10 Years of Blog Archive

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Heat Your House or Apartment Using Gas (Propane) in Cuenca Ecuador

In North America some of us fire up our woodstoves on those chilly fall and winter mornings, and some of us just turn up a switch on a thermostat on the wall; and here, woodstoves are not that common nor is there central heating and air in the homes.  In Cuenca some houses have a small fireplace that is usually only for looks, and even if a fireplace was built with the home, to fire it up would result in smoke seepage which would definitely be a detriment to health.

Will Someone Please Turn Up the Heat!

In Ecuador, homes come with absolutely nothing to heat your home with. Most local folks simply rough it during the three chilliest months of July, August, and September, while others may use portable electric heaters or the same setup we have. Here’s our set up for heat in our home. Drum roll, please!  Tatatatatatatatatatata

When we first moved here we used a couple of small portable electric heaters from a local department store and all three of them burnt out within months. So we started using this new gas system.  At first it may seem a bit primitive, but after four years, “it’s normal”.  Funny how our perception changes when we have no other options at our fingertips.  Most people adjust fine to whatever circumstances and conditions they have to go through to have their basic needs met; I don’t know about anyone else but one of mine is being warm.

Gas Tank Safety

1. Never have gas tanks INSIDE the home. In the photo above, the interior is just for looks. You can put your tank inside the unit if you want, but we highly discourage anyone from doing it. If ever there is a gas leakage it would and could be disastrous.  We have positioned the interior unit by the sunroom door where the gas line runs behind a cabinet (can’t see it) and then outside into the outside sunroom where it is then connected to the gas tank.

2. Never leave gas tanks on at night or when you leave the home.  This is just a precautionary measure as well as a “save on gas” measure. Once you are under your blankets you will not need heat on in the house, as Cuenca rarely freezes or gets too cold. As mentioned earlier the three coldest months where it may dip into the 30’s at night are "maybe in June", and in July, August and September.

3. Never move the unit around while it is on. Shut off the valve on the gas tank first and then move to your location. The unit is easy to move anywhere in your home as it does have wheels.

4. Keep a window in the room cracked open for fresh air while the unit is on.

How to Use This Gas Unit or Similar

The heater unit does have three settings for heat and it does have a pilot light switch that you will need and want to use.  Setting it up is easy.
1. Position the unit near to an outside door. The lady of the house might want to do this part as she knows where she might want to put something like a cabinet, couch, chair, a bunch of plants, etc, to hide the line that will run from the unit to the outside area where the tank will be.  Our gas line runs behind  a cabinet along the wall connecting to the gas tank which is outside in the sunroom. 

Note: you can measure the length of the gas line to see how near to the outside door you will actually have to be.

2. Connect the gas line to the unit with a clamp

3. Open your gas valve on the tank. Check for potential gas leakage

4. Turn on the pilot light to the unit by holding the button down for three seconds and then letting go.  I believe there are directions that come with the unit.

5. Set the switch on the right to the amount of heat you would like. You have three settings, low, medium, and high. 

As you can see from the photo, this morning we have our unit set on medium as only two of the three grills in front are lit. On low you will only have one grill lit, and on high all three grills will be lit.

Where to Buy This Unit

We bought our unit from Juan Eljuri, located across the street from the Terminal Terrestre over there by the airport.  It was $135.00 in 2012. They only had one left when we were there but you can probably get them at any Juan Eljuri location in Cuenca. Other stores in Cuenca might sell them as well. Just look around; that’s how you do here it.

We’re pleased with this setup; we’ve never had any problems and it keeps us relatively warm. When we were using portable electric heaters the electric bill was around $95 a month to $120 a month, now since using gas we fill the tank a couple times a month at $2.50 each time.

To some folks who wake up in the morning and simply turn on a switch on their thermostat may think this is primitive, but it is the way it is here. You get used to it because it is now a part of your new life in Ecuador. You either get used to it, or complain and be miserable. This same heating system is probably common in any Latin American country across the world.

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!


  1. I don't understand why the gas tank has to be outside. We use these exact units here in UY and the gas tank and unit stay inside. They are also used in the kitchen to provide gas for the stove. Never had any trouble with them in six years.

    1. Potential leaky tank is health hazard, plus explosion hazard.

    2. Plus, if no open windows you can die from asphyxiation.

  2. I agree to have the gas tank placed outside of the house as a precautionary measure because even just a small leak might pose as a serious health hazard. The setup is different from the regular gas stove we place inside of our house which is off most of the times when not in use. However, for this heater, the gas needs to be always on so we could overlook it whilst busy with our daily affairs.

  3. I'm sold on the gas tank being outside the house. I have a 4-burner gas stove on a homemade table and the yellow gas line goes through the cabinets under the sink counter, to the outside. It stands next to the gas tank for the hot water. now I would have three gas tanks outside. Do people keep fire extinguishers in their kitchens or rooms with gas heaters? Or does a gas explosion rate too high for a fire extinguisher? You have to have an Ecuadorian phone number to call the police or fire department. I don't have one yet. I have also heard that there are rarely fires in Cuenca because the houses are all built of cement. Small comfort in a gas explosion. Maybe I'll just die of the cold....


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