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Low Level Heating Ideas For Mine Buildings

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Looking for ideas for keeping my little mine buildings at around the 35 to 40 degree range during the long cold Alaska winter.

I have a reasonable amount of insulation on the walls and ceiling that will help hold in what heat is produced. Total sq. ft area is only about 200.

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Propane seems easy all around, oil drip stove requires no electricity. How about coal? I think it is $65 a ton here in Healy. A comparison table - 500 gallons of oil at $3/gal $1500, equivalent coal at 7,500btu is 4.57 tons at $65/ton = $297, difference is $1,202 you save. A ton of the coal has 15,000,000BTU

100 gallons of oil has 12,000,000BTU

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I'm going to be working out of the buildings nearly every day, so just need the low heat over night. If they made a kerosine heater that could be turned way down that might work but I doubt they have such a low setting. Could be modified?

I'm leaning strong toward a home built waste oil drip stove. Lots of free used oil here in Fbks.

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Hobo Heater;


Multi-fuel - oil burners are the heater of choice. Issues that can be problems are soot build up and level of burn needed to prevent soot build up.


A low level burn will not produce sufficient heat to force soot up a chimney.


Fuel is readily available, easy to transport and easy to store in remote locations.


At my remote campsite 2 miles from the cabin at Ophir, I use a simple "Hobo heater". :)


A Hobo heater can be anything from a #2 coffee can to a 55 gallon barrel with the end cut off. Works on the same principle as a candle. You have discarded grease rags immersed in a small amount of oil. The rags work like a wick. If wood is added, the charcoal will provide similar wick action. The purpose of the wick is to produce a slow burn and not heat the oil to combustion - the wick burns slow and almost indefinitely. 


This option requires adequate ventilation. Having lived in Fairbanks, I know mid-winter temperatures actually suck the heat out the door when you open it. For fall temperatures to late fall, with ventillation, the Hobo heater works great!


- Geowizard

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If you are gonna be there every day, then consider using some thermal mass for heat storage and use a waste oil burner running hot to bring it up to heat.

For thermal mass, use lots of rock and sand in a bin surrounding the stove.

Make the bin out of salvaged sheet metal ducting.


A buddy of mine worked in Valdez and they ran a waste oil burner at the shop.

Running it hot resulted in cleaning the chimney every three, four weeks.

Throttling it down forced a cleaning every few days.


In one of my greenhouse I have a small vent-less propane heater needing no electricity.

Locally propane is $21 for 4.5 gallons.

Even though temps are just below freezing, I have to refill the 5 gallon bottle every couple three days.

I would say not practical cost wise.


Several years ago I got a small bunch of Healy sub-bituminous B and it held a fire overnight in my barrel stove.

Only hassle was the amount of sand left over.

Just don't let it get wet as it falls apart.

Still, it's cheap and if it wasn't for the costs of transporting it, I would use it for everything.



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Waste oil;


A byproduct of mining is waste oil, contaminated fuel oil and unleaded fuel.


Every time I prepare for a fuel delivery... I dump empty 55 gallon barrels into a 5 gallon bucket and funnel the "P" into a waste barrel. This separates sediments, insects, and other forms of fuel contamination from clean incoming fuel.


The "P" barrel provides a perpetual source of heating oil for a simple 1/4 cut-off 55 gallon barrel.


The stove is simple, cheap, portable, easy to clean. Oil and grease rags are usually discarded and burned with trash. I separate burnable trash and burn it in the Hobo burner.


Using ote's suggestion of "mass heat storage" is an excellent idea. Most old mines have cast iron relics of all sorts and descriptions that can be heated by the heater and will store heat and provide slow release for many hours. 


- Geowizard

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