Impractical Heating Idea

A pal forwarded me a post from a UK website promoting “practical solutions for self reliance”, describing how you can “heat your room for 8 pence a day” using tealight candles.   (For those on this side of the Atlantic, 8 pence is currently about 13¢).  They describe burning tealights under flowerpots as a “cheap and easy alternative” to standard heating methods.

Easy?  Maybe.  I guess it’s easier than starting a fire in the wood stove.  But cheap?  Turns out, not at all.  I investigated the cost of tealight-heat.  Here is what I found:

The cheapest tealights I could find in a quick search were these on Amazon— $28 for 500 (5.6¢ each).  Each weighs 0.3 ounces.  To be generous, lets assume that’s all wax.  Wax contains 18,621 BTU per lb.  If you burn up the whole box of 500 tealights, you will extract 174,572 BTU (again, being generous and assuming you manage to burn every bit of wax out of each tealight.)

Now, those BTU’s are equivalent to 51 kWh of heat, or, say, running an electric space heater on “low” (500W) for 100 hours.  Around here, electricity is about 14¢ per kWh.  So 51 kWh would cost… $7.  Thus, we find that electric heat is about one-fourth the cost of tealight heat.

As an alternative way of looking at it: if we assume a tealight burns for about 2 hours, it burns with same heat as is produced by a 50W lightbulb.  The tealight costs 2.8¢ an hour to burn.  But the lightbulb is only 0.7¢ an hour.  And gives off more light.

Moreover, candles are not especially good for indoor air quality.  And if you spring for non-petroleum, beeswax candles, you will be paying even more.

Conclusion:  candles are an expensive way to get light or heat.  They should be reserved for power outages and romantic dinners.

5 Responses to “Impractical Heating Idea”

  1. Sites About Maine We Like : Blog Says:

    […] can heat our homes up here. If you want a taste of some creative home heating, check out the “Impractical Heating Idea” post. And check out the rest of his blog as […]

  2. icerabbit Says:

    TreeHugger just brought this commercial product up to supposedly heat your house.

    The skeptic in me of course said not so fast, a candle is like a light bulb.

    A quick search for some numbers brought the great CHJ blog up. Thanks for confirming my suspicions.

    And, I’m going to crosslink this post over there. (if they let me)

    Stay warm!

  3. Gwen Whittington Says:

    I know this entry is old but I don’t shop where you do, I go to a discount store, buy my candles in bulk, they cost app 2.4 cents each and it does work in a small room. If your cold and have no power or other way to heat a small warm room is nice.

    • coldhousejournal Says:

      Well, if you have no power and no other source of heat, I guess it’s a fair approach. Even at 2.4 cents per tealight, though, the heat is still twice as expensive as a light bulb… and the air quality may not be too good, either, if you’re burning a lot of them indoors. Be careful!

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