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Backup heat - how to "winterize" house

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Jack22, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. Jack22

    Jack22 New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2011
    Messages:
    95
    Loc:
    Warren County, New Jersey
    Hi Everyone. Its been a while since I have been on the forum. Last year was my first year burning and I had a very successful season. I burned full time and went through about 3 cords of wood. I had my chimney swept and got about 1/2 a cup of black powder so I think I did well. I want to thank everyone for all the valuable information I go on this site. I decided to get out of my propane lease and I may go this winter with just the wood stove and no back up. My question is how do I winterize my house if I decide to go away for a weekend and let the house go cold. I saw a post once by Backwoods Savage about this but I could not find it and do not remember what it said. I have well water and forced hot air furnace. No boiler. Any info would be great.

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  2. Blue Vomit

    Blue Vomit Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2011
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    663
    Loc:
    eastern PA
    Just buy a BK, throw a few splits in, set the air and leave. When you get back the house will be warm and you will have good coals for a reload.;)
  3. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    9,226
    Loc:
    Lake Wissota
    Maybe invest in a few electric space heaters.
    fox9988 likes this.
  4. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Philadelphia
    I wouldn't let that furnace sit unused. Some day you'll want to sell that house, and potential buyers may not see the charm in heating 100% with wood. Why not keep the furnace pulling backup duty to that stove, on long weekends away from the house?
  5. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

    Joined:
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    28,740
    Loc:
    Northern Virginia
    Haven't had to do it here but the radiator space heaters in the basement and each room are the backups here. Wrong time of the year to buy them now. I loaded up on them at Lowe's a few years ago. At the end of winter they darn near give the leftovers away to get rid of them. You have to be careful to balance which circuits they are on.

    I use them the first one or too cold nights each year to make sure the plan works, them shut'em down and fire the stoves from there on out.
  6. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    Myself, and I'd imagine many others on here, have some sort of boiler or furnace (oil, gas, etc) as "backup". I leave my T Stats set to 65* in the winter in case I don't have time to load up the stove or am away from home longer than planned.

    Since you have a propane furnace, if I were you I'd set up a larger RV tank to run it as a backup. I'd imagine a 7 gallon tank or two would last long enough to cover you for a weekend? (I have no idea how much fuel it consumes) Could set the heat to 45-50* really... just to keep anything from freezing up.
    jeff_t likes this.
  7. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Messages:
    3,623
    Loc:
    SE MI
    A hundred pounder is a good idea. Also a good idea to exercise the furnace, maybe monthly. Mine didn't work at all last winter, but I'll have it fixed this fall.

    I have loaded up on Friday morning, set the thermostat at 45°, and gotten home on Monday to a 49° house. I'm not sure if the furnace came on at all. If you can do it, maybe close the bedroom door and let the stove rip the night before you leave, to really warm the place up.

    If you're really gonna be hardcore, drain the pipes and water heater, plunge the toilets and sink traps and dump some RV antifreeze in and hope for the best. Low level drains on the water pipes, and maybe a schrader valve to blow the pipes out with compressed air. I don't know if I'd go that far in NJ. A 100# tank will get you through a few weekends.
  8. Shadow&Flame

    Shadow&Flame Minister of Fire

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    I also would keep the furnace in working order for a backup and resale. Its better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it.
  9. eclecticcottage

    eclecticcottage Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    WNY
    I agree. We have a 100 pounder to run our vent free if it's needed. Tractor Supply sells them.
    fox9988 likes this.
  10. Jack22

    Jack22 New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2011
    Messages:
    95
    Loc:
    Warren County, New Jersey
    Thank you all for the replies. I think I agree with the majority of you that I should keep the furnace operational. I was thinking maybe a 50 gallon 200 pound tank might do me well. I am no propane expert but I would think that the rate of vaporization on a small 100 pound tank would cause the tank to freeze up on a real cold day if my 80,000 btu furnace was pulling from it.
  11. fox9988

    fox9988 Minister of Fire

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    NW Arkansas
    Alll you have to worry bout it the plumbing freezing. Electric space heaters will do this cheap.
  12. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    Do you not have a propane storage tank already? If there is one, fill it then set the thermostat low and hope that there isn't a deep freeze when you go away.
  13. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    His tanks may have been owned by the propane co. Don't use enough, they cancel the contract and take your tanks!
  14. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Unity/Bangor, Maine
    Oil boiler here . . . as my back up heat. I haven't filled it in three years I think . . . but I still maintain it and have the thermostats set to have it kick on at 60 degrees which is useful when I'm sick, away from the home for a weekend or longer or when we have a few extended days and nights of sub-zero temps as it may come on in the morning and work as my "alarm clock" to motivate me to get up and reload the stove.
  15. Grinnell

    Grinnell New Member

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    Loc:
    No Colorado
    We have 4 electric baseboard heaters for 1700 sq ft. With electric the way it is thats why i upgraded the wood stove. We are only there on weekends/holidays but when we retire there I am going to have a hi eff propane furnace added just to keep the heat up when we are out.

    Right now when we leave we drain the pipes and the toilets (on a well and the basement storage area stays 50F even in the dead of winter), leave the baseboard heater on in the kitchen so the frig doesnt shut off. Takes a bit to bring up the house when we return but sooo much cheaper than leaving the heat up.
  16. Jack22

    Jack22 New Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Warren County, New Jersey
    I had a propane tank that was owned by the propane company. When you are involved in a propane lease you either have to pay high tank rental fees or use a certain amount of propane a year. My company wanted me to fill my 100 gallon tank at least once a year so I got out of the lease and they picked up the tank. I am now tank-less and exploring my options. I will get another tank but the question is when? I may have to go a little while without propane so I am interested in peoples techniques on keeping there pipes from freezing. Thanks to everyone for there comments. I don't know about you long time wood burners but I can't for this hot weather to end so I can start burning again.
  17. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I'd be happy for some hot weather actually. It almost hit 65* yesterday and the sun came out for a few hours... but then got cold, cloudy and rained.
  18. Armoured

    Armoured New Member

    Joined:
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    94
    Loc:
    Russia
    At our weekender, we have electric (hot water rads) on backup, set them to 5-10 celsius year-round, they keep the pipes from freezing. The wood insert does the trick for getting temperature up (relatively) quickly. Without the wood, we'd be paying for crazy electricity and/or be uncomfortable because the electric takes a looooong time to come up from cold. But more than enough to guard off freezing and simple to operate - set it and forget it.

    Yes, when we're using the place, we set it to 18-24 degrees (I'm at the low end, spouse at the high end) but fire is stoked whenever we're awake. Shut down to 5-10 degrees when leaving and forget it. Repeat as necessary.

    This usage keeps bills very manageable, and apart from the cold when arriving on the weekend for a few hours, very comfortable. (We do get a lot of use of sweaters - but I'm in the camp that says you're not allowed to complain about having to put a sweater on when it's below freezing outside).
  19. Jack22

    Jack22 New Member

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    Right now I will take cold and rainy over hot and humid. I would love to live just a little further north in upstate New York. Its not that Jersey is a real hot state but I would like to live somewhere a little cooler. Then again I should not be complaining because there are people all over the country that are experiencing scorching temperatures and extreme drought conditions.
  20. Jack22

    Jack22 New Member

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    Loc:
    Warren County, New Jersey
    I just noticed your from Russia. Just out of curiosity what kind of insert do you have? And what kind of wood do you burn?
  21. Treacherous

    Treacherous Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    WA state
    -I leave a couple oil heaters on low (one is in room with hot water tank). I don't empty the water tank
    -drain the lines although everything under cabin has heat tape on it
    -RV antifreeze everywhere else that has some residual water in it

    I remotely monitor temperatures inside/outside and in crawlspace under cabin so I could address fairly quickly if power went out.

    11 out of 12 years doing this with no problem. Let's just say year "one" I replaced a toilet and learned my lesson.
  22. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Jack, we've done a few things. Just for a weekend in your area should pose no big problems. I recall one winter when all the electric was out for 3 days around here. Of course that was no problem for us but was for others. It did get me to thinking so we took a weekend trip one time in January. We did nothing to the water and for heat we used 2 ceramic heaters. When we got home the house temperature was somewhere between 50-60 but don't remember for sure; I think it was like 56 so there was no problems at all. A quick fire in the stove and the house warmed up fast. btw, those ceramic heaters are not big hogs for electric so cost is not a big object if for just a weekend.

    For longer trips we drained the water lines and water heater. I then blew out the lines to be sure. In the drains and toilet we just put RV anti-freeze to fill the traps. Then we closed the door and headed south! Ah, that was our first time going south and seeing flowers and green grass in January. Very nice.
  23. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I'd disagree on that. Most are 1500w.

    3000w for the 2 is 3k per hour. That's 0.45$ an hour (at my rates anyway) to run or about $11 a day... that is if they ran non stop.

    $20-30 for s weekend is pretty expensive in my eyes considering my monthly electric bills are $50-60.


  24. Treacherous

    Treacherous Minister of Fire

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    WA state
    I run my two heaters on the 600W & 900W settings and set to a setting that keeps cabin at basically 40-45 degrees.

    I believe I currently pay $0.088 per KWH
  25. Retired Guy

    Retired Guy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2011
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    Loc:
    Cape Vincent, NY
    Some of the ceramic heaters are self limiting. The ceramic heats to a certain temperature. The faster the fan speed, the more electricity is used to maintain the ceramic temp.

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