DIY For Cooking Off-Grid: The Candle Heater

No matter whether you are concerned about the heightened risk of social collapse or want to be free of big oil, a candle heater can reduce cost and improve your survival odds at the same time.  You can use candle heaters safely for heating and cooking in the home, as well as when you are living outdoors.

How and Why It Works

The candle heater uses the metal bolts, nuts, and washer “fins” to transfer heat from the candle up into the clay pots. From there, the heat is absorbed by the pots, and radiated in a wider pattern than you would get from a bare candle flame.  One votive candle can heat a small room for 6 – 8 hours. This project will cost you around 20$ for the required parts.

Tools and Parts:

There are no specific tools required for the project, but you will need the following parts:

  •  1 – 8“ unglazed terra cotta flower pot (approx $3.50)
  • 1 – 6“ unglazed terra cotta flower pot (approx $2.50)
  • 1 – 4“ unglazed terra cotta flower pot (approx $1.50)
  • 1 – 6“x 1/4“ metal bolt (less than $1.00 each – zinc free, as zinc can release toxins into the air when heated)
  • 9 – 1/4“ metal nuts (approx $2.00 for all 9)
  • 10 – 1 1/2“ metal washers (less than $3.00 for all 10).
  • 1- metal basket large  enough and strong enough to support weight of the candle heater.  (Note –  you may be able to use a 1 gallon paint can or similar sized can in place of a metal basket.  If you do, be sure to drill enough holes in it to allow sufficient air circulation for the candle.  (I used a bare metal corner shower holder that cost $4.50)
  • 1 – votive candle (approx .50 cents each)
  • 1 – fireproof tray for candle drippings (less than $1.00 each).

You can also make more use of the candle heater, using the optional parts below:

  •  1- terra cotta saucer large enough to fit 8“ flower pot (approx $1.50)
  • 4 – 1/4“ metal nuts (approx $1.00 for all 4).

This assembly is only used if you want to use the candle heater for cooking. Once the candle heater is completed, simply place nuts 90 degrees apart on the bottom of the 8“ planter and rest the terra cotta saucer upside down on top of them.

Building the Candle Heater

Preparation:  Place terra cotta pots in the oven on low heat for several hours until all moisture is removed from them. You will also need to dry them out on a weekly basis if you do not use them for heating purposes.

  • Step 1: Place one washer on the bolt.
  • Step 2: Place bolt through the 8“ flower pot so that the washer sits on the outside of the pot.
  • Step 3: Turn planter upside down and put one washer on the bolt at the bottom of the pot.
  • Step 4: Secure the washers with 1 nut.  The nut should be tight enough to keep the bolt in place, but not so tight that the clay pot will crack when it expands during heating.
  • Step 5: Place second nut on the bolt.  Take 6“ pot and place in the 8“ planter so that bolt goes through the hole.  Adjust second nut so that rim of 6“  pot is even with the 8“ pot.
  • Step 6: Remove 6“ pot and place washer on top of second nut.
  • Step 7: Place 6“ pot on top of washer
  • Step 8: Place another washer on bolt inside 6“ pot
  • Step 9: Secure washers for 6“ pot with nut.  Once again, the nut should be tight enough to keep the pot in place, but not so tight that the clay pot would crack upon heating.
  • Step 10 – 13:  Repeat steps 5 – 9, only use 4“ pot inside of the 6“ pot.
  • Step 14: Place another washer on top of the nut securing the 4“ pot.
  • Step 15: Place a nut on top of the next washer.

Repeat Steps 14 and 15 to finish building the radiator assembly. You should have 4 washer “fins” and approximately 3/4 inch of bolt left bare.

And see our video below to check you steps when making the candle heater.

Operating the Candle Heater

First of all, find a place where the candle heater will not be disturbed by pets, children, or anyone else that might knock it over. Set basket or can on a fireproof surface and well away from anything else that might catch fire. Put candle on drip tray and place both inside the bottom of the basket.  The candle should be just enough below the rim of the basket so that air can reach the flame from all sides.

Light the candle, and turn the candle heater upside down and place on top of the basket.  The bolt should be as close as possible to the candle flame so that a maximal amount of heat transfers from the candle to the bolt and fins.

Important Note: If you must move the candle heater for any reason, do so with caution.  The outer pot can reach well over 150 degrees in temperature and should not be handled with bare hands until completely cool. The metal bolt and fins can also stay hot for longer than you might expect.

Once you make your first candle heater, you will never want to go back to open fires for camping, let alone put up with high winter heating bills again. So let’s get to work!

emp1new_redThis article has been written by Carmela Tyrell for Survivopedia.

Written by

Carmela Tyrrell is committed to off gridding for survival and every day life. She is currently working on combining vertical container gardening with hydroponics. Tyrrell is also exploring ways to integrate magnetic and solar power generation methods. On any given day, her husband and six cats give thanks that she has not yet blown up the house. You can send Carmela a message at editor [at]

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