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How to make your home more resilient?

 
pollinator
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In the tread “if you could start all over again…” I got some great answers for what would will be your ideal off grid homesteading situation…

But what if you can’t (or won’t) relocate or start all over again…

How would you improve your home to make it more resilient for any short-term crisis or long-term disaster?



 
N. Neta
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We’re focusing on several areas:

Water - collecting as much rain water as we can into 4 dug down ponds, storing 30 days of bottled water, still looking for the best solution to filter and purify the rain water we collect.

Food - growing as much food as we can throughout the year (we can grow something basically all year round), storing certain staple foods for 6-12 months

Energy - we’re completely off grid, all our electricity needs is supplied by solar panels and stored in batteries that even in the cloudiest, darkest days can hold enough electricity for 3-4 days of our normal use, we minimized our electricity, heating, cooling and lighting consumption, we do heat in the winter using wood, still need to improve on redundancy to the solar system (parts, etc…) and install a solar water heater (at the moment still heating water with gas)

Health - we’re mostly busy with keeping ourselves healthy (prevention) by eating healthy, moving a lot, and living mainly stress-free (we retired early)

Community - we don’t have any close by neighbors, but we made friends with several of the farmers around us, we barter, and help each other… I would still like to improve on that… but it’s in progress…

Looking forward to hear how you’re making your home and life more resilient…  
 
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N. Neta wrote:
How would you improve your home to make it more resilient for any short-term crisis or long-term disaster?



In July of 2020 a bad storm hit the town I live. I had damage to my roof and home. This was fixed and ended up making the home look and feel better. Then in February of 2021 I faced the possibility of not having electricity and natural gas to heat my home. Here is the long and short term improvement I have made.

Short-term
Have a better and evolving go-bag. During the July 2020 storm, my go-bag was good but needed to be better. Every month or so I go though my go-bag and check things out. Also having a tarp and rope to cover an roof is now in my go-bag. Having candles to use for light and heat is something I am going to do this winter. I want to see if using candles can help lower heating and lighting costs.

Long-term
Asking the question "How many ways can I ..." cook, heat, live well and making things. If in an emergency cook food five different ways that is a good skill. Working on building my skill set in different areas.  Having a backup of useful things is nice but having a place to storage them is better. I am working on creating better storage in my home. This is an on going project.
 
N. Neta
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T Blankinship wrote:Asking the question "How many ways can I ..." cook, heat, live well and making things.



Love that… thank you for sharing…
 
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To make the house itself more resilient, insulation. On everything that can be insulated. Pipes, walls, floors, windows, doors, roof, everything. It can only make any problems easier to deal with.
 
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We have someone coming tomorrow, to talk with us about solar, and give us some estimates on a few possibilities - starting with the well house. Water gets top priority. Our weakest points are our electric system, and our (deeper, now that the fireplace isn't even an option) dependence on it.

For emergency heat, we've stocked up on some clay pots, and have propane coming, soon for both water heat and backup heaters.
The pantry is mostly stocked  - this year, with a higher percentage of items we grew &/or at least processed, ourselves. I'm about to plant willows out in the graywater field, and some garlic, for spring. The saffron crocuses are coming up, and I can't wait for that first harvest. We've finally gotten all the various critters curated for our purposes, and appropriately integrated, so they'll be better prepared for winter, this year. We're already struggling with a higher level of predation, though. There's a huge international racetrack going in, too close for comfort, and it's destroying the wildlife habitat. The overflow is all heading in our direction, so we've got plans for more deer in the freezer, this season, but there's only so much we can do about the raptors, bears, coyote, wildcats, and venomous snakes, to protect our livestock...

 
N. Neta
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Carla Burke wrote:For emergency heat, we've stocked up on some clay pots…


Excuse my ignorance, Carla… but could you explain how you use clay pots for emergency heating?
 
Carla Burke
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N. Neta wrote:

Carla Burke wrote:For emergency heat, we've stocked up on some clay pots…


Excuse my ignorance, Carla… but could you explain how you use clay pots for emergency heating?



This is the basic setup my husband(John) put together:
Staff note :

Please read the follow up, later in this thread.

 
N. Neta
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Carla Burke wrote:This is the basic setup my husband(John) put together:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUmrfv7AnKE


Brilliant, Carla… thank you so much.
I’m wondering, though, in a small, closed space - don’t the candles pose some hazard?
 
Carla Burke
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N. Neta wrote:

Carla Burke wrote:This is the basic setup my husband(John) put together:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUmrfv7AnKE


Brilliant, Carla… thank you so much.
I’m wondering, though, in a small, closed space - don’t the candles pose some hazard?



The whole thing should, in my opinion, be situated on a fireproof surface of some sort. Otherwise, no more so than any other time you'd burn candles. We did a trial run, the other night, and the top pot never got too hot to touch, the bottom was actually still a normal room temp, and the only real warmth was what came through the hole in the top, and that was very pleasant, on cold hands. Will it be enough to heat a whole room? I don't know, yet. Our rooms will present a bigger challenge though, because of the cathedral ceilings.
 
pollinator
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We are working on making our current suburban home more resilient.
We are in a good location and have really good neighbors.  We bought our home with the intention of turning it into a tiny farm so we can live like Hobbits.  

We are slowly adding to our homestead and upgrading our house as we can.  Long term goal is to produce as much of our own food as we can handle,  adapt it to my slowly growing list of physical limitations, be able to age in place here or have my in laws age in place here.  

Inside the House that we have done so far.
Added a wood stove to reduce the use of the  oil furnace.  
Insulated the water pipes
Added a freezer chest
Sorting through our possessions and getting rid of stuff and better organizing the stuff we are keeping.  Less stuff means it is easier to clean and more room to work on projects.
Installing an invertor for solar and so the generator can run the well when we have a longer power outage.  
Purchased a Berkey water filter if we need to make the pond water drinkable
Expanded my food preservation and storage as our garden production has increased.  
Had extra firewood delivered
Paid deposits for next year's meat and cream from various local farms.
Buy extra household consumables so we have at a 4 to 6 month supply on hand
Ordering my seeds, plants, trees and soil amendments this fall for next year.

This  fall and winter's projects include
Solar and battery bank  
Making curtains and insulated roman shades for the windows

Out on the Property
We just got a second chicken coop and ordered more layer chicks to be delivered in the spring
Added a 36' x34'  greenhouse to the back yard
Added a 15000 gallon natural swimming pond that is hooked up to our rain gutters. It overflows into a swale that is just up hill of our main annual vegetable garden.
Started a second garden pond behind the greenhouse
Fenced in our 1/4  acre front yard and filled it with annual and perennial food producing plants, shrubs,  vines, and trees.   We now grow most of the fruits and veggies we eat in a year from this garden.
Added 3 swales to the property to manage a seasonal spring, driveway runoff, and pond overflow.
Added bee hives and managed to overwinter some of them.
Built a garden sink  for outdoor use

Fall into next year's projects
Finish harvesting a preserving the garden harvest
Plant sunchokes, tulips, crocus, and get the garden ready for winter
Rehabbing the raspberries and asparagus patches.  
Finishing the solar if we can't get it done before the end of the year.
Adding more fencing!
Prepping more of the back and side yards for food forest, animals, and water catchment.  
Start working on some of the house renovations projects.

We are avoiding debt and are paying down our mortgage early.

Future projects include the following as we can afford them
t We will be replacing the roof and switching it to metal
Renovating the bathroom to be more handicap friendly
Renovating the kitchen including replacing some of the electric appliances with propane, improving the work space and storage,  making it easier to clean, and  making it handicap
  friendly so I can keep cooking from scratch.
Replacing the  windows siding and adding more insulation
Repairing the screened in porch
Adding a root cellar/CoolBot room to the basement
Adding a whole house generator
Installing mini Splits to heat and cool in the shoulder seasons









 
N. Neta
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Kate Muller wrote:We are working on making our current suburban home more resilient.
We are in a good location and have really good neighbors.  We bought our home with the intention of turning it into a tiny farm so we can live like Hobbits.


Wow… what a list, Kate.
Thank you for inspiring… definitely gonna “steal” a few of your ideas…
Cheers.
 
Kate Muller
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If you one day plan on having a huge garden and live in a climate that the ground freezes solid for 4 months out of the year you may need a lot of supplies to preserve all the lovely food you do grow.

We have also been slowly accumulating  the various tools and supplies for food preservation over the last 10 years.  
Pressure canners
Giant stockpots
Giant colander and mixing bowls
Food mills I have 2 manual ones and one that attaches to my Kitchen Aid mixer
Canning jars I have a mix of new and used jars that I have collected.
Canning lids I try to buy a year in advance so I don't have to hunt for them in the middle of canning season.
Beverage bottles for mead and vinegars.  We save and reuse wine and other pretty glass bottles plus we hit a deal on growler style bottles and stocked up.
Dehydrators I have bought them new and used.  It is too humid most of the time to not use an electric dehydrator and dehydrated goods take up so much less space to
 store.
Little S hooks so I can hand my herbs in the fall on the wire shelves that I use for growing seedlings.  Thyme and sage are the only herbs I use this for but that is 2 less
  things in the dehydrators.
Jelly Roll pans.  The full size are great because set you boxes of hive frames on when harvesting honey or spreading seeds out to finish drying.  I picked up for less than a
 dollar at a thrift store and it is so worth the dollar I paid for it. The 1/2 sheet pans are handy all sorts of things.  I can't have too many of them.
Heavy duty good grade zip top bags are cheaper from restaurant supply places.  I like that they hold up better so you can wash and rescue them.  I use them to freeze stuff
  so it is nice to be able to reuse them.
Funnels, canning tools, bottling tools, mushroom slicers(great for strawberries), mandolin, Pry a Lid opener, scrub brushes of all shapes and sizes, and other small kitchen
   tools that make processing large amounts of  food less of a chore on my arthritic hands.
Fermenting crocks, weights and fermenting lids for for wide mouth canning jars.  Fermenting vessels for liquids too.  
Storage crates for root crops and harvesting
Shelving to store all this abundance on.  





 
N. Neta
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Kate Muller wrote:If you one day plan on having a huge garden and live in a climate that the ground freezes solid for 4 months out of the year you may need a lot of supplies to preserve all the lovely food you do grow.


Now you make me so curious to see some photos of your kitchen and pantry, Kate…
 
Kate Muller
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N. Neta wrote:

Kate Muller wrote:If you one day plan on having a huge garden and live in a climate that the ground freezes solid for 4 months out of the year you may need a lot of supplies to preserve all the lovely food you do grow.


Now you make me so curious to see some photos of your kitchen and pantry, Kate…



My kitchen is on the small side and suffers from bad design choices made 40 years ago. It has awkward appliance placement, a lack of useful cabinets, and tiled counter tops.  Cooking and preserving projects  spill into the dining room, living room, and screened in porch.  We store the seasonally used cooking and food preservation gear in the basement.  The pantry is also on shelves in the basement.  
 
 
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N. Neta wrote:Water - collecting as much rain water as we can into 4 dug down ponds, storing 30 days of bottled water, still looking for the best solution to filter and purify the rain water we collect.



Anyone got experience with Berkey water filters? Even for short term use, they look good on paper and in the adverts (!), but I was wondering if anyone had any real world experience?
 
N. Neta
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Andrew Pritchard wrote:Anyone got experience with Berkey water filters? Even for short term use, they look good on paper and in the adverts (!), but I was wondering if anyone had any real world experience?


Having the same question myself…
 
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Permie opinions on Berkey water filters here.
 
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Permie opinions on Berkey water filters here.



So overwhelmingly positive. Nice to know.
 
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Kate Muller - I preserve a lot of sage and thyme and have concluded that my favorite methods for both are as follows. Sage primarily gets preserved as sage and brown butter cubes. I melt butter in a pan add sage leaves to fry and cook until the milk solids are brown and the water has cooked off. I combine that with softened butter and freeze in 1/2 cup cubes.

Thyme gets made into thyme salt. Green leaves are harvested and pulled off the stems. They are immediately processed in a food processor with a small amount of salt, then mixed with more salt to dry. When dry, they are processed again in the food processor. I find the flavor much fresher than simply drying thyme.

Your results may vary, as will your preferences. I just thought that I would share my experiences.
 
N. Neta
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Part of making our home more resilient is finding ways to protect it… in case…
I posted a question about using guard dog to protect our home, but by the answers I got - this is definitely not the solution for us…
I’m thinking about something like this dog bark imitation alarm - but this device seems very expensive…
 
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N. Neta wrote:We’re focusing on... a solar water heater (at the moment still heating water with gas)…  



Solar heaters are so easy and cheap it's economically inviable for anyone to mass-produce them. The complications come in trying to integrate them into a pressurized pipe system and deal with freezing temps.
Any container able to hold water painted black will work, the more surface area facing the sun the better, such as a coil of black water pipe on the roof.
Water tanks can make a great trombe wall to release stored heat at night, and a large container will not freeze in an overnight frost but rather moderate the surrounding temperature.
 
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Andrew Pritchard wrote:

N. Neta wrote:Water - collecting as much rain water as we can into 4 dug down ponds, storing 30 days of bottled water, still looking for the best solution to filter and purify the rain water we collect.



Anyone got experience with Berkey water filters? Even for short term use, they look good on paper and in the adverts (!), but I was wondering if anyone had any real world experience?



My wife just bought the travel Berkey a couple weeks ago. It was easy to set up and maintenance looks simple. We’re used to township water and it took a few days to get used to the naked taste of charcoal filtered water, but we  adjusted quickly. The only complaint so far is that it’s relatively easy to accidentally overfill the filter portion causing the bottom reservoir to overflow. According to the papers that came with it, you can dump pond or river water in it and drink what comes out, although it recommends adding some bleach if heavy bacterial or viral load is expected. The thing was pricey, I think like $250, and the filters arent cheap either. But it seems like a valuable investment. Especially considering the fact that our township water lines and even our own water line likely is contaminated with lead.
 
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IF you're talking total disaster you should have a home that you can shut down 80% of the house from having to heat that portion. Just heat the 20% for livable temps and the 80% should be good at 45 degrees F and still be usable.

And heating might not be possible with gas or electricity - something our government is talking about now, having a DARK, COLD winter.

SO, big problem number 1 is to make your "shelter" an actual SHELTER with a total disaster in mind. Shelter first then food and water. After that you punt if you haven't prepped!
 
Brody Ekberg
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Jesse Glessner wrote:
And heating might not be possible with gas or electricity - something our government is talking about now, having a DARK, COLD winter.



God, I hope you’re wrong about that! I’d love to heat with wood but we just haven’t set that up yet. If people dont have access to gas and electricity during winter Im pretty sure we will lose millions very quickly. It is a fear of mine though. I’m not even sure how/if theres a way we could rig something up as an emergency heat source either. I mean, if we dont have access to electricity and gas, will we have access to gas and oil for chainsaws? Most people who heat with wood are still reliant on gas, oil, saw chains, trucks and trailers to make that firewood. Us unfortunate folks that rely on propane, electricity and natural gas are even more dependent on the broken system.

I wonder how indians did it… I mean, I know they heated with wood but no saws and no furnaces. No woodsheds. No splitting mauls. I dont even understand where they got dry wood from. Ive gone camping with the thought “we dont need to bring firewood, we can find wood in the forest.” … yea, right. Aside from the occasional standing dead tree and a bunch of dead twigs sticking off of stunted evergreens, everything in the forest is wet all year round. At least around here. Anything touching the ground won’t burn. Anything green wont burn. Its amazing that people lived like that for so long!
 
N. Neta
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Jesse Glessner wrote:SO, big problem number 1 is to make your "shelter" an actual SHELTER with a total disaster in mind. Shelter first then food and water. After that you punt if you haven't prepped!


I think that this is a good point, Jesse… especially if you live where the winters are brutal (ours are nice and cool - but never even close to frozen).

There’s the wilderness survival rule of three…
  • You can survive for 3 Minutes without air (oxygen) or in icy water.
  • You can survive for 3 Hours without shelter in a harsh environment (unless in icy water)
  • You can survive for 3 Days without water (if sheltered from a harsh environment)
  • You can survive for 3 Weeks without food (if you have water and shelter)
  •  
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    Hey,


    From my experience the strength of any home is not in its structure as much as it is in its people.

    To reference Sparta, They had no walls the people were the walls!

    for survivalist, the most valuable thing is will power, the next is knowledge, the least is possessions.

    I recommend that any home that is going to be resilient is going to have healthy people, this means being fit,

    Next I would also talk to your family and discuss what would you do in certain situations,

    I Remember my nieces 13th birthday, her best friend was bleeding in the leg and crying. and as an adult I was asked to deal with it. Instead called out Tameson, remember what I taught you, take care of it! And she instantly went for the first aid kit visible by the sticker, then put gloves on and cleaned the wound and put on a band aid and then cleaned up and went back to the party all in 5 minutes without thinking!














     
    Kate Muller
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    Stacy Witscher wrote:Kate Muller - I preserve a lot of sage and thyme and have concluded that my favorite methods for both are as follows. Sage primarily gets preserved as sage and brown butter cubes. I melt butter in a pan add sage leaves to fry and cook until the milk solids are brown and the water has cooked off. I combine that with softened butter and freeze in 1/2 cup cubes.

    Your results may vary, as will your preferences. I just thought that I would share my experiences.



    I may try that but substitute the butter for bacon fat.   I wish I had a good source for local pastured duck because sage in duck fat is amazing.  
     
    N. Neta
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    Alex Moffitt wrote: for survivalist, the most valuable thing is will power, the next is knowledge, the least is possessions.


    Absolutely, Alex…
    I’d add that skills (the relevant skills) are on the top of my list…
    And the right mindset…
     
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    Carla Burke wrote:

    N. Neta wrote:

    Carla Burke wrote:For emergency heat, we've stocked up on some clay pots…


    Excuse my ignorance, Carla… but could you explain how you use clay pots for emergency heating?



    This is the basic setup my husband(John) put together:



    Thank you for sharing the vid, that's a great idea! I need to get some pots, though, so I don't have to sacrifice my pothos-named-Porthos...
     
    Carla Burke
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    Caitlin Robbins wrote:

    Carla Burke wrote:

    N. Neta wrote:

    Carla Burke wrote:For emergency heat, we've stocked up on some clay pots…


    Excuse my ignorance, Carla… but could you explain how you use clay pots for emergency heating?



    This is the basic setup my husband(John) put together:



    Thank you for sharing the vid, that's a great idea! I need to get some pots, though, so I don't have to sacrifice my pothos-named-Porthos...



    We've tried this, now, and I can't say it's very effective for large rooms, but it can make a few degrees difference, in a smaller room. One bit of advice I'd share, is, 'go big! '
     
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    The above posts offer immediately useful answers to the OP’s question, “how to make your home more resilient?” Thank you all for the practical ideas!
    As a fun but slightly less immediately implementable offering, consider this weird possibility….
    A few nights ago, I watched the 2004 movie, The Day After Tomorrow . In one scene, the movie showed a group of people trapped inside the NYC public library. To stay warm during the snow storm, they gathered together in a room with a fireplace and burned books for fuel that would keep them warm. The room was much larger than the small group needed and the heat was certainly wasted. I thought about ways that the room-within-the-building could be made even smaller so the heat would not rise to the tall ceiling and escape the small group.
    Then I looked around my own home and thought about making a small fort within the bigger house to keep warm in my version of the cataclysmic winter storm. I spent several hours imagining how the shelves, beds, tables, cushions, dressers, and other stuff in the house could be used to make an insulated mini-house-within-a-house should the temperature plummet in an ice-age storm.
    It is a fun exercise to play out, “What would I do with the stuff that I have if that crisis happened here?”
     
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    RMH = Rocket Mass Heater










     
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    Whoa on those candle heaters!  While they may trap a bit of heat in the local area of a clay pot, they will not magically add more heat than the heat of the candle flame itself.  The total heat of a candle in a room, no matter how it's burned, will be the flammable heat content of the wax and nothing more.  Please remember your high school physics and the law of conservation of energy.  You would need many candles to heat a cold room and need plenty of oxygen along with reducing carbon dioxide and other fumes in the room.  Just think of the amount of wood that would be needed to heat a room - you would need the same amount of heat from burning wax.
     
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    I think the clay pot heaters come into the "better than nothing" category, especially for apartment dwellers. Just being able to warm one's hands on one would feel good and make a difference psychologically if the power goes out!  
    But yes, when the guy in the video was enthusing about how each candle put of 40 watts of heat over 4 hours, I thought, 10 watts an hour will not go far in their huge, high-ceilinged room. A small electric heater is 1000 watts which would just about heat a far less sizable room.
    Possibly used in combination with the "tent within a room" idea of only heating a very small space in an emergency the candle heaters would be enough.
     
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    My 'home' (the place where I live) is rented, so there isn't much I can change at the building itself. But there are things I can do, such as:
    - be prepared, have emergency plans (different plans for different situations)
    - keep myself as healthy as possible (physical and mental)
    - grow healthy foods in the garden, and even indoors (sprouts and other greens)
    - have an amount of food (preserved) and water in storage
    - have my evacuation bag(s) packed, so I can leave as quick as possible if needed
    etc.
     
    Carla Burke
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    Jane Mulberry wrote:I think the clay pot heaters come into the "better than nothing" category, especially for apartment dwellers. Just being able to warm one's hands on one would feel good and make a difference psychologically if the power goes out!  
    But yes, when the guy in the video was enthusing about how each candle put of 40 watts of heat over 4 hours, I thought, 10 watts an hour will not go far in their huge, high-ceilinged room. A small electric heater is 1000 watts which would just about heat a far less sizable room.
    Possibly used in combination with the "tent within a room" idea of only heating a very small space in an emergency the candle heaters would be enough.



    Bingo. I think they'd be best applied in a (vented) indoor tent situation, like Pearl mentioned... somewhere. If you can make an area smaller, while still taking plenty of precautions for safety - both from the flame and the carbon emission - this *can* help. While the ambient heat from the candle itself is minimal, the terra cotta pot does hold and continue to radiate enough to keep your hands warm for a while after the flame is gone. How long that heat lasts depends on how cold the room is, the size/mass of the pot, the number of candles, the type of wax/ oil used, any drafts in the area, etc.
     
    Pearl Sutton
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    I think they'd be best applied in a (vented) indoor tent situation, like Pearl mentioned... somewhere.. If you can make an area smaller, while still taking plenty of precautions for safety - both from the flame and the carbon emission


    I REALLY don't think I'd use a terracotta thing in a tent. Takes only one tiny bump or error to flame it all. I don't use open flames in tents. My idea behind tents in the house is to have a small area that can heat with body heat. Putting extra covering on a tent (blankets etc) would be a LOT more safe than fire of any sort in one.

    And my thread on tents in the house   Tents as space reducers for heating
     
    Jane Mulberry
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    Good point, Pearl. If there was still some power but not enough to run a heater, a 100 watt bulb would so a long way in heating an enclosed space. But I also imagine the "tent" as less flammable and more insulating, maybe made from wool blankets rather than the usual thin nylon tent fabric?
     
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