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Emergency heat, no fireplace, wood stove nixed by insurance

 
Pearl Allen
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Hope this is in the right forum! Many apologies if not...

Last winter when the power grid went down in Texas, we were very grateful to be in a house with great insulation that had a ventless natural gas fireplace. It literally kept us from freezing. (We melted snow over a rocket stove to flush toilets when the supply lines froze!) This year, we are in a house with a natural gas forced-air heater (electronic ignition) and no fireplace, and the insurance company is saying "no" to wood stoves. (I suppose that isn't too uncommon.)

So, I am looking for a way to heat in a SHTF/grid down situation in the new house.

Thoughts:
- Plumb into existing natural gas line and install a ventless gas stove or heater
- Have a propane tank installed for the same (in case gas lines went down, but of course propane could run out, too)
- Exterior wood furnace...but might be overkill...
- A big solar generator such as a Bluetti with a LiFePo4 battery to power an oil-filled radiator (and other things), but I know those consume a LOT of energy
- Something simple like a Big Buddy Heater attached to a 20 or 30 lb propane tank.

We are in East Texas, where it does get below freezing more than a few times each winter (and it can snow...esp. last year), but the winters aren't usually over 4 months. The house is around 2,000 sf, all on one level.  

Grateful for any suggestions!
 
thomas rubino
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Hi Pearl;
I think the Big Buddy is the way to go this winter.
Maybe get 2 tanks of propane, a 100 pounder and a smaller 20 pounder.
Run the big tank and if it runs out you have the smaller one to use while you get your large tank refilled.

Next year build an outdoor wood heater just outside the house and start cutting firewood.
 
John F Dean
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If you are eliminating wood as an option, it appears gas is your best bet for an emergency situation. Having lived in more northerly locations, I suspect your definition of winter and mine may differ.

You stated that this was for emergencies, therefore my goal is to provide some options, and to keep your pipes from freezing.  Tying into natural gas appears pointless if you already have a natural gas furnace.  Do consider an electric generator to keep your furnace and blower functioning.  You might as well toss the fridge into that mix, I would go with a dual fuel generator.   So, this becomes your first line of defense.

I would go with a an LP heater as a back up to that. Do take a close look at venting options. Make certain you have an ample supply of LP available.  It does not go bad.  I keep a few extra 100 pound tanks around.  

I am sure there will be additional input from others.
 
David Baillie
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If you have natural gas at your house already the most straight forward option as stated would be a backup generator to run the furnace properly. Ideally it would be a unit that can use the natural gas you already have. A good generator backup panel installed next to your man n panel with your critical loads on it and manual transfer switch, a 500 dollar genny and you are good to go .  
 
S Bengi
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So the 2021 Winter storm disrupted quite a few utilities:
1) Electricity: alot of folks heat with electricity/heat pump and the record low crashed some local power grid
2) Gas: the electric grid tried to turn on gas burning generators to provide extra energy, but the folks who heat with gas already overwhelmed the gas-grid
3) Water: with the electric/gas grid down, water pumps for well & city water failed, and some water pipes froze
4) Misc: due to the above 3 failure other downstream systems were in various state of failure.

Short Answer: for a few weeks
Fuel: 500gallon propane tank for about 2weeks of heating (20kbtu x 12hrs/day) and electricity.
Heating: Emergency ventless construction heater, 2 burner cooking stove
Electric: 240v, 5kw+ generator
Water: well/IBC totes
Food: 20lbs-50lbs bags of rice/beans/etc, nuts, eggs, oil, honey, multi-vitamin tablets. stock up at the start of the winter season.

Long Answer/SHTF: being off grid
Fuel: direct solar and indirect solar (firewood/etc)
Self-Heating:wearing more layers
Space-Heating: R-40 insulation, radiant in floor heating ($2000 pex piping, $300 recirculating pump, $15 pressure relive valve, $45 manifold, water heater)
Water-Heating: outside wood-burning water heater, or maybe a big enough solar array
Cooking-Heating: while they might not allow a wood fireplace for space heating, they will allow a woodstove for cooking, solar cooker
Electric: Solar Panels+Battery/etc, backup propane tank+generator.
Water: Well, buried cistern
Food: 1acre coppice firewood, 1acre Nuts&dried fruits orchard, 4 bee hive, chicken coop, root crops&vegetables, etc
Overall reduction: Have only 1 wet wall with the bathroom on 1side and the kitchen sink on the other. sleep/live togather in a single shared space vs the entire house. cook less eat raw/etc. prep food in time of plenty heat/etc (ferment/dehydrate/can/etc), take baths with a rag+basin of water, etc.
 
bruce Fine
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I never imagined insurance would say no to wood stove in a house, with the latest greatest new fangled EPA approved super high efficiency stoves and  super safe double walled insulated stove pipe. I learn something new every day. ventless gas heaters work real well but suck up a bunch of gas when its real cold out. last place I used one in I think I used a 40lb tank in less than a week.  but there are so many variables involved your mileage may vary. one good thing about propane is it does not go stale and if you have your own supply stocked up you dont have to be dependent on the system in time of crisis. now might be a good time to get a coleman stove and hose and gadget to convert it to propane, just in case.
 
Jay Angler
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How many people are living in your 2000 sq feet?

Have you considered looking at all the things that will freeze without heat - toilets, pipes etc - and installing extra shut-offs and drains so that you can shut down any non-essential parts of the house? In effect, I'm suggesting you consider a way of having a "house within a house" with all your critical needs able to be concentrated in 3 to 500 sq feet which will considerably reduce the heating demands. Try insulating the "inside-outside walls" with book shelves, wool tapestries, etc to help keep the core warm. People generate heat themselves (and pets if you've got any), so in a smaller insulated space, that heat also helps.

I agree that you don't want to use solar electric to heat your house, although solar electric can run fans or pumps. However, putting in radiant floor heating running off solar hot water with a large, insulated tank so that it will last through a week of snow, might be something to look into.

If you house is warm and you want to keep that warmth in, having insulated curtains that can be put over windows could also help a lot. There are plenty of instructions on the web and you can have something like velcro to attach them.

I'd also look at the outside of the house, considering the likeliest wind directions, and consider what can be done to slow the wind cooling, such as hedges or berms.

The weather is getting more extreme, and last winter's storm was not the only one when the electrical grid in Texas had serious problems, although the article I read suggested that this time it was significantly worse, and people actually died. If you're planning on living in your current house for any length of time, I think it would be worth it to look at all your options for long-term security - particularly passive options that will work regardless of power or gas.
 
Abe Coley
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I would take a short piece of triple wall stove pipe or metalbestos pipe and fabricate a chimney flange of sorts that would fit an open window. Then just keep a regular wood stove and a few lengths of chimney pipe stashed in a shed or the garage. If the grid goes down you could at least be up and running with heat again in a few hours, and when the grid comes back online you could stick everything back in the shed like nothing ever happened.
 
Anne Miller
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I am in Texas also.  Something like this is what saves use last year:

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Dyna-Glo-18000-BTU-Wall-Or-Floor-Mount-Natural-Gas-Or-Liquid-Propane-Vent-free-Infrared-Heater/1000282063

Our heater is a free-standing heater that can be used for either natural gas or propane. We have propane.

I have lived in Texas a long time and have never heard of a shortage of natural gas or even a time when it was not available.

I have a problem with suggesting that you get a propane tank so my suggestion would be to ask the provider lots of questions.

We heat and cook with propane.  Where we used to live the provider said we did not use enough propane and that he was picking up the tank.  I no longer had a way to cook and if we hadn't moved I would not have had a way to heat the house.
 
Skandi Rogers
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When I grew up the electric went of regularly the longest time was 10 days and that was in southern England, but the gas supply never went off. So my first thought is some other form of gas fire that runs on the mains, but of course that has to be there all the time it's not something you can hide away. What I have used as supplementary heating before is something like the thing below, they are big enough to heat a couple of rooms comfortably and very easy to move as they are on wheels. it runs on bottled gas and can be moved anywhere you want, very common around here, in fact I have one standing in the barn right now just incase it is needed. as although we have a pellet furnace the pumps and controls are all electric.


 
bruce Fine
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abe, would that be considered a gorilla stove, kind of a little bit like gorilla gardening,
when winter is at its coldest 18-20 degrees F here, I burn about a rick, of firewood in about 10 days, a rick beings somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 a cord the way I understand it.
so along with stove and pipe, which could be as simple as the types used in tents that are used in places like the Yukon, Alaska, Siberia, Himalayas, etc .
you would need a supply of firewood to get you through a crisis time.
but its easy being an armchair quarterback. hopefully you will be prepared for the next crisis that comes along.
 
Jay Angler
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@ Abe Coley and Bruce Fine - you've left out the critical part. If something happens while the "gorilla wood stove" is in use, the insurance company could refuse compensation even if whatever needed compensating had nothing to do with the wood stove. If the OP can afford to self-insure, that may not be an issue.
 
Robert Ray
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I built a schoolie and used a diesel boat heater by Dickinson. They offer solid fuel heaters as well. The Dickinson is a big purchase but an extremely good heater. Toyo offers a small oil heater that a friend runs on fryer oil as well as diesel. I've been runnin the chinese diesel heaters in my greenhouse and It has really been a help it sips fuel and vents outside through a roughly 30mil exhaust tube. Lots of you tube videos on the chinese heaters. relatively inexpensive at about 125.00.  It might be worth a look. My Dickinson has a two loop water heater for heating water and keeps that bus nice and toasty without vapor from propane. The beauty of 12volt on the Dickinson and chinese diesel heater work well for me in my applications. I use the Dickinson Lofoten model. Draft is not an issue since they are made for sail boats a barometric duct vent might be a good idea. You should be able to find it at that 1600.00 price point.
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denise ra
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I thought ventless gas heaters in a house are unsafe? I was planning on spending $1,600 for a tiny wood stove and all the proper piping to get it through the roof.

Here in Western Oklahoma I heard that the gas lines did not have enough pressure to run the generators that people had for their houses, so I don't know about relying on gas for your backup. Also, where I was during that storm there was no driving for nine days because of the ice, so don't run out of propane.
 
Nancy Reading
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Can you change your insurer to one who accepts that heating with wood is acceptable and normal?
 
Pearl Allen
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Oh my goodness, y'all -- thank you so much for all the wonderful suggestions! I will be researching a lot over the next few days based on your suggestions. Hoping to go back and comment on different ones as well. Very grateful!
 
bruce Fine
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yeah you sure are correct about insurance. most policy are not worth the paper they are written on anyway, and I'm speaking from my own personal experience dealing with insurance.
a skoolie is a great idea. if the house becomes uninhabitable you can have your own self contained portable house right outside. and can also serve other purposes like guest house, rv for vacation, travel in your own hotel room what could be better.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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c

denise ra wrote:I thought ventless gas heaters in a house are unsafe? I was planning on spending $1,600 for a tiny wood stove and all the proper piping to get it through the roof.

Here in Western Oklahoma I heard that the gas lines did not have enough pressure to run the generators that people had for their houses, so I don't know about relying on gas for your backup. Also, where I was during that storm there was no driving for nine days because of the ice, so don't run out of propane.



Some jurisdictions (in more southerly climates, I suspect) permit permanent installation of a ventless gas heater that uses a catalytic burner to reduce carbon monoxide and a low oxygen sensor that acts as a safety shutoff. I suppose for quick heat in an area with lots of ventilation, they have their place. In a tightly sealed house, I think the moisture and carbon dioxide generated would become unpleasant in a hurry. They are illegal up here.

Portable catalytic gas heaters with low oxygen sensors are somewhat safe for emergency use, as long as there is a fresh air supply and some ventilation. I would certainly back it up with a  CO detector for safety and have a fire extinguisher handy. Would I sleep with it on? Hmm, I'm not sure.

- - -

Concerns about natural gas pressure are warranted. Many areas use compressor stations driven by the electricity, so if one grid fails the other does too. Up here, companies generally use independent compressors powered by natural gas, so the grids are redundant to some degree.

With that in mind, we spend extra and installed a natural gas fireplace that can operate even when the electrical grid is down.
 
Pearl Allen
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Thanks Thomas. The Big Buddy is practical, and I really like the idea of an outdoor wood heater for longer term!All the mess outside... I've investigated a little and see that they can hook up with one's existing system... but then I would need to power the blower somehow. (There must be ways around that, though.) I know that's a big investment, so of course would want to know we would be here for a long time before installing.

John: I have lived in Idaho and Colorado too, so would agree that a Texas winter is quite a bit milder than further north! It's the humidity+cold that will get you here...kind of goes right to the bones despite what the thermometer says. Re: generator, I'm wondering if the portable kind would be sufficient (as opposed to a big Generac)... Need to check into that.

David: I think you are suggesting a portable one of the above.

S. Bengi: Fabulous analysis of what happened in Texas last February (and previously). Thank you! Yes, the electricity being down contributed to pipes freezing in both homes and city water systems. Our school district was closed for 2 weeks, the first due to snow and the second due to an offline water system. Texas just isn't prepared for snow like other places. I appreciate your 3-scenario breakdowns, and suggestions of living in a "house within a house" and keeping pipes from freezing at the same time.

Bruce: Yes, sad that wood stoves are not allowed. The property is still owned by my parents' estate so there is no switching companies at this point. I will have to see what's out there coverage wise when it's my choice. My folks did run a wood stove on another property for years, so obviously it is do-able with some other companies.

Jay: Yes, I think we are all in for colder winters for a while due to the solar minimum. You and S. Bengi had the similar idea of "downsizing" in the house, and shutting off non-essential water. I really would like to plan ahead for more efficiency (i.e. greenhouse on a southern wall piping in warmer air + other means of heating). There are so many ideas in my head that I am overwhelmed at times!

Abe, Bruce and Jay: A guerilla stove! LOL. I have some friends who bought one of those after another electric outage. They keep it on a screened-in back porch. I think that self-insuring is not an option at this point, but I am smiling at the guerilla tactics. My teenager would think that was ever so cool.....

Anne, fellow Texan: The heater you linked to is sort of what I was thinking of installing, using either natural gas or propane. Is there a reason why you chose the infrared over the convection? I have a call into our gas company to see how much of our local gas supply is dependent on electricity. To be sure, we never ran out of it last February. Grateful for your knowledge. This is the land of oil and gas, after all.

Skandi: Yes, I had thought of a supplementary gas heater that does not require electricity. I have seen the units you pictured. They take a 20-lb propane tank, don't they? That might be a good backup to natural gas for a short term situation, for sure. Maybe a 3rd layer!

Robert: A diesel heater! That is totally new to me, and you launched me into some research. I saw a video where a fellow installed one in his tiny house, encasing it on the porch in a Harbor Freight toolbox. I suppose you would just need to keep the diesel from freezing, and vent properly. This is a really fascinating idea! Bruce, my kids would LOVE a skoolie!

Douglas: Yes, I think leaving a window just a bit cracked with a ventless heater might be a good idea. That is what I did last winter, just to be sure. The heat put out by the gas fireplace more than compensated for the slight draft.

Hope I mentioned everyone. Really grateful for all the good thoughts and ideas! Open to any and all more! (And I know I will need to read and re-read. :)


 
Anne Miller
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Pearl said, " Is there a reason why you chose the infrared over the convection? I have a call into our gas company to see how much of our local gas supply is dependent on electricity. To be sure, we never ran out of it last February. Grateful for your knowledge. This is the land of oil and gas, after all.



That was the closest match to our heater that I could find.  I don't know that our has an infrared or convention.  All I know is when I turn a knob and it lights up automatically.  We did opt for a glass screen over the flames for protection for the dog.  They may all be that way nowadays.  We bought ours sometime abt 10 years ago or less.

I like your suggestion to ask the gas company about dependant on electricity.  Who knows how things are run since they probably use computers.  Back when we had natural gas, to me it was just something in a pipeline.
 
Catie George
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I am in a similar situation, and, having grown up with woodstoves, -30C, and 4-5 day long power outages, worry about this too. We don't have space for a woodstove.

My solution (living in Canada, currently in a house, previously an apartment) is :

- I have a couple of camping stoves, and fuel on hand at all times (outdoor use only). My whisperlite international can run on a variety of fuel sources, including gasoline. I also have a fondue pot and fuel that I can use inside. Boiling water takes a lot of fuel, so I keep lots on hand.
-I have hot water bottles (can fill with hot water boiled on camp stoves). I heat myself, not the room.
- I have tents, and curtains/doors/duct tape/plastic sheeting to close off extra rooms.  I can set a tent up in my house. I slept in a tent a few nights ago, with wind howling, at 5C. It's amazing how much warmer it is inside of a small tent.
-I have duvets and winter sleeping bags and good winter clothing.  I can, and do, camp down to -15C outside.
-I keep 20L-40L or more of water on hand, and if the power goes out, immediately fill my bathtub with the hot water. After that, I fill a few big containers. Yes, in town, the water keeps pumping, but it's habit from living on a well and does no harm, and in case of a longer emergency, I will be grateful for the foresight.


A propane fireplace would be nice too, but if I had the space, I would be inquiring with different insurance companies about woodstoves.

We had a wood furnace for a while. It was inefficient, are huge amounts of fuel, and needed electricity to run. Not a fan of it, tbh.

Currently, we also have a generator and fuel for it, but I didn't have one when I lived in an apartment. We get a small discount on our insurance for owning a generator.
 
David Baillie
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A portable generator is what I was suggesting. Somewhere in the 3500 to 5000 watt range as long as it has a plug for 240 not just 120 as many furnace blowers are 240 even if they are small. If you can't find natural gas ones a dual fuel propane/gas one is available and fairly affordable Lowes, home Depot, harbor freight...
 
John C Daley
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Back to insurance companies.
If you use the term 'wood stove' it covers a range of heaters many of which will be unsuitable inside a house.
Perhaps the Insurance company will allow a particular style, type etc heater.
Looking from Australia its hard to believe that a blanket ban by some companies exists in North America.

Perhaps more research is required and discussions with the company.
 
Jay Angler
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John C Daley wrote:Back to insurance companies.
If you use the term 'wood stove' it covers a range of heaters many of which will be unsuitable inside a house.
Perhaps the Insurance company will allow a particular style, type etc heater.
Looking from Australia its hard to believe that a blanket ban by some companies exists in North America.

Several issues: 1. statistically, people with wood stoves have greater odds of burning their houses down. 2.  lots of modern people are clueless about things like regular chimney cleaning 3. lots of modern people don't realize that the type of wood they burn (green or arbutus for example) increase the risk of creosote build-up.

Personally, it's an education thing, but if people have the attitude that they know it all and don't need to learn, bad things can happen. To own a gun here you need to take a course and get a license. Maybe if you needed to take a course and get a license for a wood-stove, that would change the insurance company's mind?
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Re insurance: their grumpiness about wood stoves is a royal pain, to me and thee; but the statistics support their approach. Up here, you pay a hefty insurance rider for a professionally installed, WETT inspected, ULC/CSA/ top-shelf wood stove.

Currently, the rider cost is much greater than that of using natural gas. That seems insane, given that the insurance business is at the biggest risk from climate change, and locally sourced wood is a genuine mitigating factor.

However, I have seen a house fire (not mine) that cost insurance a fortune. It was a minor lapse in ash management that caused it -- it could happen to anyone. I have also seen close calls, even amongst experienced and savvy stove users. One tiny slip-up in 20 years is all it takes.

FWIW.
 
Jer Steph
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I don't have anything to add here. You've gotten great responses. I'm south of Houston and we lost power for about 18 hours and had our main water pipe into the house freeze and burst. We had just bought our house 2 weeks before, the freeze. So we overlooked the main water line into the house when preparing for the freeze because we didnt know the house well enough yet. We were quite fortunate though compared to our neighbors. The line burst outside of the house and we had some random PVC pipe lying around from the previous owners. We had a 3500 Predator generator and electric heaters to keep us warm and propane camping stoves to boil water and cook once we fixed the main water line. The previous owners had also left a ton of firewood. We had a firepit that we didnt need to use. So gave the firewood to any neighbors who had fireplaces. We have a gas furnace, but it was useless without electricity.  How dumb!

In the future, I'd prefer to be 3 fault tolerant or more next time. Definitely going to incorporate some of the suggestions mentioned here. Thanks all!
 
Jer Steph
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Jer Steph wrote:I don't have anything to add here. You've gotten great responses. I'm south of Houston and we lost power for about 18 hours and had our main water pipe into the house freeze and burst. We had just bought our house 2 weeks before, the freeze. So we overlooked the main water line into the house when preparing for the freeze because we didnt know the house well enough yet. We were quite fortunate though compared to our neighbors. The line burst outside of the house and we had some random PVC pipe lying around from the previous owners. We had a 3500 Predator generator and electric heaters to keep us warm and propane camping stoves to boil water and cook once we fixed the main water line. The previous owners had also left a ton of firewood. We had a firepit that we didnt need to use. So gave the firewood to any neighbors who had fireplaces. We have a gas furnace, but it was useless without electricity.  How dumb!

In the future, I'd prefer to be 3 fault tolerant or more next time. Definitely going to incorporate some of the suggestions mentioned here. Thanks all!



Forgot to add that we used the same generator to run our fridge after we lost power two weeks ago during Hurricane Nicholas. That generator has been one of the best purchase decisions we've ever made! Perhaps choosing to live in Texas was the worst decision though!
 
Arthur Angaran
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Hi,  I would switch insurance companies.  Adding wood heat raises the premium, but there are a lot of companies that insure homes with wooden furnaces, fireplaces, heaters.  Harder with an RMH

Stay warm and God bless you
 
Jt Lamb
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We've installed several of the ventless 30k-btu Mr Heater wall-mounted or floor-standing units ($200 or thereabouts) around the house (one in each bedroom, one in living room), and feed them with propane; each has a thermostat (key requirement for us), simple battery-ignition, oxygen-sensor, and choice of blue-flame or radiant style of heat (we use blue-flame). Used these particular models for years ... safe, easy heat ... set it, and forget it.

Each is fed through the wall with a 40-lb propane tank; we refill our own via the big propane tank and a fill pipe arrangement. This adds emergency heat to each of these areas, if any issue with other sources of heat. Propane is a clean fuel, in terms of storage and use. Lil Buddies and such are great for camping, but become problematic in every-day use like ours ... no thermostat, small bottles of fuel, etc.

On a side note ... we are insurance-free.

We "self-insure", and have plans/methods in place for preventing house fires, *and* for what to do & how to live if the house somehow did burn down; this takes quite a bit of effort, but it doesn't hurt that I'm a volunteer fft, which I recommend for everyone living rural with VFD's. Insurance has changed much from the old days, and most of it seems to be madness, IMO.

Couldn't be insurance-free if we weren't also mortgage-free, off-grid, etc. This could be considered gambling, but insurance itself is also a gamble, and I'd rather take the money that would've been paid to insurance companies (*if they would even insure us rural folks*) each year, and apply it to prevention systems and such. At least that money stays on our property, and goes into improving systems.

We've gone about 5 - 10 years w/o insurance now, so consider what you would've paid in (in our area), if you ever wonder about being insurance-free.
 
Dawn Alwyne
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Location: Huntsville, TX
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Good morning
Im in Huntsville, TX and would love to chat
Lots of hard decisions to make
However, for me when INSURANCE advised that I could NOT have a Wood Stove
YEP I advised them that I NEEDED a Wood Stove more than I needed insurance
How much do we spend on insurance a year and then have no claims anyway?
BTW insurance company wanted $$$$ and decided to approve my policy!!**
I was raised with a wood stove and Im 59 years old and have never seen a house burn down because of a wood stove
However, I watched my neighbors house burn down because of an electric short!
GOOD LUCK
 
Pearl Allen
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Location: East Texas
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Thank you so much, all of you who have chimed in to the ongoing discussion. Obviously this is something lots of us have wrestled with.

Because the insurance situation isn't something I can change at the moment (the house belongs to an estate and isn't mine yet), I'm going to have to go the non-woodstove route for the time being. The decision then is to go big(ish), or go small(ish). What I am currently thinking:

Going big(ish): Getting a large, yet portable generator that can keep much of the house in power (i.e. gas furnace, fridge, freezer and some lights). Thinking of something like this: https://www.lowes.com/pd/DuroMax-DuroMax-12-000-Watt-18HP-Dual-Fuel-Portable-Generator/1003052264. It's about a 2,000 sf home. However, I can honestly live without the electric stove, washing machine, dryer, and even lights if necessary. We have other backups for those.

That said, David, do you think that size generator is overkill? I know the gas furnace with electronic ignition and blower would not use that much. But since the furnace is hard-wired and a transfer switch would be necessary (with the expense of installation), would it be wiser to spring for a larger one to cover more items, even if we could live without some of them?

It sounds like it would be best to get at least a 100 gal propane tank to run this. If the SHTF in a big way, an even bigger one would be better. Alas, I have some 20 gal tanks and even a 30, but I know they recommend at least 40 and these things run through propane pretty fast, it sounds like.

I do have a Generac 3300 (inherited) that runs on gasoline only. Not a great solution if the power was down for days, I'd reckon. But it could handle the fridge or freezer until we ran out of gasoline!

Going small(ish): Using the existing gas line to plumb in a ventless gas wall heater or stove of about 30,000 btu (as some have suggested). This would keep us and the pipes from freezing so long as the natural gas supply held out. We could live without the fridge (esp. if the outside was like a fridge), etc. etc. I could plumb into propane for this as well, but it would be more complicated.

Maybe...do both the biggish and smallish together?

Hmm...

 
S Bengi
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I recommend getting a propane tank. The freeze in Feb affected about 5 states and more people lost gas than electric. Even in Texas gas production went down by 50%. So next time you might be without gas.
 
Pearl Allen
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In that case, would you recommend getting a heater that runs on propane rather than natural gas?
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Many heaters can run on either natural gas or propane. It's a matter of the regulator and the jet. Often you can buy the conversion kit for the other fuel type and keep it handy as Plan B.
 
Pearl Allen
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True! Thank you so much for that reminder! So maybe plumb for both, and have the conversion kit handy.
 
David Baillie
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Pearl Allen wrote:Thank you so much, all of you who have chimed in to the ongoing discussion. Obviously this is something lots of us have wrestled with.

Because the insurance situation isn't something I can change at the moment (the house belongs to an estate and isn't mine yet), I'm going to have to go the non-woodstove route for the time being. The decision then is to go big(ish), or go small(ish). What I am currently thinking:

Going big(ish): Getting a large, yet portable generator that can keep much of the house in power (i.e. gas furnace, fridge, freezer and some lights). Thinking of something like this: https://www.lowes.com/pd/DuroMax-DuroMax-12-000-Watt-18HP-Dual-Fuel-Portable-Generator/1003052264. It's about a 2,000 sf home. However, I can honestly live without the electric stove, washing machine, dryer, and even lights if necessary. We have other backups for those.

That said, David, do you think that size generator is overkill? I know the gas furnace with electronic ignition and blower would not use that much. But since the furnace is hard-wired and a transfer switch would be necessary (with the expense of installation), would it be wiser to spring for a larger one to cover more items, even if we could live without some of them?

It sounds like it would be best to get at least a 100 gal propane tank to run this. If the SHTF in a big way, an even bigger one would be better. Alas, I have some 20 gal tanks and even a 30, but I know they recommend at least 40 and these things run through propane pretty fast, it sounds like.

I do have a Generac 3300 (inherited) that runs on gasoline only. Not a great solution if the power was down for days, I'd reckon. But it could handle the fridge or freezer until we ran out of gasoline!

Going small(ish): Using the existing gas line to plumb in a ventless gas wall heater or stove of about 30,000 btu (as some have suggested). This would keep us and the pipes from freezing so long as the natural gas supply held out. We could live without the fridge (esp. if the outside was like a fridge), etc. etc. I could plumb into propane for this as well, but it would be more complicated.

Maybe...do both the biggish and smallish together?

Hmm...

I personally think it's overkill. You want a unit that will run 240 loads but still be small enough to not use too much fuel when it idles at low load. Do you have a water pump? Or town water? No well pump then a smaller generator. 5000 watts is a good size.
 
S Bengi
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S Bengi wrote:
Short Answer: for a few weeks
Fuel: 500gallon propane tank for about 2weeks of heating (20kbtu x 12hrs/day) and electricity.
Heating: Emergency ventless propane construction heater, 2 burner cooking stove
Electric: 240v, 5kw+ propane generator
Water: well/IBC totes
Food: 20lbs-50lbs bags of rice/beans/etc, nuts, eggs, oil, honey, multi-vitamin tablets. stock up at the start of the winter season.



I would run the backup generator and heater off propane.

That way if only the electric is down you can turn on the propane generator to run existing heating system for over a month. But if only the gas is down but the electric is still up you can still heat with for over a month. And if they are both down you can still use the propane tank for a bit over 2weeks and if possible call for a refill.

I would stick with roughly a  ~5kw generator because thats usually the min size to get 240V, and you get to run pretty much appliance (AC, Blower fan, well, motor, washer, dryer, etc) and it give you a direct feedback by shutting down when you start overusing not carefully planning which applicance you are going to power on and which one you are going to shutdown. and the economical idle/50% mode is just perfect for 80% of the time when all you have on is lights, a few electronics and a motor. All so that you can conserve you limited propane tank

All that said if you can get a dual fuel generator & heater, go for it., esp if it is easy to setup/run.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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We reside on the "Wet" (West) Coast of BC Canada; we may get sub zero for a few weeks, but otherwise stay slightly above zero.

We also experience a lot of storms that can take down the electricity (that we use for heat etc.) so we were fairly prepared for outages, with a small (5hp?) generator we run as needed for fridge and freezers;  oil lamps, LED "power bank" flashlights, Lanterns and "nightlights" for light;  propane camp stove and BBQ for cooking; and a rechargeable camping shower (wicked unit, $50 pump at one end, hose to shower nozzle at the other; heat water, put in 5 gallon pail and, voila!!!). THEN an electrical fire in the attic took out our electrical system. For over a month we were stuck with no power, in literally, the middle of winter.

We got a kerosene (yes, that's right) heater, for about $300, paid for by the insurance company, called a HeatMate HMN-110C and easily heated our 1500 sqft home (rated for 400 sqft only, if I recall correctly) from late November until the New Year. Although kerosene is not the cheapest fuel to heat with, it was a reasonably cost effective ($200 for a mth) way to cope.

We did look at the Buddy line of heaters, but felt this was safer (animals in the house) and less of a "camping" or "tent" heater - more like a household appliance (as it is). It lives tucked in the awkward corner of the Peninsula, ready to be put into service at a moments notice, and we keep a couple of two gallon jugs of kerosene out in the shop.

Before everyone freaks out, it is completely safe and specifically designed for indoor use. We even had the Insurance Company PAY for it, and cough up for a CO2 detector, just to be safe. Not ONCE did it register anything from the heater.  OH, except when my spouse left the (covered) deck door ajar, and the baby diesel generator out there (running the fridge and freezers) contaminated the house with generator fumes!

It is squarish, like a plug in fireplace, and uses batteries to ignite the wick of what is essentially a giant oil lamp. It has a removable tank that holds about three litres; or for us more than enough for a 24hour period.

Honestly, for years (about a decade earlier when kerosene was dirt cheap) I used a couple of antique Valor (gorgeous, tall, round, black metal) kerosene heaters for a quite awhile before upgrading to a unit of similar design to the HeatMate to heat a cottage I lived in, but somewhere along the way it vanished.

We have recommended this unit to multiple family and friends across Canada (including a handicapped relative who lives WAY up north where winter is sub zero, ALL winter) and everyone has been quite impressed with the heat it produces and it's ease of use. Available on Amazon, but ours came from the local big box hardware store.

For short term (only because kerosene got too pricey) SHTF a scenarios a proper, purpose built kerosene heater is a very simple, easy to use unit, and relatively cost effective.
 
William Bronson
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There is a lot of good first hand experience being shared here.
My event happened last winter, with a failed natural gas forced air furnace.
I put off buying a new one while we shopped for the best deal.
We got by on our 1930s Chambers natural gas stove and electric space heaters.
This was all at just above freezing temps outdoors.
Ultimately, we live in the city next to my in-laws, so our situation wasn't dire at all.

Propane can run a generator or a variety of heaters, as can diesel.
Both of theses are stable storage fuels.

One idea.
Plumb the most basic hydronic heating loop and power it off your gas water heater.
The water heater could even be one of the camping ones that run off of propane, and live outside, or you could do both.
Once you have hydronic heat, you could add all kinds of heaters to the loop.

At the prices that are being talked about I would seriously consider the schoolie, a trailer, RV, or a detached garage/barn/workshop/ greenhouse, if you are staying there long term.
A second space that isn't a house loosens both building and insurance regulations, allowing you to heat and power it with much more freedom.
A rocket mass heater or unregulated woodstove become possibilities.
A generator powered by propane, gasoline, diesel, wood or charcoal can live in the space, along with fuel.
Even if the insurance wont cover damages to this second space/ vehicle, it is isolated from your main asset ,the house, but it can share any heat or power it produces.
You also get temporary quarters.
Some insurance will pay for a place to stay when your hose is uninhabitable.
Air B+B's should qualify, and your own air B+B should also qualify.  


 
Cath Chirgwin
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If you want a long term solution you could look into geothermal heat. A ground source heat pump is a significant up front investment but you'll not be relying on fossil fuels once it's up and running and the ongoing cost is minimal.

Oil and gas - including propane - are only going to get more expensive and compound the damage to the planet.If you're planning tostay put it might be worth investing.

Also check out this thread

https://permies.com/t/160287/Direct-heat-wind-turbine

Added to the idea above of heating a well insulated tank with solar maybe use a wind brake at the same time. Even if you're just raising the temperature a few degrees by these methods it will all add up.
 
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Building a Better World in your Backyard by Paul Wheaton and Shawn Klassen-Koop
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