Non-Electric Heaters: Stay Warm When the Grid Goes Down

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Nobody wants to experience a grid-down situation that lasts for a long time but especially not during the winter when it can be so difficult to heat your home and keep your family safe and warm. During the winter, however, storms can easily knock out power and, thanks to snow and ice, families can be trapped and unable to get to a safe location. When this occurs, it will be freezing outside and the inside of the home won’t be much warmer. How do families survive in these situations when they are without power and heat for days or weeks at a time?

I found that it’s best to plan ahead for these emergencies instead of being caught unprepared and cold. By using non-electric heaters, families can make sure that they have the heat that they need even without electricity. Rather than storing electric heaters, which are no use when there isn’t any power, when you are faced with no electricity, you can instead rely on nonelectric heaters to provide you and your family with the heat that you need to not only survive but also be comfortable during this time of no power.

What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial

  • Three terracotta flowerpots of different sizes
  • Pillar candles or tea lights
  • Flowerpot base, glass plate, or bread pan
  • Large bolt
  • Eight to ten nuts
  • Washers
  • Two bricks, pieces of scrap wood, or mason jars
  • Hot pads or oven mitts

When you want to be able to heat your room as effectively as possible, then you will want to use the largest candles that you have as long as they will fit nicely underneath your new no-electric heater. Because of this, I prefer to use pillar candles instead of tea lights as they will produce a lot more heat and will burn for longer periods of time before they need to be replaced. Of course, depending on the size of your non-electric space heater, you may need to cut them down to size to fit.

Pro Tip: If you cut your pillar candles shorter, save the ends so you can trim out the wick and use them in the future.

You have to have something sturdy and safe for your candles to rest on to reduce the risk of a fire. Electric heaters do not have this same problem but you need to be prepared. I recommend a bread pan if you have one as you can use the handles to lift and move it. Otherwise, I like using the flowerpot base as it is the perfect size to fit underneath your new space heater.

It’s important that you lift the flowerpot up and over the heat source. Keeping it propped out of the way is key to your new space heaters working. For best results and peace of mind, I like using bricks as they won’t catch on fire the way that scrap wood may. Mason jars are a good option if you don’t want to cut your candles down to size.

I think that hot pads are easier to control when you are lifting hot pots off of your heater so I recommend those over oven mitts. However, if you are comfortable using oven mitts when you cook, then you won’t struggle with using them to lift your hot pots.

Non-Electric Heaters Step-by-Step Instructions

#1. Gather Your Supplies

It’s important that you have the right supplies for this task so that you won’t get caught without an essential piece when you are assembling your new not-electric space heaters. I think that keeping all of the parts that I will need together in a box is the best way to ensure that I am always prepared whenever I want to heat my space without the use of an electric heater. You can see how the experts at Quiet Corner gathered all of their supplies here:

Pro Tip: To ensure that your new heaters will work the way that you want them to, you need to make sure that your pots are sized correctly. I found that using pots that decrease in size works perfectly as long as you can fit each pot within the larger one with about one inch of space on all sides. If the pots aren’t large enough, then the warm air won’t be able to circulate as easily, which means that you won’t get all of the heat that you want from your new heater portable.


Pro Tip: While your pots don’t have to be brand-new, you don’t want to use any that have cracks in them. This is because you want to make sure that your new non-electric space heaters won’t be damaged by the high heat that they are going to release. Any cracks can quickly cause your pots to break and then you will be stuck without any way to heat your space at all.

#2. Attach the Bolt to the Larger Pot

Push the bolt through the hole of the largest pot so that the longer end is sticking in the middle of the pot. Use a washer and a nut on the outside of the pot to ensure that the bolt doesn’t drop through the hole and that it will remain in place. You then need to use another nut and washer on the inside of the pot so that the bolt doesn’t slip out the other way. At Macgyverisms, they are making a hanging pot, which you don’t need to do when you are in need of a non-electric space heater, but you can see how they attached the bolt to the pot with washers and nuts to hold it in place:

Pro Tip: I know that it can be really tempting to tighten the washers as much as you can but doing so can actually cause your pot to crack. You want to tighten them just enough so that they are firm but not so much that you hear the pot begin to crack. I have accidentally tightened the bolts too much and had to get another pot to use.

Pro Tip: Use the largest flowerpot that you can find and easily handle so that your space heater will be able to produce as much heat as possible while still being portable so you can easily move it to a new space when necessary.

#3. Attach the Middle Pot

Now that you have your largest pot securely attached to your bolt, you can move on to your middle pot. The assembly is very similar except that you first put a washer on top of the pot so that it will rest against the nut inside of the larger pot. Then slide your medium pot onto the bolt so that it is nesting within the larger pot and use a washer and a nut to secure it to the bolt. Again, it may be very tempting to really tighten the nut but this will crack your middle pot so make sure that you are careful. You can see how this will look over at Macgyverisms:

Pro Tip: Depending on the size of the pot that you use, you may find that it is difficult to get your hand into the pot to tighten the nuts. I recommend that you ask your kids, if you have any, to help you with this. Not only will they be able to easily reach inside the pot and tighten the nuts for you but there is very little chance that they will over-tighten them. This greatly decreases the chance of your portable space heaters breaking before you even have a chance to use them.

Pro Tip: If you have more pots that you want to use, you can use them to make a much larger heater that doesn’t use electrical power. It’s important that you make sure that you have enough space for your new portable heaters as you do not want anyone to accidentally knock into them.

#5. Add Additional Nuts

If you have more room on your bolt after you have attached all three pots, then you will want to add more nuts. Remember, the more metal there is in your non-electrical heater, the more heat it will be able to produce. I like to put on as many nuts as I can fit without over-tightening them and cracking the pot. At Permaculture, you can see below how they added a lot of nuts to the end of the bolt to ensure the most heat transfer to their room:

Pro Tip: Use the largest nuts that you have so that they will add the most metal to your new non-electric portable space heaters. While you can easily use smaller nuts, they simply won’t be able to help retain as much heat, which means that your heaters won’t be as efficient as they could if you were to take the time to add more metal.

#6. Create Your Base

Once your pots are all securely attached to each other, you will want to make the base where your new heater is going to rest. This is when you are going to need bricks, mason jars, or wood blocks. Of course, for safety, try to use a material that isn’t flammable so that you aren’t putting your home and family at risk by using your new portable space heater. At Survival Sullivan, you can see in this drawing of a cutaway heater what kind of support you are going to need:.

Pro Tip: Make sure that the items you use for support can easily hold all of the weight of your new nonelectric heaters. You want to make sure that your heaters are resting securely on the base you make so that they don’t wobble.

Pro Tip: While some people only use two bricks or jars to balance their heaters, I have found that for security purposes, it’s better to use at least three and make a triangle shape that the heater can rest on. This provides just a little more support and security so you don’t have to worry about the space heater being knocked over.

#7. Prepare Your Candles

The candles that you use are going to make a huge difference in the quality of your new space heater as well as how easily it can heat your space. As I mentioned, larger candles are going to be able to produce a lot more heat and do not have to be changed or replaced nearly as often as smaller ones do, which means that your new non-electric space heaters won’t require as much maintenance during the day. While you want to use a larger candle, you still need to make sure that the flame is close to the bolt and nuts to heat up your room as they did at Misadventures Mag.

Pro Tip: If your candles are going to be so low that the flame doesn’t reach the bolt and nuts, then it’s important that you prop up your candle on something to lift it up. Otherwise, you simply won’t be able to heat your room the way you want to. I recommend using another flowerpot turned upside down or even using a brick, which will allow you to raise your candle easily.

Pro Tip: Taper candles aren’t a great choice to use as they are simply too tall and wobbly to be secure. You don’t want the flame of your candles to reach too high up into the pot and since these tend to burn rather quickly, you will have to replace them on a regular basis. Choose shorter and fatter candles, which will burn more evenly and slowly and aren’t at risk of tipping over or opt for candles in high-quality glass jars, which will provide plenty of heat and warmth without spilling anywhere.

#8. Light Your Candles

Put your candles in the bread pan or on the flowerpot bottom so that they will not get too hot on the floor and to catch any wax that drips when you are using your new heater. When your candles are in a safe location, then you can go ahead and light them. It’s important that you have carefully trimmed the wicks so that they are not too long or short as this can cause you to have to make adjustments to your new space heater throughout the day, which can be tricky as the pots get hotter and hotter. See how your candles will look lit at Daily Health Post.

Pro Tip: You want to make sure when you use your new non-electric heater that you have plenty of ventilation in your home. It can be really tempting to light your candle and close all of the windows in your home so that you don’t have to worry about losing any of the heat that you have worked so hard to create but this can be risky. If you have a particularly small room, then you need to make sure that you have plenty of ventilation so that you and your family aren’t at risk of CO poisoning in your own home.

#9. Assemble Your Heater

When your candles are burning and your flowerpots have all been correctly assembled then you can put it all together and start heating your home. It’s important that you carefully balance your pots on the bricks and make sure that they are centered over your flame so that you will be able to produce the most possible heat. You can see one version of this space heater at Inhabitat:

And if you are still a little confused about how to put it all together, check out this video:

#10. Change Your Candles

Throughout the day, you will have to change out your candles so that you can get the most heat from your new space heater. It’s very important that you keep an eye on the level of your candles so that you can replace them before bed. This will ensure that you are not cold during the middle of the night but you need to make sure that you use protection when touching or lifting the pots on your new heater. The clay will get extremely hot and if you grab the pots you can severely burn yourself.

At Off Grid Survival, you can see above how they propped up their clay pots so that they can easily check the condition of their candles, which means that they won’t burn themselves by trying to lift the top. The only problem with this is that having so much space between the pots and the candles themselves will allow for a lot of heat to escape and will prevent your no-electricity heaters from producing as much radiant heat as possible.

Pro Tip: Make sure that you have hot pads or oven mitts around when you are using this type of non- electric portable space heaters so you don’t put yourself at risk of being burned when you want to check your candles or change them out. It’s easy to accidentally grab the pots without thinking.

Pro Tip: You never want to set your hot pots down on the floor or on anything that may be flammable as it can cause a fire in your house. For this reason, I like to keep extra bricks on hand and set them up in the same size ring or triangle as I did for the heater. This provides me a safe place where I can set the hot pots while I am adjusting or replacing the candles without any fear or burning or damaging the floor. Being prepared ahead of time is key to preventing a major issues in your home and extra bricks do not take up too much space to store. If you have forgotten extra bricks, then put your clay pots on top of your stove or your fireplace hearth when adjusting your heaters. Your stove and fireplace are designed to withstand high temperatures without being damaged.

Did you learn something from this tutorial about how you can rely on non-electric heat sources when you have lost power? I think that it’s very important to plan ahead for times when you may not have the use of electrical heaters so you can be prepared for any emergency that comes your way. Please let me know in the comments below what you think about this tutorial and if it helped you in any way as I want to help you prepare to take care of your family in an emergency. If you liked my tutorial and you know people who could benefit from learning about how to heat their spaces with a nonelectric portable heater, then please send them this tutorial so they can enjoy it too.

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