One of our recent homestead classes involved learning how to make a small heater with a few household “ingredients”. – We took a quart-size paint can and stuffed a roll of toilet paper inside. Saturate the toilet paper with rubbing alcohol and apply an open flame. Voila! One alcohol burner for less than six bucks.

The paint cans were purchased on Amazon and came twelve to a case. We split the case with a friend and each can cost $3.27. – The sixteen ounce rubbing alcohol came from Ingles at $1.98 each. (We used 70% alcohol.) – Later, we picked up a large bottle of hand sanitizer at Bargain’s in Pelzer. We got 3.5 uses from the sanitizer; which was 80% alcohol and cost $3.99. We haven’t burned this one yet.

We also found one-ply toilet paper at Bargain’s. Six rolls were just $1.99. This computes to just .33 per roll. I’ll be honest; burning up a roll of one-ply caused me less anxiety than torching a good two-ply roll. 🙂 Since we found this T.P. at Bargain’s, it was wrapped in clear plastic – no brand name or bar code.

I hate math, so feel free to double check. If you add the .33 for the T.P. and $3.27 for the paint can, you’re up to $3.60. The hand sanitizer adds about $1.14 for a total of $4.44. The cans with the rubbing alcohol add up to $5.58 because it was more expensive.

We knew we would want to enhance the output from our little heater so we invested in two terra cotta pots. No paint. No glazing. Just plain ol’ pots. The large one was approximately $21 at Lowe’s and the small one was about $8 or $9; also from Lowe’s.

The hardest part was stuffing the toilet paper into the can. THAT was a bit of a challenge. You need to first remove that paper “core” from the roll. Then “fold” and flatten it in order to persuade it to go into the can. By the way, DO NOT buy the mega rolls. Even our one-ply tissue had to be trimmed. Save what you cut off.

Mr. K used a flat-head screwdriver and some serious wrist torque to get the roll into the can. (The teacher made it look easy. Thanks, Michael.) Then, use your fingers to open the space where the paper core was. Roll the cut off part very tightly and shove it into the middle. Neatness doesn’t count.

Saturate with alcohol and fire it up. We got the whole sixteen ounces in the can. The T.P. acts as a wick as the alcohol burns. The terra cotta absorbs the heat and radiates it into the room. I don’t plan to heat my whole house. I DO PLAN to keep the pipes under the sinks from freezing by placing a little “heater” in the room and opening the cabinet doors.

We lit our little burner at 9:37 a.m. and by 10:08 the top pot was reading 300 degrees. (You can see Cricket in the picture above.) I don’t do much outside that she’s not in the middle of it. (grin)

Our experiment was conducted out in the shop. Mr. K has an old kerosene heater and we used it as our base. If you decide to use the terra cotta pot(s), be sure they are slightly elevated for proper air flow. – The room warmed up by eight degrees. It doesn’t sound like much, but to keep the pipes from freezing under the sink, those few degrees can make all the difference.

After the can/burner had been going for a while, I did notice an odor. I have a sensitive nose. Mr. K has said many times I could get a job at the airport sniffing luggage.

By 11:30, the top of the small pot was registering 350 degrees. It made me wonder if I could cook an egg on it. (hmmmm…)

We used an infrared thermometer to measure the temp in various places. Side note: the little red dot can be mistaken for a laser pointer. That little red dot had Cricket so wound up it was sad. She was visibly shaking and begging to chase the dot.

Our burner lasted three hours. We saturated the “wick” a second time and hammered the lid down. You can tape a quarter to the lid to use later as a ‘tool’ to open the can.

Until next time; stay warm and be blessed.

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