US Army H-45 Heater Stove
Plastic Jerry Cans (that fit the can adapter)
Also on Ebay
Yet another brutal winter has a lot of people thinking about heating their homes when the power goes out. Even a few days without heat can be deadly, let alone the potential damages to your home from frozen water pipes and expanding ice. Imagine a whole winter without heat! Could you survive it? How would you survive it is the better question. Because if you live in the country, it is easy to just own an emergency wood stove, and keep a cord of wood covered in the back yard. That will keep you warm enough, and keep your pipes from freezing. But what if you live in an urban setting, or even a suburban area where you don’t have a lot of land to store wood?
If you heat with home heating oil, the crazy thing about losing heat when the power goes out is that you have a couple hundred gallons of BTU rich fuel sitting right their in your basement tank. The reason you lose heat is that the igniter and pumps use electricity. Home oil burners don’t work just gravity fed. That fuel sits there, completely useless.
The same will be true for long term survival. You may not have a lot of trees to burn in your neighborhood using a traditional woodstove, but my guess is that between your oil tank, and the tanks of your bugged out or dead neighbors, you could probably survive several winters without having to carry fuel more than a mile. Add to that all the gasoline that is in all of the cars that get left behind and if there is a good chance that the collapse will burn itself out before you burn through all of your fuel. Life at some point will return to a semblance of normal…I hope. So what you really need is a heater that can heat enough of your home to live in, without the use of electricity.
Thankfully, the good old US Army has had to deal with this very same issue, and they solved it. The H-45 stove burns diesel, which is the same as home heating fuel, as well as gasoline and jet fuel. No electricity is required, and it will provide between 15,000 and 45,000 BTUs. If you are a genuine prepper who actually pulls the trigger on the things I show you in this series, the best news of all is that the army recently surplused hundreds of them, and they are on Ebay from less than $100 to about $200, depending on the seller and how saturated the listings are at any given time. Search for (h45,h-45)(heater,stove) and it will generally bring up all available. As of this writing there is a seller at $109 with free shipping. If you click in, buy it immediately, because they will not be there in a few hours after this article gets mailed to 800,000 people.
My test of this stove brought to light a few important problems you might face should you acquire one and let it sit before testing it for yourself. Mine came in a sealed box covered with silver wrapping, reported to be unissued, and I bought it almost two years ago from a prior batch of Ebay sellers who had picked them up at the large surplus auctions. On opening my box, it was wet inside. The storage shed that I had kept it in had a leaked that was fixed several months ago, and I hadn’t realized that the heater box had gotten wet. All of my brass connectors were green, and there was a grey corrosion on all the galvanized parts. The stove itself had been coated in what looks like used motor oil, so it was mostly unrusted, but the apparently blued stovepipe had a decent amount of rust. And alas, surprise surprise, my stove, “new and unissued,” was missing a critical piece, the breather tube that goes inside the gas can.
Therefore, I have a lot of pictures here so you can see the parts that came with my stove, as well as the missing part, and you’ll be able to see them all set up and working. My fix for the missing part was simple, and it worked.
The only downside to this heater is that it throws a ton of heat even at its lowest setting. By “tent heater” I guess the Army means gigantic tent, because I think it would spontaneously combust anything short of gigantic. After burning one can of diesel in it I determined that the H-45 burns a little less than a half of a gallon of diesel per hour at the lowest setting with the heater dial set on diesel. If I didn’t live in South Florida and I actually cared about using my H45 for anything but this article, I would try the settings for the thinner fuels to see if perhaps you can get more time and less BTUs per hour out of the same can of fuel, or it may be for another article we’ll see.
The only thing you absolutely must buy unless you are a DIY’er is an “old style” military Jerry can. These cans had wide screw holes, and the adapter for the heater only fits these holes. The new style cans cannot be used, but you can find the old style steel cans generally on Ebay for about $50 with shipping. Don’t worry if the outside is a little ugly. The inside of these cans is enameled so they don’t rust out.
I found a seller on Ebay selling a plastic can that has a cap with outside threads, but the cans also have inside threads that fit the H-45 adapter. He sells them in twos for $100 plus shipping and can be found at this link. Again, if you are smart and you intend to use this heater, jump on the cans before he runs out. The only thing with the plastic cans is to be careful not to strip the threads.
The other thing you kind of need but could get by without is the stand for the can. This could be made very easily yourself with wood, or you could figure out some other way to suspend the can. The triple leg stand will come up in your H45 search on Ebay, and they go for $25 or so plus shipping. If you want to use the heater for ice fishing or other portable application it is well worth the investment because it folds up.
The first time you fire up your stove, don’t take it lightly. I initially was sloppy with tightening the cap down and it got much hotter than it should have because of the extra oxygen getting in through the gaps.It wouldn’t hurt to buy some woodstove gasket to go around the edge, which again might extend the life of fuel and bring down the BTUs a bit. It is a hot stove, and even when it works properly the top glows faint red on the dark on the lowest setting. My guess is that you’ll need two cans of fuel per day if you plan to burn it around the clock. If you don’t want to use the cans and plan to tap a line directly from your oil tank, make sure to test it first, because it should work fine but who knows. Make sure you have an on/off valve in line. I don’t rely on the off switch on the heater to turn it off. With a can you can just take the can down from the stand of course, but with a direct line you can’t. The directions say that the H-45 isn’t supposed to produce any smoke but it does produce some, especially when it first lights up. Again, some gasket material around the lid may help this significantly.
And I should mention also that the H-45 does double as a woodstove. The fuel burning gassifier system comes right out and you can use the stove as a big can with a chimney, to burn just about anything. I have seen sellers on Ebay offering a specially made grate for the H-45, but they don’t seem to be on there selling right now.
Take a look through the pictures here and make sure that you are getting as many of the required parts as you can. The fuel lines can easily be created from Home Depot parts. Just use the correct fuel hose. The fitting that come with the stove are mostly wrenchless, but you do need a wrench to connect the double female hose to the bottom of the burner assembly. I also used teflon tape for that connection. The burner/gassifier comes assembled in all the kits I have seen, and most come with directions. Other than that you have the top and bottom cans, the control dial assembly, the special gas cap adapter, and two rods that screw together to form the breather for the can. Those rods were what my can was missing, so I made a replacement using a brass hose barb, some copper tubing and a tube of high temp silicone gasket material I had for another project in this series. Most kits will come with blued steel pop together vent pipe, and a vent cap. Fortunately the stove uses standard 4″ vent pipe, so you can buy that at Home Depot, along with an elbow to lead your pipe out of a basement window.
More than anything this project showed me the importance of actually testing the survival stuff that I buy “just in case.” I would have been sunk without a breather tube for the can, and I would have been sunk had I never figured out that you can’t use a modern Jerry can as well. It was only after I opened everything up and put it together that I realized that I had bought the wrong kind of Jerry can, and that I was missing a crucial piece. Grab one of the kits from this guy while you still can. At $500 this stove is a steal when you think about the survival implications of all that free fuel sitting in all the empty houses that will be in your neighborhood. For $100 or $200? Pa…lease!