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Heating in Colder Climates

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  • Heating in Colder Climates

    Well this is one of my biggest concerns right now. We are in Canada. Very very cold winters. If the temperature drops to 30 below Celcius and the electricity goes out we need a plan. Our furnace is gas but the fan is electric. With a generator I could get the furnace going if the gas was still on. If the gas was off as well I have two electric space heaters that could run off a generator.

    But if electricity is lost during our summer or fall months we need another option for indoor cooking, little bit of heating, etc. It seems a waste to get a generator going for a few small things. Plus the gas. If that gas has to last a winter then I would want to conserve it as much as possible. I've looked at a few things like the canned heat, mr heater buddy heater. We do have the bbq outside and I can have extra propane. The only other thing I thought of was using a small solor panel to charge 2 or 3 car batteries. But the cost of a generator plus all this stuff is really going to add up.

    Any ideas what we can do?


  • #2
    Re: Heating in Colder Climates

    Trying to use an electric generator to heat with is a loosing proposition. You would be far better off to find a high energy efficiency propane heater that would heat one room. (Be sure it doesn't require a vent.) Also, you'll want to be sure that the heater can be ignited manually without requiring electricity. You could probably also find a small propane camp stove to run off the same bottle. You might want to try to purchase a larger propane tank as small bottles may be very hard to come by when needed.


    • #3
      Re: Heating in Colder Climates

      Hi lamrobertson, I am in Northern Qu?bec, maybe the following will help.

      If you can think about a cheminey and a slow combustion oven. ( A little bit more expensive but it needs about 4 to 6 times less logs than a boxstove for example).

      I have a back up of propane. I was surprise at the low cost of 100 pounds use tanks, most of the time you just have to change the valve.

      With these tanks I have a four rounds oven that I can put on a table.

      As for the winter it is so worthing to isolate very well the windows.

      Like for this winter I first use a seal for outsides and sealed most of the windows from the outside (left few half of windows not isolated for fresh air and circulation)

      Once I had isolated from outside, I took an incense stick and look how much air was still infiltrating (BTW the smoke of incense will tell you if the plugs in the wall need isolation for instance or your door, etc..)

      For the northern and west windows (Coldest one because of the sun and because up-here the wind come from those cardinal points) I have sealed again the windows but from the inside this time. I have a third isolation option that I did not have to use wich is a thin transparent saran wrap like that is totally transparent without wrinkles with a hair dryer.

      All these isolation is very cheap, (I have isolated 16 windows for less than 75$) but it is worth it to take the time to do it properly, it is long but you save so much wood, electricity or gas & oil. It took me about two days of 6 hours for all the windows, it is worth it.

      There are two other problems, the dryer air exit, it cost about 10$ to get a plastic one for outside (metallic is cold conductor), again take your time to make sure that the panel close properly when the hot air doesn't open it.

      Finally the more complicated one for me was the fan over the oven, again as much as possible I suggest plastic.

      The incense stick reveals a lot, for instance at the junction of the floor and external walls there was some air leaks, take the same stuff as for the window (indoor ones).

      For the outside doors you have those plastic stripe that you put at the bottom of the doors and on the side that is opening.

      Hope this help.


      • #4
        Re: Heating in Colder Climates

        I also live in the north and have power outages in the winter. Recently our wind chill temperatures have been down to -45F.

        I would never live dependent on electricity.

        Using a propane heater without a vent can kill you. I have a small propane wall heater (with input and output vents) that runs without electricity. When the power goes out, the room with that heater can be isolated and keep everyone warm. It will also keep the house above freezing should you not be home when the power outage occurs.

        For long term - get a wood stove and learn how to cook on it.

        "The next major advancement in the health of American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself"-- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation


        • #5
          Re: Heating in Colder Climates

          Thanks Everyone. Well we are renting right now. So wood stove would be out of the question. If it was easier to install a wood stove and vent it outside might be an option.

          Maybe one of the Mr. heater buddy ones would be a good idea. Are there any propane stoves that are safe for use indoors?

          Thanks for the reminder on sealing the windows. I'll double check that we have enough left for next year. This year we have covered all the windows, put the insulated covers on the switches and plugs. We did the incense thing this year too lol. I have actually completely blocked the vent for the stove fan because it was such a breeze coming through.

          Our house is 3 levels. So probably the main level is where we would stay and try to heat -kitchen, living room.


          • #6
            Re: Heating in Colder Climates

            Rinnai makes very nice ventless (as well as vented) space heaters. We saw these in a rental in Maine that we stayed in and were impressed with their efficiency. I am not so certain whether they would be equally as effective without electricity...or if they would even work without electricity.

            I'm just suggesting there are both vented and ventless models available. Your local building supply store (do they do Home Depot in Canada?) would be able to help out, I expect.


            • #7
              Re: Heating in Colder Climates

              You might want to check into Northern Tool, we recently bought a stove from them for an additional level of protection. The one we bought is propane(we have a large tank in the yard).

              The reason I picked this one is because it doesn't require electricity, it isn't permanent it only requires a gas line (this model also comes in natural gas), it comes with an oxygen depletion sensor, and it's even on sale at the moment.

              They have a similar model at, that they can't seem to keep in stock. I don't know if you could cook with it though.

              The one I bought will be delivered tomorrow, but I won't be able to report how it works until my handyman husband gets home from Shanghai.

              Here is the main page of stoves, there are many options be sure to read the fine print, some require power.

              I've used the company before, I've always had good results.
              "We are in this breathing space before it happens. We do not know how long that breathing space is going to be. But, if we are not all organizing ourselves to get ready and to take action to prepare for a pandemic, then we are squandering an opportunity for our human security"- Dr. David Nabarro


              • #8
                Re: Heating in Colder Climates

                My backup propane heater (no electric required) is the DV 210 at

                They're very inexpensive, including the setup.

                "The next major advancement in the health of American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself"-- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation


                • #9
                  Re: Heating in Colder Climates

                  Originally posted by MHSC View Post
                  You might want to check into Northern Tool, we recently bought a stove from them for an additional level of protection. The one we bought is propane(we have a large tank in the yard).

                  The reason I picked this one is because it doesn't require electricity, it isn't permanent it only requires a gas line (this model also comes in natural gas), it comes with an oxygen depletion sensor, and it's even on sale at the moment.

                  hmm looks like they won't ship those to Canada. I've never seen anything like that here before.

                  I know alot of people in this area have cabins that they heat. I'll check around and see what is in the store. I know must be quite a few using kerosene. We have had a few house fires from kerosene heaters. So that one I will stay away from.

                  I can easily pick up a coleman stove for cooking. Crack a window or even just put it on top on the stove and run the stove fan while its on.

                  You really think that a generator would be that inefficient? If it was running the fan on the furnace and the gas was still on. Even on the coldest days here I actually turn off the furnace and I have 2 portable electric heaters on the main floor. Those two on low keep the temperature in the kitchen and living room at about 71. On low each of those heaters are 600 w and on high they are 1500 watts. The generator I was looking at is 3500 watts. Our furnace is just run at night to keep the temperature from not going below 55.


                  • #10
                    Re: Heating in Colder Climates

                    Here is a link for a "Home Made Thermal Shade". The idea is once the home is warm to help use this to help to slow the loss of heat from the home via windows. The article is from Mother Earth News magazine.

                    The goal of the article appears to be to provide plans for making several models of home made thermal shades that can be easily attached to widows during the night or colder periods to cut down on heat loss. The shades can still be easily move to allow passive solar heating (sun light) to enter the home during the day.

                    Wonder if a similar design could be made with space blankets to reflect or limit sunlight (and passive heat) entering thru windows in warmer climates?
                    We were put on this earth to help and take care of one another.


                    • #11
                      Re: Heating in Colder Climates

                      Originally posted by Amish Country View Post
                      Here is a link for a "Home Made Thermal Shade". The idea is once the home is warm to help use this to help to slow the loss of heat from the home via windows. The article is from Mother Earth News magazine.

                      Wonder if a similar design could be made with space blankets to reflect or limit sunlight (and passive heat) entering thru windows in warmer climates?
                      Interesting thanks.

                      This past summer we bought this stuff that is used to insulate hot water tanks and you see it lots on RV windows. Can't remember what it was calle. It was silver, thicker, kinda quilted. We cut it to the size of the windows and attached it with two sided tape. Some windows we simply propped it between the shades and window. It seemed to keep it a little cooler. Wasn't fun to take down the ones with double sided tape this fall. Velcro might be a better idea.


                      • #12
                        Re: Heating in Colder Climates

                        Some college kids as a prank, wall papered the whole apartment with foil. Covered the ceiling, walls, cabinets, doors and windows with foil. The news crew got so warm while filming the story they had to strip down to their shorts. The foiled apartment (sorry for the pun) acted as a parabolic dish. I keep a large roll of foil (Costco) and staples (no I mean stapler) for my safe room should I have to fall back to emergency mode with no heat and/or fuel.


                        • #13
                          Re: Heating in Colder Climates

                          I just found an interesting forum with a lot of information on heating with wood.

                          "The leading source of information on fireplaces, wood stoves, gas stoves, chimneys and pellet stoves":


                          ?May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
                          laughter to cheer you, those you love near you, and all your heart might desire.?
                          ~ Irish Blessing ~


                          • #14
                            Re: Heating in Colder Climates

                            Check in in your area. You might find firewood being given away free. Many Ash trees are being cut down, and homeowners are giving away the wood.

                            ?When I retire I'm going to spend my evenings by the fireplace going through those boxes.
                            There are things in there that ought to be burned.?
                            Richard M. Nixon - US President (1969-74)


                            • #15
                              Re: Heating in Colder Climates

                              I finally got around to collecting one whole cord of hardwood to burn in my fireplace should the power go out. But I highly recommend that you build firewood racks before you obtain any firewood. I didn't. Now I have to stack the racks myself with wood I have laying all around the yard. What a a lot of extra work!
                              I am tying a large tarp over each rack to keep the snow and rain off the firewood, to keep it dry and ready to burn.

                              For those of you ... like me...who have no experience with splitting the few large logs you might get, here is an informative article on splitting those logs:

                              How to split wood

                              Editor's note: This article was written and sent to us by Anne and David, two visitors to We appreciate their contribution and hope you enjoy it.

                              Size and strength are not as important in effective wood splitting as determination and technique. The co-authors regularly split wood together. Anne is 34 years old, 130 pounds and relatively new to splitting. David is 61 years of age, 200 pounds and has decades of experience splitting wood. The only concession made for the difference in size and strength is that Anne's rounds are cut two-thirds as long (proportionate to our weight difference).

                              We thoroughly enjoy splitting firewood - a rare art and skill in this technological age. Our intent here is to present ideas that might refine or accelerate the learning process for someone and make wood splitting more enjoyable and effective for them.

                              Cut firewood logs into "rounds" of reasonable length. The longer the round for any given diameter and condition, the more difficult it will be to split. If you are just starting or are having difficulty splitting, cut logs into short (twelve-inch) lengths. Increase length later as your ability increases. If you have any choice in the matter, avoid wood that is terribly knotty or set it aside "until later".

                              Use a "wood splitter's maul" rather than an ax. The maul is basically a wedge with a handle. The advantage of the wedge shape over the ax is that the wedge, with its more abrupt slope, is less inclined to stick in the wood than the gentler slope of the ax head. The steep slope of the maul also increases outward pressure on the wood.

                              Save the wedges and sledge for really tough wood. Wood that splits easily or with moderate difficulty can be split faster with a maul which avoids the necessity of "setting" the wedge and striking it repeatedly. Keep a couple of wedges on hand for really gnarly wood.

                              Use a six-pound maul rather than the eight or ten-pound models. A lighter maul can be swung much FASTER. Velocity is more important than mass in producing results. Perhaps this is related to the laws of physics, which state that energy is proportional to the SQUARE of velocity, but only DIRECTLY proportional to mass. Thus, the maul head should be traveling as fast as possible when it strikes the wood. It takes a very strong person to properly accelerate a large maul.

                              Position yourself slightly uphill from the round to be split if at all possible. This employs weight and leverage to maximize effectiveness of the blow. Place rounds on reasonably hard ground to prevent the force of your blow from being absorbed by soft ground below. Striking a round that is too high or one that is on soft ground decreases the energy delivered to the wood by the maul head.

                              Study the round to be split for existing cracks or other signs of weakness and align yourself with these as your target. Look down the exterior of the round to avoid splitting through any obvious obstructions such as large knots or twisted grain.

                              The most effective blow is delivered near the edge of the round, NOT the center. By hitting near the edge (bark), the maul strikes at 90 degrees to growth rings where they are wide and vulnerable. Look and listen for the beginnings of a split. Strike the split with the next and subsequent blows and watch it progress across the round. After the split is well started, strike the far side along the split. Repeat with increasing aggression as necessary.

                              Make the best blow you can EACH time. Never make a half-effort, even if it becomes necessary to rest between swings. Light blows seldom split wood and almost always discourage and tire you for no gain.

                              Learn to strike within a quarter-inch of your intended spot. This is accurate enough for effective wood splitting and is not too difficult to achieve with practice and focus. Hold the maul with the same grip each swing because any slight difference in position of the handle in your hands will produce a large change at the striking edge of the maul.

                              Swing with authority
                              Stand with feet shoulder width apart facing the round. Measure your distance by placing the maul where you wish to strike with arms fully extended, then step back a third or half step. This will encourage you to lean forward a little as you complete the swing and it will add power. Hold the maul horizontally near waist level, elbows comfortably bent, one hand at the base of the handle, palm facing toward you, the other hand at the neck, thumb next to the maul head, palm facing away from you. Switch hands if that is more comfortable for you. As a challenge, you can learn to use either grip equally well.

                              Flex your knees and bend slightly at the waist. Abruptly raise the maul overhead, extending arms high, straightening back and knees, and rising up on toes to gain maximum potential energy. During this up swing, allow the hand next the maul head to slide down the handle to meet the hand holding the butt of the handle. When your hands are directly overhead, the maul head will be at some angle behind the vertical line of your body.

                              With no delay, begin a very forceful downswing. Concentrate your vision on the point of intended impact. Bend at the waist and bend your knees to involve all of your body in the swing. At the very last instant before the maul head strikes the wood, pull it back toward you very slightly using your abdominal muscles and legs not your arms. This seems to increase accuracy and accelerate the head to make the blow much more effective. Also, if you can learn to "snap your wrists" downward at the last instant you further accelerate the maul.

                              DO NOT allow your vision to wander from the striking point during the swing. Focus your attention on striking all the way through the piece to the very BOTTOM. This is the same approach used in the martial arts. Strike toward where you want the blow to finish. Visualize the maul head penetrating the piece completely and visualize the split pieces falling away. KNOW that the wood will not resist the blow. Anticipate success.

                              There are those who split well using different tools and techniques. We respect them and encourage them to describe their methods to help others to learn. Here are some tips we've discovered.

                              Firewood cut too long for its intended use is a constant source of irritation.

                              Branching sections ("Y" pieces) can be split effectively in most species. Cut "Ys" as close as possible on the small ends then split with the "Y" down.

                              Fiberglass handles can be pleasant to use and they are nearly indestructible.

                              NEVER strike long (overstrike) which is an embarrassingly amateur way to break a maul handle.

                              Six pound mauls use the same handles as a standard sledgehammer instead of the much more expensive special handles for heavier mauls.

                              The heat output (Btu content) of wood is proportional to its density (weight per unit volume) when air-dried. A cord (128 cubic feet or 4x4x8 feet) of dense hardwood weighs considerably more than a cord of softwood and thus has considerably more total heating potential. This is not to say that one should avoid lighter wood; in fact, it often makes excellent firewood. Because more bulk is required to do the same job, however, light wood should cost less in money or effort.

                              Some species of wood tend to have straight grain that splits well (red oak). Others have entangled fibers and can be very difficult to split (elm). Some wood splits easiest when green (live oak) and some split much easier when dry and brittle (some pines).

                              Stack firewood where air and sun can dry it thoroughly by the time you will burn it. Twenty-percent moisture content is supposedly ideal. "Dry" is good enough. You can burn wood that is not dry but there is some loss of heating potential through evaporation of moisture. In a pinch make a hot fire of any dry wood available and add the unseasoned wood.

                              By Anne and David
                              January 2001

                              HERE IS MORE INFO ON SPLITTING MAULS:

                              ?He who wants to warm himself in old age must build a fireplace in his youth?
                              German Proverb