Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

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Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by Garand69 » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:14 am

I'm writing this today from the cool crispy Chicagoland area which is currently 1deg F. This is truly an “Inspired” piece due to the fact that.... you guessed it, my heat went out.

I will start this off going back to our old house. Built in the early 50's by my Grandfather who literally scavenged most of the more expensive components, like the heating system. The design was great, though crude, he used a coal fired boiler from the early 1900's that he then converted to natural gas with a very simple “flamethrower”. Instead of using radiators, he ran copper coils all over the plywood floor and then covered them with 2” of concrete. The beauty of the system was the large mass of concrete (26,000lbs of it) was heated first.

The upside of the design was that the floor and essentially everything touching the floor was heated. If you opened the doors and windows on a cold day and then closed them, the room came right back up to temp unlike forced air heat, where you would be waiting for the air to be re-heated. The gas bill was also very low, our neighbors house built with the same plans but with forced air heat had gas bills consistently double ours, despite them having a modern 90% furnace and far more attic insulation.

The downside was that Gramps started of with an already 50 year old boiler along with copper coils in the concrete. Little did he know at the time was that copper and concrete do not play well together. When my wife and I moved in during the early 90's the house was in some disrepair and the age of the system was starting to show. After about 5 years, the system finally failed, the copper lines were leaking and water was seeping through the concrete floors, lifting tile all over the place. Tried sealers to no avail, and being on the cash strapped side of life with a new family being built I switched to wood heat.

The first wood burner I bought was too small because of where I had it, the basement. My thoughts were to heat up that 26,000lbs of concrete from the bottom and try to mimic the radiant heat we had before. So I had to supplement our heat with a non-electric non-vented gas heater that I installed in front of the fire place in the living room. This set up worked though it was a lot of work because of the small fire box on the wood burner, but the rooms were all warm with the living room a bit warmer. After two years of that, I scrounged a barn find wood burner with a large fire box that would run a full 8hrs and accomplished my original goal of having a warm floor, the gas heater was now purely back up. Because 90% of the wood I used was free storm pickup, I was spending even less on heat than I did before, though there was a trade off in the labor needed to cut, split and stack enough firewood to make it through a Chicago winter. During this time frame I also picked up a Keroheat Kerosene convection heater as a back up and to heat the garage.

Fast Forward 2016......

We now rent a house also built in the 50's but we do not have the wood burner option and currently I do not have that vent-less gas heater set up (that may soon change after this weekend). BUT I do have that Kerosene heater. I was pleasantly surprised that the heater set on low, in conjunction with the furnace fan circulating the air, is keeping a 1200 square ft 1 ½ story cape cod with single pane aluminum windows, leaky doors and NO insulation in the walls a toasty 65 degrees F while it is 1degree outside!

The specs on the kerosene heater are 23,000btus and the 1.9 gal tank gives it a 12hr run time on low (which is what I have it set at). Now at the 4.25 per gallon that I paid, thats not cheap coming in at 480 per month if I ran it 24/7 for a month. But getting the job done in an emergency situation like this is priclesss IMHO. The specs on the back up vent-less gas heater I have is 30,000btus. Both of these heaters I bought off season and on clearance (one at Menards, the other Home Depot if I recall correctly).

What do you have as a back up heat source????

The following links are simply for clarification purposes, I am not suggesting you support either site.

Kerosene convection heater
http://www.amazon.com/Sengoku-KeroHeat- ... B000KKO33A

Non-electric vent free gas heater (mine is the same but unfortunately not dual fuel)
http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/ ... _200649343
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by flybynight » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:55 am

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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by Garand69 » Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:11 am

The barn where I found my larger wood stove had something simular to that and I almost grabbed it, but it had a lot of rust damage and I wasn't sure if I could save it.
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by majorhavoc » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:22 am

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I also have a small gasoline generator with sufficient capacity to run the electrical components on my primary furnace.

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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by Evan the Diplomat » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:49 am

Now that I live in Miami, my back up heater is a sweater. I kill myself some times.

Seriously, the family lives back in DC is a 70's townhouse with a fairly new gas heater, and on demand gas water heater but a loss of electrical will take out both the thermostat and the sparkers and controls of the gas furnace and water heater. The sensible thing would be a small gasoline genny that goes to those circuits. Thanks for making me think of that.

Meanwhile, pitch tent in the middle of living room, kids sleep with 32 degree bags inside tent. Using a match I can light all five burners on the stove top to cook and generate heat.
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by PistolPete » Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:18 pm

I can keep my main living area livable with a space heater if I close off my bedrooms, but my place is on the small side. I keep a spare space heater in the basement if needed. After that I've got a propane heater I, a kerosene heater and if everything goes to hell, a small wood burner stove I could vent out a window. I hope it never gets to that. :-)
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by Stercutus » Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:46 pm

Vent free gas logs are the backup, followed by oil lamps. I also have a couple of sealed oil filled radiant electric heaters that I keep on hand if the furnace dies, we run out of gas and oil but still have electric. That would be a strange set of circumstances. The furnace has been running all day. It was 12 degrees this morning and not expected to get over freezing today.

I am sure you are aware that running vent free gas logs for long periods of time can cause moisture problems.
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by ZombieGranny » Mon Jan 11, 2016 1:14 pm

We have little electric space heaters (one for each room plus back-ups in the garage), a Coleman Blackcat heater, a fireplace in the playroom with thick drapes over the doorway, and a woodstove insert in the living room (that we never use, but could).
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by raptor » Mon Jan 11, 2016 2:27 pm

Great question!

I live in the deep south but we do get cold snaps that are below freezing. My home uses forced air NG furnaces for two units and one unit has a heat pump.

If I had a single failure I would simply turn up the others and redirect the warm air. If on the other hand I had a NG supply failure, my diesel generator would still supply power to the heat pump unit. However it is terribly inefficient once the temps get below 40F and it is for my bedroom and study area only so it is not very big.

I do have a fireplace but like most southern homes it is for ambiance and not heat. In fact I have turn up the heat when I use it since it sucks heated air out of the room. :roll:

A NG failure would likewise render my pool heater inoperative so my garden would likely freeze in that event.

My plan in the event of a NG failure would be to drain the pipes inside the house and bundle up. I would use the few electric space heaters I have to try and keep the house interior above freezing. It rarely stays below freezing in NOLA for more than few days so I should be good.

Cooking would not be an issue since I have an outdoor propane powered grill and an electric oven next to gas stove tops.

If there was no NG after 24 hours I would likely relocate to my BOL which has wood and propane heating available along with a generator.

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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by Ad'lan » Mon Jan 11, 2016 4:00 pm

I own a lot of wool clothing. If I'm without heat, then suddenly, I look like it's the 50's again, wearing multiple wool jumpers. The UK's climate is mild enough that this is sufficient.

Ideally, I'd be telling you about the original Edwardian fireplaces and hypercaust, but I'm not living with my parents right now, and the council housing built in the post war years was built with the clean air act in mind, and has no back up heating.
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by flybynight » Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:32 pm

Evan the Diplomat wrote:Now that I live in Miami, my back up heater is a sweater. I kill myself some times.

Seriously, the family lives back in DC is a 70's townhouse with a fairly new gas heater, and on demand gas water heater but a loss of electrical will take out both the thermostat and the sparkers and controls of the gas furnace and water heater. The sensible thing would be a small gasoline genny that goes to those circuits. Thanks for making me think of that.

Meanwhile, pitch tent in the middle of living room, kids sleep with 32 degree bags inside tent. Using a match I can light all five burners on the stove top to cook and generate heat.
That's what my son in law did when they were without power for a week due to a ice storm,several years ago. They had no alternate heat source, so camp out in the bedroom. Sleeping bags all next to each other with blankets off the beds piled on top inside a pop up tent.
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by eugene » Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:41 pm

I've two homes since 1995 and had to fix my furnace multiple times. First time was when we first moved in so I took the in-laws advice and called someone. $250 later bought a few drops of fan oil. So a few years later when it did it again I found I could put a few drops of mobile 1 engine oil with a drinking straw to get it going again. The fan finally died a few years later and I bought a new one. Once winter the pilot would also quit lighting the burners. I found out there was dirt in the nozzle, a bent paperclip was the tool used that time.

New house the furnace has twice had problems, turns out there is a a flame sensor that gets dirty with soot and just needs cleaned. youtube told me how to fix that one :)
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by yossarian » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:30 pm

The furnace is the back up. We have a wood stove upstairs and a traditional fireplace downstairs. The previous owners also set it up so that I can connect a generator to the propane furnace to run the electronics/fan if we lose power.

My folks are all electric and often have power outages in the winter. They used a kerosene heater when I was younger but have moved to a Big Buddy propane heater. The ice storms in IL the weekend after Christmas knocked out their juice for about 2 days, they managed just fine.
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by Garand69 » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:07 am

Thanks for all the fine replies. Kerosene has some nice qualities but as with anything has it's issues as well. I also have a couple of those 500CP Hurricane Lanterns from Majors Surplus that run on Kerosene but I have not broke them out yet. Biggest issue for Kerosene for me is availability and cost. My boss use to supply it to the area hardware stores and I could get it cheap, when he stopped selling it, most of the hardware stores started selling it pre-packaged which puts the price through the roof. The best price I have found is at a Equiptment Rental store.

I have several 100lb Propane tanks I scavanged (3 are full), I need to see if my Ventless Gas heater could be converted into a multi-fuel. The propane is also great to run my gas grill and turkey fryer burner for cooking/canning.

Wood is still on my all time favorite list, but my Landlord say noooooo waaaay. It is not cheap if you buy your wood split and delivered, but if you put some sweat into the deal it is almost free depending on how many storms come through in the spring. Just buy a chimney brush and keep it clean.
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by Tobias05 » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:11 am

I have a heater buddy and a bunch of small propane bottles if our electric heat goes out. I would like to install a wood stove this year, but I may pick up a kerosene heater in the meantime.

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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by Barnabus » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:34 am

We have a gas fireplace in the den, and 2 of these Infrared Power Heaters http://www.samsclub.com/sams/infrared-h ... navAction=
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by jor-el » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:17 am

Barnabus wrote:We have a gas fireplace in the den, and 2 of these Infrared Power Heaters http://www.samsclub.com/sams/infrared-h ... navAction=
Don't those heaters need to be plugged in?
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by majorhavoc » Tue Jan 12, 2016 2:06 pm

jor-el wrote:
Barnabus wrote:We have a gas fireplace in the den, and 2 of these Infrared Power Heaters http://www.samsclub.com/sams/infrared-h ... navAction=
Don't those heaters need to be plugged in?
You don't need to lose power to lose heat. Technically I've been without heat since northern New England's Sunday windstorm, and we've got another storm on tap for tonight. The igniter failed on my Rinnai propane furnace. I'm waiting for the replacement to come in from the parts distributor.

I have very small house, so I've been getting by with a pair of these:

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Well, that and a down coat.

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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by JeeperCreeper » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:44 pm

Used to be those little electric radiators like above, but my new apartment required downsizing. Now I can just burn textbooks I don't read anyways and vent it into my neighbors apartment. Serves them right for all the loud music they play and having an annoying cat. Or maybe I'll get into smoking meats. I bet psych books make the best jerky.
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by Barnabus » Tue Jan 26, 2016 4:17 pm

jor-el wrote:
Barnabus wrote:We have a gas fireplace in the den, and 2 of these Infrared Power Heaters http://www.samsclub.com/sams/infrared-h ... navAction=
Don't those heaters need to be plugged in?

His furnace died, his power didn't go off.Did you read the OP ? Ours was acting up when we bought these.
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by flybynight » Tue Jan 26, 2016 4:42 pm

Garand69 wrote:Thanks for all the fine replies. Kerosene has some nice qualities but as with anything has it's issues as well. I also have a couple of those 500CP Hurricane Lanterns from Majors Surplus that run on Kerosene but I have not broke them out yet. Biggest issue for Kerosene for me is availability and cost. My boss use to supply it to the area hardware stores and I could get it cheap, when he stopped selling it, most of the hardware stores started selling it pre-packaged which puts the price through the roof. The best price I have found is at a Equiptment Rental store.

I have several 100lb Propane tanks I scavanged (3 are full), I need to see if my Ventless Gas heater could be converted into a multi-fuel. The propane is also great to run my gas grill and turkey fryer burner for cooking/canning.

Wood is still on my all time favorite list, but my Landlord say noooooo waaaay. It is not cheap if you buy your wood split and delivered, but if you put some sweat into the deal it is almost free depending on how many storms come through in the spring. Just buy a chimney brush and keep it clean.
Those kerosene lanterns? Do they use Coleman mantles or their own brand?
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Re: Your Furnance Just Died, What's Your Back Up?

Post by Garand69 » Wed Jan 27, 2016 12:51 pm

flybynight wrote: Those kerosene lanterns? Do they use Coleman mantles or their own brand?
Ish...

According to what I have found, youy can use the Coeman mantles but only at lower pressures. The Majors Surplus Lanterns are knockoffs of the PetroMax lanterns, So I am betting their mantles as well as Butterfly Pressure lantern mantles should work fine. Here is a link or two.

http://www.endtimesreport.com/mantles_k ... ssure.html

http://www.stpaulmercantile.com/index.p ... cts_id=274
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