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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. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Many if not most electric space heaters have a thermostat and many have a high/low setting that varies the wattage between full and half or another tap. When on the thermostat the heater cycles. We have one in the greenhouse and it is only on cold nights that it stays on continuously. The electrical costs have been reasonable @ .010/kw hr.

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  2. save$

    save$ Minister of Fire

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    We keep our forced hot air furnace in good repair. Hot water is from a seperate oil fired hot water heater. We bought a hundred gallons of oil last summer and still have about a third of that left. Heat for our 2160 sq foot raised ranch is from one pellet stove. usually burn 5-6 ton, (last winter was less) We don't go away overnight during the cold seasons, so no issues with being away and things freezing.
  3. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Yeah when I run the electric radiators to try it out I run them at six hundred watts. Eventually I get to a point where I say "I ain't doing 65 degrees in this joint anymore" and turn the 30-NC loose.
  4. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    I found out the hard way one time, when we were on the Washington coast, how important it is to operate your gas (or probably any) furnace now and then. We spent a few months in So.Cal. one winter and shut off the propane. We had a couple of electric space heaters with thermostats on about 800 watt settings just for freeze protection. After a long, grueling drive home in March, we finally made it home on a cold, miserable, rainy night about 10 PM. Exhausted from the difficult drive, we staggered in to that cold house and immediately turned on the propane and thermostat. Nothing. Not a click. Long story short, unless it's too late for that, I spent the next couple of hours troubleshooting the furnace, which I know nothing about. What had happened was that one of the interlock switches had stuck from not having been used for so long. Can't remember the name of the thing now. I bypassed it temporarily and fixed it later, but going through the furnace, there were a few other places that could have failed as well. I was not happy to get home that night!

    Cancel your propane contract for the big tank if you want, but buy another, smaller, tank and use that furnace now and then. It's really good backup heat anyway.
  5. eclecticcottage

    eclecticcottage Minister of Fire

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    Hm. Interesting.

    When we bought the Cottage, there was an existing tank with propane still in it. We didn't pay for it at closing, apparently the PO forgot about it and since he was from NYC I imagine his lawyer didn't think about the fact that it might exist (he also filled out the paperwork stating it was on public sewer, and we have septic). So, we decided not to ask about a contract, etc, lest he realize he should get a credit for the remaining LP. Since we don't use it for heat, we haven't used all that much-we did blow through a bunch when 1) we tried to use the oven on the stove that was here which didn't work properly and ate about 20% of it between 2 or 3 uses and 2) we hooked up a small blue flame heater in the mechanical area but put the thermo probe too close to concrete which caused it to run too much and ate about another 20% before we sussed out the problem with it. All in all, we have been hanging at about 20% full most of the summer. I couldn't say off hand how big the tank is. We never signed a contract with the company on the tank, and obviously haven't paid for a refill. I wonder if they are going to up and take the darn thing one day, lol. We planned on replacing it with two 100 pounders in sequence (so when one runs out the other kicks in) so we wouldn't mind actually, except I'd love to wait until we use up the rest of the free stuff!!
  6. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Well, a lot of people do own their tanks, which may be your case. We own our tank, the PO bought it when he had the gas fireplace installed, so he would not be tied to any propane company.
  7. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    I don't know how long you've been there, but it's a good chance that you own the tank anyway. If there's a name of a propane company on it, just call and ask. You have to find out sooner or later. If they want the tank back, I think they'd have to pay you for the remaining gas, since you do own that. Buying the house did not obligate you with the propane company even if there was an existing agreement. Then you can go ahead and buy one and fill it. What kind of stove do you cook on? You may want to look into a gas range. IMO, gas is the best way to cook and a good range doesn't use that much gas. We only use propane for the range and it's great.

    In our case, the tank came with the house and is not leased, but we did have a leased tank at another place for awhile.
  8. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I think my deal is that I don't own the tank but I don't pay any rent. Even if it costs a little more for the propane co. to fill the tank, we just use it for cooking right now and it lasts a real long time.
  9. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    That sounds like a good approach, especially if you don't use much. If the tank or regulator needs to be replaced, they can do it. Guess it depends on what the cost difference is per gallon. You'd have to pencil all that out.
  10. eclecticcottage

    eclecticcottage Minister of Fire

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    We cook on this, it's a Floyd Wells Bengal:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I *LOVE* my stove. It doesn't use much gas, and it fits in well here. Had to take a 4 hour round trip to get it, but it's SO much better than the hotpoint it replaced.

    There is a name on the tank, it says "property of and serviced by XXX". Per the company's site, they charge a pumpout charge as well as a pickup charge to take the tank. Which is why we're trying to use up most of what we've got before contacting them.

    We bought the place last September.
  11. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I bought our tank outright (and at an outrageous price) from our propane company and they still put their owned sticker on it. Then the next year they started asking for rent! It took me several months to get that mess straightened out.
  12. save$

    save$ Minister of Fire

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    All the more reason to be as independent as you can. Even if it means you do your own delivery.
    milleo likes this.
  13. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Geez, I guess we're lucky. We own the tank, the company knows we own the tank, they bring me gas for a reasonable price when I ask, and that's that. Problems like this are unnecessary.
    But, cooking with gas is so much better than electric, isn't it?
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Yes it is, especially during week long power outages.
  15. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    The only thing we had to get used to on our stove was how the oven starts. I don't know much about how others work, but ours does not have a pilot flame. When you turn the thermostat up, it begins to heat up an electric element until it gets hot enough to ignite the gas, then opens the valve. That takes a few minutes, then Poof, Swoosh, the gas ignites. A bit disconcerting the first few times. We didn't have an owners manual for it so we asked the previous owner how to start the oven. She just said to turn it up and wait for it to explode. Great. We're thinking a about a new one...
  16. eclecticcottage

    eclecticcottage Minister of Fire

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    Neither does ours...but that's because it's match lit :D
  17. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    :) Well, at least the starter won't break. With this method, if the ignitor fails, the gas won't even turn on so you can't match light it if you wanted to (I think - we still don't have a manual - I'm going to download one right now. Thanks for reminding me.) Do you match light the burners also? Ours are piezo. These auto ignition systems are nice, but I have a KISS philosophy.
  18. eclecticcottage

    eclecticcottage Minister of Fire

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    No, the burners are pilot lit (well 99% of the time, one is a little cranky and sometimes needs to be match lit). One central pilot for the four burners. It's a very basic 1950's model. We had a 80's (I think) era hotpoint here when we bought the place. Electronic ignition too. The oven was crazy, it did the same as yours (like little explosions every time it came on), but it also used a mad amount for propane. The Bengal is a much better stove, even though the oven is smaller. I don't think you can even buy a new stove that's not electronic ignition...
  19. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Funny that modern isn't always better.

    I said our burners were piezo, but piezo is mechanical, like those grill lighters. I'm sure it's actually electronic. Small point, but those electronic high voltage circuit boards are not always very reliable, especially in RV applications for some reason (like RV appliances are overpriced sh..junk):mad: ). I will say one thing for this Magic Chef, though, the oven thermostat is dead on and doesn't vary much. Wife makes good stuff in it;) . I've always wondered if gas ovens seem to bake better partly because of the moisture that the burning gas is always giving off.
  20. eclecticcottage

    eclecticcottage Minister of Fire

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    Yup. We have a 1950's fridge too, quieter than the 2004 Kenmore it replaced AND uses less electric

    [​IMG]
  21. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    And, looks better!:cool:

    Your really are going retro, aren't you? I like it. What do you drive? If it's 50's, I need a pic...

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