Emergency Candle Heater: Building a Single Candle Clay Pot Radiator

With cold weather fast approaching, I wanted to share a cool little project that I did over the weekend that can provide some extra heat during a grid-down emergency situation. With the heat from a single candle, it is possible to heat a small area during an emergency ­– if you can capture that heat.

Step One: Build a Small Emergency Shelter inside your home.

If you live in an apartment, or a house that doesn’t have a fireplace or wood burning stove, winter power outages can quickly turn into life-threatening emergencies. When the temperatures start to plummet, you need to take action.

The first step you should take is to build an emergency shelter, or warm room, within your home. It’s a lot easier to heat a small walk-in closet or pantry than it is to heat an entire home. So the first thing you want to do is find a small room or closet, and then start insulating.

  • Line the walls with couch cushions, blankets, or anything else you can find that can trap heat inside the room. Think about when you were a child and built forts in your bedroom; we’re going for a similar concept here.
  • If you have an emergency reflective blanket, putting one up can help reflect heat back into the room.
  • Depending how many people are in the room, body heat alone can be enough to keep the room at a tolerable temperature.

Step Two: Build a Single Candle Terracotta Pot Emergency Heater

Once you have your shelter built, a single candle can be used to help heat the room. Building a small Terracotta Clay Pot Radiator allows you to capture the heat generated from a candle, heat that is normally wasted, and slowly build it up inside a makeshift radiator.

The Single Candle Clay Pot Heater

Building the Clay Pot Candle Heater

The heater is actually pretty simple to make. One long bolt, a dozen washers or so, about 7-8 nuts, and a couple small terracotta pots is all you need.

Terracotta Pots
  • Place the Long Bolt through the Terracotta pot, separating each pot with a couple washers and a nut.
  • The Center bolt, washers, and nuts will all conduct the heat from the candle. The metal core will get extremely hot, trapping the heat and radiating it out to each clay pot.
  • The heat will slowly build up inside the pots, and then will begin radiating heat around the clay pots.
Inside the Clay Pot Radiator

I’ve seen this project on some other sites, where people suggest it can be used to heat a home for pennies a day; IT CANNOT!

This is in no way meant to heat a house or even a large room, but in an emergency situation, it’s a good way to capture heat from a candle and then radiate it out into a small area.

Candle Pot Heater

Staying warm during a winter power outage

During a winter storm, power outages can quickly turn into a life-threatening emergency. When the temperatures start to plummet, you need to take action. The first thing you should do is build a warm room. It’s a lot easier to heat a small walk-in closet or pantry than it is to heat an entire home. So the first thing you want to do is find a small room or closet, and then start insulating.

Urban environments are filled with materials that can be used to keep your body warm, and protected from the outside elements. Cardboard, foam, plastic, and bedding materials are just a few of the items that you should be able to easily find. During an emergency, a small room or closet can easily be turned into an insulted fortress.

  • Couch cushions, blankets, towels, and mattresses can all be used to add extra insulation to your warm room. Line the walls with these insulating materials to trap heat inside the room.
  • Layer your clothing, and remember that in an emergency you can line your clothing with crumbled up newspapers, paper towels, or any other insulating materials that you can find.
  • Depending how many people are in the room, body heat alone can be enough to keep the room at a tolerable temperature.

What can you do to stay warm?

Well hopefully you prepared for this kind of problem in advanced, but let’s look at some more options that you might have.

  • Top Solar Generators, Power Packs, and Emergency Solar Solutions – Invest in emergency backup power!
  • Wood Stove – If you don’t have one, get one! Even a cheap, used wood stove will provide more than enough heat to keep you warm during an emergency.
  • Backpackers Stove – A Small backpackers stove can be used to heat water. The hot water can then be put in water bottles and shoved into a sleeping bag to keep you warm.
  • Put on your Winter Gear – Hats, gloves, and coats. It may be uncomfortable to wear when you’re trying to sleep, but you’re trying to stay warm, not comfortable.
  • Tent – In your small warm room, you can also set up a small tent to sleep in. It will capture your body heat, and help you to stay warm throughout the night.
  • Dress in Layers and make sure you stay dry. If you start to sweat remove a layer at a time.
  • Eat Something – Eating can actually help keep you warm; it can be especially important right before bed. If you eat right before going to bed, the energy your body uses to digest your food can keep you warm at night.

Prepare Before it Happens: Stocking up on some of these items can help you prepare for winter power outages.

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18 Comments

  1. The heat result is exactly the same if you don’t bother with the pots and just use a candle only. Why screw with the pots?

  2. I’m considering this to put under my sinks to keep pipes from freezing in the event of a power outage. I’m planning on clearing cleaners etc. out first and keeping the doors open. Has anyone tried this?

  3. I live in Quebec, Canada (my point is, well, its cold). Electricity is cheap, I have old cast iron radiators (hot water) in my 130 sq m appartment and its the best heating system I ever had.

    However, in the garage, no heating system … working long hours in that space is a no-no … however, this terracotta system helped me to increase the temperature just enough to allow me working comfortably hours in the 25’x20′ garage. Big 3 pieces, lots of washers, real big candles. The garage is well ibsulated though.

  4. Can you use a candle that comes in a glass jar rather than the tea candles. The candles in a jar burn for a long time.

  5. Used firebricks for base 3 as “U” shape 3 red clay pots from 6 in. down to small.Duke Cannon Emergency Heat & Light Survival Apparatus in a can manufactured by Duke Cannon Minneapolis, MN. This is not standard candle as this device puts out BTU’s and will blister and toast fingers of non-believers in a heartbeat. Use some ventilation for safe.. Mad Trapper Black Hills

  6. I saw a video of a guy using this to heat his car while stranded. Would this be poisonous after a few hours? He had a tea light and a 4” terra-cotta pot.

    • You do know they have windmills in Maine and other snowy, frozen places, don’t you? The windmills are not the problem. Lack of preparation and care on the part of the state government in Texas is the problem.

    • There are windmills on Canada, Alaska, and Scandanavia that do not freeze… I guess you have to be a Viking or Inuit to figure this out…
      .

  7. One time, a homeless woman told me that she could stay warm under a small tarp using one of those little votive candles.

  8. The clay pot setup sounds like a “Baghdad Battery” found in ancient Middle Eastern archeology sites. This type of technology may have been around for over 5000 years.

  9. I think everyone missed the key points here:
    This is for emergencies
    It’s for small spaces
    It’s not a realistic way to heat a large space.

    Finally, just buy an inexpensive tent and a couple of emergency blankets. When you use them, in a house, where there is no wind lowering the temperature, even in a cold room you’ll stay plenty warm.

  10. Good short-term fix. If you are concerend about carbon-monoxide (CO), bring a battery-powered CO detector into your warm room with you.

  11. Use a can of crisco and lantern wicks with a clay pot. The lantern wicks will burn for days. Stick the wick or 2 wicks down in the crisco. Ventilate also for safety.

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