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Kotatsu (heating)

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Kotatsu (heating)

Postby Sunshine88 » Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:22 pm

I've been reading and learning quite a bit from these forums, so I wanted to share something in return. A few winters ago I housesat for a friend who'd lived several years in Tokyo. On returning to the US, she and her husband built their own kotatsu, which is a common heating device in Japan. Basically it's a low table with a heating unit underneath, covered with a heavy blanket. You sit under the blanket and get amazingly toasty warm. I ended up building myself one, I loved it so much. I live in an attic apartment that gets very cold in the winter, so rather than crank up the heat to try to warm the whole place, I spend most of the evening under the kotatsu, snug and warm in a fairly cold room. It's a nice place to eat together, play board games, what have you.

These days, they're built with electric heaters, but in the past they were heated by coals in a shallow pit under the table. I imagine this could be perfect for someone planning an off-the-grid shelter in a cold location. Not that I think this should be your only heating plan, but it would be an efficient way to keep the family warm some of the time to conserve your other heat source -- you only have to burn enough coal to heat a small space. You get a lot of body-warming bang for your buck/lump of coal.

The only downside is having to fight off the inevitable nap that comes along with relaxing under one. :sleep:

Wikipedia has more information and illustrations as a starting point:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kotatsu
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby Everyman » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:29 pm

We did something similar in our cabin in NW Montana. Since everyone sits around the kitchen table to socialize, eat, play cards etc I covered the table with a table cloth which hung down to about 12" off the floor. I would then put the propane Mr Heater under the table and lighted it up. When you sat down you just pulled the table cloth onto your lap and toasty! We'd keep the kettle on the heater for Tea or put the soup pot on it. It worked great, especially first thing in the morning when we were waiting for the big wood burner to heat the cabin up.
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby oswegoscott » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:30 pm

Extreme fire hazard and potentially lethal fumes from coal,wood,propane negate that idea for me
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby Sunshine88 » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:49 pm

oswegoscott wrote:Extreme fire hazard and potentially lethal fumes from coal,wood,propane negate that idea for me


Yeah, fair points. I imagine the grating on the coals provided some protection from fire, given that Japanese homes were made essentially from paper and bamboo, and it sounds like the world's worst fire hazard otherwise. Fumes... I don't know. A quick google shows that some cultures used a chimney to vent. That does make it sound like more of a production, though.

Or hook up the electric kind to a generator outside. :)
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby Everyman » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:18 pm

The one's I saw in Japan were like giant glazed ceramic pots with domed lids sat into the floor. The mass of the thing retained and provide heat for long periods. They used charcoal. They use very little fuel because the goose-down apron retains most of the heat. The Japanese have been using them for thousands of years....I think we would have heard about it if they had all been killed off by their kotatsu. The same thing is true of vent-less propane heaters here in North America.
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby arkieready » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:19 pm

Apparently the earlier Japanese cultures were able to cope. Or they would have eliminated themselves. I bet there were no warning labels on their charcoal brasiers (spell that hibachi)
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby condomain » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:23 pm

People used to chuck hot coals under their beds. Maybe some still do? Then they changed to stone slabs.

Anyway, seems a bit risky to me but maybe OK if you do not leave the area and stay vigilant about it.
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby arkieready » Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:15 pm

I would do it. I also used a kerosene heater in a MOBILE home for 20 something years. Guess what? I ain't dead yet. Just because some dumb butt killed himself doing it doesn't make it dangerous. You still driving that car of yours? Thought so.
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby grouster » Sat Aug 03, 2013 10:05 am

I have always liked the idea of the mass heaters. They seem to be the most efficient way to heat small to medium areas, but weigh a ton.

http://www.rocketmassstove.com/photos/
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby oswegoscott » Sat Aug 03, 2013 12:35 pm

arkieready wrote:Apparently the earlier Japanese cultures were able to cope. Or they would have eliminated themselves. I bet there were no warning labels on their charcoal brasiers (spell that hibachi)


Yes,we should all start grilling indoors and practicing hari-kari. After all,it worked for the japanese
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby arkieready » Sat Aug 03, 2013 5:10 pm

Over reacting, scott?
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby Everyman » Sat Aug 03, 2013 9:11 pm

arkieready wrote:Over reacting, scott?


It's a practice called topic dilution combined with anger trolling. Ignore him and he'll go away.
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby oswegoscott » Sun Aug 04, 2013 6:58 am

Everyman wrote:
arkieready wrote:Over reacting, scott?


It's a practice called topic dilution combined with anger trolling. Ignore him and he'll go away.


No,it's a response directed at the proven dangers of burning charcoal or wood indoors without adequate ventilation/exhaust
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Re: Kotatsu (heating)

Postby Fenix » Sun Aug 04, 2013 12:02 pm

Great. We have all been informed of the dangers. Move on.
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