People in the southeastern U.S. continue to grapple with the effects of winter storms and prolonged cold temperatures. The need for basic necessities has led many people to get creative while they wait for normal life to resume. One unique heating solution in particular has made the rounds online as an easy DIY option for generating warmth during a power outage: building mini heaters out of clay flower pots.
When Texas Public Radio turned to Facebook to find out how residents were getting by without utilities when struck with a frigid storm in early 2021, this heating hack came up a number of times in the comments, including from Laura Prangner, who wrote, “Candle and clay pot to keep warm.” Take a look at the setup she shared in a photo in the comments section:
Meanwhile, others took to Twitter to show off their homemade flower pot heaters, including @texpatriate, who wrote that crafting this DIY heat source made them feel like they were roughing it during the pioneer days.
I feel like pioneer woman, with my clay pot heaters, food in ice outside and water boiling in the stove. Need any babies birthed? I’m your gal! pic.twitter.com/i08PVgFkNV
— Lady Von Titzen-Arsch (@texpatriate) February 17, 2021
How To Build A Flower Pot Heater
This may look like something someone just hacked together, but it’s actually an easy and low-cost project that uses a few basic supplies, like a clay pot and some small candles.
Here’s what you’ll need to put together your own flower pot heater:
- One or two clay (terra cotta) flower pots (if you decide to use two, one of them should be slightly smaller than the other so that it can nest inside the larger pot)
- Tea light candles
- Bricks, cement blocks, glass pans or a muffin tin to use as a steady base for the heater
- Some nuts, bolts and washers if you choose the two-pot method
For the single flower pot heater, simply set up your base, place your candles on top of it or inside it, and then light the candles. Finally, turn the flower pot upside down and set it over the lit candles. The candles will warm up the pot, creating a heat source that can last for several hours.
You can watch step-by-step instructions on how to create this flower pot heater from YouTuber Gem Webb in the video below.
The two-pot method requires a little more construction, and the website Skilled Survival has a good explainer on how the two pots help to trap more hot air inside and then disperse it throughout the room. The steel bolt also acts as a heat conductor to help get the pots nice and hot. Detailed instructions are also available on the website.
How Flower Pot Heaters Work
So, how does something that uses so little flame actually produce any noticeable heat? It’s all about how the heat from the candles is absorbed into the pots and transferred to the cold room.
First, the lit candles heat up the air inside the pot, trapping the warmth inside. This is called convection.
Then, that trapped hot air starts to warm the pot (and the bolt on the inside if you have a double-pot setup). It acts as a heat battery, storing up that warm energy and keeping the heat radiating out closer to the ground instead of just letting it float straight up to the ceiling as a lit candle in the open air would do.
As with anything involving a flame, these flower pot heaters should be used under careful supervision, as the clay pots will become very hot to the touch. Children and animals should be kept at a safe distance from them to avoid burns or other accidents.
Even if you don’t have these supplies on hand now, it might be a good idea to pick them up so you have them when the next emergency arises.