gathering water from local sources is no longer possible, and if there’s minimal rain due to season, then conflict can affect diverse natural resources for everyone within the community. Naturally that means firewood due to the labor intensity of gathering it.

      Re: underground homes
      Underground homes will be the only possible future unless living under extreme seclusion. Say one only uses 3 cords of wood a year. How many properties can one perpetually harvest 3 cords per year? Few, I think. It takes too long for most tree species to grow to maturity or they don’t produce sufficient BTUs, or they produce too many resins that form as creosote so cause chimney fires.

      This is why there’s a very high probability of dwelling in something as simple as primitive clay and wood underground homes, or recessed sod homes, versus trying to heat a regular home. Then it’s only natural to utilize rocket mass heaters to burn the fuel more efficiently.

      Summer kitchens will be very important. Look at the average temperature in your region plus the humidity. Now imagine no air conditioning in Summers AND cooking indoors. That won’t work well. This is why a several rocket masonry stoves outdoors can heat with minimal fuel and not heat up a dwelling. Baking will occur either in simple ways with coals and burying the cooking contents or in an organized way with cobb ovens used communally.

  12. Did anyone catch the story about the Nevada couple and their four children who had been stranded out in the cold in subzero weather? Folks were really concerned and they had 200 volunteers and law enforcement and Civil Air Defense combing the land trying to find them.

    They were smart folks. Their vehicle overturned and they realized they were stuck, so they built fires (including burning tires which creates dark smoke), but the really great thing was they heated up rocks to store the energy in the thermal mass, which then radiates the heat back out later. Plus they stayed with the vehicle, which is more visible from the air.

    This is why we learn skills because there might be at least one time in your life that you absolutely need it.

    Note: never heat rocks that might have been submerged in water or are pourous enough to have water within. Several folks have tried to heat river pebbles and the like (for things like a sweat lodge) and they can explode from the built up steam.

    1. I saw that report the same day they were rescued. The first thing I though of was their smart behavior (fire, heating rocks) whereas many others in that scenario may not have done much of anything (while expecting to be rescued in time).

      I’ve also read about the caution regarding river rocks (the risk of explosion when heated in a fire). Good thing to remember…

      1. Re: heating rocks

        The Vikings would take wood blanks and burn coals into them to shape them into long trough-like bowls, then carve them with hook knives. They’d heat up rocks, put water into the bowls, and then place the rocks into the bowls to heat up the water. A useful tip for when you don’t have a pan in the wild, for you could purify water or make soup.

        The Bedoins would shape out a depression in the sand, put down some leather skins, and add water to that. Then heat up rocks and place that into the water and do something similar.

        What a luxury to have a pan while bugging out!

  13. In all the comments above, particularly those stressing advance planning, I did not see one single mention of the fact that most people building houses in North America with wood or pellet fireplaces (or really any kind of heat source as a furnace) are always putting the chimney on an *outside* wall – which is the absolute WORST, least efficient way to make a chimney work properly, and is a complete heat-robber. I also didn’t see any mention of masonry wood stoves, or Finnish soapstone stoves, which generate a tremendous amount of radiant heat by burning a surprisingly small amount of wood within a very small firebox and then routing the heated exhaust gases through a series of channels surrounded by bricks before the smoke finally exits the chimney. These have been very common in northern Europe for centuries, and were invented precisely because regular fireplaces were denuding the landscape of trees, making firewood scarce in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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