Clay Pot Heater: A Simple and Effective Emergency Heat Source

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Clay Pot Heater Flower Pot

A clay pot heater is a simple and effective heat source. Learn how to make a flower pot heater and which candles will minimize soot and ash.

Clay Pot Heater for Convection Heat Inside

A few days ago we were hit with rain, then snow and wind, sometimes gusting heavily. Tonight they’re predicting more snow. When it’s wet, then cold and windy, the power can go out more often than not. And the temperatures are below freezing, so it can get really cold in here fast! Candles can help provide heat transfer, but they aren’t very efficient.

Enter the clay pot heater. Yes, they’re little heaters, but that doesn’t make them ineffective! You don’t need a large fire to produce a lot of heat.

Candles for Your Clay Pot Space Heater

Tea candles (or tealight candles) do work to provide some heat, but if they have a paraffin base you’ll get smoke and soot. Along with the chemicals from the production fragrances.

A better choice is soy-based or beeswax-based candles that use essential oils.[1] These candles produce almost no smoke making them perfect for a clay flower pot heater. You can make them yourself and have them unscented if you wish. The size of the candle depends on how large of an area you want to heat. Generally, you can heat a small room with a single votive candle, but larger candles with multiple wicks provide more heat.

Tip: we recommend beeswax candles because they’re easier to find, especially since most soy candles are made from GMO soy. Find beeswax candles here. Find soy candles here.

TerraCotta Pots and Other Things You’ll Need

In addition to the candle, you’ll need a few other things.

  • 2-4 bricks taller than your candle
  • Clay or terra cotta pot (flower pots) as wide as your candle, larger if you wish (like a clay planter pot)
  • A screen if you need to keep pets or children away
  • An old cookie sheet, pans, or something to place the candle on
  • Matches or a lighter

To make your clay pot heater (flower pot heater) place the cookie sheet on a table. Place the candle in the center. Place the bricks on two sides of the candle. If you use 4 bricks, place them in a square, but leave space between each one. This will allow airflow to the candle. Turn the clay pot over and place it upside down on the bricks, over the candle. Light the candle. Place the screen around the cookie sheet if you need to.

The heat from the candle will permeate the pot and dissipate into the surrounding air, warming the room. A single 6-8 inch clay pot heater can heat an entire room. If you use votive candles, you’ll need to replace them after a while. If you use a jarred candle, it will last much longer.

Clay Pot Heater Precautions

As with any candle flame, don’t leave them unattended. Using the screen can help with keeping pets and kids away from the flames, but be sure to keep an eye on them. Candles can create a liquid wax flow, so the cookie sheet will help to keep that in check. Look in on your candle often to be sure the wax isn’t getting out of hand. Candles burned for a long time can use oxygen. If your house is airtight, open a window slightly or open the door occasionally. The smoke from natural candles will be minimal, but you’ll want some airflow if it gets to be a long time. Do not go to bed and leave your candle aflame. Use any precaution you would when using candles.

Use this as an emergency heat source only. If you expect your heat to be out for a long time, seek emergency shelter. For a few hours at a time, this device can help keep you from freezing. Layering your clothing and snuggling under blankets can help hold heat close to your body.

Not Suitable for Chickens and Vegetables

I would not use this to keep in my chicken coop or greenhouse. As we mentioned above, this type of heat source needs to be attended to. Vegetables won’t knock it over but chickens certainly will!

Have you ever used a clay terracotta pot heater or other emergency heat source? How did it work?

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Sources

  1. Are Candles Bad For the Air Quality in Your Home? Blue Ox Heating & Air. Accessed Jan 2020.

About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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Comments

  1. Kate says

    A picture that looks like the candle clay pot you describe would help. I see no bricks, and the picture you show looks like it has clips to support the inverted clay pot. Not sure I can extrapolate the correct clay pot heater from your description with a different photo.

  2. Rod Paille says

    Sorry, but a candle(s) in a clay pot will provide no more BTU that a candle without the pot. Simple physics.

    • Wulf says

      No one is saying it creates more heat. It simply utilizes the meager heat that is created more efficiently, and in a controlled manner, instead of completely wasting it. It concentrates it in one small spot.

      Rather than simply dissipating into the cold air as an uncovered candle’s heat would, it’s collected by the pot, slowly warming it. The heat then radiates from it, allowing it to more effectively heat the space immediately around it.

      Terracotta retains heat quite well, and this works best if you have two pots of notably different sizes to nest one inside the other, for each heater. It’s even better if you have more than one set — as long as you have enough clean, breathable air. Just be careful; they can be dangerous. And tea lights really don’t work well, at all. You’d need far too many of them burning in constant succession for any real payoff. Even votives are probably too small, but are certainly better than nothing.

      In short, this is a basic, primitive convection heater. It isn’t meant to comfortably heat your entire home — or even a single, entire room — for days on end like your oil furnace or a pellet stove. It’s merely a survival technique intended to raise the chance you won’t freeze to death for a few more hours.

    • deb says

      The heater described in the directions does not seem to match the one in the picture at all!! Another picture would be helpful!

  3. Wayne Lind says

    I cheat, I fire up the gen set and plug in my to big electric infra reds when the power goes out.. But your candle heaters sound great.
    Minus 20 C.( -4 F.) Wed.. Power goes out, will need lots of candles
    Thank You, May go and get the things to make them. Gen Sets can die and then your idea will keep us warm.
    Wayne, Mona & Little Rescue Dog Chico from Mexico
    Nakusp, British Columbia
    Canada

  4. Heather Starchuk says

    When I was a kid, at night we shut off the wood stove and slept with a heated brick wrapped in a towel in our bed to warm our bed and to keep us warm – the bricks used in this heater could be used similarly when going to bed and putting the candles out.