When winter comes along, heavy snowstorms are par for the course. Sometimes the storms are strong enough to down power lines, forcing the utility company to shut off the electricity to allow repairmen to fix the damage. In this article, we show you how to keep warm when it’s cold should the power go out and you don’t have a backup generator.
1. Propane Stoves
Your propane or gas stoves won’t need any electricity to operate, so you can use them as temporary heat sources. Don’t leave them on and unattended, but run them every once in a while to warm your hands and feet. Use them for about five minutes at a time.
When cooking or heating food, get as many people in your household together to “enjoy” the heat and maximize its operating time. Never leave stoves like these burning without anyone in attendance as that is not only a fire hazard, but could also cause carbon monoxide poisoning if the area isn’t well-ventilated.
If you live in a house with a fireplace, consider yourself lucky. They may be less efficient when it comes to warming your home, but in a situation where you have no power a fireplace is one of the best and “homiest” backups. The only concerns about using the fireplace to keep warm is that you have to stock up on enough firewood to keep the fire going for as long as the power outage lasts, and to ensure that the chimney isn’t clogged by soot or other debris if it hasn’t been used for a while.
3. Wood-burning Stoves
A good alternative to a fireplace is a wood-burning stove. These can be purchased as antiques or from second-hand stores if you don’t want to break the bank on a brand-new stove. Some models are for the exclusive purpose of heating a central area in your home, such as the living room. There are also wood-burning cook stoves — these are stoves that also have surfaces or compartments to harness the heat for cooking food in addition to providing warmth. Another option is using the wood-burning stoves that you’d pack for use in camp, but these are small and inefficient compared to their full-sized cousins and proper exhaust ventilation needs to be provided.
When the power goes out, placing a few candles in a room can warm you somewhat, although using candles can be inefficient and dangerous. Make sure the room you’re using candles in has ample ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. Avoid leaving candles burning while you’re asleep or not in the room, and position them well away from curtains and other combustibles to prevent an inferno. Several small tealight candles are safer, but may not provide much heat.
5. Insulate Your Rooms
Keep any unoccupied rooms’ doors and windows shut to reduce the amount of space you’re trying to heat, and that applies to their windows too. Seal any cracks or openings on your windows with caulking, or cover them with towels. You can also close any gaps under doors by jamming rolled-up towels beneath them to keep the warm air in and the cold air out.
As for curtains, use dark-colored ones and keep them closed, as they absorb heat during the day and give off the heat during the night. If you can’t completely seal the drafts in a room, cover them with solar blankets, with the shiny side facing in.
6. Start From the Floor
Allow any rooms with dark ceramic or stone tiles on the floor to “bask” in the sun’s rays during the day. As with dark curtains, dark-colored tiles store heat when exposed to the sun, then release that heat in the evening. You can also have added insulation on your floor by laying down thick area rugs; these can trap heat and warm up the room.
7. Layer it on Thick
Another way to keep warm when the power’s out is to put on layers of clothing. Don’t rely on just one thick piece of clothing, but bundle up with long johns, a couple of shirts, a light jacket or sweater, and pants. Wear polyester or other synthetic material instead of cotton. Wear gloves or mittens, a hat, and wool socks, then wrap yourself in a blanket if you wish. Adjust the amount of clothing worn to prevent overheating but, if you sweat, be sure to change into fresh dry clothes.
8. Eat to Keep Warm
Eating is also another way to keep warm, as your body will use the calories from food to regulate your body’s core temperature. Protein and carbohydrate-rich foods are good at helping you keep your body’s “fire” going. Don’t hesitate to snack, and snack as often as you can. Just be sure to have plenty of water available, since digesting food can and will make you thirsty.
Hot stews, soups and drinks like tea, cocoa and coffee in reasonable doses can keep you warm. Alcohol is not a useful option, as alcoholic beverages actually reduce your body’s core temperature and can dehydrate you and make you more vulnerable to hypothermia.
9. Increase Your Physical Activity
Even a minimal amount physical activity will keep your blood flowing and help you stay warm. Don’t overdo the effort, though, as a lot of exertion can cause you to perspire and will increase your need for food and water.
Simply walking through the rooms of your home, going up and down the stairs and moving your arms around will increase your metabolism and how warm you feel. This might be a good time to do some organization or make further cold weather preparations as these efforts will also require some movement.
Going through winter without power can be bothersome and even life-threatening, depending on the severity of the storm and how prepared you are. The key to keeping warm without electricity is being prepared and knowing what alternatives you can use to generate and conserve heat.
Be open to the possibility that the lights can and will go out in the winter, and do your best to prepare for it. If you don’t have a fireplace or generator, seal any cracks on your doors and windows, get an EPA-approved wood-burning stove, bundle up, stock enough food and clean water and brace for the cold.