How NOT to heat your home on the cheap this Winter

With electricity and gas bills rising in the UK next month, how would you like to heat your home on a shoestring? If you would, don’t listen to one man’s advice.

A neat trick to heat if not your entire home but one room for 8p a day. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Yeah, I know, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is, but what if you see the innovator demonstrating the trick in a home video? Just because you see a conjurer apport a silk handkerchief out of thin air doesn’t mean he actually has. Get real, dummy. No, that is a bit harsh, actually it’s very harsh, because this is a video that is presented, apparently, in good faith. And, it is endorsed by the Daily Telegraph. Wow, then it must be true. Not. To date, the video uploaded by KeepTurningLeft has attracted nearly two and a half million views in a little over a year. But does it deliver?

I figured that it would be worth “investing” a tenner or so to find out, so last week, already having the requisite baking dish in my kitchen, I took a slow walk up to Iceland, there being no Tesco store in Penge. Iceland didn’t stock the tea lights, but I found them in the shop next door.

The tea lights our friend claimed were £1 per hundred from Ikea were actually £4 for 50, but I bought two packets for £6. The flower pots were inexpensive, and as far as I can tell exactly the same sizes recommended. The baking foil I bought to cover the hole in the small flower pot was superfluous but I used it anyway together with a coin. And...

And it don’t work!! Admittedly the room in which I sit in front of my computer all day is somewhat larger than his, and yes the inner flower pot does get very hot and the outer one quite hot, but with the contraption on my right if I hold out my right hand I can feel the heat about 18 inches away; my left hand, which is forever on the mouse, is not one degree warmer.

The first two screengrabs below show one of the tea light candles: the first with the light on, the second in the dark. Both look extremely bright, but like our wondrous heat source, this is an illusion. The last one shows the best way to keep your head warm using a flower pot. Seriously, how did this guy ever go viral, and how did anyone ever take this garbage seriously, including me?

The truth is that this idea is far from new; here is a version from 2008; without looking too hard I found another reference from 2002, and no doubt Heron of Alexandria or some other whizzkid from the ancient world came up with and discarded the same idea. Although I’m writing in London, UK, the laws of physics also apply in Australia, so wherever you are on this planet, you read it here first.

A tea light burning in a darkened room. It looks a lot brighter on video than it is. Its heat output is minimal.

A tea light burning in a darkened room. It looks a lot brighter on video than it is. Its heat output is equally disappointing.

The flower pots were the right size, but the low cost heating gimmick doesn’t work.

The best, indeed the only way to keep warm using a flower pot, no thank you.

[The above article was published originally November 19, 2013.]

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