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Posted: 11/29/2007 4:58:13 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 11/29/2007 4:59:36 AM EDT by jeffers_mz]
Pig outside, chock full-o-propane, line to the furnace and range and water heater, a flaky rural electrical grid, and last night the furnace guy stopped by.

The pressure switch needed him to blow into it just enough to let the furnace know outside air feed is clear, so simple he restored my warmth without charging me a dime.

He also said extra propane branch lines for Buddy type heaters would run about $150 each, turnkey. Sooo....

1. Who makes the best Buddy heaters?

2. Physically, how big are they?

3. Are there different sizes, measured in BTU's?

4. If I have O2 sensors on the heaters, a window cracked 1 inch per heater unit, and recently inspected battery powered smoke detectors and CO detectors in the house, what are the chances of asphixiation?

5. How close can these units operate to draperies, bookshelves, furniture, etc? Carpet on the floor a problem?

6. Any tips on concealing or hiding propane outlets when they aren't in use?

7. Since this is for heat when the electrical grid is down, can i assume that quality units are available which don't have or require a fan to distribute heat?

8. Need some data on BTU's per square feet of area. I could survive with a single Buddy heater, but might end up with four or five, one for each of five rooms, which range from about 100 square feet to about 900.

9. Any other tips, tricks, warnings or bargains, feel free to post them.

Thanks in advance for any info you can provide.
Link Posted: 11/29/2007 7:36:59 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 11/29/2007 7:40:21 PM EDT by EndGame]

Originally Posted By jeffers_mz:
Pig outside, chock full-o-propane, line to the furnace and range and water heater, a flaky rural electrical grid, and last night the furnace guy stopped by.

The pressure switch needed him to blow into it just enough to let the furnace know outside air feed is clear, so simple he restored my warmth without charging me a dime.

He also said extra propane branch lines for Buddy type heaters would run about $150 each, turnkey. Sooo....

Since the smart guys haven't chimed in yet, I'll throw in my 2 cents...

1. Who makes the best Buddy heaters?

I think all the Buddy heaters are made by Mr. Heater. Seriously. I assume that is a company and not a person.

2. Physically, how big are they?

There are two basic models. The smaller is the Portable Buddy (which might sometimes be called the Tough Buddy since there's a seemingly identical model by that name that shows up sometimes) and the larger model is the Big Buddy. The smaller one is about 15" tall, 15" wide, and 8.5" deep. I don't have a larger model to measure, but it's roughly 50% bigger.

3. Are there different sizes, measured in BTU's?

The smaller model, which runs on a single 1# propane canister, has two settings: 4000 and 9000 BTUs. The larger model, which runs on either one or two 1# propane canisters, has three settings: 4000, 9000 and 18,000 BTUs. Both models will also run off of 20# propane containers with a proper hose, though I realize you didn't ask that. I've read different things about whether you need a filter to connect to the 20# tanks, and that may also apply to the larger tanks, but I really don't know anything about connecting them to tanks larger than 20# (including whether it's safe).

4. If I have O2 sensors on the heaters, a window cracked 1 inch per heater unit, and recently inspected battery powered smoke detectors and CO detectors in the house, what are the chances of asphixiation?

I think these heaters are pretty darn safe, but I don't have any special expertise here. I have read that one should have 1 sq. in. of ventilation per 1000 BTU, which may or may not be correct, but if it's correct and you're running at 9000 BTUs, and your window is 24" wide, opening the window just over 1/3" should be sufficient. I'd rather err on the side of safety, and I assume it depends in part on how windy it is outside, but that's what I've read. It might be wrong.

5. How close can these units operate to draperies, bookshelves, furniture, etc? Carpet on the floor a problem?

This will probably be pretty obvious if you get one and try it out. It's not a big deal. The manufacturer probably recommends a 3' clearance, I don't know, but you would probably be perfectly comfortable with smaller safety margins. (So much for erring on the side of safety...)

6. Any tips on concealing or hiding propane outlets when they aren't in use?

Nope

7. Since this is for heat when the electrical grid is down, can i assume that quality units are available which don't have or require a fan to distribute heat?

Neither the large or small model requires a fan. The large one has a fan option, via batteries or an AC adaptor.

8. Need some data on BTU's per square feet of area. I could survive with a single Buddy heater, but might end up with four or five, one for each of five rooms, which range from about 100 square feet to about 900.

The large model is rated for 400 sq. ft., and the small model for 200 sq. ft. I assume these ratings are at max BTUs. The figures also strike me as fairly meaningless without a lot more information, but that's just me.

9. Any other tips, tricks, warnings or bargains, feel free to post them.

I have two of the smaller models and use them quite a bit in the winter and they've always been great. Lowe's will probably have a half-price sale in March or thereabouts. Personally, I would want to verify that the branch line from the outside tank was really safe to hook up to the heater--that makes me a bit nervous. Instead of hooking up to a Mr. Buddy heater, I'd probably look into the ventless or vent free propane heaters in a situation like that. Go here to see some of the vent free things I'm talking about.

Thanks in advance for any info you can provide.


ET underline "here."
Link Posted: 11/29/2007 8:32:32 PM EDT
man I'd get one of the blueflame / Dyna-Glo wall mount ventless purpose built indoor propane heaters,

they run from 16k to 50k btu and will heat a 1k+ sqft area pretty damn good, most have a built in thermostat, and can be found at lumber 2, home depot and Atwood stores for around $130 up.
Link Posted: 11/29/2007 8:39:16 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 11/29/2007 8:46:48 PM EDT by jeffers_mz]
I appreciate your answers.

I've started my own research, but on the general net, you never know who's benefitting by what's written, where-as here, you get unvarnished opinions, and I think a balance of both is a good way make decisions.

I'm coming to similar conclusions as you. The Buddy heater is one or two specific units, not a general "class" of heaters. It's also probably not the first unit I want to buy.

Dedicated, mounted on the wall units are more suitable for general home heating, for short term grid failures when the furnace won't run because the blower has no power, for supplemental use, and for SHTF situations. I think a large one of those in the main living area, and a smaller one in the MBR will cover most of what I need to do, safely and efficiently.

I can still see a need for a smaller portable unit like the Buddy heater, but maybe not that exact model. Two dedicated units will leave large parts of the house unheated, including possibly occupied bedrooms, and areas where pipes or water may freeze and cause damage.

I have a lot of the 1 pound bottles stockpiled, and could just as easily pick up some 20 or 100 pounders too, but I still haven't ruled out a permanent hook-up point and a long hose for the smaller unit, in addition to the small tanks. If I can't trust a T fitting, shutoff valve, and a threaded cap to keep the gas where it belongs, then I really can't trust any of the piping that's already in place and in use. It's all the same hardware.

Obviously, I'll check with the manufacturer, dealer, furnace guy, and here before taking any chances on a questionable installation.

Fortunately, I have a very good nose for the smell of gas additives. I've detected several gas leaks over the years, including one which had a whole company of firemen thinking I was drunk, till one of them got within inches of the pig and smelled it too. The vendor came out and smelled nothing, but his tests did show a slow leak and he fixed it for free.

Regarding clearances, one wall unit recommends keeping carpets, drapes and furniture 3 inches down, 10.5 inches to either side, and 36 inches above the unit.

I've spent about three years fighting intermittant furnace failures due to a bad combustion chamber, spent $2000 replacing that furnace with a new one a year ago, been without heat for two days this week because of the faulty pressurre switch, and am always at the mercy of rural electric lines in the winter, and it's time for all that to cease.

In the process of setting up redundancy against these problems, I think this type system offers useful options in the survival sense too, and hopefully, can kill all these birds with a few stones.

Again, I appreciate your information, and as this project develops, welcome any and all addition ideas, warnngs, advice and recommendations.

Thanks.

<­BR>
Link Posted: 11/29/2007 9:08:57 PM EDT
Link Posted: 11/30/2007 2:51:18 AM EDT
CO meter for sleeping, that is your backup system, battery powered one. They make rechargeables.

I have two of the heater buddys, poor info now, but in the spring you can get them for $30 - $60 when the season ends.
Link Posted: 11/30/2007 4:06:51 AM EDT

Originally Posted By TomJefferson:
Think you are getting a handle on it.

Heater Buddy is a brand and like EndGame posted its made by Mr. Heater. Mr. Heater also makes a line of outdoor heaters that are not indoor rated. They are portable heaters designed to be carried from place to place for indoor use such as garages, tents, sheds, or room heat.

There are better options for primary home heat. I personally like the freestanding ventless better than the wall units because they put out heat 360 degrees but that really depends on if you have room, which I don't. We do have one at my BOL.

I do like the thermostatic controlled heaters. They do a decent job of not overheating the room making you either keep the house colder than you would prefer or always making adjustments.

Like Endgame, I have two Heater Buddys but my backup to my primary heat is a kerosene tower. I use the Heater Buddys for outdoor activities in tents, my garage, and such and when my primary heat is out as single room heaters for like the bathroom or heat up the bedroom in the mornings. Kind of a not all the time just some of the time thing.

I have yet to open a window in my house to use a gas heater. Unless you are in a very small place that is very airtight, a house normally has plenty of oxygen to go around. I assure you a tent or small shed is different story. I'll never forget the first time I tried a catalytic heater in a tent. It was as a Coleman with no low O2 shutoff. I left the right size crack in the window and even had a CO monitor. Still it was quite alarming the next morning to not be able to light my Zippo. A candle is a good way to check O2 level if your stove doesn't have that option. Simply turn them on high, let them run a while, and see if the candle stays lit. Keep the candle close to the stove. Its no big deal and you don't have to stare the candle. Just light it and go about your business and if you notice its out then investigate why. Shouldn't be a problem in a house though.

A CO monitor on the other hand is a very good idea. All of the ventless and catalytic heaters depend on same principle which is double burning the gas which converts CO to CO2. This is usually a screen type addition to the product and depending on the design may corrode with time or break. I haven't had that happen but there is the possibility.

The little heaters like the Heater Buddy or around 5K-9K BTU except on their very top typically do not get awfully hot on the outside so not much of a fire hazard. The bigger heaters though get pretty hot even on the sides. I wouldn't keep any highly flammable material right up next to any stove and especially not on its top.

Gas in room heat does dry the air out lowering the house humidity level much more than about any kind of heat. I personally run a large Sears Evaporator type humidifier with humiditystat all winter. A good trick to using gas stoves is to simply keep a pan of water on top of the stove if its cold and running all the time. Of course, make sure the pan doesn't have a plastic or wood handle. That will put humidity back into the air. The big humidifiers are simply less hassle. Mine I has two large tanks about I fill one every night before I go to bed.
Kind of weird for me this time of year for I'm humidifying upstairs and dehumidifying downstairs. Man I like humidity stats.

Tj




Good info except about the humidity. The ventless units PUT a lot of moisture into a house. I put one in my sister's house and she already had some moisture problems. The vent free unit put that house over the top and she started having problems with mold. We did a few things to solve that (mainly putting in a clothes dryer and a vent system in the bathroom) However, the fact remains that burning a vent free unit in a house WILL INCREASE your moisture.

I really like the vent free units but don't think that anyone should rely on them for main heat. They are best suited as a backup heat source. They would also work well as a supplement to your main furnace during extreme cold weather.

I'm thinking of putting one in my new house but putting it out in the garage and set the thermostat on low....keep the garage at about 45-50 degrees.

I think the OPs planned use (backup to his main furnace) is a real good idea.
Link Posted: 11/30/2007 5:26:00 AM EDT

Originally Posted By ColtRifle:
Good info except about the humidity. The ventless units PUT a lot of moisture into a house. I put one in my sister's house and she already had some moisture problems. The vent free unit put that house over the top and she started having problems with mold. We did a few things to solve that (mainly putting in a clothes dryer and a vent system in the bathroom) However, the fact remains that burning a vent free unit in a house WILL INCREASE your moisture.


Can you explain that? Where does the moisture come from? Are you sure the (pre-existing) moisture issues were not from condensation and bad insulation?
Link Posted: 11/30/2007 6:37:31 AM EDT
I'm no chemist, but three of my dinner companions during my formative years are, so I'll hazard a guess. Autos burning hydrocarbons release some hydrogen, which combines with our friend O2 and makes water drip out the tailpipe. Same for catalytics?

TJ, two things. Reviews of the Buddy heaters, especially the big one, indicate frequent shut-offs, to the point of uselessness in many cases. Too much unit, too small a space, not enough ventilation, and a very sensitive O2 depletion sensor? Working theory for now, till a better one comes along.

Why would I want more humidity? Furniture reacts poorly to changes in humidity, once you stabilize the water content in the wood, change becomes the enemy. My skin is soft as a baby' behind and my hair has that luster you usually only get from a salon, just ask my harem.

Heh.

(I'm a smoker too.)

On the heaters, my furnace guy said that an unheated room will develop a convection current on it's own. The outside wall cools fastest, and air near there descends, crosses the floor, rises up as room air warms it, and then returns across the ceiling to replete the "vacuum" created by the descending cool air near the wall.

Per furnace guy, an outside wall mounted back-up unit (inside the house of course), especially when the grid's out, will counteract this effect and work more efficiently.

However....common sense says that without the blower, you will get a lot of heat in a small area and the problem becomes circulation, moving the heat around where you need it. From that view, it seems a heater mounted on an interior wall would take advantage of and amplify the current already in place, and help distribute the heat better. I know HVAC vents are almost universally placed under windows and near doors.

I trust the furnace guy's experience more than my theories, but the question remains.

Thoughts?

Important because I have exactly one spot a wall mount unit could fit in the largest area, and it's on the north wall, near an exterior door, and even that would require "storing" an end table elsewhere, probably outdoors in the long term. It's crowded here.

A center room floor unit would fit better, because of all the shelving here, but I'm just not real comfortable with a floor fire breather in a crowded house, especially with wild demons (kids) in residence.



Link Posted: 11/30/2007 7:56:46 AM EDT
My 2 cents worth. I have several of the small heaters and one of the big ones. I bought most of them when Lowe's had their 50% off sale on heaters last year. I have been using the little ones in deer blinds for several years and they work great for that. I have also used one in a buddy's unheated cabin a couple of times and it was enough to take the chill off. I used the Big Buddy to heat my bedroom one night last year just to see how it worked. The fan in the BB really helps. I don't know how long the batteries last, but I am still on my first set and I have been through 6 of the 1 pound propane tanks now. The BB was able to keep our bedroom very comfortable on the lowest setting with the fan running. It is probably 250 sq. ft. counting the bathroom. I have not had any trouble with any of my heaters except for having two stolen out of my deer blinds. I think they make an excellent BU heat source.

As far as plumbing the house for them, $150 per unit seems kind of steep to me. You can buy whole lot of 1 lb canisters for $600. Or buy some 20 lb tanks and the hoses. I would put a pencil and paper to it and see how long it would take to recoup the money you spent to plumb the house based on how much you think you will use them. The great thing about using the 1 lb tanks is how easy it is to move the heaters around.

Hope this helps.

David
Link Posted: 11/30/2007 10:21:09 AM EDT
One or two ventless propane heaters and a couple Buddy heaters are all you need. Rooms will stay at ambient temps for a time if the power goes out and you can always move people into the heated area of the house for comfort and a small heater for the pipes.
Link Posted: 11/30/2007 11:04:40 AM EDT

Originally Posted By fyeguy:

Originally Posted By ColtRifle:
Good info except about the humidity. The ventless units PUT a lot of moisture into a house. I put one in my sister's house and she already had some moisture problems. The vent free unit put that house over the top and she started having problems with mold. We did a few things to solve that (mainly putting in a clothes dryer and a vent system in the bathroom) However, the fact remains that burning a vent free unit in a house WILL INCREASE your moisture.


Can you explain that? Where does the moisture come from? Are you sure the (pre-existing) moisture issues were not from condensation and bad insulation?



Burning gas produces moisture. Look at it this way.....what do you see coming out of the vent pipes on gas heated houses when it's cool outside? You'll see fog rising out.

Why is that? Well because you are seeing the moisture from the burning gas leaving the house and being vented into the atmosphere.

With a vent free unit, you don't have a vent pipe venting combustion by products (one of which is moisture) into the outside air. It is venting everything into your house.

Actually if your house is dry already you will feel warmer with the vent free units because they are adding moisture to your house and warm air feels warmer when you add moisture to it. (Difference between a humid area and a desert area. 90 degrees in southeast TX feels a LOT hotter than 90 degrees in Arizona even though it's the same temp.)

If you have every noticed, an AC unit makes the house feel cooler not just but cooling the air but also by reducing the humidity.

I don't know if that's a good explaination or not.

As far as the Heater Buddys, I have one and we use it once it gets chilly outside to warm the bathroom. My bathroom is small and I have placed it in the bathroom and closed the door. It has never turned off due to lack of oxygen. They are very safe from being knocked over because if you bump it much at all it will turn itself off immediately.



To the OP:
I don't recall what size house you have but I would consider putting two ventfree units on opposite ends of the house. Maybe 15k-30k BTU units depending on the size of your house.

My brother heats his house soley with a vent free blue flame unit (against my advise)and it is a 30k BTU. His insulation level is poor and the house is 2BR 1BA with an additional family room. Probably about 1200 sq ft. It keeps his house fairly comfortable but is a little chilly in the bedrooms.
Link Posted: 11/30/2007 11:28:46 AM EDT
Link Posted: 11/30/2007 3:10:27 PM EDT
I have one of the small Mr Heaters going right now. It is setting on the carpet, the bottlom doesnt get hot, just the front and top. I love this little thing, and will be getting the 20lb tank adapter this year. I leave one of the windows in the living room cracked about a 1/2" but from what I understand its not needed. I turn it on to knock the chill off the living room when I get home and I turn it off before I go to bed.
Link Posted: 11/30/2007 6:41:59 PM EDT
If you get one and plan to use it with the 1lb bottles, get the refill adapter. It will take the cost per 1lb bottle from about $2.50 to about $ 0.20 per fill.

I refill my bottles regularly....as a matter of fact I need to refill bottles tommorow.
Link Posted: 12/1/2007 5:18:45 PM EDT
I'd like to hear more about refill adapters. Can I refill Coleman 1 pound bottles? How about the MSR smaller bottles for the Pocket Rocket stove? 20 pounders?
Any or all of these being fillable at home could offer a lot of flexibility in a SHTF situation, and as much as we camp out, could save some money too. The pig holds 600-650 gallons, a lot of propane, but not portable at all.

$150 might be a little high to plumb a new gas line branch, might be a lot high, dunno yet. I'd pay this guy a few extra dollars, he'd done what he said he'd do every single time, he gets to me quick when there's problems, and he's made at least 3 house calls at no charge, once for a minor problem on a 1 year old furnace he installed, twice for an ongoing problem he wasn't able to solve that visit. Keeping him happy is worth a few extra bucks, but maybe not double the market rate. I'll check around and see what's what.

I'd like to wait till the spring heater sales, save a few bucks for other projects, but every time I add up the Iran situation, I come up with potential petro supply problems, maybe even grid problems, late winter, early 2008. February or March. Odds are if we don't see easily visible preps for war beginning shortly after New Years, it won't happen, so I'll decide on heater buy timing then, IF, I have the furnace guy committed to getting the pipework in. No savings in waiting on the plumbing.

Want to thank everyone who answered, yall saved me some wasted time searching and some potential mistakes too. I appreciate it.
Link Posted: 12/1/2007 6:17:22 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/1/2007 6:23:39 PM EDT by TomJefferson]
Link Posted: 12/1/2007 10:16:02 PM EDT
As for refilling the 1# propane canisters from the 20# tanks, some people say they're more likely to leak after being refilled. I've never done it and I don't know, but I suspect the refilling adds a few percentage points of risk. Other people say they do it all the time with no problems.

As someone mentioned, you might consider the kerosene option, too, as a totally independent source of heat. For $200 or $250 you could easily buy a heater and enough kero to heat a large room for a month or two or three. Say a KeroHeat CT-1100 (11,000 BTU) for $90, six 5-gallon kero containers @ $6.50 each for $32.50, and 30 gallons of K-1 kero for $100, that's a total of $222.50. Each gallon of kero should last somewhere around 10 hours, so depending on how often you run the heater, it can last for a long time. A good place to pick up some info about kero heaters is here.

Link Posted: 12/1/2007 10:52:42 PM EDT
Link Posted: 12/2/2007 6:06:31 AM EDT
I have (5) 1 lb bottles that I have refilled about 4 times so far. No problems with any of them so far. I put a little water on the valve to check for leaks. None so far.

I really like the refill adapter. I warm the 20 lb tank up and freeze the 1 lb bottles. Then refill them one at a time. Took me about 5 min to refill 4 bottles yesterday.


If you warm up the 20 lb tank and freeze the smaller tanks, you should be able to fill it at least 90% within a new one.....maybe more depending on the temps of the bottles. One day I'm going to weigh one of my refilled ones and a new one and see how close I can get.

I also keep a kerosene tower heater around the house. They do work very well and have even less odor than the little Buddy heaters. I plan to keep the kerosene heater around when I complete my new house. If I was to place it on the main floor, I suspect that it will heat my house with ease.
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