Posts Tagged ‘alternative heating’

History speaks often of cooking with lamp stoves, and you can indeed cook over an oil lamp provided you have the right contrivance to do so, but more often what the writer is speaking of is a lampstove, which is very similar to an oil lamp, but constructed more for heat than light. It’s too bad these little gizmos still weren’t available as they’d make an ideal survival and preparedness stove. Just like our oil lamps, kerosene was used as a fuel. You could also get little stove tops to put on top of a glass lamp chimney, and place a pot on top for heating, as shown to the left here. Sears and Roebucks sold them for .35 cents a dozen! Ain’t that a bargain? Maybe some industrious prepper will glean onto the idea and resurrect it, bringing a bit of the past to life in these times. Any ways, here’s a story from 1887 which describes one woman’s use of these old, which were then new, lampstoves. If you are interested in learning more of these devices, you can go to The Lampworks for a good piece on their history.


One That Rivaled Aladdin’s.

So successful was the summer’s campaign over the fire of the small lamp-stove that Abbie planned to bring home a larger one the next year. During the winter she examined the circulars of all the rival lamp-stove manufacturers, and was utterly bewildered by their diversity and the merits of each and consequent demerits off all other kinds as described therein. In despair,—but as she afterward thought, under the direction of her guardian angel,—one day she walked into a store and proceeded to buy something entirely different from what she had planned; instead of one large stove with four wicks she selected two small ones having two wicks each. These cost two dollars and fifty cents each. An oven at one dollar and fifty cents and an extension top at seventy-five cents completed her purchase.

With the oven on one lamp and the extension top on the other nearly as much work could be done as on the large stoves costing twice as much as she had spent. This arrangement had the advantage of being easily moved from room to room and one could be used in one place, the other in another.

At wholesale rates, (not counting the cost of the barrel, which was to be returned) a barrel of best kerosene costs a trifle less than five dollars. This lasted through the summer season, about three months, providing both fuel and lights. An equal value of wood or coal would have been exhausted in about half the time.

Sometimes the two stoves were used in the wash-room, supplying all the fire needed for a small washing. They were set upon the floor, one under each end of a flat-bottomed wash boiler, thus plenty of water could be heated for the preliminary steps and later the clothes were boiled there.

Ironing day was robbed of half its terrors, for the small stoves would keep five flatirons ready, two heating on each, while the fifth was in use. Sometimes three irons would be sufficient, and then one stove would do this work while the other with the oven prepared the dinner of baked potatoes and roast meat, or a kettle of jelly or preserves could be easily watched while the ironing was in progress. Since the stove and irons could be placed on or near the table it became an easy matter to sit down to iron, as there would be no wearisome getting up and down to go to the stove. A high stool or chair is best for this work.

As these small stoves cost less than the large one Miss Fletcher had intended buying, she invested the surplus in various utensils, selected with reference to the lamp-stoves but also useful with a range. Among these was an eight quart kettle of granite ware which proved exceedingly useful.

The advantage of granite ware over iron and tin is that it heats quickly and if watched there is little danger of burning, and it gives no disagreeable taste to its contents, however long they may remain in it.

Sometimes this kettle was used for frying doughnuts or fish, either of which were easily done over the little stove though it gave hardly enough heat to deep fat for croquettes or fish-balls. A few slices of raw potato were always put in the fat while frying doughnuts to absorb the disagreeable odor and clarify the fat.

After the frying was over the fat was strained into a basin or pail to cool and the kettle was wiped with soft paper which absorbed most of the remaining grease and washing was then an easy task.

When a steamed pudding was on the dinner bill of fare the mixture was put in a small lard pail which was set on a trivet or iron ring in this kettle half filled with boiling water. Potatoes or other vegetables could be put in around the pudding pail, and a piece of fish on a plate in a steamer set on top of the kettle; thus one lamp would cook the dinner. When the vegetables had to be put in after the pudding had begun to cook, that it might not settle, they were put in one by one, that the water need not stop boiling.

A steam cooker is a great convenience for a range and is ‘still more useful with an oil stove. Of these there are many varieties and nearly all are good.

The other utensils most frequently used were the small frying-pan and double boiler mentioned before and one or two sauce-pans of different sizes.

While it requires some head work to do all the cooking for a family over these small stoves, it can be done easily and ! with much less discomfort than over the kitchen range. It is a great convenience to have an oven that can be hot for baking five minutes after the fire is lighted.

Raised bread, which in summer time too often suffers from standing over night because it must be baked by the morning fire, in this household was now mixed in the morning and baked either at noon or night.

If a specially slow oven was required for anything, but one wick was lighted. Small pans for cake and bread were found best for convenience in moving about in the small oven.

Milk toast was a favorite supper dish with the Fletcher family and at first Abbie was doubtful of the possibility of toasting bread over her lamps, but she found that it could be done satisfactorily. First the milk was scalded in a pail set in a sauce-pan of hot water, then the water was emptied, the sauce-pan wiped dry and one tablespoonful of butter for each pint of milk (or two if part water was to be used) put in. When the butter was melted and hot, one tablespoonful of flour for each cupful of liquid was added and allowed to cook in the hot butter, but not to brown. Then the milk was gradually added and the gravy beaten smooth.

One evening a small child in the family expressed a desire for some popcorn. At first it was denied as there was no fire and plenty of coals were thought essential for its preparation. But someone doubtfully said, “We might try the lamp stove.” So it was lighted and by moving the popper over the lamp precisely as if it were a bed of glowing coals the corn was successfully popped. A few trials showed just the right distance from the blaze and the steady heat produced a superior article in less time than is required for popping over coals. If corn-balls are desired one stove can be used for popping the corn while the molasses is boiling on the other.

The best work over a lamp-stove will always be done when it is full of oil; as it burns low the wicks char rapidly and the draught is not as good.

It is not advisable to let a lamp burn too long or the whole framework will become heated; then there is more danger of accidents and greater inconvenience in handling.

Occasionally carelessness in turning up the wicks, or a sudden current of air would result in a heavy coating of lamp black over the outside of kettles or the inside of the oven. The latter is rather a terrible occurrence and should be carefully guarded against. But only once or twice in the whole season did Mis; Fletcher have trouble in this direction, then the oven was cleaned with a stiff brush first and afterward with soft paper before washing.

Naturally an oven above the fire as this is gives a more thorough bake on the bottom than the top of any article. On this account earthen plates are preferable to tin for pies, and cake tins should be lined with one or more thicknesses of paper.

In the early fall, before stoves are set up or furnace fires lighted, if one of these stoves is left burning in a room for an hour it will banish the chilly atmosphere which often brings colds and sickness.

Many house plants might be saved if this were left burning near them through a cold winter night, and water pipes and vegetables in the cellar can in like manner be saved from freezing.

For camp life in a small cottage an oil-stove is much better than an ordinary stove. Where hot water is required in sudden sickness and in the thousand and one emergencies of everyday life the little lamp-stoves, if well treated, will be found to be faithful friends.


The ‘Peak Oil’ theory seems to be making a bit of a comeback, not surprisingly, but it still reeks of what I call Apocolypsia Nervousa. “What the heck is that” you ask? It’s simply the urge by some to become afraid of the things to come. The loss of our oil supplies and easy living they bring us is too much to bear by some people, and so they envision a worst case scenario and think it means the end of the world for us. This isn’t rightly so, and the theory behind Peak Oil has some factual problems that distort our perception of what it really means for our future.

What does peak oil really mean for us today? Well, to answer that we have to look at what it really is, and not automatically buy into some of the OMG fads surrounding it. Simply put, there are really two definitions behind peak oil. One definition simply states that oil reaches its highest point of production, and then declines from that point forward. Another definition says that the peak is at its highest level of quantity. Given these two definitions are both factual, we have to look at what this means for us today.

We already are on the downward trend of supply based upon the definition that peak oil means the highest level of supply. Pretty much everyone can agree that there is no more oil being made today, and that it appears to be a byproduct of ancient carbon based life forms having been crushed and ground under tons of pressure and subjected to high temperature. I know, that’s an incredibly simplistic statement and maybe not necessarily 100% correct, but I’m not writing a book here, so go with the flow. We can manufacture carbon based fuels, and we do that today by making ethanol. And please don’t cry the carbon neutral song, there is no such thing. Carbon based fuels emit CO2 no matter how you slice the loaf. It’s still bread, just a different name for it.

What we really need to be looking at here is not peak quantity, but peak production. It’s all a matter of the supply and demand laws of economics, not the physical need and availability of the product. At some point and time, unless the Lord returns before that point, we will in fact run out of what we have come to call ‘fossil fuels.’ When that happens all we will have is what we can manufacture, i.e. ethanol etc.

It costs money to extract this oil from the ground, and those who invest in these companies expect to make a profit from their investments. As the costs to retrieve this product increase, the increase is passed along to the consumer. And unfortunately, we also have to remember that there will be speculators involved in the investments, artificially driving the costs of oil higher than they should be. Remember the price hikes in the Hurricane Katrina era? But in reality, we will see these true costs continue upward in an irreversible trend, increasing the bottom line cost of energy year after year. At some point and time, the cost will exceed our ability to pay for the oil we use. The law of supply and demand will suggest that the cost should go down, but in reality there will be no more reduction in the price. Only the wealthiest will be able to afford the treats that oil can bring us.

And that’s the point we preppers and survivalists need to be on the watch for. And I believe that point will be coming within the next few years. That point will arrive at different times depending upon your own financial situation, but why waste time waiting for the inevitable? Get ready for that time now, and avoid the pain that oil withdrawal symptoms will provide.

I’ve never been a fan of trying to survive in the big cities as it will be near impossible to do so. That’s why I urge everyone to get the heck out of Dodge today. Buy your own little piece of land in the sparsely populated ‘burbs, or even better in the rural regions of wide open farmlands or forests. With your own piece of property set up as a survival homestead you can beat the heat and prepare for your own peak oil event. Many homes are heated by oil fired furnaces and boilers. Get rid of them and either install biofuels or wood fired units, or go electric and install your own solar panels and wind turbines.

Equip your vehicles to run off of ethanol, and learn how to produce your own fuel. Learn how to produce your own alcohol based fuels. When the automobile was first invented, motors ran on alcohol fuels. Some of the world’s fastest race cars run on alcohol as a fuel. Who knows, you could wind up with a very profitable business by producing fuel for sale or barter down the road. Peak oil is going to cause some very high energy prices in the coming times, and anything you can do now to wean yourself off of these carbon based fossil fuels will only benefit you in the long run.

Heating and refrigeration, as well as transportation are the primary uses of carbon based fuels today, but we don’t necessarily have to rely on fossil fuels for these needs. We can use alternative power sources, such as solar and wind for some of our electrical needs, geothermal for heating and cooling our homes and so forth. As the availability of this technology increases the cost come down, and as the technology improves, so doesn’t the efficiency. It’s worth looking into making the switch today. And this is also based upon the supply and demand laws of economics.

As we get closer to the time of peak production the demand for these alternatives will be increasing, also increasing the costs for this technology. You can survive the coming peak oil crisis, but only if you take the steps to prepare for it now.

Funny thing about winter storms like the central east coast just floundered through. They tend to cause power outages. Sometimes just a little one afflicting a single street or block with inconvenience, and other times widespread outages cause tens of thousands to lose power. And the more that lose power, the longer it takes to get everyone back on line. Part of this reason is because overloads tend to keep the circuit breakers on the grid tripping to the off position. One way we can all help prevent these overloads is to turn your branch and main breakers off until you are sure the power is back on. if you are not certain, turn the main breaker on and one branch that feeds current to a lamp. If the lamp works you’re good to go. If not, BRRRR.

Unfortunately, one of the vital needs in a snowstorm is heat, and when the lights go out, most of us don’t have it. Will we ever learn? There are some things you can do to provide alternative heating, though. If you have a fireplace, even though they are incredibly inefficient, you can get a fire going in it for both heat and cooking. A word of warning here, make sure you’ve had your chimney inspected before using the fireplace, especially if it hasn’t seen use for quite some time. Firewood should be kept at hand all the time, but if need be, you can burn scrap wood in it if you can find it.

Try to stay away from green wood, as well as treated lumber and engineered wood [products, such as MDF, chipboard etc. these products contain chemicals that can cause some health problems when burned in a fireplace. Not all of the chemicals will be consumed and vacate through the chimney. You should also have a screen in front of the opening to prevent sparks and cinders from flying out onto the floor as well.

A wood stove is a better choice as they are much more effective at heating, and they are easier to cook on, as well. The same thoughts concerning firewood goes for wood stoves as well. And don’t forget to have the system inspected. Creosote should be cleaned out of the stack and chimney as well to prevent build up and causing a chimney fire. A funny note here regards a gentleman who proudly told me about his new wood pellet stove that he bought for heating. Pretty proud of himself, he was. Took care of his emergency heating needs and helped stop global warming by buying an environmentally friendly appliance. He was pretty ticked when I asked him what he was going to do when the power goes out. After all, I mentioned, those things require electricity to operate.

Possible the best alternative emergency backup is the top hat type of heaters though. Names like Kerosun, Omni and others are all widely available, and they work well. I’ve had them before, and I plan to buy another one as well. The units run on kerosene, which is also a fairly easily obtained fuel. In a pinch, you can also siphon some #2 heating fuel from your furnace’s fuel tank. I’ve done it before, so I know it works. It’s a little dirtier than K1, but it still does the job, and in an emergency, that’s what counts. They use a lot of oxygen so you need to have a door or window cracked open when you run them. However, the heat output is so great that you won’t notice the draft at all. They’re also available in a propane powered model.

Another type of heater fits onto the top of a twenty gallon propane tank, and operates as a radiant heater, as opposed to the convection type of heater the top hats are. These work pretty well, but are more dangerous, especially with children and pets in the room. The fuel is probably easier to obtain though as many convenience stores have tank exchange program. These are the same tanks most barbecue grill operate on. the heaters are called catalytic heaters and can be obtained fairly inexpensively at hardware and many department sporting goods stores.

Now that the storm has passed, and many have suffered in the cold, perhaps it’s a good time to stop and consider an emergency preparedness plan. Some people think that these plans only apply to hurricanes, but they are needed for any calamity that you may encounter. A simple snowstorm can have devastating affects if it turns ugly and shuts everything down.

Plan ahead and when the unexpected happens you won’t have to sit in a dark house freezing your body parts off. Start now and make a list of some of the things you might need to prepare for, such as snowstorms, flooding, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes etc. then think about what you think you’ll need to weather the storm, and keep you and your loved ones safe from the elements. Stock up on food, water and alternative heating and cooking fuels. Buy some equipment now, so you won’t have to go without later, and learn how to use it before you need it.

Like Ben Franklin said, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.

For more on preparedness and survival skills, please check out my show here:Listen to D.l.soucy on Blog Talk Radio

If you have something to add, or ask a question, feel free to leave a comment.