Generating Heat – Planter Heaters and Cat Survival

Last year, the plants growing over the winter in our hoop house were kept alive because we built mini hoop houses inside the main house.  Rather than force us to heat the drafty 30’x12’x10′ structure, encapsulating each raised bed in its own polyethylene cover limited significantly the amount of space requiring heat.

It worked really well.

Except for the mice.

So, we rescued some cats and they took care of the mice and it worked really well again.

Because we aren’t ones to leave well enough alone, we decided that the minis were cumbersome and we would try something different this year.  We started with a propane heater.  It burned through an entire tank of propane in two nights and winter hasn’t even started yet.  A tank of propane costs $15, so at that rate, we could heat the hoop house for the winter for the low, low price of only about $900.

(sound of paper crumpling and being thrown into trash basket).

Next, we tried an electric space heater.  We ran a heavy-duty electric cord from the basement to the hoop house and through the cat door.  On nights when the temperature was going to go below 20 degrees, we would turn the heater on and let it run all night.  We did this for about five nights before I became dangerously close to apoplectic due to my growing fear about our next electric bill.  I really just couldn’t see how we could justify continuing to run a machine like that through the night.  It seemed counter to everything we’re doing and recklessly wasteful.

(sound of paper crumpling and being thrown into trash basket).

We pulled the plug, stashed the heater, and started building the minis again.

Once they were done, we knew we’d done the right thing and felt only a little bit stupid for having tried to reinvent the wheel after we’d invented it just last fall.

But, what about the cats?

We’d installed a cat door to ensure that the cats could easily enter and exit the hoop house.  We keep cat food and water in there at all times, and we even added a litter box (to encourage them away from using the raised beds for such activities).  To top it all off, we added a cardboard box lined with a cheap fleece blanket for their sleeping pleasure.  While all of this might be great, it doesn’t really help them keep warm on those REALLY cold nights.  So, we introduced our final heat generating system.  This one would never be enough to keep the plants from freezing, but would definitely be enough to give the cats that extra bit of essential warmth… and they’re super cool.  Check it out:

IMG_1435We started with three metal loaf pans and clustered four seven-hour tea light candles in the middle of the pan.

It’s important to use the tea lights that come in those little metal cups, otherwise the candles will spread as they melt, making a mess, as well as greatly reducing their burn time.

IMG_1455

We lit the candles and then covered them with a small terra cotta planter placed upside-down.  We closed off the drain opening with a piece of metal or aluminum (we just used one of the tea light cups).

Within just a couple of minutes, the planter started to really heat up.  The ceramic held and radiated an impressive amount of heat.

Over the top of the small planter, we placed a larger planter (the next size up), but we left the drain opening of the larger planter open, effectively creating a convection heater.  In moments, we could put our hand over the hole at the top and feel heat pouring out!

We have set up about three of these planter heaters and will light them right before bed on those nights when we are concerned for the well-being of the cats.

I am sure that these would work beautifully in any small office or studio that could use a little extra heat and has even marginal insulation.  We will check back in with the cats in the spring and find out how it all went for them.

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About applewoodfarm

Restaurateur, farmer, bartender, beekeeper, friend, wife, mother, dog lover, cat tolerater, chicken hypnotizer, blogger, and sometime yogi
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4 Responses to Generating Heat – Planter Heaters and Cat Survival

  1. Peter says:

    Clever, but what about a plain old electric heating pad — the kind you use for sore muscles and such? It uses a lot less power than the space heater and could go under their fleece blanket.

    • That would involved running the cord again (which I’m not crazy about) as well as only providing additional warmth for one cat. Also, it would send me back to the sleepless-nights-freaking-out place, worried that we’d be starting a fire.

  2. Lynda says:

    I am absolutely going to be trying this! Thanks!

  3. the cat heater is awesome! going to set it up this week! My kitties thank you 🙂

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