How can I ignite my gas furnace without electricity? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I feel pretty certain my electricity won't be there for Y2K. But the news on my gas provider looks alot better - i have inside sources there. I have a gas furnace with electronic ignition. I can't afford a generator. Is there any way to light the furnace without electricity? Thank you all for any assistance. (sorry about the fake email address - i can only access the web from my local library)

-- Mark Zupancz (, November 13, 1999


It wouldn't matter if you COULD ignite it. Without power, the BLOWER FAN will not run. If you can't get a genny, better stock up on firewood.

-- Dennis (, November 13, 1999.

You can set up a battery and inverter to
run your furnace, but you must use a sine
wave inverter as the square wave won't work
with the electronic ignition. It's a bit
late to put this together IMHO.

-- spider (, November 13, 1999.

Electro-magnetic gas release valves will not open without electricity. Please do not attemt any manual method. Risks of gas poisoning and explosions are too high!

-- Watchful (, November 13, 1999.

If indeed you need (as mentioned above) clean, sine-wave power for the electronic ignitors, a possible solution might be one of the new Honda EU-class generator/inverters. I have the small one (the EU1001) and it's a marvel.

It's only 26 lbs (!), *very* quiet (can't hear it over the crickets from 50-75 ft. away), runs for ~7-8 hrs. on its 1/2 gallon tank, and puts oput perfectly clean, true sine-wave 60Hz 120V. It's only 1000 watts, but that should be more than plenty for your purposes. Besides, at that ultra-light weight, you can use it for many things besides Y2K emergencies. I use mine for hedge-trimming, power-spraying, etc. around the farm - I just pick it up and carry it to the place I need AC. It's weightlessness makes it immensely flexible!

Good luck.


-- Hugh (, November 13, 1999.

Concur - the blower fan is obviously run by 120 vac. Other appliances needed (thermostat, electronic ignition, the gas valve solenoid) are run from their own invertors or transformers (usually) from the same 120 vac line power to the furnance.

I'll got a battery set plus 12vdc/120vac invertor that I'm hooking to the furnace power supply line - unplug the supply from the regular house current, plug it into the invertor output.

HAVE NOT tested it to date - since my invertor also produces a modified sine wave (not - as noted above a pure sine wave) - I'll try that tonight (now that the weather is cold enough to actually trip the thermostat - and will let you know the result.

In my case, I've got an older style unit with a ilot light, so your resutls could be different. Given a source of 120vac to the furnace (from the invertor plus battery) I don't think there would be a problem getting the electronic ignition to start - but I could certainly be wrong.

Test it.


Simple, cheap, quiet power supply.

Two (or more) 12v marine style (or better yet industrial deep cycle) batteries in parallel. One invertor - size it at 400 watts continous or higher - available at your local automative supply store, along with battereis and cables. (Get #4 at least cables, better if #2 or #0 - bigger cables have less losses).

Get a 12v charger from the same automotive supply store: make sure it has automatic-ff feature (when charging is complete), a trickle charge feature, and "automotive starting" functions: after y2k troubles are over, you can still use it to jump start dead automotive batteries.

When you have 120vac power available, recharge the batteries. ( Vent them, and handle with care - they are heavy, acidic, and have a LOT of potetnial energy inside! Avoid smoking/flames around the released H2 from the recharging.)

When you need 120vac power - use the invertor. No generator fumes, noise, expense, "awaking the neighbors at midnight", no staying up to tend the generator, no worries about the generator being stolen, no gas storage problems, etc.

Batteries can deliver clean, easily available power ready when you need it. Without going outside to start up the generator, run it, hookup power cables, link power cables to the house.....

Downside? A generator can give you much more ac power for short times - but is limited to about 3-7 hours per tank of gas. After that - no gas = no power.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, November 13, 1999.

---skip the furnace, if you are ONE HUNDRED PER CENT SURE you will have gas, then get a normal old timey pilot light or light with a match gas stove,(NOT an electric start gas stove) and get a couple of what's called "ventless" gas heaters. Home despot and assorted places have these things, they work great, and are easy (relatively) to plumb and install. Actually, I'd recommend wood and propane, get a tank now while you still can. Even those little 20 pounder tanks will keep a small table top two burner cooker going for a LONG time, fer cheep. You're insider at the city gas company still gas to rely on long chains outside his area and company to get the gas to your locality. I think it's too risky. I also think that if city gas stays up, there will be wild pressure fluctuations, etc. To-o-o-o-o risky for me! (of course, I'm not living anyplace where city gas can be gotten, city water or sewer, neither, but....) wood, propane, kerosene, solar-- that's the ticket! good luck!

-- zog (, November 13, 1999.

I repeat my warning. A modified sine inverter
will give sporadic test results and could cause
an explosion when the pizo-electric igniter finally
sparks. Your pilot light system should be OK though.

-- spider (, November 13, 1999.

The blower motor will require 1200-1400 watts surge to get started. That is why the furnance is on a seperate 15 amp circuit.

-- Jim (, November 13, 1999.

Without revealing any secrets, can you explain why you are confident that you will have gas? Most people are on gas that is distributed over a geat distance and that would appear to make their gas supply embedded-chip vulnerable.

-- Lars (, November 13, 1999.

Several points to make here:

Your furnace's electric ignition probably won't allow the gas to enter if the power is off. Either switch to a pilot system, or realize that it can't be fixed and move on to another option. It's too expensive to run a generator full-time just to keep your furnace going, and it doesn't give you any options for heat once you're out of generator fuel.

I'd be very hesitant to trust your friend's well-meaning statement about natural gas availability. According to the Senate's 100-day report, oil and gas are way behind, and the natural-gas lines are full of untested embedded processors.

If you get an LP heater, you need to have a vented stove for a sleeping area. The building codes won't allow ventless heaters because of the risk that the sensors could fail. (Besides, it doesn't cost that much extra for the venting system.)

I hate to give you all of this bad news, but you really need to look at Y2K as a possibly long-term problem, and identify some solutions which give you as much time and flexibility as possible. A wood stove is a lot of work, but you can always depend on it to be there.

-- Ann M. (, November 13, 1999.

Last weekend I tested the 1500 watt modified sine wave inverter and the Coleman 7 kw generator. Both started and ran the electronic ignition and blower just fine. But I did have a problem with the battery charger when connected to the generator, something to do with power factor. Any ideas? Mike

-- Mike (, November 13, 1999.

mike, you need to loads the other side of the generator windings with about 700 watts of resistance and see if this helps with the battery charger. try plugging a small electric heater to the other set of recepticals on your generator, these inexpensive gensets seem to have that problem.

good luck al

-- al (, November 13, 1999.

How about a ventless natural gas space heater to at least heat one level of your home? Various sizes are available at your local Home Depot ranging from $100 to $200 depending on the BTU's. Figure in an additional $25 in you can hook it up yourself or $75 to have aprofessional do it depending on how far from a gas pipe you want to place it. They are ignited with a manual striker requiring no electricity, do not require venting in any building code I've ever heard of and do not use the ventilation system so no blower is required. Great back-up for any power outage. Got mine last spring for 50% off as Home Depot was trying to get them off the shelves. As for gas not being available, tests in my local area demonstrated that any embedded chip problems can be manually resolved within a few hours to a day. I'm sure that many will dispute that, but we will soon find out for sure.

-- David Bowerman (, November 14, 1999.

Doesn't it take electricity to pump the gas through the pipelines? Aren't there compressor stations up and down the pipeline along with embedded chips that require electricity? There has to be pressure to pump the gas through the pipe lines. Also, you may want to check with your building inspector to see if ventless gas heaters are legal in your state, in ours they aren't. Also, chemicals are added to the natural gas for safety reasons (odor detectors), and electricity is needed to administer these chemicals. These chemicals are put there for a reason, because natural gas is odorless, so is carbon monoxide. Don't become a statistic please. Just some minor technicalities to think about.

-- Rasty (Rasty@bulldogg.xcom), November 14, 1999.

To "",

It made my day to see your name here on this thread. Really glad to see that you are still around... :-)

-- (, November 14, 1999.

Wow, did any of you make it through that Y2K catastophy? I just came out of my bomb shelter today and found my city in utter ruins. Looks like my family is the only survivors around!! Good thing we had all that bottled water and crank-radios to tide us over!

-- (, December 27, 2004.

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