Modern technology provides all the comforts one would need to have a happy and healthy life. Still, this technology we all depend on it’s not invincible, and preppers imbued with self-sufficient spirits know better than to forsake our pioneer forefathers’ lessons learned through peril and misfortune.
They survived through unimaginable circumstances, and their time-tested survival methods deliver results when modern technology fails in the form of a power outage.
Hopefully, you’ve already considered what to do during such an event. Perhaps you’ve even implemented several precautionary measures. If not, there’s still time to prepare.
Let’s review some simple steps that will keep you cozy when your furnace is rendered useless.
🌡️ Perform an Efficiency Check
First, make your home as energy-efficient as possible. Have an energy expert perform a thermal examination of your home to determine where you’re losing heat. Then, add insulation in the walls, and seal around exterior doors and windows where needed.
I did this while re-siding my home several years ago. I also upgraded to more-efficient windows. Those efforts cut my energy bill in half. Properly insulated, your home will maintain its interior temperature without power for long periods.
⚙️ Buy a Generator
Also, consider getting a generator. You can get one large enough to handle lights, appliances, and other key electrical services, or you can pick up a smaller one that runs your stove, lights, and refrigerator.
Running inductive devices such as electric heat throughout your home from a generator is possible, but it is a poor use of fuel and money. Heating one room with an electric space heater is a better option.
Heated blankets also deliver extra warmth without drawing tons of power.
🥩 Get a Grill
If you don’t have one, consider purchasing a propane or charcoal grill. It will cook food and soups and also heat water for hot drinks.
Properly stacking six cinder blocks creates a rocket stove—an alternative to a commercial grill. The nice thing about propane grills is that the market has many catalytic heaters that attach to your grill’s 20-pound propane tank.
Then, it can be used indoors as a space heater—with proper ventilation, of course.
☀️ Install Solar Panels
Another pre-outage step is installing solar panels that provide power directly through an inverter or charge and maintain a bank of deep-cycle, 12-volt batteries, which can provide your home with electricity.
🥵 Conserve Your Existing Heat
We all remember our parents’ instructions:
“Close the door! You’re heating the entire neighborhood!” The same concept applies during a power outage; only heat the room(s) in which you’ll be spending time. Choose a room on the home’s south-facing side to benefit from solar radiation.
Create partitions using sheets or blankets to trap warm air into occupied rooms and prevent cold air from entering your warm enclave. Insulate the floor with area rugs, blankets, cardboard, or newspapers. If you own camping equipment, your sleeping pads will help insulate the floor near your sleeping area.
Block doorway drafts with towels, blankets, clothing, or duct tape. Tape shower curtains or plastic sheeting over window frames. Cut foam to the size of your windows—especially if you don’t have thermal pane windows—and place it in the window to inhibit cold air from entering.
🌪️ Go underground
This may surprise you: Basements or below-ground family rooms are the best rooms to occupy if the lighting isn’t an issue. Because they’re at least 6 feet beneath ground level, the earth surrounding the walls actually insulates the room.
Basement temperatures often reside between 50 and 60 degrees (F), day and night. Consequently, they’re easily heated. Taping clear or opaque plastic sheeting across the basement’s doorway transfers light from the home’s main level to the basement.
If you don’t have a way to light the basement during the daytime, consider spending those hours on another level and sleep underground at night. My family has done this in the past, and we’re always amazed how much warmer the basement is than the above ground rooms. This technique also works in the summer if your air conditioner quits working.
🕯️ Use Supplemental Heat Sources
You now know several ways to retain existing home heat during power outages. However, sometimes, what’s left is insufficient, especially when the power is out over multiple days. Fortunately, there are solutions.
A wood-burning stove—especially one designed similarly to the old Ben Franklin stoves (with pot-belly-shaped, cast-iron bodies)—creates electricity-free heat. Plus, it’s designed for cooking and heating.
🔥 Pellet stoves are another great option.
They burn pellets made of compressed sawdust and a binder, and they feed into the stove from a hopper, which saves the hassle of continuous manual loading. Both designs release heat in all directions, so adding a reflector behind them is highly beneficial.
Important: Wood and pellet stoves both require a stovepipe with an outdoor vent.
Fireplaces throw heat, but most of it is lost in the chimney. To capture it, install a fireplace insert designed to recirculate hot air back into the room. Another option is building several channels that capture and recirculate the heat through the walls and around the chimney flue.
My wife and I use two Mr. Heater propane heaters that run on 1-pound propane canisters. We put one in the living room during the day and one in our upstairs bedroom at night. Each canister burns approximately six hours on the low setting, which keeps the room comfortable. Ours also accommodate a second canister in case they need to be run on a higher setting.
While propane and kerosene heaters are effective and easy to use, you must be sure they’re approved for indoor use. You might need to open a window for ventilation, so check before you buy it.
With basic materials such as bricks, cast iron pots, and terracotta flowerpots, you can create your own space heaters and place them virtually anywhere. Bricks can be heated on or next to your stove or heater and can then be placed in a cast-iron pot or Dutch oven. Cast iron absorbs heat, which helps the bricks emit heat longer.
Terracotta flower pots, combined with tea candles, radiate heat. Stack a small pot inside a larger one then set the tea candles underneath the smaller pot. When lit, the candles will heat the smaller pot. The smaller pot then heats the air inside the larger pot, in turn, heating the room. These might not be as effective as the other means, but they will do the trick if nothing else is available.
🍲 Eat to Stay Warm
As I said earlier, your body is the biggest space heater in the room. Fuel it by consuming high-calorie foods during cold weather. Fats and carbohydrates give your body the calories it needs to stay warm.
Eat something like chocolate before bedtime for nighttime fuel and a stoked metabolism. Warm drinks and soups are an excellent two for- one punch of heat and calories.
Finally, use the bathroom before bedtime, so your body doesn’t have to keep a pint of urine at 98.6 degrees all night. That heat can be used more effectively in other ways.
🧤 Dress for Success
As for clothing, a good set of base layers beats the chill. Aptly named, “base layers” should be worn against your skin, followed by a shirt and pants and then an insulating layer such as a sweater. An outer rain jacket or wind shirt, for example, retains heat within the layers. Gloves and wool socks complete the ensemble.
During extremely frigid conditions, wear a knit watch cap or beanie to prevent heat loss from your head and face, especially while sleeping.
⛺ Camp in your house
If you own camping gear—tents, sleeping pads, and sleeping bags—you’re way ahead of the game.
Although it seems counterproductive, sleeping bags actually warm up faster and hold more heat if you wear little or no clothing. Your body is the best heat generator you have, and it, alone, will warm the sleeping bag.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. A tent placed in your room of choice helps contain heat. If you don’t have one, make a fort from furniture or cushions with a blanket draped over the top.
Reflective materials such as space blankets or rolls of Reflectix on the walls and ceiling help retain room heat, too. Also, place it underneath your sleeping bag or mattress to warm your sleeping area. A sheet of reflective material placed behind your heat source also reflects heat back into your living area.
📝 Be Prepared, Stay Warm
Power outages are unforeseeable. For that reason, spend a weekend without electricity so you can practice the skills and tools you plan to use, determine what does and doesn’t work, and recognize things you overlooked while planning. Do this, and you’ll be prepared when modern technology fails.
Suggested resources for prepper and survivalists: