Inexpensive heating for elderly/handicapped. Etc. : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I am speaking on home preparation at a Y2K Expo June 4/5 and would like more info. about ways that elderly or handicapped can heat a room to stay in during outages. Has to be something both inexpensive and physically easy for them to handle. Something someone in a wheelchair could do. Anyone know how much heat a Coleman lantern puts out? A Petromax/Britelyt lantern?

-- Shivani Arjuna (, June 02, 1999


A coleman lantern isn't going to cut it, for an already fragile person (unless they're in a closet). We bought a wall mounted propane heater that is vent free, has an oxygen level sensor and thermostat.It was the most economical way to go, and still be able to heat a large room. Jim Lord discussed this form of heat in his "Tips of the Week" column on Westergaard's site. Don't run out of propane!

-- Will continue (, June 02, 1999.

Back again!! A bathroom would suffice for the lantern theory....hate to be there too long, though! What part of the country are these folks living in, in January? I'm from Wyoming and forget that alot of winters don't see 35 below, with a wind-chill of 65 below zero, (duh).

-- Will continue (, June 02, 1999.

Before investing in propane, check with local fire department to see whether there are legal limits on how much you can store in/near a house or apartment. Check to see whether the amount you want will void your fire insurance (even though legally allowed). Read some of the discussions on propane, and decide if you're comfortable with the risks.

Take a look at Alco-Brite ( They have a little freestanding room-heater thingy (technical term, sorry). I'm waiting for a crate of their canned heat, to test as heating/cooking fuel, so I'm not *advocating* it, just suggesting you check it out.

-- bw (home@puget.sound), June 02, 1999.


A large propane heater vented through a window will cost about $US 150.00. You will also be able to cook with it. An alladin oil lamp is warm and if used in a bathroom... might warm you up a little. In parts of Japan, some of the country people heat up a very hot bath, warm up in a bath for 30 minutes or so, and jump under the blankets. This seems to work in the freezing temperature range. I've done it and was miserable. I think $US 150.00 is as low as you can go for brand new.

Sincerely, Stan Faryna

-- Stan Faryna (, June 02, 1999.

I agree that propane is a good choice for heat, the problem is the storage. The tanks MUST be outside. Some apartments do not have anyway to manage this.


-- Brian (, June 02, 1999.

Shivani - My very elderly parents (still managing in their home somehow) are sight-impaired (one has no peripheral vision, the other has no central vision). One has a drinking problem. They can sort of manage with their wood stoves, except that one frequently forgets to close the door all the way, and managed to start a fire in the garage (which a passing neighbor saw and put out) by placing the container of cooling ashes someplace combustible.

So, fire hazard is a major issue with them. Can't trust them with anything involving gasoline (e.g., generator) or matches. They can safely run battery-operated equipment, but are not especially capable of changing the batteries. This really limits a lot of the options (and it's the reason I'll be bringing them down to my place). Hope you come up with some good ideas for your expo that take these constraints into consideration, too.

I don't know if there is any information to share yet, but I understand that a nearby town (Arlington, MA) is taking community outreach very seriously, including pushing landlords to ensure that elderly housing is sufficiently heated. Calling the town manager's office (781-646-1000) could put you in touch with the emergency coordinator who might have some ideas for you.

Good luck!

-- Brooks (, June 02, 1999.

A kerosene heater is IMHO the cheapest way to stay warm. Unfortunately, filling the darn thing every 12 hours might be a little much for an elderly or handicapped person. Contrary to what I have seen on this site, kerosene, in its original steel container, unopened, will remain fresh for several years. This last winter, I opened a can of K1 that I have had for 7 years. The can's exterior was rusted in places, and the lid was a bear to get off, but the K1 was absolutely clear, and burned wonderfully... (no smoke)

Regarding a white gas lantern, they emit carbon monoxide at a higher rate than any kerosene heater I know of... It would be a major bummer to ride out 010100, only to succumb to CO poisoning...

Buy a CO detector with whatever alternative heat source you use!!! The $30-$50 is cheap insurance....

gettin' scratched,

The Dog

-- Dog (, June 02, 1999.

To The Dog:

I'm a near-elderly Cat lady but you woke me up good.

WHERE can one find kerosene in "original steel containers"?

I've been having it pumped - 5 gallons into a new gas can at a time - for $15.00 or so a whack whenever I can. It comes pre-canned in steel? WHERE?


-- Scat (, June 02, 1999.

Shivani -

a petromax will put out roughly 10,000 BTU with the stove attachment, but it needs to be refilled regularly and pumping it up to pressurize it is NOT easy - definitely not the way to go for elderly or disabled...


-- Arlin H. Adams (, June 02, 1999.

It seems to me that no one is seeing the obvious. If Y2K is really bad, the elderly and handicapped are going to need to be "adopted" by people who can do "foster care" (my own terms, for want of better) for them. Elderly people who can just barely make it alone under the best of circumstances, may need to be taken care of in dire circumstances.

I call for an "adopt a geezer" program.

-- sally strackbein (, June 02, 1999.


This really concerns me and I have been messing with the idea of a charcoal heater. The idea is to burn the charcoal in a container and have it vented outside using metal dryer exhaust pipe (dirt cheap, 8' long). The main risk is the venting but this would not be a hard problem to assure the fumes are removed from the area. Charcoal has many advantages over other fuel. It burns clean, easy to store, safe to store, easy to make, high efficiency, relatively cheap and available at many locations.

It would be easy to wrap copper pipe around the "heater" and have water run through it from - to a five gallon pail.


You should be able to buy Kerosene at a building supply - hardware store in 5 gallon metal pails

-- Brian (, June 02, 1999.

I remember from my student days,one way to keep warm was to sit in a sleeping bag in a chair with feet on a hotwater bottle which was at the bottom of the bag.!Mind you,you can't get up in a hurry !Just a thought.

-- Chris (, June 02, 1999.

Yes, Sally, you are right. Adopt them! The best way to keep our elderly parents and neighbors warm is to do it for them. Bring them into your warm house, and tend the woodstove, kero heater, etc. yourself. Y2K will see a return to extended families under one roof. We will all need one another's skills and wisdom.

-- DMH (not@this.time), June 02, 1999.

Sally, In line with your "adopt a geezer" idea, one of the prep items I will be looking for this year is a used red flyer wagon (and perhaps also a snow flying saucer) so I can make the rounds to the elderly in my area with water and the means to prepare a hot meal. Visits once or twice a day could also be the basis for refilling a kerosene space heater or whatever other safety housekeeping measures could keep the old folks going in their home. (I'm willing to turn my home into the local y2K geriatrics center, but I think that would be too stressful for my parents, so I am exploring ways to reach out.)

-- Brooks (, June 02, 1999.

To the Cat-lady (WOOF!)

Home Base

Home Depot



Just to name a few... but then that is here in New Mexico, maybe different where you are....


The Dog

-- Dog (, June 02, 1999.

Kerosene heaters and safety rules:

-- Linkmeister (, June 02, 1999.


-- && (&&@&&.&), June 02, 1999.

Brian - Charcoal puts out copious quantities of carbon monoxide. Any system that has enough draft to keep the heated area free for CO will have to have a LOT of the heat zoom up the flue. Also, the flexible metal dryer duct that I am familiar with is not solid metal but wrapped/crimped ribbon with a sliding joint that is not air tight.

-- Ken Seger (, June 02, 1999.

Hey Brian and others--

I posted a while back on a heating system I developed out of necessity because we rent and can not install a wood stove in our humble abode.

It basically runs backward to what most conventional stoves look like. It is installed outside and the hot air from the collector is piped (blown) inside through the dryer vent, which is already installed through the outside wall. I am considering a below ground,brick lined fire box, in which I can burn a variety of products. I simply dig a 3'x3'x2' hole just at the outside wall where the vent is. Line with brick, 5/8 metal plate for a lid, stove pipe (double walled, like wood stove chimney) and the collector. The hot air is not contaminated with smoke and is pushed inside with a 12v car heater fan, or with a high capacity fan run with the generator for short hot bursts.

I have on my to do list, finding the availability of coal in this area. Many homes used this when I was growing up. Well on the East coast anyway

If the weather is severe, we will put double blankets spaced 6 inches apart from celing to floor in front of all windows and doors. The air space between the blankets acts as an insulating barrier. When coming in or out doors, the blankets spaced 2' apart are used like a old fashioned entry way, which keeps the majority of the cold air from entering the room (or warm air from escaping).

I have the drawings made up on the collector but I haven't gotten them posted yet. If you would like to see what I've come up with email me and as always there is no charge for helping folks. You would need someone to help out with the handywork if that kind of thing is not your cup of tea.

PS Good ideas always welcomed also. Peace be with you.

-- unspun@lright (, June 02, 1999.

the most basic way to keep warm would be with a ski suit on, with several pairs of sweats on underneath it. solves the problem of fuel storage. now all they need is a small stove to heat some water for hot chocolate or ramen soup, to go with sandwiches. i recommend peanut butter sandwiches, nutritious and lots of calories to counteract cold.

-- jocelyne slough (, June 03, 1999.

Along the same lines as Jocelyne, I would suggest two or three pairs of thermal undermear, plus one of those big fluffy russian hats. Plus calories, plus cats.

It's a mild and sunny winter's day down here

-- humpty (, June 03, 1999.

Yes, the safest method of keeping warm is layering with ski-type clothes. Polartec is light, soft, warm, wicks away moisture.

About warm food -- the elderly have constipation problems, which get worse with inactivity. Cold shut-down winter = less normal physical movement. Hot chocolate tastes great but also is a diuretic (makes ya pee) which causes loss of fluids; also munchie drive to placate stomach. So, if hot chocolate is used, make sure there are munchies and *plenty* of other liquids.

Those boxed fruit juices are good -- no breaking glass from arthritic or numbed mittened cold hands. For muchies, dehydrated fruits, nuts, crackers are the standard but also contribute to constipation. Make sure you have plenty of prune juice on hand. Trader Joe's has the BEST and MOST EFFECTIVE prune juice, called Prune Plum Juice.

We're stocking some Ensure, and there are several similar formulas out there. Quick & easy can of liquid nutrition. Think "Deep Impact." (Was that the movie?)

The elderly in times of crisis do better when monitored. If they are flummoxed by changing conditions they may be forgetful and leave that pot on the fire. The house burning down and spreading down the block won't help anybody.

Big issue and there will have to be neighborhood watches for the elderly.

xxxxxxxx xxx

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, June 03, 1999.

If you have a way to store a big tank of propane- ie: live in a house not an apt,, I think a vent-free propane wall heater is the way to go. We use one for back-up heat and it works well- especially when its 20 below on down- we appreciate the assist to the wood then. They are under $500 and very easy to use. some come with fans but you don't need to use them- they warm by radiant heat. Some states do not allow them. If that is the case in your area and you can't get one in, try a vented gas heater- they cost more but they come in wood stove type forms and fireplace inserts, etc- I would think just about anyone could safely use one of these.

-- anita (, June 03, 1999.

Inexpensive heating for elderly/handicapped. Etc. I haven't seen anyone mention insulation, yet. A well-insulated room can be kept quite comfortable with a very modest heat source.

As it turns out, air is a good insulator. If you can obtain enough bedsheets (thrift stores, yard sales, throwaways, etc.) or blankets, or anything like that, line the walls and ceiling with them. You can attach them to the wall and ceiling surfaces with anything that does the job. Bathtub caulk comes to mind (cheap); so does duct tape (expensive). An air gap of about 1/4 in. should do the trick.

Still too much leakage? Line the bedsheets with aluminum foil. Our local 99-cent store sells 25 sq. ft. rolls of it for 50 cents. So what if it looks like the dinner's-eye view of a dutch oven. It will help keep you warm.

Case in point is a vet I knew a few years ago that lived in a dome tent. When I asked him when he planned to start his trek south for the winter, he said he wasn't going anywhere, and told me where to find him. He stayed in the same place during the Oregon winter, living in his tent.

When I went to visit him one day, I saw that he had obtained some scrap RV insulation that had been discarded from an RV detailer. The shop was eager to get rid of it; it cost them money to have it hauled away. He lined the outside of his tent with the insulation by taping the pieces together, and throwing it over the tent. Inside, the temperature was warm enough for shirtsleeves. Short shirtsleeves. His heat source? He had two: a candle, and himself. I had to leave after a half hour got too hot with the two of us in there.

While on the subject of tents, many tents can be set up without the need for ground stakes. If you can get one that will fit inside the living room (or any other room), you can do without heaters as long as you are in the tent. Get enough plastic tarps to throw over the tent for crude, but effective insulation (I've done really does work). Again, it may look crazy, but it will get you through the winter.

Another potential source of information is your local fire department. Many departments really push community involvement these days, and the fire fighters are cross trained in an ever- widening range of related fields that I sometimes wonder if they can accurately be called fire fighters any more.

More and more departments are adopting community outreach programs, and they are really enthusiastic about helping anybody who asks. If you tell them what you want to do, they can, and probably will, help you plan how to deal with the problems associated with indoor portable heaters.

-- LP (, June 03, 1999.

LP, the idea of insulating a tent was a good one. In homes windows cause a lot of heat loss. Having sheets of that insulation material to tape over windows should help. If there are any south facing windows I have seen plans for simple solar window boxes that you mount outside the window and they heat the air and it passes into the room. Might help.

-- Linda (, June 04, 1999.


"Might help."

No doubt in my mind. Will help. It doesn't matter if you reach your goal in one giant leap, or in a succession of little steps, as long as you get there.

-- LP (, June 05, 1999.

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