Ways of keeping warm (discussion)

Suggestions for improvement, new category ideas, comments to the editor.
Post Reply
Posts: 49
Joined: Sat Jan 24, 2015 3:37 pm
Location: USA

Ways of keeping warm (discussion)

Post by OutOfPlaceNinja » Sun Oct 11, 2015 1:10 pm

Forgive me if this has been covered, I couldn't find it being covered and your search function is broken (no matter what I search for it says I'm using common words so it is ignored).

With winter approaching I couldn't help but think about ways of keeping warm. There are actually many ways of keeping warm and that is what this thread is about. A place for people to discuss how they keep warm and share ideas, tips, howtos and such.

For off grid situations, the typical source of heat is a wood stove. There is also other forms of heat that could be used off the grid such as passive and active solar heating, rocket stove mass heaters, and even propane. Deciding on what to heat with and sizing it for your dwelling is hard though as so many factors are involved.

Wood stoves. Basically any device that can hold wood, burn it, and vent the exhaust to the outside. They can be homemade monstrosities or fancy commercial units. I consider a rocket stove mass heater a wood stove as well, just not your typical wood stove. The BTU content of wood varies greatly with seasoned hardwood typically being better per pound. You can check sites like this one to get an idea of the BTU content of wood. Overall, you need a lot of wood to heat a home compared to commercial products like propane, but wood is everywhere and can cost as little as nothing if you are willing to work for it. Typical wood stoves need a lot of wood and aren't very efficient. Rocket stoves are more efficient but may require more frequent fueling. Mass helps with a rocket stove. Heat the mass not the air. If you have more time than money, wood may be a good option. Some downsides of wood burning though is the cost of initial setup. You can expect to pay thousands of dollars (1-10 roughly) to get a wood stove installed. You also have to check on and clean the chimney often. The less efficient the burn and the greener the wood, the more often you have to. It would be wise to invest in the tools to clean your own chimney.

Propane. Propane works but costs money. One gallon of propane has about 91,000 BTU worth of heat in it. Venting usually takes away about 20% of that. Unvented propane heating is not a good idea because your house is the vent and you have to let in fresh air anyway so might as well have it vented if you go this route. If you have more money than time, propane might be a good option. Getting propane installed is pricey but usually less than getting a wood stove "properly installed". It's also more of a set it and forget it kind of thing. Great is you have more money than time. Of course there is always that risk of explosion. Stuff happens. Good care of a propane system and some knowledge can reduce the risk drastically to the point it's really no longer a risk.

Kerosene. Kerosene now days is pretty dang expensive (at least in my area, $4 a gallon at least). There are vented kerosene heaters but they usually require electricity and are pretty pricey (I priced a Toyostove locally and it was about $2500!). One gallon of kerosene has about 135,000 BTU worth of heat. Kerosene is pretty safe if used correctly. However unvented kerosene heating can be dangerous and not good for your health. It also tends to stink up the place, especially if you use cheaper kerosene. Unvented kerosene is great for emergencies if you don't have a wood stove. I went through a week long power outage during a major ice storm in comfort with one. Was bored out of my mind but warm.

Solar. I don't have much experience with solar based heating but it seems it's best to use as a supplement unless your house is designed to be heated with solar. This winter I plan to experiment with active solar heating to see how much I can reduce my heating costs. Last winter I spent about $80-$200 a month on heating and still wasn't comfortable. I'm not off grid and due to low'ish electric prices, I will be heating with electric and using kerosene as a backup. I will try to use solar heating to supplement as much as possible. I will share my results. A great benefit of solar is if you have a passive solar heating setup, the costs to operate is zero. No labor involved either. The initial setup may be a little costly however especially if your home is big, old, and not designed with solar in mind. I'm a little lucky in that I have a huge south facing wall that gets at least five hours of direct winter sunlight a day. If I had the funds, I would install more windows on that wall but the cost is more than I can afford (if I had that kind of money I would just get a wood stove). So I plan to make heating boxes that will sit outside aimed at the sun. A small fan (maybe computer fans since I have some I don't use) will force air into the heated box and push out the warm air into the room. At least during the daytime I should get some free BTUs. Some people have made similar boxes and have them mounted on south facing walls. The inlet is at the bottom and outlet at the top and such boxes are usually passive. I could do something like that but I want to make big boxes and don't want to cut holes in my wall. I will be using one or two of the available windows to connect the solar boxes to the indoors. Another solar based option that I've heard of but don't know much about is connected greenhouses. I could do such with my home arrangement but it would cost me at least $600 to get setup if I am cheap about it. I could have a nice 20-30 foot by 70 or so foot greenhouse on the south side of my home. Greenhouse film/plastic is probably your best bet unless you have the money for the expensive greenhouse panels. Using construction plastic from a hardware store isn't going to cut it. It will fall apart within six months. Depending on several factors, you may need to heat the greenhouse. I've heard of success with wood stoves and rocket stoves. The http://permies.com/ forum has a lot of great information about rocket stoves.

Since I'm aiming this post for off grid use, I will not cover natural gas or electricity as forms of heat.

In theory, in a well enough insulated home, simply being in the home will heat it as humans put off a lot of heat. However such a home would likely be too humid. We can increase our comfort by wearing more clothes, wearing a jacket or coat indoors, wearing an insulated hat indoors, using hot water bottles, and more. The way the Japanese keep warm is interesting if anyone wants to look into it. The typical Japanese home is not insulated and has no central heat source. Thick blankets and hot water bottles are loved as are kotatsu tables.

So how do you keep warm in winter? How much does it cost you?

Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2015 5:50 pm

Re: Ways of keeping warm (discussion)

Post by Ksfixitman » Wed Oct 14, 2015 11:33 am

Wow what a impressive piece of information.

It is very confusing in trying to decide which way to go since any of them that you need so invest some amount of money. I would think that wood or solar would just be a fee up front and then not much cost after that as long as you could cut your own wood. Now I do realize that the fuel and upkeep on a saw would be a small of money that would be needed to go the wood direction.

Now myself I am really impressed with the Dickinson propane heaters. Yes the $1000 cost up front for the purchase is a pretty good chunk to put out but they are really the most safest propane heater you can get but undoubtedly there is a recurring cost of the propane to run it.

Kerosene I really don't think is a feesable way to go but would work in an emergency or if you had no other way to meat your space. Myself and I'm sure there are others that would agree that the smell is a big deterrent.

Now solar is really interesting to me. I have ran across a few setups that looked promising but id like to do some more research on the subject. Iv always wondered if a all glass house like a greenhouse would work well but privacy would be a issue for sure.

To answer your question I kick the thermostat up and I'm warm all day long. LOL Now my Camper that I am still setting up is another subject. I have a med size Mybuddy heater that you would be surprised that does a pretty good job producing heat. Yes the propane consumption is pretty high but it work's really good. I will probably be looking to come across a good deal on a wood heater or even a pellet stove. They make some really small ones that Iv seen. Oh and my backup heat is a electric heater that I just fire up the generator and do a quick warm up.

Site Admin
Posts: 1327
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:49 am

Re: Ways of keeping warm (discussion)

Post by techman » Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:55 pm

I have tried various wood stoves and solar heaters in the last years. And I have studied a lot on the subject.

My experience is that wood stoves are the cheapest after the initial installation. You cut the wood and use it yourself. You can clean the chimney yourself too. But you have to be careful. Any heater is dangerous though.

I am hoping to have a passive solar heater set up on the south side of my house this winter. This will be a greenhouse in winter and a porch in summer with screen windows. The windows will be removable so I can have air flow in summer.

In winter it will be insulated on the bottom half of the south wall. The upper half will be plastic. Again the upper half of the roof will be solid and insulated where the bottom half will be plastic to let the sun though.

The other side of the room will be against the tiny house on wheels. The sun should heat up the greenhouse very nicely on a sunny day. The south side windows will be open by day to allow the heat into the tiny house. At night the windows will remain open and the wood stove will keep the greenhouse warm. This will allow me to grow plants all year long in the greenhouse.

I have had good results with solar. And last year just having south facing windows really heats up the tiny house even on a cold sunny day.

Post Reply