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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

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Archive for the ‘Emergency heat’ Category


Emergency heat

Monday, July 28th, 2008


If you were going to buy a stove to put in your basement for heat (and cooking) in the event of a blizzard or national emergency what would you buy for your home?


Fort Pierre, SD


Great question. I have designed several totally off grid homes in the extreme north including northern Idaho and believe me, that’s rural! We designed propane fired hot water boiler systems for all of these. These boilers are very efficient, are smaller than a 2-drawer file cabinet, and are self-contained with all controls. They also only require a very small fractional HP circulating pump to move the heating hot water through all the baseboard radiators in each room. We also have used the same type boilers with radiant floor heat which is really efficient. You will however, need a small backup power inverter or small generator to power the pump and temperature controls.

If this is not what you want, there are some great non-electric wood stoves, and provide both space heat and a cook top. Some can connected to your existing ducted air system and some are hydronic and can be piped into your baseboard hot water heating system, but this would require electric power to operate any pumps or fans. Our solar home has a central hydronic wood stove that can heat the entire home if I don’t want to run the propane hot water boiler, and we have a separate wood cook stove in the kitchen/dining area that we use on cold winter days that really puts out the heat with very little firewood. It looks like it was made in 1860, but actually there are now several manufacturers making new stoves that look like the old wood stove of the turn of the century.

I advise clients to install an in ground propane tank that is 500 to 1000 gallons in size, as this gives you months of space heating, domestic hot water, and cooking if the power goes out and the weather is too bad to re-fill a smaller tank. The short answer is, you need 2 stoves – a propane boiler or cook stove and a wood stove for heating and/or cooking.

Good Luck and let us know how this works out for you,

Jeff Yago



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