Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Just in case...... auxillary heat


Propane is wonderful stuff. In a true emergency it can be darned hard to find, but right up until the moment things go kerflooie, propane is readily available just about everyplace.

What makes it so useful as an emergency fuel is that it stays good just about forever. Wood stoves are great, and certainly useful, but they need to be fed. That means cutting firewood, stacking, storing it, hoping you have enough and hoping it doesn't rot or get stolen. Wood stoves also have another consideration... In a bad social situation the smoke from a chimney is a beacon. 'Here is a house thats warm and occupied', which is not always the flag one wants flown in an emergency.

Gasoline, kerosene, heating oil.... just about any liquid fuel will go bad with age. The complicated hydrocarbon chemical soup changes with heat and exposure. A can of gasoline in an outdoor shed, even when dosed with preservative, will go sour in a year or so. Kerosene is not much better. Diesel fuel can actually be worse... there are organisms that like to live on diesel fuel (algae).

Propane, stored as it must be in pressurized steels tanks, can be safely held for years on end. As long the tanks remain free of corrosion and leaks, they are good to go. Appliances designed for propane are easy to find, and run the gamut from fancy upscale kitchen ranges to base model camping equipment. Heat, hot water, lighting, electricity, even refrigeration can be powered from the shiny white tanks of propane.

It can be had from the store in one pound cans designed for lamps, camp stoves, and small heaters, and larger twenty pound tanks designed for grills. Forty pounders and hundred pounders can be had at most farm supply stores. Propane delivery services will install tanks from 200 gallons up to 1000 gallons, and keep them fill$d for you as well.

Pictured above is a simple "Mr. Heater" portable propane heater. It operates off one pound bottles, but can easily be plumbed into larger tanks with nothing more than a $25 adapter hose. This heater can keep a large room comfortable, and do so for an extended period of time. The features that attracted me to it, and should be considered, concern safety. It has a tip over switch that shuts the heater down if it's jostled or tipped (its quite sensitive too). Nudging it with your toe shuts it off at once. The heater also has a low O2 sensor, and will shut down in the event a sealed room is depleting in oxygen. Long before a low O2 level gets dangerous, the heater shuts down. It's so sensitive the heater will not work reliably more than 7000 feet above sea level.

This heater can (and does) live quietly on the floor of a closet, only making an appearance when needed. A few cases of one pound bottles take up little room, and are enough to keep a family mostly warm for a week.

Those same bottles will also feed camp stoves and propane lanterns (another source of heat).

Something to be considered.

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