When you’ve finally found your forever home or at least your home for the next couple decades, it’s important to plan for emergencies. One of the most common emergencies that most people will encounter at some point is a blackout in cold weather.
Most often, blackouts in winter occur due to high winds or ice and snow build up that takes down wires in your area. This means no power and if you haven’t planned properly, it could mean no heat in your home. In truth, many people suffer frostbite, hypothermia, and even die during blackouts because they haven’t adequately prepared to stay warm without electricity.
Hypothermia can be deadly because it can happen gradually. In fact, some people go to sleep and just simply freeze to death before they wake up. But with a little advanced planning, you and your family can stay warm and cozy. Below are some ways to heat your home in the winter if there’s a blackout.
Backup Power Source
One of the most obvious ways to heat your home when the power goes out would be to have a backup power source in place to provide power for your furnace or main heating system.
Consider installing a generator for the main systems in your home or even just a battery backup to power your heating system temporarily. Solar and wind power are also good for backup power options if it works for your family.
Insulate Your Home
Having a home that is well insulated goes a long way toward helping you heat your home during winter if there’s a blackout. Use weather-stripping on exterior doors and install window film and removable caulk on windows to help keep cold air out and warm air in.
If you aren’t sure whether your walls and attic are insulated properly, find out now. Take steps to fully insulate before the next power outage.
Professionally installed carpet with a thick padding will help insulate floors. You can also use area rugs and throw rugs to help insulate bare floors. If your floors are still cold after putting down an area rug, try layering cardboard between the floor and the rug to insulate it further.
This not only will help lower your heating bills all winter long, but it will help to trap warm air inside if the power goes out unexpectedly in cold weather. A well-insulated home means you and your family won’t get dangerously cold quite as quickly. In fact, if your home is well insulated and you know how to dress warmly, you could even survive an overnight power outage, if it’s not bitterly cold outside.
Stop Heat Loss Quickly
Let’s say the power does go out and you have a heating system that requires electricity to operate. You meant to get a backup power source in place one day, but you just haven’t been able to get it done yet.
Now, in the middle of a snowstorm, your house goes dark. It’s important to know how to stop heat loss quickly. You want to trap any warm air that is in your home and keep any cold air from getting in.
If you have a standard furnace system, close the cold air return vents to keep warm air trapped in your home. Seal up any cracks and gaps where warm air can escape, or cold air can rush inside.
Use a door draft stopper at the bottom of exterior doors or roll up a towel and lay it along the bottom of the door or in the ledge of windows if you didn’t insulate them with window film. If it’s late afternoon or evening close your draft blocking curtains or at least hang a heavy blanket or quilt over the windows to help trap warm air in and keep cold air out.
If need be, you can hang heavy quilts or blankets on the walls in the rooms where you will be gathered to help trap air inside. When the sun is out in the morning and midday, leave curtains open to let the sunlight warm the room. Even a heavy shower curtain liner or piece of plastic sheeting can be used to help insulate windows temporarily to stop drafts.
Fill Your Bathtub with Hot Water
I haven’t tested this one myself so let me know if you’ve tried it. If a storm is coming and the power goes out, fill your bathtub with very hot water. My understanding is that the heat will disperse throughout the bathroom and possibly into adjacent rooms. It may not actually raise the temperature of the room, but it could contribute to keeping the temperature from dropping so quickly.
Portable Propane Heaters
There are some really great portable propane space heaters available on the market today. The one I have as part of my blackout plan is a Mr. Buddy Heater model.
It’s easy to operate and is fueled by those green propane cylinder tanks that you can buy just about anywhere. It makes a great heater for an emergency, if the power was out for several hours or even overnight, we could keep using that at least one or two rooms warm with that heater.
For an extended power outage, the heater has an optional connector to attach it to a bigger tank like the one I use for my gas grill. I have 4 small cylinders on hand and 3 of those larger tanks and I try to keep them full.
You do have to remember to keep everything properly vented and make sure you have alarms in place to alert you if oxygen levels get low. What’s great about the Mr. Buddy Heater is that it has an automatic shut off if oxygen in the room drops too low.
Portable Kerosene Heaters
Another way to heat your home in winter during a blackout would be with a kerosene heater. Just make sure the one you get will ignite without using electricity. Kerosene is available at local gas stations, but it is extremely flammable. Be sure to properly store any unused kerosene for safety.
Again, with kerosene heaters, make sure the room is properly vented and that you install the proper alarms to alert you if the oxygen level in the room becomes dangerously low.
Block Off Unused Rooms
In older houses, many people will completely block off the upstairs during the winter to lower their heating bills. During a blackout, if you are trying to keep your house warm, you can block off any rooms that aren’t being used. Perhaps the living and a bedroom is all you need for the night.
If you’re worried about pipes freezing, you may want to move mattresses into the kitchen area so you can stay warm and keep pipes from getting too cold. Hang heavy blankets over doors to other parts of the house. Use your portable heater to heat only the space where everyone will gather until the blackout is over.
Switch to a Non-Electric Heat Source
Of course, one of the most reliable ways to heat your home in winter if there’s a blackout is to simply switch now to a non-electric heat source.
Fireplaces and woodstoves are great options because with a little practice they can also be used for cooking and for heating water for personal hygiene needs. Just make sure that you stay stocked up on firewood if you decide to heat your house with wood.
You’d be surprised how much wood it takes to heat a home for an entire winter. Even a wood stove without wood can be useful. I know of a couple who ran out of firewood and burned books and other non-essential items in their house in order to keep the house warm enough to survive the night.
Pellet wood stoves are nice too, but keep in mind that many of these have electronic ignition so make sure you have a battery backup for it or get one that can be lit manually if the power goes out.
Dress Warm and Cuddle Up
After you’ve done what you can to heat your home in the winter during a blackout, don’t forget to dress yourself in layers and cuddle up to stay warm.
Wear a warm hat on your head, gloves if you have them, and wool socks or warm slippers to keep your toes and feet toasty warm. Whether you cuddle up to family members or pets, sharing body heat is a great way to keep warm during a blackout.
Have you ever experienced a power outage in cold weather? What did you do to heat your home when it happened? How are you prepared to heat your home when the next blackout comes?
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