Cooking Indoors, No Electricity

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catastrophist's picture
catastrophist
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Cooking Indoors, No Electricity

What would you say is the best way to cook indoors in a situation in which electricity is not available?

I'm aware there are different options, but I'd like to know your opinion based on your expertise, as you are probably more experienced than I.

 

parischic's picture
parischic
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Cooking Indoors, No Electricity

I've been asking myself this question lately, as well. I wonder about propane - on the one hand, it doesn't smell bad like kerosene, but in a situation when oil and gas prices explode, it too will be largely inaccessible due to cost. You can't stock up on it either. Solar ovens are readily available along with their fuel source, so I'm not concerned about baking/roasting. I've also thought about the double burners that could possibly be run off a generator. I'm looking forward to others' responses ... Cheers

albinorhino's picture
albinorhino
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Cooking Indoors, No Electricity

The two options that come to mind is gas and wood. Our current home is all electric, so I've considered the options. Cooking with propane or natural gas would be my first choice. Natural gas is not available in our development, and the design and finished basement of the house is not conducive to easy installation of propane. We switched our previous home over to propane for cooking and hot water in 1999 and the two of us used about 120 gallons per year. If I could economically install propane here, I would switch tomorrow.

We have a prefab woodburning fireplace with a gas log set. The logs would come out and we would burn wood for cooking. If this option works for you, perhaps accumulating some campfire skills is in order? Laughing

Our immediate back up is our propane grill, with side burner.

Saffron's picture
Saffron
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cooking indoors

Propane should not be used indoors unless it is extremely well-ventilated. Butane burns cleaner and is recommended when you want to cook indoors. The only problem is that butane remains liquid under freezing temperatures, so if you live where it gets real cold, you might opt for propane and an open window.

As far as I can recall, the connections are different, so you'll want to make sure your stove runs on the fuel you choose.

~ s

albinorhino's picture
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Saffron wrote: Propane
Saffron wrote:

Propane should not be used indoors unless it is extremely well-ventilated.~ s

I hope we can agree to disagree. There are many propane appliances that can be used indoors without ventilation. Our range did not require ventilation, and we currently have a 25k btu propane space heater that does not require ventilation. The gas log set we use in the fireplace does not require ventilation.

Poet's picture
Poet
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Indoor Cooking Without Electricity

Natural Gas or Propane
Having lived with intermittent electricity in a Third World country, I would say that cooking indoors with a gas stove hooked up to a propane or natural gas cylinder or tank, is the best way to go. We would get the cylinders delivered to our house on a regular basis. If you can do that, great. It's not as sustainable, but it's fast, hot, and convenient. Most people know how to cook with gas.

We always made sure there was lots of ventilation, however. (We didn't have carbon monoxide detectors.)

Coal Or Wood
At times we also had to use coal or wood - but outdoors, in a concrete or metal brazier. So that would be out of scope for you.

However, I also remember being very young and seeing my grandmother cooking with wood or coal in a kitchen area built of bricks next to her wooden house. The kitchen area had a roof, but was open to the outdoors on two sides to allow for ventilation. (This would be a traditional home built in the early part of the last century in the Third World - one that could not afford a cast-iron wood stove. Obviously even today many people in the Third World cook outdoors, open to the sky..)

Obviously here in America, there are a lot of cast-iron wood stoves that fit inside houses and have chimneys, so that's probably your best bet for sustainability so long as you have fuel. The disadvantages include ash, soot, cleaning up, and of course obtaining the wood or coal.

Solar Wall Ovens
I haven't tried this, but I have checked out some web sites. Solar wall ovens built on the side of their house, with the cooking area protruding outside, and in the indoor kitchen area, just a simple metal door. This was pioneered by Barbara Kerr of Solar Cookers International.

An article and pictures showing how they look:
http://planetthrive.com/2010/08/barbara-kerr/

Great for desert areas with few trees. Cheap and free and definitely sustainable, but dependent on weather and time of day. Sorry, no midnight snacks!

Hay Box
I would definitely also look into getting or making a hay box. It's the oldtimer's version of a crockpot. Made of wood, lined with hay, straw, wool, cotton batting or other insulation, it's meant to keep food cooking for a few hours after you've brought something to a boil. There are a few books on it. The main advantage is reducing the amount of energy (gas, coal, wood, solar) needed to cook food.

Here's the Wikipedia entry on it, including advantages and disadvantages (bacteria if left alone too long):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haybox

The hay box was first brought to my attention by John Michael Greer, author of the Archdruid Report:
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2010/12/haybox-factor.html

 


 

Conclusion
Whatever you do, I suggest lost of practice. You don't want to start using an alternative source and not know how to make rice or cook meat, even. Me, I plan on grilling outdoors if needed. My wife just learned to grill with our outdoor propane cylinder-powered grill yesterday and she loved it!

Poet

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I have bought one of these

I have bought one of these and some cartridges for shtf emergencies:

http://www.amazon.com/Natures-Quest-Deluxe-Portable-Butane/dp/B000OC0AWW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1308177662&sr=8-1

Saffron's picture
Saffron
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albinorhino wrote: Saffron
albinorhino wrote:
Saffron wrote:

Propane should not be used indoors unless it is extremely well-ventilated.~ s

I hope we can agree to disagree. There are many propane appliances that can be used indoors without ventilation. Our range did not require ventilation, and we currently have a 25k btu propane space heater that does not require ventilation. The gas log set we use in the fireplace does not require ventilation.

Not a problem. My experience is not direct, but from an emergency preparedness class I took from these folks:

http://simple-safety.com/

As I recall, they said that ranges with propane have some sort of ventilation built in. The propanes that burn so clean that they claim not to need ventilation still generate some carbon monoxide ... supposedly a safe amount, but I wouldn't want to take a chance with not having ventilation if I was using it all the time.

I would guess the gas log set is venting out the fireplace.

~ s

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Two suggestions
catastrophist wrote:

What would you say is the best way to cook indoors in a situation in which electricity is not available?

I'm aware there are different options, but I'd like to know your opinion based on your expertise, as you are probably more experienced than I.

Catastrophist

If you have natural gas or bottled gas you can light your stove with a match, so electricity is not needed if the natural gas lines have pressure.

It all comes down to what fuel you think will be available and affordable.  A simple Coleman camp stove is available which burns Coleman Fuel (white gas) or unleaded gasoline like your car.  This will serve a family just fine, only costs $100, and stores easily until needed.  They last forever and Coleman sells spare parts.  They also have many choices in propane.

My grandmothers grew up with wood fueled cooking stoves.  If you vent it properly it will do the job, and warm you too, but they are hard to use, expensive, and take up a lot of space.

Duel fuel camp stove  http://www.coleman.com/coleman/colemancom/detail.asp?product_id=3000000788&categoryid=2020&brand=

Wood cooking stove search  http://www.google.com/#hl=en&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=wood+cooking+stove&cp=11&pf=p&sclient=psy&site=&source=hp&aq=0&aqi=&aql=&oq=wood+cookin&pbx=1&fp=f905ad69ed709cd6&biw=1024&bih=611

Travlin

Brainless's picture
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Methane

Having a anaerobic digestor that processes black/gray water and also other garden stuff to produce methane and use that for cooking and when necessary electricity with the help of a generator. Even can use it for heating and light using gaslamps.

Methane burns very clean and is lighter than air, if you make sure that any leaks that can happen have a ventilation to the outer air it is very safe to use.

 

 

maceves's picture
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alcohol?

In Mexico when we were out of gas and the electric was out too---and yes, we paid the bill, thank you----we sometimes put alcohol in a tuna fish can and rigged a grill from the stove grill.  That was primitive and hard to control, but clean and it worked for emergencies. Youve gotta keep the kids away from it of course.

I have another one a friend gave me that he made from a soda can.  It has little holes and is a much more controled flame.  genius.

Now we used rubbing alcohol, I havent tried anything else.

I know all my gas camp stoves say not to use them in the house.  I am sure the manufatcurers do not want to be liable for accidents or stupid people.  There were some snow days here in the states where I have really wanted to use those stoves inside, but i didn't .

LG's picture
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Propane

Propane is easy to store with a long shelve-life. I live in the rural south. About all we use is propane for cooking, wood sometimes for heat. All of my propane appliances are not vented and all are by building code. Portable tanks come in all sizes up to 100 gallons. Permanent above ground residential tanks go up to 1000 gallons. Best of luck.

LG

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Wendy S. Delmater
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then and now

For cooking indoors during emergences, I reccommend an alcohol stove. It works VERY well. Look for the kind backpackers use. We use one similar to this whenever the electric wires are down due to rare ice &snow, or more common thunderstorms & high winds here in SC, land of primary wiring only (I was used to secondary systems from the power company in NY). Note  the holes: it's similar to the idea Maceves suggested with the soda can. We also have a charcoal grill and a propane grill but we need to put in a covered (and hopefully screened) porch in the back yard so we can use them in the rain.

My parents retired to NH where they also had no secondary wiring from the power company. Their power could go out for up to two weeks. They had a Coleman camp stove that they used indoors (with a window cracked open) or on the deck, and a kerosene heater - that also meant they needed to keep a window or two cracked open.

For what it's worth I have cooked on the flat top of a large rectangular kerosene heater in a pinch, when the power went off and a pizza was half-cooked Foot in mouth. We had propane tanks outside that fed our stove, and I remember during the 2.5 weeks of no electricity from Hurricane Gloria canning all the pears the storm knocked down (32 gallons of 'em.) We had no electricity, but we had a working stove.

catastrophist's picture
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The description on Amazon

james_knight_chaucer,

The description on Amazon says that is for outdoor cooking.

 

catastrophist's picture
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Product manual of the

Travlin,

Product manual of the Coleman stove whose page you linked to says:

Never use inside house

 

catastrophist's picture
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Thanks for all the

Thanks for all the information! What a hospitable forum.

One word of caution: I cannot install anything. I live in a house I rent with 3 other guys in a highly populated area on the fringe of a college community, bordering a larger not-so-pleasant urban area. Also, one step outside and there is no privacy whatsoever, so any cooking would have to be indoors always.

I am looking for a small item that is self-contained that can get me through a SHTF scenario. A camping stovetop like the one Coleman offers is great with respect to size, but the box (I checked at the store) says it's for outdoor cooking only.

In fact I've looked through many items online and they are all for outdoor use.

I bought a Sterno, but that offers only 4.5 total hours of cooking.

Obviously I am not in a good situation for the long term, but I can't afford to move right now.

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gas stove

As an idea for the future, when people may do all kinds of things, you can drill a hole to the outside of the house and put your gas canister out there and use your stove inside.  In that plan I would consider ways to hide it where it will still have ventiliation--they are very easy to steal.  Sometimes in Mexico we would wake up to find our gas tank stolen.

Personally, I am hoping I can still use an electric hot plate and a solar oven.  Maybe a microwave.  

I do need to work on my grilling skills and how to use a dutch oven under the coals.

In Mexico we also had a propane water heater that we turned on and off according to our needs.  We felt really uptown when we got one with an automatic pilot light.  I have seen water heaters with a place for a wood fire underneath.  Now all of those water heaters were outside the house.

We also had a water reservoir on top of the house.  We really needed that when the community water pump went out and we only had pumped water four hours a day. I don't think many homes here would support that much weight on the roof.  Just sayin'...

Travlin's picture
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Its a matter of priorities

Catastrophist

In my experience with a Sterno stove the heat was weak and not adjustable, but its better than nothing.  I couldn’t boil water, which you may need to do for drinking.  Regarding a camp stove indoors: remember you are asking about an emergency situation.  In today’s legalistic culture the manufacturer’s product liability lawyers will always be overly cautious on the warning label.  If you crack your windows near the stove I think you would be fine.  Once the stove gets heated to operating temperature the flame is very efficient and in my experience gives off no significant fumes when using white gas.  You only need it on for a short time anyway.  You can start it outdoors and then bring it inside to cook if you’re not worried about the security factor.  But remember, even the smell of the food you cook indoors can carry.  Would you rather eat cold food, or none at all if it requires cooking?  Emergency conditions require a different mind set.

Travlin

 

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Indoor cooking/heating.

The most effecient indoor heating is LP gas because you can at least store it, unlike natural gas and you may be able to get bottles refilled in a crisis although the best option is to have a large tank installed.

With a wall mounted heater you get almost 90% efficiency. Be sure your model has a CO2 shutdown sensor for your safety. The cost is only about $150.00, buy two, spaced about  your home, and for redunduncy. If you dont have LP gas already, the hookup for each is about 30 minutes, very simple. And the greatest advantage with these units is THEY DONT REQUIRE ANY ELECTIRCITY.

Yes, if you have a superinsulated house you will leave a window cracked slightly if the CO2 sensor activates.

Next best would be a rocket stove. Google it. I have seen thirty loaves of bread baked with a handful of twigs. Utlilze the 'real technology' from 2000 years ago. It works. Im not so sure about these 'professors' who have redisigned it. Although in its simplest form it is an outdoor unit, it can be vented for indoor use. Plus there is almost no smoke which would alert street gangs that you are cooking food.

As far as a methane digestor is concerned, I have built large ones in the past. It is not complicated but does require some thought and a good many parts. My first several were all built with scrap metal  parts.  You do have to feed them though. And it takes at least thirty days to grow  your first batch of anerobic bacteria (In a small container) to begin and about another three weeks, depending on the temp to make gas after you pour your seed batch into your large digeotor. You have to filter it through limewater. The produced gas is about 60% carbon dioxide and will not burn until it is filtered through a drum of limewater.  Storage is out of the question so you would have to have a steady flow of gas. That means feeding every several days with manure or green cuttings plus the temps around 90 degrees for minimum production. The bugs do best around 110 degrees.

I do have generators, battery storage, solar panels, wood heat and propane heat and a small mini split heat pump which produces 12,000 btu with about 900 watts on 120vac. If you are isolated in a small space the air change and humidity from people is the biggest problem. How long are you going to be there? This type of unit will run on a small generator and/or solar and/or inverted battery storage.

Then we move on to the ventilation. In order to ventilate in a *NBC event, you need filters and a pump.  This also affects your heat/cool. If you are in heat mode and it is 10 degrees outside  you are losing all your heat to ventilate. And if you dont have filters you wont survive an NBC event in the first place.

Just briefly, if you do have generators and battery storage you can run a small shop vac, intermittently, for ventilation in an NBC event. It  provides your inlet air. At the very minimum you can use the filter in the vacuum and then put a large amount of activated charcoal into the vacuum cleaner. Also, gas masks can work for a brief time in an emergency. You still have to focus on the fact that your heating system must be vented to some degree and all of this plays in together.

My solution was to use large pvc drain pipes for my distribution and collection of air. Inside those is an aluminum dryer vent pipe. When the air is passing through the larger pipe (Inlet) it takes up heat from the aluminum ribbed pipe on the inside which is the exhaust so you actually 'save' the heat you already made from the air being exhausted.

On to wood heaters. ALWAYS run a cold air supply pipe in from the outside of the house to the firebox or vicinity thereof. In an NBC event you have to shut this pipe down. A 1" pipe is about right to provide outside, cold air for your stove and have a shut off valve to be able to get minute adjustments when in use or to shut it down in the event of an NBC event. If you dont have a cold air inlet for combustion air, you are using air that you have already heated for combustion and it is going right out the stack and you are bringing in cold air from cracks and leaks in your home which you are having to heat. Not a good plan.

*NBC = Nuclear, Biological, Chemical

 

 

 

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