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Natural gas furnace burned up, can't afford a new one. Any suggestions?

 
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Our daughter is living in our home in MO, paying the mortgage on a rent-to-own contract.  The furnace burned up a couple of days ago and to replace it will cost $2k-2500 installed.  We don't have the money to replace it and neither does our daughter and son-in-law.  The gas is off at the furnace and they still have gas for water heater.  The stove/oven is electric.  We replaced all the windows with energy efficient back in 2011, and electric and gas budget plan was only $85 per month, which the house is really very well insulated, top to bottom, and 6" walls well insulated.  They have electric heaters, but don't want to keep those on while sleeping.  Even though the house is well insulated, and the pipes have never froze, I am concerned about the pipes.  There is a 4' crawl space, within well built foundation, but the water pipes are under insulation in the floor.  However, the main water pipe coming into the house is not insulated.  I was thinking about a heat tape but my husband does not think that is a good idea.  Cabinet doors can be left open in kitchen and bathroom for those pipes and possibly leave a faucet in the kitchen and the bathroom dripping.  

This scenario will have to last until late January/early February, all the while saving from both us and them, and then her usual high income tax refund to pay for replacement furnace.  The house is in Randolph County, Missouri, which is kind of north central.  We are hoping for a mild winter, but below 0 daytime temps and negative 10 temps have been known to happen, usually January and February.

Any ideas how to conservatively keep house warm enough and pipes not to freeze?  We hate the idea of wasting water, and they can catch water and use for dishwashing or washing machine.  Our 14 year old grandson is also living there, but they all have electric blankets.  I really don't know how cold the house will get at night.  It is a small house, only 1008 sq ft, and the attached garage is on the north side, so sheltered from north winds.  All windows are on either east side or west side, so drapes and curtains will be open to catch all the sun at appropriate times of day and shut before nightfall to hold in solar heat.  I wish there were windows on the south side, but there are none.

All suggestions and advice is most appreciated.
 
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Do they get energy assistance? That program paid for several furnace repairs for my family. Local human services or county health department should know where to send you.

Good luck with staying warm!
 
M. A. Carey
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Do they get energy assistance? That program paid for several furnace repairs for my family.



Unfortunately, no, they don't get energy assistance.  My daughter makes too much money; however, at a new job, and she has been digging out of debt from being unemployed for a while.  Her husband has been working steadily, but he makes only a couple dollars over minimum wage.  I read some posts about using timers for electric heaters, and that is a great idea, also electric heat pad vs electric blanket, but they already have blanket.  I was thinking Harbor Freight cheap furniture blankets where they now have curtains.  The living room drapes are very heavy and insulated, thankfully. I guess my main concern really is the pipes if the weather gets too cold.  But thanks for the suggestion.  It is good that she makes "too much money" now, but she is playing catch up.  
 
gardener
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Keeping a faucet dripping will prevent pipes from freezing, even if the house gets pretty cold. Installing insulation on the pipes is also pretty trivial — you can buy some of those foam covers at Home Depot and install them in a few minutes with nothing but a utility knife and a bit of scuffling under the house. I suspect both of those things will stop any kind of pipe freezing scenarios in a house that's lived in. I can definitely vouch for a heated mattress pad for keeping warm at night. They're the best thing since sliced bread.
 
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How about getting a couple remote thermometers and putting the "outside" sensors near the pipes you're most worried about.  See how bad it really gets before spending any money/time.  Do planning for if it gets too cold but wait until it actually looks like it will become a problem before acting.
 
master steward
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We heat our home with a gas space heater for the main living area, it cost about 100.  We had to have a plumber make the gas installation to the connection.  

For the bedroom and bathroom we use a electric heater.  The bath heater was about $15.00.  The bedroom one has a wood cabinet and is on rollers so it was more expensive, maybe $50.00 to $100.00.

The small electric ones could be placed where needed to keep pipes warm. These are a small price to pay to keep plumbing from freezing.  The temperature setting can be keep low to just keep pipes from freezing.    
 
gardener
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I can only imagine the last thing you want on your hands is busted pipes and flooding along side the broken furnace. There's a product called heat tape with several manufacturers making it in various lengths. It's a electrical ribbon that can be wrapped around a pipe or run the length of it and affixed in some manner, then the end plugs in an outlet and it stays warm. Good luck!
 
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M. A. Carey wrote:This scenario will have to last until late January/early February, all the while saving from both us and them, and then her usual high income tax refund to pay for replacement furnace.


Rather than wait for the income tax refund, you can get the money sooner by having your daughter/son-in-law increase the number of deductions at their place of employment.
 
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Take out a loan for it, or buy a bunch of space heaters, kerosene or electric. Not the most permaculture thing to do, but given the urgency. It will be more money in the long run, but less money then replacing the furnace AND broken pipes.
 
pollinator
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Honestly, the best thing they can do is install a wood stove. For the return on investment, wood stoves are best.

Since this is an emergency kind of thing, they should look at for sale flyers, craigs list, etc for used wood stoves. There are many out there that are perfectly fine and the cost is really low compared to a new one. Granted this is Maine and not MO, but we were looking about a month ago and found many used wood stoves for $100. In the end the guy ended up giving it to us for free. And a stove shop near me that rebuilds stoves, keeps good stoves, but need some TLC out for people who are up against it, but don't mind rebuilding their own. Again, for free.

Last year I had a wood stove give out and had to replace it mid-winter, and while I had one I could grab, it meant installing a new chimney and thimble through the wall. Normally triple wall stainless pipe thimbles are $250, but I got one for $65 from a hardware store where a guy got the wrong size and returned it. Like stoves, used triple wall pipe can be found in want advertisements too.

For a floor protector, go to Home Depot and buy 1 or 2 sheets of DuraRock, which is concrete board. I think they are $5 for a 3 x 5 sheet. Pretty cheap to put on the floor underneath the stove...

And finally for wood, scrounge. Free firewood is everywhere, or learning the tricks to burning unseasoned wood abound. Pallets are everywhere, sawmills have slabs, and near me there is a Firewood for the needy site that gives 1/4 of a cord of wood to those in need every week. Yeah they have to get that 1/4 of a cord per week, but it is available.

A frugal person is a creative person, but honestly for a few hundred dollars a person can install a stove safely in their home for very little money. It actually has the greatest return on investment that any homeowner can make. A lot of homeowners scoff at that and make excuses as to why they will not install them, and that is fine, but heating a home is a big expense for a homeowner and a wood stove is one way to aid in that. The key is, your daughter and son in law might have to endure some inconveniences, less room in a living room for instance, or wood in the house, but when times are tough, something has to give. It will pass, they can get something better, but a home needs heat.
 
pollinator
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Kyle Neath wrote:Keeping a faucet dripping will prevent pipes from freezing, even if the house gets pretty cold.  


But will cause your sewer pipes to freeze. It has happened to me twice and having your toilet back up into your bathtub is a real treat let me tell you.
 
gardener
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It might be cheaper to cut into the floor, build a base pillar and put in a Rocket Mass Heater. That will radiate heat into the crawl space as well through the base. Just a thought.
 
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I had a heat tape with built-in thermostat that only powered up the tape when it was near freeing. That is a simple and relatively cheap way to ensure that pipes don't freeze. Put pipe insulation around the whole deal.

A rocket mass heater supported on piers from the ground is an excellent long-term solution to heating, but probably not feasible at this time of year without doing a slapdash job.
 
pollinator
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Based on the circumstances presented:
- Well insulated house
- 1000sq ft
- A new furnace is not an option at this time
- 4 months of winter weather to avoid

I would say that James suggestion is the best short-term solution, for the least cost, as it eliminates the largest worry which is the pipes all freezing up. From the information I found, they only consume 126watts.

James Freyr wrote:I can only imagine the last thing you want on your hands is busted pipes and flooding along side the broken furnace. There's a product called heat tape with several manufacturers making it in various lengths. It's a electrical ribbon that can be wrapped around a pipe or run the length of it and affixed in some manner, then the end plugs in an outlet and it stays warm. Good luck!



What is the reasoning that your husband is against the heat tape idea? (If you don't mind sharing)

---

Travis' idea of a woodstove would likely be the ideal one, especially in a long-term ROI scenario, but new responsibilities would come along with such a decision and they need to be considered before deciding on going that route for your family in MO. Forsure start checking the classifieds, asking for a quote on installation for a woodstove, and find someone who supplies firewood. I assumed the scenario takes place in an urban area based on the OP and not an acreage or somewhere you can cut your own wood, but if you could clarify that would be appreciated.  

To make clear something Travis mentioned, your family in MO will likely have to endure some inconveniences, this is almost unavoidable and I hope they understand this. It can be a culture-shock for some, so I just wanted to put emphasis on this.

Possible adjustments depending how things go:

-Heating a room instead of a house.
-Keeping doors shut to create heated and unheated perimeters. A roll of 6mil poly is really good to have to maximize this effort.  
-Wearing sweatshirts, sweatpants and socks to bed, wearing a jacket in the house if necessary.
-Start adjusting to below room temperature conditions. Many people are used to 20'C (68'F) or higher, but in this scenario if the family in MO can adjust to be comfortable with 15'C (59'F) that will be a huge advantage to have.
-Kind of obvious, but consume daily water in a hot form, as there is no better way to keep warm than this. Soups, hot chocolate, whatever is preferred.
-Having to be more vigilant, possibly not going far from home for more than a day or so, as to assure that no system fails causing the house to freeze.
-Any other ideas than can be thought of.

This is all just temporary of course, as the goal is to save $ for a new water heater ASAP and go back to life as normal.

As a final note, I would very much caution the use of electric heaters, not because of fire hazards, but the cost to run them. If heaters are used in the same convenience as a gas furnace, the cost over the next 4-5 months could end up being an extra $1,000 or more depending on kwh rates, which doesn't help when you already trying to save$ for a new furnace.

---

My friend was in quite a horrible scenario several years ago where his house was on steel beams while he redid his entire basement from scratch(no furnace), so essentially there was no real mass to his house during this time. The house itself was old, probably woodchip insulation in parts and plenty of leaky rooms. He survived 1 winter by using 2 space heaters, but this cost him a lot of $$$. He managed to get the basement walls up and closed in but not insulated nor buy a new furnace, so he invested in a new $1,000 woodstove. He took out a pane from the top of a window and insulated around where the stack went out. He was able to keep the house at 15'C (59'F) that way in his 2nd winter.

M. A. Carey wrote:but below 0 daytime temps and negative 10 temps... I really don't know how cold the house will get at night.


That's -17'C to -23'C. I'd assume in a newer house like yours, with appliances running, water heater and insulation, it'll naturally stay above 38'F. That's just a guess based on my own inconvenient scenarios though.
 
Anne Miller
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Jarret Hynd wrote:   As a final note, I would very much caution the use of electric heaters, not because of fire hazards, but the cost to run them. If heaters are used in the same convenience as a gas furnace, the cost over the next 4-5 months could end up being an extra $1,000 or more depending on kwh rates, which doesn't help when you already trying to save$ for a new furnace.  



Maybe this is the case for some and I agree caution is needed and individual research is needed.  We have found that since about 2002, we have saved a lot of money rather than running the gas furnace by using  a small electric ceramic or infrared quartz heater.  We mainly use it at night.  And since 2013, we no longer have a gas or electric furnace. This is like the one we are using:

"Infrared Heaters Help Save Money on Heating Costs

Watch your electric bills shrink as your home becomes warmer, faster. Infrared heaters heat a room in less time than electric, kerosene, propane, or wood heat. The amount of energy needed to run an infrared heater is also less. Make sure you have properly winterized your home and sealed up any energy leaks, such as drafty doors and windows, chimneys, basements, and any other area where heat could be escaping. A small gap under a door or window can cause significant heat loss during the coldest months and cause hundreds or thousands of dollars to literally fly away."

https://www.tractorsupply.com/know-how_home-garden_heating-cooling_benefits-of-infrared-heaters
 
pollinator
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Hmm.   First things first how was the crawl space heated before?  Was there a heat vent down there?  If there was you will need to do heat tape or an electric space heater.  Buy a good one with a thermostat, a metal body and a safety shut off in case it tips.  Why no electric space heaters? They are twice the price of gas heat to run but they are safe. If I was just waiting for the money to change the gas furnace that is what I would do. Do not risk the pipes and the flooding costs to save a few dollars.  There is no magic bullet in the infrared heaters they can warm up things close to them faster but a watt is a watt so heating a whole room or house they would make no difference over a much less expensive electric heater.
Cheers and good luck. David B.
 
M. A. Carey
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First things first how was the crawl space heated before?  Was there a heat vent down there?  If there was you will need to do heat tape or an electric space heater.



Even though the duct work is within the insulation under floor joists, my husband says that there is still some heat in the crawl space from that.  

Thanks to all of you for your suggestions; it is so much appreciated.

We have left the faucets dripping in prior winters when temps were 0 or below, catching the dripping water and reusing so there was never a chance of sewer freeze up.

A wood stove is out of the question because of homeowner insurance (The Hartford) and we don't want to hassle with changing homeowner insurance since bundled with auto insurance and would have to deal with changing all).  However, when the home was built in 1987, a chimney and flue were installed, but have never been used.

An update with talking to my daughter last night, she thinks that in a couple of weeks she can get the furnace installed, or at least some time in November.  I have enough saved in my emergency fund to help with about 25% of cost, her mother-in-law is going to help with another 25%, and our daughter has enough on credit card to cover most of the rest as she continues to save some up until actual purchase/installation.  She will then pay off the credit card, her mother-in-law, and me as soon as she gets her tax refund.  (They always get a sizeable tax refund because both she and her husband use the IRS as a savings account.  I know this is not the best option, but money would run through their hands otherwise.  They both claim on W4 as higher single rate, and that way she gets anywhere from $3-4K at refund time).
 
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