Heating problems...no fireplace live in Minnesota!

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I live in Minnesota, we have a natural gas heating, and two gas fireplaces, with electric blowers. What is my best option for alternate heat. LP tank and convert house? Can my gas fire places be used for anything? I need all the ideas you may have...Minnesota is very cold in the winter.

One additinal question, I own a Cafe, any idea what preparations I should make for my business? Should I up non perishable inventories to keep business open if supply lines are interupted? Or do you think most business like this will come to a halting stop.??


Rob Laden

-- Rob Laden (DALLASGUNNS@prodigy.net), September 13, 1998


Consider stoves from Vermont Castings which use gas. They look great. Cost is from $800 - $1800 + installation. Have a kerosene heater as a backup with 100 gallons of safely stored fuel. As for the Cafe, Since its going to be January perhaps some perishables can be kept outside in a storage area. I would suggest you learn how to make big quantities of soup and bread (gas stoves?). You might make a fortune post 2000.

-- R. D. Herring (drherr@erols.com), September 13, 1998.

Key word: electric blowers. Consider ways of distributing that heat through the house (cafe too) if you have intermittent electricity for 1-2 weeks, or worst. Even running a generator for a few minutes can dramatically move a lot of warm air through the rest of the house, but you probably don't want to run the generator all the time for a long time just for the fan.

How far is the cafe from the house? Can you safely get there in winter (poor light, white-outs, blizzards, snow plows not running, little gasoline for cars/trucks are likely scenarios) Can you stock things for sale (including food) safely and still serve food? Is the cafe accessible to future clients? If they can't get there, no customers. If it is the "only" thing around and is warm with food, it will have business. There will be money still around in the economy, earn what you safely can for your family.

Consider outside extra tanks of diesel oil, heating oil, gasoline, if you can pump them by hand to other containers. These would be sale items too.

If you can get there, try to keep it open: any receipts are yours to use, unlike those of us who work by electricity and computers - no power no income for us. (Vacation pay excluded! Save it up so when you go back to work in late Jan or early Feb you can get a paycheck, if the banks come through, ....)

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), September 14, 1998.


You haven't gotten many responses, so here's my plan. I live in WI, so heat is on the top of my list. We have a fireplace, but it doesn't heat well. We also have a gas heater on the screen porch, so if I can get the hot air through the patio doors, it might help. If this doesn't work, or the natural gas is out, would use a kerosene heater. I got a new 22,300 BTU unit at Menard's for $130. (Do you have Menard's in MN?) It will heat for 4-6 hrs. on a gallon of K-1. A 55 gal. drum of K-1 kerosene was $102 with the barrel deposit, and delivery was free. (Shop around - prices vary, and one oil co. would not deliver to my house.) If we use the heater we probably won't be running around in our undies or anything, but it will keep the chill out. I plan to test it this winter so I know what to expect.

Only one thing to say about the cafe. If things get ugly, the food from the cafe might be needed at home. Maybe you could buy extra, store it at home, and take it to the cafe if you don't eat it yourself.

Good luck.

-- Mike (gartner@execpc.com), September 16, 1998.

Yes, given that ou have time (and the desire) to prepare, you absolutely want to use something other than the "generic" fireplace to heat the house.

Problem with fireplaces? They are very inefficient. All the following assumes that there is no insert, no airtight cover or heater distribution around the fireplace, nor wood stove or heater"borrowing" the fireplace mantle and chimney. If those are present, efficiency becomes high enough to burn wood (or coal, if that style stove can be found.) (See other thread about coal and wood stoves.)

Hey, Ben Franklin invented the Franklin stove because his fireplace wasn't good enough! You want to pretend you know more about hauling wood and getting cold and trying to heat a house in mid-winter than he did?

Anyway, the fireplace will throw some radiant heat into the nearest room. The rest of the hot gasses go up the chimney, and do nothing else. As this hot air rises, it draws more room air (air now mildly heated) with it up the chimeny. Cold air from outside goes into rest of house to replace the air drawn up the chimney, and makes other areas colder. Extra air is drawn into house to serve as combustion air, more cold air replaces it. The brinks serve as a heat sink, but half the brick surface of a typical chiimney is touching cold outside air, and must be warmed up itself.

Sure, if you have nothing else, use your fireplace. (Get the chimney cleaned before Y2K.) If you have any choice, use something else, this get soem way of either cocooning into one warm room, or distributing the warm air from cooking, warming bath water, and cleaning into the rest of the house.

Myself, if needed, (when needed) that's why I'm getting a genset - it will drive the heater blower fan on our furnace. ( Assumes natural gas supply survives.) If not, the kerosene heater does it.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), September 17, 1998.

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