questionswhat's the safest way to heat our house if the…

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I picked up a propane heater to use when the power was out. It heats fast, and it runs for a few days off of a 20lb tank of propane.

The only downside is they're kind of on the expensive side (but cheaper than a generator -- and quieter too).

http://www.lowes.com/pd_108280-88644-RA18LPL_0__?productId=3262159&Ntt=propane+heater&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNtt%3Dpropane%2Bheater&facetInfo=

I know you have kids, so the best thing I can suggest is placing it in a low traffic area (downstairs since heat goes up) and talk to your kids about the dangers of playing around the heater. As with any gas burning heat source, you just have to take proper precautions and you'll be fine.

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As far as I know (and I am no expert) if you have an older gas furnace, it has a pilot light, and that does not need electricity. The problem is that your thermostat probably does. IDK if there is a manual over ride?
If you are looking for a solution for sometime this week I think a generator outside your house running electric heaters inside is safest IMO. I would try to get the ones that have the knock over safety where if they are not up right they turn off; especially with children in the house. If that is not an option you can get what we use when building houses in the winter which is a propane heater. Throws a lot of heat and propane can’t be bumped and spilled all over the floor. There are mountable heads for one room or big warehouse sizes that can do something like 2200sq.ft. Try HomeDepot. If you think you are going to be without power for many days think about getting multiple tanks or go to a wielding supply or heavy equipment shop and get forklift or 99lb size tanks.

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@philosopherott: @philosopherott: Without a blower motor, getting your gas-powered furnace working won't matter. The heat would be in the wrong place.

A propane heater in the right place would be the best option. But if you use it inside and can't vent the exhaust outside, you absolutely need a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector. They don't give off much if there's plenty of oxygen, and houses aren't exactly airtight, but you have to be very cautious.

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By the way, in case you're wondering, a gallon of Propane will provide 91,330 BTUs. This means that if you're heating your home on full blast with an 18000 BTU heater, you'll get ~4.5 hours per gallon.

A 5 gallon tank is filled at max capacity 4.5 gallons (less if it's a Blue Rhino exchange tank at 4 gallons).

This means that you'll get about 18 hours of heat out of your heater if you run it full blast the entire time.

We were never able to run it full blast all the time -- just when we first turned it on, then at about 1/3 capacity to maintain the heat. I was getting 3-5 days of use out of a tank when we used it during winter outages.

Whatever you do, be sure the heater you are using is rated for indoor use (some Propane heaters require ventilation or you'll suffer from carbon-monoxide poisoning). I suggest picking up a CO detector as well.

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@omnichad: Good call, did not think about the blower.

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These propane heaters are very much not a good idea to be used indoors. They are only (per manufacturers recommendations) only to be used in a well ventilated area. Inside your house is NOT a well ventilated area. These do produce both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and can kill you.

The best answer is to use generator (outside, well away from the house, with the windows closed) to run electric heaters.

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Reading the proposals and complications offered by those who know much more about me on this issue, I'm wondering if the "best" short-term solution might be to see if you know someone with a generator who might take you in for a night, or round up all the blankets, all the sweatpants, all the coats, etc. and plan to cuddle up together if the power goes out.

Best of luck!

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not a good option, but a useful one: candles make heat. every candle burning in a room will produce about one to two degrees worth of heat. so get everyone together in small room and light a few candles out of reach/knock over ability of the kids.
do you have a boiler heater? if so all you need is a nine volt battery to trip the thermostat, there is no blower.

out of curiousness: how are you going to be able to eat/feed the kids if you have no power to make warm food?

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I doubt it will come to eating the kids, if I need to feed them I have a nice propane grill with a burner.

Hit some home improvement stores tonight and the only propane heaters safe for indoor use were too small and used a camp stove style tank or too large and needed a 100lb tank.

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Hello fellow Sandlapper. (South Carolinian for people from elsewhere)

I am glad you are planning ahead. Personally, I am not very worried. The power companies in this area are generally OVER prepared for these freezing rains and have many trucks on the road when there is this type of forecast. I am more worried about freezing pipes and am turning on a slow drip to keep the water flowing.

Stay warm!

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I second the propane tank-top heaters. While they are only 'authorized' by the manufacturer for use outdoors or in well ventilated areas, propane burns very clean. Ranges/Ovens that use propane don't vent fumes outdoors. A CO detector is still a good idea.
We used one for about a week after a storm last year, and it kept the 2000 sq ft. house at a comfortable 65 degrees. Just be sure to place it well away from anything that is flamable, and check for leaks after connecting to the tank valve.
If you have a gas range, you can also use your oven to heat the house without any additional purchase.

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The ugly weather has begun in my area of SC. Bundle up!

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You should consider installing a wall mounted gas heater as a permanent backup. Something that is safe for indoor use and will always be there in an emergency.

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One other last-minute suggestion: remember that you really don't have to heat the whole house. As long as you have a room or two that's livable, everything else can be left unheated. Close doors to unused rooms so that any heat moving/rising into them will not get far. Tell your kids you're having an inside camp-out, complete with blankets and pillows on the floor and if feasible, a "tent" made of a sheet pulled over the couch and a couple of dining room chairs. Put a couple of candles inside a large pan or soup pot to make a "campfire" and tell bedtime stories around it. Depending on your personal energy level, it's possible to drag a mattress into one of the warm rooms for the grown-ups to sleep on. The likelihood of needing to camp out for more than a short while is pretty small, from what I understand, and with any luck the kids can think of it as an adventure and the grown-ups will manage not to go totally bonkers. Board games, anyone?

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Safer but requiring a little more planning-pack up the kids and head down to the shore. Savannah usually avoids this, and a couple nights in a hotel are probably cheaper than the alternatives.

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If you go with a generator you can just plug in your furnace and run the blower off of it.