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re: emergency electric power backup for forced air furnaces?
16 jan 1998
mike albaugh  wrote:

>james guthrie (jguthrie@gov.edmonton.ab.ca) wrote:

>: in view of the impact of the ice storms on eastern ontario, the st. lawrence
>: valley region of quebec, and parts of maine and vermont, it is evident that
>: a weak link in public safety can no longer be ignored. many people have
>; had to be evacuated (hundreds of thousands) because they had lost heat.
>: this is 1/10 of the population of canada.
>
>: most of those people had oil or gas furnaces, but due to the loss of
>: electricity to power the blower fans, the furnaces would not power up.

i guess another big need is water, if it comes from a well with an
electric pump, then lighting, etc...

>	bingo. i worry a lot less about my mom, with a gas-fired convection
>furnace original to her 1929 house, than i would if she had a "modern"
>furnace. yes, she has it checked regularly for co and the like. just
>passed with flying colors. i'd like to get her something more energy
>efficient, but not at risk to her life.

you can't get much more efficient than an unvented gas or kerosine
heater, with an oxygen depletion sensor and co monitor. these have
been used in europe for 30 or 40 years. winrich (800) 755-8403 makes
an 8,000-40,000 btu ul/ansi/aga/icbo certified lp/natural gas log
unvented version that needs no electrical power, with a thermostat
and visible "dancing yellow flames" and a remote control to adjust
their height, if you like entertainment with your heat.
 
>	and power outages are only going to get worse. with de-regulation,
>"increased competitiveness" (read: layoffs and corner-cutting)...

our local electric company has reacted to deregulation by a) unbundling
their bills so the cost of electrical energy (vs fixed fees for stranded
costs, etc.) is now less than 10% of a typical bill, and b) deliberately
undersizing pole transformers by fusing their primaries at 10x the
transformer rating, so in the statistically unlikely event that 4 or 5
neighbors all decide to turn on their hair dryers and toasters at once,
the pole transformer will burn up before its fuse blows. this saves the
utility money, since all they lose in that event is the opportunity to
sell a few kwh to a few customers, and smaller transformers are cheaper. 

>...this sort of thing is going to be much more common in the future.
>maybe not 10% of the population blacked out for a month, but fair-sized
>chunks of the country for a week or two is going to be common.

another way to heat a house is a 6500 watt honda gasoline generator,
which makes 33 kw (112 btu/h) of heat, or an 1800 watt version that
makes 8.8 kw of heat, with a simple exhaust gas heat exchanger that
ends up with the exhaust outside the house. heat your house in the
winter while making the meter run backwards...

>	the non-electric furnace need not be much less efficient than
>an electric one, but it will likely be more expensive in initial outlay...

not necessarily. home depot also sells a small portable unvented 30k
btu/h gas heater with ods and thermostat for $199. it's made in china
and distributed by universal heating, inc., at (800) 404-5106. my local
propane companies will install large outdoor tanks for free... 

>...otoh, i'd guess that such units would be generally better designed
>and constructed all around, because of their niche market, so they might
>have a pretty short payback versus a junk furnace from hvac-r-us :-)

so they might. will hvac-r-us respond with cheaper more efficient
non-electric furnaces, or counter with iaq scare tactics?

nick




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