My Search for a Carbon Neutral Heating Source – Part 2

A month ago I blogged about my quest to find an efficient, low-carbon heating solution for my ‘home-office’, as using central heating system seemed overkill since I spent most of my working day holed up in one small room.  At the time I was awaiting delivery of a bio-ethanol fuelled portable heater that I hoped would be the answer to my ‘carbon-free cosiness’ quest.  Well, the heater duly arrived and I have been using it over the last weeks, and so i can now report on my experience.

To start with the positives I can say  it is a mighty fine looking heater.  It’s all glass and black metal and has a flame that runs across the bottom of the heater – which does much to make you feel warm.  It also heats a small area up very fast, I can go from 15 centigrade to 24 in about half an hour (at which point I’m sweltering and have to put the fire off).  There is also hardly a smell, although there is a faint whiff of fuel that does linger.

So from a looks and warmth potential it does the job nicely.

However, there are a few downsides.  Apparently I am risking life and limb by using it in such a small room!  They recommend not using such heaters in spaces smaller then about 3×3 meters.  My room is hardly 2×2.  They also recommend keeping a window open when you have the heater on – which kind of defeats the purpose of having it there – so I have not been doing this; instead figuring my leaky old Edwardian house would have enough natural ventilation to do this job for me.  And, so far, so good, I haven’t felt faint or passed out in a swoon.  Although I do make sure to take regular breaks from the room.

The biggest downside I can see is the cost of such a system.  I bought a bulk load of the bio-ethanol with the heater and it worked out at about £4 per 1-litre bottle, although single bottles can cost as much as £5!.  When you consider that petrol/diesel, even at an all time high, is only approx. £1.30 a litre that does seem a little steep.  I also wonder how a fuel that is made locally (well, within the UK at least), from waste organic materials can cost nearly 4 times the price of a fuel that is dug out of the ground or deep sea, refined, and then transported thousands of miles to get here?

The heater will run for about 4 hours on its 1-litre bottle.  I put the heater on and off sporadically during the day as the unit does warm my small space up quickly and efficiently.  But I still get through, on average, a bottle per day.  Hence I am spending £4 daily to keep myself warm.  This is much more expensive than my gas central heating system and even an electrical heater – a friend has a halogen mini heater that keeps her office snug and that has a 400Watt rating, so it costs her about 6p per hour to keep warm as compared to my 50p per hour equivalent!

So, the moral of the story seems to be if you want to do the right thing carbon-wise, its gonna cost you lots more than by conventional carbon-intensive means.  I’m trying to find other, cheaper, local, waste derived supplies of the fuel but the best I can find at the moment works out at just under £3 per litre.  Still a high comparative cost.

Hence, if anyone out there knows of a bio-ethanol source out there that is sustainable and cheap, please let me know.  But I fear you can only get one of those two options in any one product!


2 comments… add one
  • Richard Bawden March 17, 2011, 3:21 pm

    Hi Paula Have you thought about an illicit still? Richard

  • Jenny March 26, 2011, 8:46 am

    Swap to Good Energy as your electricity provider, then buy yourself an oil-filled radiator. Clean, cosy, safe – and because it's green electricity, carbon-neutral!


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