Burn Baby Burn – Candle “heaters”


BURN BABY BURN       –   Candle Heaters  

A few tea-lite candles, a metal pan and some flower pots – emergency, supplemental, or off-grid heating or something else entirely?

 This is a link to a YouTube Video that was sent to a family member. They were impressed with it but I know the science is wrong and the safety risks are huge.


 Videos like this have been circulating on line for about 10 to 12 months now. If you do a search for candle heaters you will get dozens of videos, all variations of the same idea.

Some claim that these contraptions create heat. That claim is not true, but they do concentrate it to a point where you can sense it, or feel it. This sense-able heat is what you value if you are chilled.

They are more properly described as heat concentrators.

People are interested because it promises heating that is cheap, off grid and easily made from common materials. Useful for emergencies and power outages, etc..


All this is true….,

HOWEVER tea-lite candles liquefy when they are overheated.

They overheat when they are concentrated in close proximity.

The thin metal cups the candles sit in can then collapse, spilling flaming hot paraffin into the tray or onto a broader surface.

This creates a larger flame, and it can get hotter, and flame reaches out, several feet up and out from the ‘heater’. The metal ‘bread box’ container will get hot enough to burn and eventually ignite anything it is in contact with.


The cold temperatures and rolling electrical blackouts can make impromptu ‘heaters’ like this seem like a great idea.


So, if you must, use it for emergencies, but prepare yourself with a fire extinguisher or other means to effectively put out a fire (Not water – it’s the same as a grease fire).

And DO NOT LEAVE ANY BURNING CANDLE UNATTENDED, not even in a neighbouring room.


Remember candles burn fuel and fuel burning heaters use oxygen and release gases into the home, including carbon monoxide.

It may seem counter intuitive to open a window (a crack), but it is the smart thing to do.

 Burnt table

This is a burn mark on a work table from one of these ‘heaters’.

Think about it.




You can also see my posting about this on https://www.facebook.com/thehouseinspector 

This is my Facebook business page. I invite you to go there. Please ‘like’ my page if you have not already. 

You can also ‘like’ the article, leave comments (please do) and share the information with your friends and contacts. I will reciprocate. Send me links to your business pages.


Robert Butler




Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

Kaboom. Nanny, Family, 2 Small Children Die in Fire. Cause Said To Be Electrical!

KABOOM. Nanny, Family, 2 Small Children Die in Fire. Cause Said To Be Electrical! 

That may be the way the headline would read, but fortunately it has not happened. But conditions are prime for it and the risk level is high.


The grey ‘snow’ layer covering everything under this house is laundry lint. About 12 to 20 years accumulation. And it does cover everthing; soil, rocks, insulation roll and other debris a like. And its hanging off joists, wiring and walls.

It’s a real mess! But thats not all. The photos below show the area heater and where it is plugged in.

crawlspace heater   bad plug

This is a powerfull portable commercial heater. It is the only heater in this large crawlspace and it is short cycling, starting and stopping several times a minute. It draws 240 volts when running and may surge higher at startup.

1 Every time it starts it could spark or arc at the motor bushings or in the plug box. The plug box is supposed to be a fully closed contaiment. IT IS NOT. (This is not the only uncontained wiring in this crawlspace, just the most powerfull.)

2 The plug prong orientation results in the plug being held to the outlets such that there is stress on the plug from the weight of the cord. Vibration and time will loosen the plug and expose the prongs, potentialy causing arcing there.

3 The resistance heating coils of this heater can get red hot before the fan cuts in and dissipates the heat. Just visualize air born lint carried into those red hot coils.

Arc = Spark = Ignition = Fire.


Fresh lint may be damp, last weeks lint won’t be. Sooner or later the fan of this heater is going to suck it in and…kaboom!

Fire + dust in suspension = explosion. Lint is nothing if not a flamable dust.

And oh, by the way, did you notice the crawlspace walls in the background. Exposed styrofoam insulation! Burn baby Burn. But before that the foam will off-gas poisonous gasses known to be fatal to humans.

That gas will spread throughout the structure and through walls and floors. The occupants on the 2nd and 3rd floors may not even wake up.



Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post




In this series I have included this article (which is reproduced with permission) from my professional association; InterNACHI.  I’m reprinting it with a view to providing some of the reference data for the earlier articles that home owners and renovators can use to understand and plan laundry room and exhaust vent installations.

It will also give people a perspective on why inspectors will be talking about this problem whereas it was not only a few years ago.

Wall note

Dryer Vent Safety    by Nick Gromicko, Rob London and Kenton Shepard

Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water which, during the drying process, will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct (more commonly known as a dryer vent).

 A vent that exhausts moist air to the home exterior has a number of requirements:

1.            It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may be beneath it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected!

2.            It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work. Vent hardware is available which is designed to turn 90° in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air. Restrictions should be noted in the inspector’s report. Airflow restrictions are a potential fire hazard!

3.            One of the reasons that restrictions are a potential fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, mechanical failures can trigger sparks, which can cause lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to burst into flames! Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the building wall.


 InterNACHI believes that house fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed, a fact that can be appreciated upon reviewing statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency. Fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.

The recommendations outlined below reflect International Residential Code (IRC) SECTION M1502 CLOTHES DRYER EXHAUST guidelines:

M1502.5 Duct construction. Exhaust ducts shall be constructed of minimum 0.016-inch-thick (0.4 mm) rigid metal ducts, having smooth interior surfaces, with joints running in the direction of air flow. Exhaust ducts shall not be connected with sheet-metal screws or fastening means which extend into the duct.

This means that the flexible, ribbed vents used in the past should no longer be used. They should be noted as a potential fire hazard if observed during an inspection.

M1502.6 Duct length.

The maximum length of a clothes dryer exhaust duct shall not exceed 25 feet (7,620 mm) from the dryer location to the wall or roof termination. The maximum length of the duct shall be reduced 2.5 feet (762 mm) for each 45-degree (0.8 rad) bend, and 5 feet (1,524 mm) for each 90-degree (1.6 rad) bend. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.

This means that vents should also be as straight as possible and cannot be longer than 25 feet. Any 90-degree turns in the vent reduce this 25-foot number by 5 feet, since these turns restrict airflow.


A couple of exceptions exist:

1.            The IRC will defer to the manufacturer’s instruction, so if the manufacturer’s recommendation permits a longer exhaust vent, that’s acceptable. An inspector probably won’t have the manufacturer’s recommendations, and even if they do, confirming compliance with them exceeds the scope of a General Home Inspection.

2.            The IRC will allow large radius bends to be installed to reduce restrictions at turns, but confirming compliance requires performing engineering calculation in accordance with the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, which definitely lies beyond the scope of a General Home Inspection!

M1502.2 Duct termination.

 Exhaust ducts shall terminate on the outside of the building or shall be in accordance with the dryer manufacturer’s installation instructions. Exhaust ducts shall terminate not less than 3 feet (914 mm) in any direction from openings into buildings. Exhaust duct terminations shall be equipped with a backdraft damper. Screens shall not be installed at the duct termination.

Inspectors will see many dryer vents terminate in crawlspaces or attics where they deposit moisture, which can encourage the growth of mold, wood decay, or other material problems. Sometimes they will terminate just beneath attic ventilators. This is a defective installation. They must terminate at the exterior and away from a door or window! Also, screens may be present at the duct termination and can accumulate lint and should be noted as improper. 

M1502.3 Duct size.

The diameter of the exhaust duct shall be as required by the clothes dryer’s listing and the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Look for the exhaust duct size on the data plate.

M1502.4 Transition ducts.

Transition ducts shall not be concealed within construction. Flexible transition ducts used to connect the dryer to the exhaust duct system shall be limited to single lengths not to exceed 8 feet (2438 mm), and shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 2158A.

 In general, an inspector will not know specific manufacturer’s recommendations or local applicable codes and will not be able to confirm the dryer vent’s compliance to them, but will be able to point out issues that may need to be corrected.



Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post