Freeze protect

I am looking for a not electric space heater that will keep the cellar of our vacation home above freezing during periods of -20 degrees f.. Upstate NY. We normally leave the oil fired central heating system (hot air) on and set to 58 degrees for the winter. And that is fine. We are away from the home for periods of up to 6 weeks at a time. Power failures and furnace mis-firings (one in the past three years, had a neighbor press the reset- service tech could not find an issue) make me somewhat worried about the home. While I drain the plumbing each time we leave during the winter, I am not comfortable letting the structure itself go below freezing in the event of a power or furnace failure. Power has been out for up to two weeks in the past. (A 100 year storm but those are coming a bit more often now) . If the basement is kept 55 degrees or so, I think that the rest of the well insulated home should not suffer a hard freeze. Propane is available and delivered on a regular basis.
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TH wrote:

How large and is the cellar finished and how? There are many propane-fueled heaters that could be used, but have no clue as to how much one might need based on such limited information.
Personally, if there is no water to freeze I see no problem. If the house is heated anyway it seems quite unlikely to have an interior space get below maybe 20F even during a cold snap. Unless there is actually something being stored there that would actually be harmed, the temperature change in the structure itself would be of no harm.
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I also think you are wasting money heating the space. Just drain the water.
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Unlike some other posters, I agree with you about keeping heat in homes here in the Northeast. Winters tend to be very cold and damp. I've seen freeze/thaw cycles crack plaster walls, pop wooden trim loose, strip paint off of walls in huge sheets, cause moisture buildup later leading to mildew, etc.
I'd use one of the small non-venting propane gas heaters available from the big box stores for less than $300. They meet code in all respects except for use in a confined bedroom. They range in output from 18,000 to about 35,000 BTU/hr. One placed in the basement should be fine. They have a spark igniter and an expansion bulb thermostat thus needing no electrical power to operate.
Doug

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Doug wrote:

...
But, that was precisely the point, Doug--the home _IS_ heated and what was proposed was to _ADDITIONALLY_ heat a cellar with no indication of even being finished living space or anything stored there that would/could be damaged. Being called a cellar, I would presume that it is also below grade which will also tend to mitigate extreme temperature fluctuations. Without know a lot more, I stand by recommendation that it seems an unnecessary expense.
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i would install a low temp alarm so that if anything goes wrong help would come.
vacant homes are at risk of arson and oyther troubles a monitored security system is likely a good idea.
a backup no electric propane heater is a nice addition but i would set it to come on well under normal building temp to minize on times.
main furnace set at 55 if below 49 auxilliary kicks on
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As I read the original posting, the writer was concerned that he needed a source of standby heat under electric power outage conditions, NOT when the home is already being heated.... Why else would he worry about the cellar temp when his oil fired heat is working? Under such circumstances the heat lost from furnace ducts or boiler piping will always keep the cellar above freezing. Under those conditions, the celler is BEING heated.
Thus I stand by my answer...
Doug
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TH wrote:

We have owned a vacation home (actually a '60s-vintage mobile home with several additions) near Flagstaff AZ. Winter lows usually hit the 20's or teens. First year we owned it, we would leave the furnace (propane) on the lowest setting in the winter, even after blowing the water lines out with a compressor. Cost a small fortune in propane.
Since then, we've just been shutting off the furnace, blowing out the water lines, and pouring RV antifreeze down the drains and toilets. Only problem I ever had was my own stupid fault - one time while winterizing I forgot to turn off the water heater before blowing out the water lines, burned out both elements on the water heater. Other than that, no problems.
I guess what I'm saying is, drain the water lines, put antifreeze in the drains and toilets, and don't worry about it.
Only thing I would be concerned about - with no heat in the house, some of the food in the freezer compartment of your fridge might soften or thaw. Seems illogical, but it can happen. The way I understand it, the temperature sensor is in the refrigerator side, not the freezer side. The controls are set to keep the temperature in the refrigerator side in the range of 35-40 degrees. The cold air passing through the freezer on its way to the refrigerator side keeps the freezer in the vicinity of 0 degrees. Now, if the inside temperature of the house falls below 30 degrees, the compressor is never going to run. So, the fridge compartment is cold enough (30 degrees), but the freezer gets kinda warm and the meat gets pretty soft. So, we take the perishables out of the freezer when we winterize. I have also heard it said that putting a low wattage (25 watts) light bulb inside the fridge on an extension cord provides enough heat to keep the fridge running. Don't know about that one, never tried it.
Jerry
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