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Tiny Cabin Alcohol Stove Heater... Carbon Monoxide Risk?  RSS feed

 
Steve Simons
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So my need to heat a tiny cabin in the Spring and Fall (I live in Ontario, Canada) before I installed a wood stove and chimney collided with my tinkering. I wanted a space heater with no chimney required. I looked at candle heaters but thought they might produce more soot than I'd like so I started thinking about my alcohol stoves and how I might add some mass to retain heat longer. Lone behold after a couple of attempts I came up with the THE NANO MASS HEATER.



I was feeling pretty good about it and getting ready to start using when a friend warned that it might produce carbon monoxide.

A quick skim of the web and I see that they can produce carbon monoxide if there's insufficient oxygen for complete combustion but do I even need to worry about this?

Similar set ups are used for chaffing dishes to warm food and I don't hear about anyone dying at continental breakfasts regularly. I've read too that in some parts of the world at different times folks have used alcohol stoves for indoor cooking. And in the cramped quarters of small sailing vessels too.

I'm just wondering if anyone here has any practical experience using alcohol stoves in doors, especially in smaller spaces, that they'd care to share.

Thanks in advance for sharing,

-Ottawa Tinkerer

 
allen lumley
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Steve Simons : You are right to be concerned, while a well made Alcohol burning stove normally only produces Carbon Dioxide and H2O as
water vapor, there are a few things that can go wrong and create incomplete combustion and Carbon Monoxide.

Being on the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence River V,alley from You we have shared at least 3 major Ice storms with freezing rains in the last 15-20 years.

When this happens, it certainly is possible for the outside of even huge structures to be encased with a " Hard candy shell '' of frozen ice
-sealing you inside, Carbon Monoxide deaths have occurred during ice storms !

Also any really cold mass surrounding your heat source will steal enough heat energy away from your alcohol stove to reduce its combustion
temperatures an hence its efficiencies !

Strangely, our bodies Red Blood Cells have an affinity for Carbon Monoxide, and actively select and bind to Carbon Monoxide rather than Oxygen-

The treatment for Carbon Monoxide is rapid transport to the nearest hyperbaric chamber - rare on the ground here in the North East

Having said all that,if you did not have to worry about frozen pipes, and you had 2-3 of these Alcohol Stoves you probably could consider this
as an option!

The number of BTUs by volume or weight in Alcohol fuels is much lower than in an equivalent Volume of Propane, and measure for measure
Propane will be cheaper !

there is a specific brand of propane heater* that Shuts off auto magically in low oxygen conditions, and it is commonly used indoors/unvented
in the construction trades !

The same safety rules apply to its use as the Alcohol stove heater, additionally I have multiple CO detectors in my house - Vital if the
propane heater will be moved from one location to the other.

I have Added a link to a reliable source it trust where you can get more information on safety and btus and performance . see link below !


http://zenstoves.net

* the Buddy Heater can be found easily by going to that site and searching for locations where it can be sold ! The buddy heater can be hooked
-up to the 20# B.B.Q. propane tanks, Also the larger 30# and 40 # tanks can easily be carried a mile, and backpacked further !

** The Buddy Heater also give you the additional option of Incandescent propane lighting, handy when you want heat and light -but uses lots of gas.

*** Non of the Iso-Butane or Butane stove heaters should be considered for use as far north as we are ! For the Good of The Crafts ! Big AL
 
Ian Mack
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Location: Northeastern Coast of the U.S.
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As you said, carbon dioxide only occurs when there's insufficient oxygen for full combustion. This is most common with larger hydrocarbons like gasoline or wood-stoves that produce sooty yellow/orange flames. Alcohol, particularly methanol (aka wood alcohol), tends to burn with a hot blue flame that produces little to no soot. Since there's only one carbon per molecule of methanol, it's much easier to achieve full combustion and avoid carbon monoxide production. Generally speaking, a small alcohol burner like that should be fine, but as was suggested before, a CO alarm couldn't hurt and it could definitely save your life. Carbon monoxide poisoning isn't noticeable. You don't feel anything but tired, and by the time you finally drift off, it's probably too late. Don't take chances, even if the odds of anything bad happening are pretty slim it's best to be careful.
 
Steve Simons
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Thank you both for your thoughtful replies. It’s an honour to evoke a response from a stove expert such as yourself Allen.

Although my cabin is closer to a hyperbaric centre than most peoples’, and high flow oxygen can be an effective treatment for less severe cases, I obviously do not want to require either of these treatments.

I’ve burned the alcohol stove with methanol in the past in the cabin with no issues and now have a CO detector for future use. I have no water pipes, the cabin is 100 sq ft, well insulated and has pretty good solar gain so I think that I’ll continue to use an alcohol stove to take chill off in the Spring and Summer until I install a wood burning stove.

I’ll avoid using it during ice storms .

Propane may well be cheaper overall but I’m already set up for alcohol and had selected it initially to experiment with because it can be a renewable resource.

Thank you both for the pointers!
 
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