Testing out the Survival Stove

by Erich

stove2 Last night since it was down in the mid-teens, I decided to take the little car stove I made from the How to Make a Survival Stove (Car Heater) article out for a test drive.

I wanted to test how long it would take for the car to heat up to a comfortable temperature in below freezing temperatures.

I also was curious as to the quality of the air I would be breathing and whether it would have any adverse effects on me. Read more to find out the results…

How Long did it Take to Heat the Car Up?

temp1Based on this chart below it took about 20 min to take it from 16 degrees Fahrenheit to about 60 degrees. It probably could have heated up even hotter but I stopped at the 20 min mark due to a headache I was feeling (I’ll explain below).

Time Elapsed    Temperature
0 min 16 F
5 min 28 F
10 min 44 F
15 min 52 F
20 min 58 F

As a side note, the reason for the quick increase in temperature from the onset seemed to have been due to two factors: One, I had the stove on full output (uncovered) during the first 10 min which I then covered up three-quarters of the way for the last 10 min. And two, I cracked two windows open after the ten minute mark due to the poor quality of the air I was breathing.


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

After the 10-minute mark I began feeling a small headache and the air just didn’t “feel” right. It seemed worse if I sat upright and was better the lower I sat/reclined. I wonder if I was feeling the onset of carbon-monoxide poisoning or if it was other fumes coming from the burnt alcohol?

I’m going to have to bring my carbon-monoxide alarm with me in the car during a future test to see if that is what was going on. If that is the case, then it’s absolutely crucial that you keep a good crack open in your car window. I’ll have to post on my results soon.

Overall Thoughts

All in all the stove works quite well. In about 20 minutes I was sitting in a comfortable 60 degree car. However, like I mentioned earlier, I had to crack two of my windows open (about an inch open on each window) just to feel that the air was clean.

This ended up bringing in more cold air, which naturally sent all the cold air to the bottom of the car and the warm air above the seats — so I felt warm on top and cold on the bottom. Keeping my feet propped up on the dashboard helped to keep me warm for the most part though.

Most of all I’m pretty concerned about the levels of carbon monoxide. Or was it just a fluke that I was getting a headache? I think once I test it again with the CO alarm I’ll have my answer. Stay posted…

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Comment by Tom
2010-01-12 09:04:55

Hey, thanks for the test results. I’ll watch for your CO alarm results. I’m leaning as well as you, fresh air exchange is a good thing.
I made two heaters, didn’t try them yet, going to use 99% isopropanol. What did you use as fuel in your test?

Also, using a coffee can for my tissue holder/burner….how much fuel would it normally require to fill?? IE…saturate the tissue porperly?


Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2010-01-12 12:56:38


I used 91% isopropyl. As far as the fuel amount,. I used a 1 quart unused paint can which required almost two 16oz bottles of alcohol. I usually just pour in as much alcohol as I can until the paper is completely saturated (you’ll see that it will no longer be able to wick up anymore alcohol).

Btw, how big is the coffee can? Are you filling up the entire coffee can with the toilet roll? It’s important that the toilet paper roll fills up the entire volume of the container or else it will burn around it instead of on top.

Comment by Tom
2010-01-12 14:53:20

Yup I stuffed n stuffed one max softie roll into the coffee can….looks by what you say I’ll need prolly a litre of fire juice. My coffee can probably a little smaller than a quart paint can, and I think 500 ml of propl is almost $5 dollars here. sheesh.


Comment by Jason
2010-01-13 00:59:11

Just keep in mind, if you use that CO detector in your test, and it goes into alarm, it’s garbage. CO detectors are a one time use device for the most part.

Comment by TacticalIntelligence
2010-01-13 10:56:32


Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll take a look at the manual (since I still have it) to see if that’s the case with this one.

– Erich

Comment by Michael
2010-01-13 17:07:04

my wife gets headaches in the house on the main level when i use this in the basement. i burned one off (quart paint can) in the garage…lasted bout 2 hours.

Comment by Michael
2010-01-13 17:07:49

BTW, anyone using Fresnel lens to distill water or cook with?

Comment by Steven
2010-01-15 22:59:55

I asked a question about this when the first article was posted. I was wondering about using denatured alcohol, but was cautious of the fumes from the methanol added to “denature” it. I’m not sure if this is a matter of carbon monoxide, or just toxic fumes.
It stands to reason that any alcohol that is toxic to drink is probably toxic to breathe the fumes of. The best fuel for this would probably be plain ethanol, but that isn’t really practical due to state dependent legality issues and the expense. I am still looking forward to CO detector test results.

Comment by TacticalIntelligence
2010-01-15 23:12:06

Hey Steven,

You might be correct regarding the toxic fumes. My eyes were burning slightly as well after some time which may be due to the toxins since CO does not cause those symptoms. It was the headache that worried me however that too may be due to toxic air and not CO.

I’m still planning on doing the CO tests, I’m just waiting for the weather to cool down a bit more here in Massachusetts since it’s been pretty mild for the last 2 days.

Comment by Tom
2010-01-18 20:08:01

Hey Erich, we all would like to see and hear of you in the future….let someone know of your test so you have a back up, incase the fumes/lack of O2 overtakes you suddenly..heaven forbid.


Comment by TacticalIntelligence
2010-01-18 20:42:21


Lol, yeah that’s all I need…I spend so much time and energy on preparation for potential disaster that I kill myself in the process. Go figure 😉

Comment by John
2011-09-25 21:38:33

I just wanted to let your readers know that I placed a post on the tiny house blog about indoor air quality in tiny houses.

Any open flame or fire inside of a home that is not vented is flirting with danger.

I’d encourage the readers using fuel to cook, heat or heat hot water inside of a home, RV, tent of living space to find out all you can about CO. A silent and deadly killer.

Here is the link:

Stay safe


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2017-05-09 18:07:02

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