8 responses

  1. Badvoodoodaddy
    January 27, 2011

    This would be a great idea only if it were a life and death situation. I would make sure that if you needed to use this in a car that you had good ventilation due to a build up of carbon dioxide that would result from lighting this in the car. But if you were going to freeze to death it just might keep you alive. Good post Rourke.

  2. Beprepared
    January 27, 2011

    Looks like a cheaper version of a can of sterno to me, which would be safer IMO since sterno cans are smaller with a smaller flame. Not to mention the dangers of carbon monoxide as mentioned by voodoodaddy.

    I think some standard emergency candles might do well for you.

    I understand the cool DIY-ness of it, but this is an idea in need of a problem.

  3. Matthew Wilson
    January 27, 2011

    Very interesting article. I’d like to offer a suggestion, though. Denatured alcohol burns even cleaner than Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and it actually burns hotter, too. You’ve probably seen tons of articles and videos about “penny stoves” or backpacking stoves. I created a backpacking stove using the miniature coke cans (8 oz, I believe) that are available in stores and I bet using that stove inside the paint can would be even better. The paint can (or coffee can) would offer excellent wind protection.

    A bottle of HEET (gas line anti-freeze) costs less than $2 and would run for quite a while, maybe 10 minutes at a time and you could refill the stove about 6 times. It would definitely only work in small spaces like a car, or a small room. There would still be the issue of exhaust to consider so you would have to crack the windows to let some of the CO and CO2 escape, but it should work.

    The only other thing I would mention is that the can would probably get pretty hot…well over 200 degrees. I’ll see if I can’t do a little video this weekend and post it. I’m really curious at the practical use of such a device. I wonder how well it would work.

  4. Ranger Rick
    January 27, 2011

    Normally I really enjoy your stuff. But, ya know… I just got to say it… If your going to test something… please use it for what it was designed for. This heater was designed to provide warmth INSIDE a vehicle (or small space). I have tested it inside my truck. For that purpose it works great. I carry it in my pickup just of this purpose. And yes, flames can be dangerous. (duh) I’m not going to cook with it… Im’ not going to use it for light… I’m going to heat with it. I think you do a disservice to your readers with your “review.” This is a very cheap, easy to make item. And believe me… you would be very happy to have it if you ever needed it!

  5. Peter
    January 27, 2011

    Normally people suggest putting that inside a bigger can…

  6. Jim
    January 27, 2011

    This heater has been taught throughout the upper midwest for close to 40 years.

    It was specifically designed for use inside a snowbound vehicle where CO build-up was a concern. With the 70/30 isopropyl alcohol you have an acceptable flame-height with carbon DIoxide and water vapor the only output.

    You DO NOT set this down under your plastic dashboard.
    You DO NOT charge this with alcohol until needed.

    A 1lb. coffee can with a cheap roll of TP installed as you have done, +4 pints of 70/30 can maintain a survival temp (50/60F) for 24 hours.

    On the first use – it will accept all of the 1st pint of the alcohol. There should be no liquid on top. You light it and hold the can in your hand, bringing the vehicle temp up to that 50/60 range (not 70/80…which you may be tempted to do…)

    When you get the temp to that range – you blow out the can. WAIT a couple of minutes before replacing the plastic coffee can top – to preserve the alcohol vapor. You then enjoy that heat, and when the temp drops to an uncomfortable level, you remove the cap, relight, repeat.

    You will know it’s time to recharge the can with more alcohol when the top of the TP starts to ‘toast’. Blow it out and let it cool off again. Add more alcohol – remember – no puddles, this second charge will not take the full pint due to the TP becoming saturated.

    This lighting / blowing out / relighting sequence works and will keep you alive. It works in vehicles, small cabins – I don’t like it in synthetic fabric tents.

    DO NOT SUBSTITUTE higher alcohol mixes. There are 91% and 99% isopropyl alcohol versions available. The 91% gets you a flame height twice what you experienced.

    The 99% (aka ‘denatured’) has an almost invisible flame that can cause other problems.

    You do need ventilation in the vehicle – just crack a window on the downwind side. You need to compensate for the water vapor you are introducing in to the compartment.

    It’s cheap – it’s easy – and it’s safe when the above is followed….

  7. CM
    January 27, 2011

    In cold weather, I think the 12v plug in heater would drain your battery below the ability to start your car or truck in pretty short order.

    The ‘Mr. Heater’ may be OK for very short amounts of time, due to the limited volume of air in your vehicle. BUT, that being said, I would (and do) back a couple sleeping bags and a tent for the most adverse conditions – and there you could use the Mr. Heater, for a long as you have propane bottles to feed it.

    It would not be fun, but you would be warmer than inside the vehicle trying to heat up all the metal around you.

  8. cloudwarmer
    January 28, 2011

    Alcohol stoves are safe, if handled properly. Commercially made alcohol stoves have been used on boats for ages. The are so much safer than modern propane or gas and kerosene. The HUGE advantage to alcohol is that you can put the flame out, should it spill, with water.

    Another way to heat small spaces is with trawler lamps. Most do use kerosene or lamp oil, but are enclosed, so fairly safe. The burn a long time, and the flame is adjustable, meaning you don’t have to constantly be lighting and extinguishing it. They aren’t cheap, though, like the toilet paper and can.

    Having a properly equipped emergency kit that contains 0 degree sleeping bags will help even without the heat.

    Y’all take care. CloudWarmer

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