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.
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.
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.
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.
i would install a low temp alarm so that if anything goes wrong help
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
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...
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.
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