Clay Pot Heaters: A Simple Emergency Heat Source

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A clay pot heater is a simple and effective emergency heat source. Let’s learn how to make them and what types of candles to use for minimal soot and ash.

Clay Pot Heater

A few days ago we were hit with rain, then snow and wind, sometimes gusting heavily. Tonight they’re predicting more snow. When it’s wet, then cold and windy, the power can go out more often than not. And the temperatures are below freezing, so it can get really cold in here fast! Candles can help provide heat, but they aren’t very efficient.
Enter the clay pot heater.

Candles for Your Clay Pot Heater

Candles do work to provide some heat, but if they have a paraffin base you’ll get smoke and soot. Along with the chemicals from the production fragrances.
A better choice is soy-based or beeswax-based candles that use essential oils.[1] These candles produce almost no smoke making them perfect for a clay pot heater. You can make them yourself and have them unscented if you wish. The size of the candle depends on how large of an area you want to heat. Generally, you can heat a small room with a single votive candle, but larger candles with multiple wicks provide more heat.

Tip: we recommend beeswax candles because they’re easier to find, especially since most soy candles are made from GMO soy. Find beeswax candles here. Find soy candles here.

Other Things You’ll Need

In addition to the candle, you’ll need a few other things.

  • 2-4 bricks taller than your candle
  • Clay or terra cotta pot as wide as your candle, larger if you wish (like a clay planter pot)
  • A screen if you need to keep pets or children away
  • An old cookie sheet or something to place the candle on
  • Matches or a lighter

To make your clay pot heater place the cookie sheet on a table. Place the candle in the center. Place the bricks on two sides of the candle. If you use 4 bricks, they can be placed in a square, but leave space between each one. This will allow airflow to the candle. Turn the clay pot over and place upside down on the bricks, over the candle. Light the candle. Place the screen around the cookie sheet if you need to.
The heat from the candle will permeate the pot and dissipate into the surrounding air, warming the room. A single 6-8 inch clay pot heater can heat an entire room. If you use votive candles, you’ll need to replace them after a while. If you use a jarred candle, it will last much longer.

Clay Pot Heater Precautions

As with any candle, don’t leave them unattended. Using the screen can help with keeping pets and kids away from the flames, but be sure to keep an eye on them. Candles can create a liquid wax flow, so the cookie sheet will help to keep that in check. Look in on your candle often to  be sure the wax isn’t getting out of hand. Candles burned for a long time can use oxygen. If your house is airtight, open a window slightly or open the door occasionally. The smoke from natural candles will be minimal, but you’ll want some airflow if it gets to be a long time. Do not go to bed and leave your candle lit. Use any precaution you would when using candles.
This is meant as an emergency heat source. If you expect your heat to be out for a long time, seek emergency shelter. For a few hours at a time, this device can help keep you from freezing. Layering your clothing and snuggling under blankets can help hold heat close to your body.
Have you ever used a clay pot heater or other emergency heat source? How did it work?

  1. Are Candles Bad For the Air Quality in Your Home? Blue Ox Heating & Air. Accessed Jan 2020.

Clay Pot Heaters: A Simple Emergency Heat Source was written by Debra Maslowski.

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