Monday, December 23, 2013

Home Front: candle powered convection heater

Here is a little trick that I saw and wanted to share it with you all. The good folks at Natural Cures Not Medicine posted this, and I was forwarded it by a few people when it did the rounds on Facebook. Now, I'm all in favor of natural and alternative treatments and traditional wisdom, but as Tim Minchen said, in "Storm"  ... ""By definition", I begin, "Alternative Medicine", I continue,"Has either not been proved to work, or been proved not to work. Do you know what they call 'alternative medicine' that's been proved to work? Medicine...."
Ikea GLIMMA unscented tealight candles

So, that aside .... here is the very cool trick.

Through the use of tea-light candles, which are pretty ubiquitous, two clay flower pots, which are even more ubiquitous and a cake tin it is possible to make a very simple radiant space hater. Obviously, as with any fire you will be wanting to do this in a ventilated area, carbon monoxide is not your friend. 

By placing one pot over the other, with the candle inside, you create a space that not only traps the radiant heat of the candle, as it heats up the inner pot, but all that heat is not only stored in that inner pot, but due to the air space between the two pots, convection takes hold and you get more bang for your buck. The cake tin gives you a stable, fireproof base,  allows you to move the rig once lit, and also provides a venting space for the candle to "breathe".

Cool air flows via the open top of the cake tin the two sets of nested posts are resting on, and between the base of the outer pot over and around the inner pot, then up through the drain holes and up into your room. This action not only draws heat from the inner pot heat-sink, but also moves that air through the room, spreading out all that heat more efficiently than a stand alone candle like a passive fan. 

The tea light candles are just a convenient size, cheep and plentiful but any candle that fits in the pots you use would do. 

Here's the original YouTube clip in the article, demonstrating the heater in effect.


  1. Hello Josh,

    This technique is a perfect example of old meets new - my grandfather talked about how they would "Jerry" heaters on Liberty ships back in WW2. No flower pots but they used the copper spittoons - apparently the ship had loads of them, generic pots that could be used for anything, especially for boiling water should the ship be quarantined or as chamber pots if the ship doubled as a ward. Another interesting fact is that they would try to find any metal they could to place behind the heater to direct it to the bunk beds - sometimes 4 tall.

    Due to the known German threat hundreds of watchmen were on duty, each room had 4 officers, each bay had anywhere from 200 to 400 men in 3 stacked beds. On rotations the watch commander would have his NCOIC wake alternating bunks for duty. The Liberties were not designed or built for war, rather cargo - he was aboard two that sank - that SS Manasseh Cutler, struck and sunk in the gulf of Aden in 1943 then again on the SS Samouri in the gulf of Aden (which I named my son for). Both ships were lost, the human cost was horrific. Yet my stubborn Irish grandfather managed to get picked up and survived both times along with a handful of others each time.

    He always joked he was part fish.

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