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Small Cabin Forum / Off-Grid Living / Good heater?
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jrbarnard
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 08:35
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I need a good option for heat. It is getting down to the freezing mark and.. well.. I have always been worried about using a propane heater etc indoors...heh.. I keep thinking I am going to die in my sleep due to carbon monoxide poisoning or something (grin)...

So.. you guys are the experts. I have an electric heater, but I do not want to run the generator all night long unless I have to.

I have quite a few kerosine heaters, including one of those cool Coleman ones that are like a dome that you hold upside down till you see a spot and then light....I always thought those were just solid heaters, personally...albeit I have zero idea if it works.. but I am betting it does. It was left in the cabin when I bought the land.

The cabin is one of those ones from Tough Shed.. looks like a barn with a loft. It has insulation, and lord knows it can attract heat during the day.. no idea if it holds it well. 12x24ft barn style roof, so high roof.

So, what would you recommend.. fille the generator and run the electric one, maybe two, or use the Coleman, or do you have another one in mind?

Thanks!

Russ

Bzzzzzt
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 09:18
Reply 


I'm having the same issue. I got a little 1500 watt electric heater that will run on the generator for about an hour and I have a little catyalitic propane heater that will run all night but wont keep the cabin very warm, just breaks the chill. I saw one at wal mart for $85 that the box says will run for 110 hours on a 20# bottle of propane. Maybe in the future I'll get a wood stove but not right now. If I'm gonna do much winter stuff out here I need 3 things: indoor toilet and shower, hot water and heat.

bugs
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 10:21 - Edited by: bugs
Reply 


Direct wall vented propane heater is likely what you are looking for. They use outside air for combustion and exhaust to the outside as well. Unless you are planning a wood stove or fireplace.

There was a thread about it here. http://www.small-cabin.com/forum/3_658_0.html

Look for names like Empire, Longvie, Eskabe, Home Comfort. We are about to install a Longvie into our cabin. Hold onto your wallets tho!!

The "almost" consensus it seems on the forum is that vent free propane heaters are unsafe for regular heating of the cabin and are inefficient because you have to have a window open or CO poisoning, O2 depletion can occur.

toddheyn
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 15:33
Reply 


I am not in the consensus with the theory not to use a vent free heater.

We love our Buddy Heater and back it up with a good CO detector to be safe.

Anonymous
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 17:16
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If you use a kerosene heater, wouldn't that be the same as an unvented heater? Wouldn't it use O2 from the living space and vent into it also?

bugs
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 17:17 - Edited by: bugs
Reply 


toddheyn

We too like our Big Buddy (check out our micro cabin thread) hence the "almost" phrase. I was trying to be a bit diplomatic and also did not want to get embroiled in the vent versus unvented discussion again. Been through that already.

http://www.small-cabin.com/forum/3_377_0.html

jrbarnard
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 17:38 - Edited by: jrbarnard
Reply 


Well, did not mean to open up a huge debate over vent or no vent, sorry. I just worry about CO. So, assuming venting is my concern, but I really hate waking up to 32 degrees and I have 2 small children.

I have one of these:

Without porch.

It is 12x24 and has about.. 5 or 6 windows and a vent in the top of the roof.

My concern is.. does CO settle, or will it vent upwards enough?

If all I have to do is cut a small hole or leave a window open or something, but I can get heat and just need a little airflow.. then, that is my answer and I can use any of the 3 kerosene or propane heaters I have.

Oh, and get a CO sensor, got it.. will pick one up this week.

Ideas? Thoughts?

Thanks folks.

Oh, and the picture looks good.. but the thing has ZERO radiant barrier so it absorbs every bit of heat you can throw at it and it is insulated, so holds in all the cold you can throw at it too.. heh

Russ

bugs
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 18:11 - Edited by: bugs
Reply 


jrbarnard

No worries. Sometimes when a thread goes to page 2 or 3 of a (sub) forum it gets lost to readers. It is always good to keep them refreshed.

Mtndon has corrected me. Thanks. CO is lighter than "normal" air and mixable.

It is likely advisable with anything that has combustion inside whether it be kerosene, diesel fuel, wood stove, propane to have some source of fresh air ie open a window an inch or two. And as you mention get a CO detector and position it properly... If you are considering a propane heater you might also get a propane detector.

Some people, the lady wife included, find the unvented propane heater (or kerosene) smells unpleasant and gives them a head ache if used for many hours straight. I don't seem to notice it.

And also keep an eye on whatever heat source you use cause complacency can be dangerous. Last winter a fellow up north went for a snow mobile ride and when he got back to his cabin the untended wood stove had burnt his cabin down!!!

Anyway good luck with your choice.

Bugs

ps Nice cozy little place you got.

bobrok
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 19:48
Reply 


Bugs and Todd, I agree with you on this. We are only occasional visitors during the prime heating season and since we are "fresh air" ppl to begin with we open doors and windows all day and all the time.

To be fair, we both have experienced smell and headaches from propane heat. A good airing out takes care of our problem. I mean a "good" airing out here. Door and maybe 1or 2 windows wide open for 10-15 minutes for a real good exchange of air. We have a 400 square foot cabin, and believe me, you don't loose all your heat by throwing a door and window open. We do this every day all winter at home, too.

In 5 years I have not been able to correlate the CO2 levels in our cabin with either the smell or the headaches. CO2 levels can be low and unchanged over time so this, I feel, is a separate issue from the odor. I think other threads here have borne out this theory, too.

Now the issue of tending wood fires has also been spoken to here. I'd LOVE to rip out my propane heather and replace it with a wood stove, but for the problem mentioned above: I'd never leave a fire burning while we went out hiking or skiing for fear of burning the place down.
Also, try pulling into your place for a weekend visit in the winter with temps at 15 inside and see how long it'll take to build up a fire to even begin heating up.

Our place takes roughly 4 hours to heat from 15 to 70. Yes, that's a lot of fuel, but a wood stove would probably take significantly longer.

I don't have room for both so its one or the other for us. At present I am trying to figure out how to reconfigure my heater location to possibly convert to a vented unit. But since we don't stay for extended periods I am pretty happy with my vent free heater.

bugs
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 20:11
Reply 


Err

Bobrok ummmmm errr CO is not the same as CO2..... Altho my chemistry is a tad weak.. But I think I/we know what you mean.

I totally understand. We have a fireplace in our house that we use to supplement our heating. Sometimes it just does not get going in the morning and takes persuasion and coddling to start. The buddy heater out at our shack fires up in less than a couple of minutes and a has instant and constant heat. To me it is like cooking on a fire pit or a gas barbecue.

Ditto re space/room. For us micro cabiners the space needed for a wood stove is lost space during most of the summer. Whereas a portable buddy or wall unit takes up little floor space.

bobrok
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 20:25
Reply 


My chemistry knowledge is evidently even weaker!!!!!
Of course I was referring to carbon monoxide just didn't use the correct chemical formula <insert embarrassed grin here>
Thank you for the correction, bugs! :)

MtnDon
Member
# Posted: 30 Oct 2011 21:41 - Edited by: MtnDon
Reply 


CO is slightly lighter than air.

The molecular weight of CO is 28.011
The molecular weight of air is 28.966

SOURCE

CO is also very "mixable" in air, somewhat the same as Nitrogen (N2, 28.0134) and Oxygen (O2, 31.9988) the two largest components of air, are. They don't separate in a closed room. So the CO can be found at any level in the room.

The proper position for a CO detector is the ceiling or at least 6 feet from the floor level.


And since propane detectors were mentioned, the propane detector should be at floor level as propane has a much greater molecular weight...
Propane, C3H8 44.097


CO is very deadly, nothing to fool with.

jrbarnard
Member
# Posted: 31 Oct 2011 06:11
Reply 


Well, let's see..I have a picture somewhere of the actual cabin:

Okay, here is the actual cabin:

The Cabin

Now, here is the inside:

The Inside

Now, this is temporary, till I can get the new cabin built as it is on the adjacent tract to ours (this one is owned by my wife's uncle). It also has zero radiant barrier so it is an oven when it is hot outside. I am assuming it will hold heat since it has the insulation.

There is an attic "whirley-bird" on the roof.

I am also assuming that if I got a buddy heater, I could set that on the floor, over in that corner, with a window behind it and about 3 ft above it.. and then leave a window up by the front door open, to create a breeze.. and that should at least keep the place comfortable, i.e. not 32 degrees... and ME safe.. correct?

I mean, I could mount a shelf in front of a window and put it there, and then crack another window....I want to be safe, above all else, but I want to keep some heat in the place too.. heh.

Thanks for all the input guys, I really appreciate it.

Russ

larryh
Member
# Posted: 2 Nov 2011 08:06 - Edited by: larryh
Reply 


In such a overall small area anything unvented of a heater nature would be problematic to me. First the fumes from unvented propane heaters I have been around is not pleasant to my nose, nor is a unvented kerosene heater if run for very long.

The coleman I don't think has been addressed. The coleman fuel containers all warn not to operate them in the enclosed areas. I could make exceptions for the small cooking stoves, used for relatively sort times but not a heater run while asleep.

The next issue is venting any stove. Wood must have a safe chimney or your really risking a fire, so a insulated chimney is recommended. A vented gas heater uses a somewhat cheaper double wall aluminum pipe . Currently due to various issues I have returned to vented pot burner oil heaters, a choice which is partly because I like the constant heat and the simplicity of the units even if rather old by now. The big draw back is the cost of oil. How it would compare to a gasoline engine running all night is a toss up I would guess. It also has to be vented in a class 1 chimney which means it should have an insulated chimney to prevent chances of fires. They also need to be tall enough to provide a draft sufficient to operate the heaters properly. So a lot of draw backs for someone with no flue in place. Not to mention oil running at over 4.00 a gallon.
The trade off however is that a generator run for 8 hours probably uses at least 4.00 worth of gas and is only going to give your about 1200 watts of heat from a small electric unit. Not enough to really know its running in a cold area. A small vented oil burner, say 35,000 BTU's total output will operate over night for about a gallon of oil so the heat output is a lot higher and no fumes to worry about.

A side note is that when it comes to electric heaters for the cost of operation and localized heating the old bowl shaped heaters on a pedestal with a radiant coil in the center operate on around 600 watts and keep you quite warm when situated in front of it compared to a 1500 watt newer type heater.

Included below is a photo of a small Duo Therm Pot Burner type heater which runs almost 48 hours on 3 gallons of kerosene or heating oil, it has a built on rear tank or can be piped in from an external 50 or 250 gallon tank. That run time is for the lower heat settings, on high you can expect to go though at least three times that amount of oil. Heaters with outputs up to 50,000 are commonly found in areas where oil heat is or was common.
Front view oil Duo Therm
Front view oil Duo Therm
Side  view oil Duo Therm
Side view oil Duo Therm


briansl
Member
# Posted: 23 Nov 2011 14:21
Reply 


I have often wondered why people don't just keep the heat flame source outside in a separate steel barrel, for example. You could just direct the heated air into the cabin with insulated pipe and have it heat up another heated barrel inside the cabin. The barrel filled with the heated air would radiate heat into the cabin. The exhaust gas would go out through a pipe. This approach would eliminate this entire issue of CO2, CO and O in the cabin.

Of course, the outside heat source could also be used to warm up a boiler full of water which would then circulate into the cabin and radiate from a radiator. The point is, the heat source would be kept outside.

I'm always wondering why this approach (heat flame source outside) is never discussed.

So, you take a propane hibachi, put it in a barrel. Put a lid on it. Insulate it. Attach a pipe to the top. Direct the pipe into the cabin and attach it to another barrel inside of the cabin. Maybe coil some copper in the barrel to exchange the heat. Allow the gases to escape out of an exhaust pipe.

Any comments?

Brian

larryh
Member
# Posted: 25 Nov 2011 11:34
Reply 


I might be all wet here but my guess is that the small amount of heat put out by such a device using a hibachi probably would be very small by the time it actually reached the cabin, and then you have to contend with heating air that is also exposed to outside temperatures to some extent?

ranchboss
Member
# Posted: 8 Dec 2011 13:01
Reply 


Lots of plankets and comforters.
no realy the ventless wall propane heaters are very safe and but a carbon monoxide sensor between your bed and the heater. and use wood doing the day.

TomChum
Member
# Posted: 8 Dec 2011 13:21 - Edited by: TomChum
Reply 


Quoting: toddheyn
I am not in the consensus with the theory not to use a vent free heater. We love our Buddy Heater and back it up with a good CO detector to be safe.


ToddHeyn, the little Buddy Heater is "catalytic" and indoor-approved, thus I'm pretty sure it does NOT produce CO like a Kero heater, or other radiant propane burners. Buddy Heater has an oxygen depletion sensor (that doesn't work over 7000ft elevation) that shuts it off if oxygen gets below 18%. One problem with the Buddy Heater is that a catalytic heater exhausts water vapor inside your cabin. A heater vented outside would exhaust this water to the outside.

For the price they are great. I have a woodstove, but I use the Little Buddy for instant heat while my woodstove warms up, which can take about a whole day in my log cabin. And when it's exceptionally cold. And I also use it in my camper van. It's a nice unit to have.

I would choose the "Buddy" instead of the Little Buddy" next time.

paulz
Member
# Posted: 28 Sep 2015 12:27
Reply 


Bumping an old thread:

Cold this morning so I fired up one of those propane heaters that mount to a 20lb. tank just to take the chill off. Ran it about 15 minutes with doors and windows shut (300sq. ft., 15' ceiling). Could I go an hour? Is there a 'warning' smell when it's time to vent or turn off? Normally I would use the wood stove but was leaving for the day.

FishHog
Member
# Posted: 28 Sep 2015 12:38
Reply 


Get a co detector. There is no warning smell. If you get a headache or really sleepy it was too long. Not a great idea but if you're awake and staying awake I get it.

Truecabin
Member
# Posted: 28 Sep 2015 13:21 - Edited by: Truecabin
Reply 


if you get a headache you've been poisoned and it may take awhile for your body to make new red blood cells
if you go to sleep before airing out the cabin you might not wake up dont hang around inside if theres co and dont sleep
you can heat up the cabin but air it our before going in and breathing the co

paulz
Member
# Posted: 28 Sep 2015 16:22
Reply 


Thanks, I'll get the CO detector

BryanL
Member
# Posted: 28 Sep 2015 17:37
Reply 


I also have a lofted 12x24 cabin. I have a 1500 watt electric heater with a blower I will plan on running on circulation mode. Main source of heat will come from my buddy heater I have mounted on the wall about 5 feet high. Have a 10 foot hose connected to it that will run out a slightly cracked window to a 20 pound propane tank outside. CO detector is sitting 6 ft high on a shelf just in case. If it's real cold I'll fire up my 2nd buddy heater just too warm the cabin up. My hope is once (if) the cabin gets nice and toasty it will stay warm all night with just the little electric heater. If not will run the wall mounted buddy.

paulz
Member
# Posted: 30 Sep 2015 10:33
Reply 


Thanks, never played with those little buddy heaters, they look very nice.

I was wondering if you could somehow use a woodstove stove pipe for a propane heater vent, putting the heater in front of (or even in) the stove with the stove door open.

CO detector on the way.

paulz
Member
# Posted: 4 Oct 2015 11:22
Reply 


Got my CO detector. Many variables on where to mount it. Not near the wood stove? Not on the ridge beam of the ceiling? Not in dead air where the walls meet the ceiling....any advice? 12x25 with wood stove in the middle of one long wall. I'm thinking maybe a foot or two down from the gable of the short wall near the bed.

groingo
Member
# Posted: 4 Oct 2015 11:45
Reply 


Paul's:

One worthwhile tip, test it over a monoxide source to be sure it works.

NorthRick
Member
# Posted: 4 Oct 2015 12:28
Reply 


Quoting: paulz
I'm thinking maybe a foot or two down from the gable of the short wall near the bed.


That would be my choice. Near where you sleep, so hopefully you don't die in your sleep if the CO builds up.

MtnDon
Member
# Posted: 4 Oct 2015 14:23
Reply 


Doesn't matter a lot. CO has just about the same moleculat wt as plain air. Hoever being a product of combustion CO may often rise rather than fall. But then CO also mixes well in air. The concentration may be higher near the source but it spreads throughout a space quite well.

groingo
Member
# Posted: 4 Oct 2015 15:19
Reply 


Best method I have found with propane is to turn it off when you are sleeping, have a good down comforter then turn heat on when you are up and moving in the morning, nothing gets you moving quicker than freezing your backside!

cman47c
Member
# Posted: 9 Nov 2015 15:21
Reply 


I have a Mr. Heater Ventless propane heater in my cabin and sometime use the Buddy heater to augment the heat. I have 2 CO detectors but am uneasy about the ventless concept. I recently purchased a Drager PAC 3500 handheld CO unit which gives a digital readout of the CO concentration in PPM at any given time. I used the new Drager this weekend at the cabin with the heat on and various windows cracked open. With heat on for 6 hours, the reading max was 10 PPM and varied between 6-10 PPM as the heater cycled on/off. It has an alarm at 35 PPM and the normal CO detector beep alarms actuate at about 70 PPM after 2 hours of concentration at that level. 70 PPM for 2 hours is usually the threshhold for triggering health problems.

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