Much of our daily life depends on electricity, but things can get dangerous if you don’t have a supply of heat when there is no power. There are several alternatives for getting electricity and different methods of providing and retaining heat that can help get you survive the cold.
How to heat a home safely and effectively in an emergency:
- Invest in solar panels
- Buy a generator
- Get gas heaters
- Install wood-burning fireplaces/stoves
- Use your gas cooker
- Attract the sunlight
- Close windows and doors before temperatures drop
- Keep warmth in
- Gather in the same room
- Exercise in the house
1. Invest in Solar Panels
Solar panels may be costly but they are a good investment for emergencies and beyond. They can even power your entire home, depending on your setup.
With the panels and batteries, electricity can be gathered while there is sunlight and stored for when there isn’t.
Considering how you can manage the use of this stored energy, this can be a reliable source of power for providing heat to your home.
You should consult a solar expert to set up a solar system for your home. They can advise you on what you need to suit your energy goals, and you can choose to be off- or on-grid.
Once the solar system is in place, you can clean it 2-3 times a year (or seasonally, depending on the local flora and conditions) and occasionally service it to keep it operating optimally and continuously.
- Sunlight is a renewable source of electricity.
- It can lower your electricity bills overall, as the system will continue to function beyond emergencies.
- Solar energy can power your whole house, including refrigerators, water heaters, and water pumps.
- It can keep your water pipes from freezing.
- You will be able to cook and prepare water.
- There are tax credits and rebates associated with solar installations.
- Solar power is eco-friendly compared to fuel-burning options.
- Solar systems are considered low-maintenance when they are well-kept.
- With solar, you can keep phones charged, WiFi running, and medical devices working.
- Purchasing and installing a solar system is expensive.
- Your electricity supply depends on the extent of your solar system.
- The panels take up a lot of space.
- Damaged, dirty, and obstructed panels will not function optimally.
- Overcast weather can impact electricity levels.
- The panels can be blown off and damaged in natural disaster conditions.
2. Buy a Generator
Generators can provide the heat you need during emergencies as it produces electricity by burning gas or propane. There are options to suit your needs and budget.
Permanent, automatic generators are wired into your electrical system and come on when the grid cuts off. These can power large appliances and systems like furnaces, water pumps, and dryers.
Portable, manual generators are switched on when needed. A heavy-duty cord will need to be run into the house so you can plug appliances and devices like heaters into the generator.
Portable generators can be solar-powered, which is a helpful source of energy for smaller devices, but these are not intended to run sizable appliances.
Generators must be outside the house and away from openings because of the combustion gases (including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide) they produce. You can consult an expert for help with sizing, installing, and servicing your generator.
- You can choose to spend more or less to suit your needs.
- You will have a source of power in an emergency.
- It can prevent your pipes from freezing.
- You can run essential systems or appliances.
- Generators are costly.
- As an engine, generators require regular servicing.
- There might be limits to how long you can run it.
- Generators can be unsafe if not used according to manufacturer instructions.
- They produce combustion gases.
- Running a cord out to a generator means losing heat to the gap.
- It is a motor requiring maintenance and servicing to be kept in good working order.
- It relies on a fuel supply that can run out.
- You will have to turn off the generator to conserve fuel and to re-fuel.
- Smaller generators may need a jump-start of electricity to start working.
- Turning off appliances and lights doesn’t conserve the fuel being used.
- You need to keep extra fuel in storage.
3. Get Some Gas Heaters
If you want heat, you can head straight for the actual appliances.
Gas heaters are a good option for emergencies since they operate without electricity. However, you need to consider your options. Kerosene heaters can be used but are harder to operate without problems with smells, smoke, soot, and carbon monoxide.
I recommend choosing a propane heater since it produces minimal carbon monoxide and is available with indoor use ratings. Of course, there are still some pros and cons, but these are much easier to deal with than the kerosene versions.
- Propane burns cleanly.
- The heaters are easy to use.
- They are easy to maintain.
- Propane is cheap.
- Propane is easy to store; you can even keep tanks outside.
- The fuel doesn’t go bad.
- You can light it with matches or a lighter.
- Indoor versions can come with built-in carbon monoxide detectors to help keep you safe.
- The tanks are heavy, which means that carrying them can be difficult.
- Like any fuel-burning appliance, there is still a risk of carbon monoxide.
- You will need to have ventilation (combustion air) for the heater, so you will need to be able to open a window.
- You will need to monitor the heater to ensure it stays safe, meaning someone needs to be awake or nearby while it is on.
- Gas heaters can be fire hazards.
- You must keep a close eye on children and pets to prevent accidents and harm.
4. Install Wood-Burning Fireplaces or Stoves
Fireplaces and stoves that use wood can be heat sources in emergencies. They can be lit and operated without electricity and can be relied on as long as you have wood to burn.
These will have to be built into your home to function safely, as they need space to exhaust smoke. However, provided you have a supply of wood that you can keep dry, you will have heat.
I recommend that you choose the stove if you are specifically installing something. Fireplaces are not as efficient as a lot of heat escapes through the chimney.
- You can use the fireplace and stove for cooking.
- They produce dry heat, so you shouldn’t have condensation problems.
- They require no electricity.
- They are easy to re-fuel.
- Screens can help with embers and ash.
- Stoves are effective heaters.
- You can access more fuel as long as there are trees nearby.
- Children and pets will need to be kept safely away.
- The flames will need to be monitored and tended to keep burning and safe.
- You need a supply of dry wood.
- You need space to store wood or will need to know where to get from local emergency provisions.
- Using an axe can be risky.
- Chopping wood is difficult, so you need to be physically capable.
- The heat can be difficult to control.
- Wood stoves are expensive.
- Chimneys need to be kept clean.
- Smoke can impact individuals if they have health conditions like asthma.
- Fireplaces are not the most effective heaters.
5. Use Your Gas Cooker
I have a gas cooker, and I am very aware that the kitchen gets hot whenever I am cooking and baking. While I don’t appreciate it in the middle of summer, it is an asset when you need a heat source in an emergency.
You need to make sure the range is safe, with the gas bottles and connections secure, and no smell of leaks before using it.
While not the ideal option, your cooker can be a heat source in a pinch if it has been well-maintained, is used correctly, is a reliable appliance, and there is sufficient ventilation and a working vent.
It should be a good heat source, provided you close up the space to trap the heat. The more rooms you try and heat, the less effective it will be.
- You can cook and boil water while producing heat.
- You have some control over the flame and, thus, the heat produced.
- You can heat stones or bricks in the cooker for passive heaters.
- You can also use a portable camping cooker to a smaller degree.
- Gas ovens take a while to cool, passively providing heat when off.
- You might be able to use a battery backup to power the igniter.
- You must be careful with the gas supply as it is also how you can boil water and cook.
- You need to be careful not to spoil food supplies by heating the kitchen.
- You need to store extra gas.
- Some igniter systems prevent manual lighting of the oven.
- A gas hob is less effective at providing heat than an oven.
6. Attract the Sunlight
Sunlight can be helpful even if you don’t have solar panels, but you have to work smart. You can harness the sun’s heat to warm a room to help make the nights more comfortable.
We all know that wearing dark-colored clothing attracts heat. You can use this principle to your advantage with layering if you have tasks to do in the daylight, but you can also use this to help attract heat into a room.
Choose a room that receives as much sun as possible. You will need curtains; darker materials are better for absorbing heat that can transfer to the room. The material will also keep the heat in. You don’t want to block out the sun, so thinned materials are the way to go.
Place blankets and metal objects in the sunlight inside to keep them away from wind and snow. Transfer them to an insulated room when warm to help elevate the temperature.
You will need to have insulation systems to keep the heat that you gather in.
- Sunlight is a natural and freely available resource.
- It is a good source of heat when you have few others.
- You can implement this using common household items.
- It is an excellent supplement to other heating methods to help conserve gas and solar.
- Overcast days can impact the effectiveness of the method.
- Fewer hours of sunlight in winter mean you have few hours of heat-gathering.
- The stuff that heats with the sunlight will also cool quickly.
7. Close Windows and Doors Before Temperature Drops
It is very important that you close windows and doors and seal them with curtains and stoppers before the temperature drops. The wind and wet need to be kept out as much as possible.
It might seem like the more heat the house is exposed to, the better, but you need to seal it at the hottest point of the day. This means you are trapping the most heat before the outside temperature drops and steals precious heat.
- This helps keep warmth in.
- It helps reduce how hard heating methods have to work since there is some heat trapped already.
- It can make the house dark and difficult to work in if you close doors, windows, and curtains during daylight hours.
- This might not be possible if you are trying to vent appliances or run cables from generators.
8. Keep the Warmth In
Whatever method or methods you are using to gather and provide warmth, you will always need to keep that warmth in.
Your options may be limited if you need to use an appliance in a specific room, but the location is important if you have portable and flexible heating. The smaller the space, the easier it is to heat.
Opt for a room that receives the most sunlight and the least wind. Fewer windows are better since they offer gaps in the thermal envelope that you will need to try and seal to prevent heat loss.
During emergency preparation, it might help to have a few options established; finished basements are often more insulated as they are underground.
You will need to insulate the room. Seal the window frame with tape, cover them, and close the curtains. You can do the same for doors; just make sure you leave your entrance and exit more accessible. You can stop up the bottom of doorframes with towels.
Mattresses, tarps, blankets, towels, and bedding can be used to cover the floor and walls or make a tent with (a smaller space). If you have a camping tent, this will provide good insulation, especially if you have limited heating options.
You also need to keep your body warmth in. That means layering your clothing, staying as dry as possible, and avoiding exposure to the outside and wind.
- This is a great task to involve children and elders as everyone can help without danger.
- You can do this entirely with what you already have.
- You can buy thermal blankets for emergencies to increase the efficiency of this method.
- You might need a ventilation gap that impacts the thermal envelope.
- Insulating items around heaters and flames might increase the risk of fire.
- This can be a lot of work that uses a lot of energy.
- You might start sweating, which can compromise your body heat.
9. Gather in the Same Room
Most people know that huddling together can keep you warm, but you can enhance this natural survival tactic and use it in your home.
Sticking together in a small room or space like a tent can create a little bubble of warmth. Our bodies produce a certain amount of heat, and compounding that heat by sitting with others and pets can help keep everyone warm.
This works because if you crowd together, you are surrounded by bodies at a similar temperature to you. As a result, your body works less to maintain heat because the ambient temperature matches yours better. This also reduces the surface area we can lose heat from since we are huddled with others.
You need to insulate the space and yourselves, protect your heat, and gather closely to make the most of it. Avoid exposure and getting wet or sweaty.
Seal up the room and make sure everyone is layering up. You can use sunlight to help increase the body heat that you can trap with clothing. You also need to avoid contact with cold things like concrete floors, so use rugs, carpeting, mattresses, etc.
- You can all make sure others are okay.
- This can be utilized and effective even if you have few heating options.
- You can maintain a warmer environment with less work.
- You can keep thermal clothing and blankets in the house for such occasions.
- Even a few people can make a difference.
- This method can be employed while sleeping to allow turning off fire hazard heating sources.
- It helps conserve energy.
- This is less effective with fewer people, so you may need other heating help.
- This is less effective if you are not adequately sheltered.
- It is very limiting in terms of what you are able to do while staying warm.
10. Exercise in the House
Exercising can be a good way to keep warm since it increases your internal temperature. However, you must be careful since sweating can compromise your body heat and eat away your energy reserves.
You need to ensure that you will not injure yourself by doing so, that you have enough food to fuel the movement, and enough water to prevent dehydration.
Since sweating can make you cold, you need to avoid this. Try light exercises like walking around, squatting, or doing jumping jacks or a few push-ups. This gets most of your body moving, providing a good amount of heat for less effort.
Move less to prevent after-the-fact sweating when you have overdone it and your body tries to cool down. But when you do move, make sure you add enough layers to keep that heat you earned around you.
You can also seal the room to keep in the kinetic heat that you give off from moving.
- It is an easy, free way of increasing your body heat.
- If you are moving around in heavy clothing, you might get the benefit without trying hard.
- This is a good quick fix.
- This is a good way to boost body temperature for huddling purposes.
- It can be dangerous if done wrong.
- You can compromise your health if you do too much.
- You need to consider if you need to ration supplies, meaning there might not be enough to fuel exercise.
- It is easy to sweat and ruin good intentions.