Sunday, February 19, 2012

Backups

While this winter was extremely mild, last year was a pain in the backside... 2 ice storms knocked out electric and heat for several days each time.

We have half a dozen kerosene lamps like this:


And a single 10,000 BTU kerosene radiant space heater kept the entire house more than comfortable (its a small house, and this is Tennessee - not New England.


For the lamps, get wick holders sized for 1" to 1.5" wicks. The wider the wick, the more light (and heat... don't underestimate the heat generated by those lamps. One lamp would keep a large bedroom very comfortable). I estimate that 1 gallon of Kerosene will provide 70 to 100 hours of light. We have 6 lamps and another 6 hurricane lanterns for outside and barn use (these have .75" wicks... the widest I have found. Get the big reservoir lanterns by Dietz. Don't bother with the cheap .375" wick jobbies you see in the camping section of the big box stores... not worth a good fart).

Candles just don't cut it.

We also have Coleman propane lanterns and 10' conversion hoses so we can hook them to 5 gallon propane tanks. The Amish folks I buy my livestock feed from use these in their house. They have a home built lamp table that has the propane tank built into it and the table is on wheels so it can be rolled to where the light is needed. I prefer the kerosene lamps... but they are not as bright as the propane lamps.

I keep 2, 55 gallon drums filled with Kerosene on hand, plus 4, 5 gallon containers. The drums are plastic, not metal. I do not worry about expansion and contraction caused by temperature swings when they are full.  Also, metal will corrode from the outside, and one day your kerosene will be all over the floor of your storage area. We rotate but always keep a full inventory. Here in Tennessee and with a small house, that would get us through a heating season and a year's lighting. We learned a hard lesson during Hurricane Katrina... Tennessee is that the end of the pipeline, and our county literally ran out of fuel for a couple weeks with diesel being the biggest problem.  I also installed an additional 1,000 gallon propane tank that just sits there as backup, and a fuel tank to hold some diesel for the tractor (and truck in an emergency).

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would be a bit leery of using a Colman lantern indoors. I know they used to use gas lights indoors but the houses were uninsulated and drafty, as the air tightness of the house goes up so does the danger of asphyxiation. If you can heat it with a 10K BTU heater it sounds like it’s either insanely small or rather well insulated and airtight.

Best,
Dan

kathy said...

I added a case of those little snap lights that are sold as kid's novelties. They give off enough light for a trip to the bathroom and last long enough to get through the night. My kids will happily go to sleep in their own rooms with one while I wouldn't dream of leaving them in our civil war era home with a kerosene lamp. We also added a wood stove to the basement. With that and the non-electric propane stove upstairs, the house stays pretty comfortable. Another investment that everybody with two stories should consider is an escape ladder. Money well spent.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Dan:

Our house is insanely small - about 1400 square feet, half open and half 3 bedrooms.... the bedrooms are colder, but tolerable.

We have CO and smoke detectors... cooking sets it off all the time... the Cole lantern puts out a lot of light and heat... not something you would want in the summer, but in the summer it is light far into the evening.

kathy: We used those snap lights during the hurricane... for bathroom trips, they are pretty good. I think that's what candles are for, though... Lamps are for reading and visiting.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

I would not let a kid have an open flame, either - even if the house was built yesterday and made of cement.... our kids are a little tougher to get to sleep than most... they usually konk out while we are reading to them in our bed and then we move them.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

We are not "off grid"... we can always use electric lights... but as "backups", the Kerosene lamps have a lot going for them.

I asked the folks at Habeggers Amish store in Scottsville KY if they had a lot of house and barn fires... the guy was in his early 30's and he said he couldn't recall one of their community burning down the house... however, I did notice that most of the homes in that community do not have curtains. I wonder if they don't have them for safety reasons?

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Dan:

We are in Tennessee... "cold" here is 24 overnight low... teens are a freak occurrence... I should imagine that if it was 15 degrees that the 10,000 BTU unit would not be enough...

I don't know if this matters, but I should mention that the house is built into the side of a hill, downstairs is a finished basement that is below grade in the "front", and grade level in the back... and is cool in summer, and not heated (directly) in winter. The passive solar heating on the South side is excellent and on sunny days, no heat is needed while the sun shines irrespective of the temp outside (I have never seen a sub 20 sunny day here, though).

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Dan:

For colder climes, 2, 10,000 btu unitis would be preferable to 1 20,000 unit in my opinion. We do have 2, but the other one has been used exclusively in the garage.

Anonymous said...

Gregg,

I was just saying there is more than one way of dealing with heat; the old way was just to burn more fuel and not worry about the byproducts because they would blow out the leaky house. A more modern way is to seal the house to cut down on infiltration and insulate to cut down on fuel usage. The two are mutually exclusive and things that are fine in a leaky old house can kill you after the building envelope has been tightened up.

Best,
Dan