Backup Heat for Power Outages: What are the Best Options?
LESLIE: Going up north to Rhode Island where Doug has got a question about heat sources. What can we do for you, Doug?
DOUG: Yeah, hi. Good evening. I appreciate your show and I thank you for all your hard work in providing such wonderful answers.
My question has to do with – I’m looking – considering an alternative source for heat in the event of power loss. And I’m trying to weigh my options and I’m looking at pellet stoves and wood stoves. And I’m wondering what your opinions are and if there are – if there’s anything else that I should be considering.
TOM: Yeah, you should consider a whole-home generator if you’re concerned about power failure. I mean look, it’s not just the heat that you need in a power failure. Have you thought about installing a generator?
DOUG: You know, if I did install one, it would have to be one that just kicks on: one of those whatever-they-call-it, the automatic style?
TOM: Yeah. It’s called – let me explain this to you, Doug. It’s called a “whole-home generator.” It’s a permanently installed appliance. Leslie and I have both had whole home generators installed, and learned first-hand just why they’re so worthwhile. They’re installed outside your house. You can buy one that can cover every single circuit in the house or you could buy a smaller one that would just cover select circuits like, for example, your furnace or your boiler. And when the power fails on the grid, the whole-home generator automatically kicks on and then repowers your entire house.
Now, these don’t run on gasoline. They can run on natural gas or propane, which means you never have to worry about fueling them or finding gasoline to fill a tank, for example. Because that’s what you’d have to do if you had a portable generator. So I would protect my power first.
Now, as to the question about installing some alternative heat source, like a pellet stove or a wood stove, sure, one of the other of those is fine. I think you’ll find maximum efficiency with the pellet stoves. And the most efficient stoves also have their own combustion air supply. That’s where most folks go wrong because if you don’t have an outside combustion air supply, where do you think all that air comes to fuel that fire? It comes from inside your house and that’s the air that you’ve already paid to heat through your heating system. So, you want to have an external combustion air supply to help improve the efficiency.
Does that make sense, Doug?
DOUG: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. I do have natural gas.
DOUG: Yeah, I’ll look into it.
TOM: Good luck, Doug. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.