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Emergency Heat During a Power Outage and other Winter Storm Preps

It's winter, and you always *planned* to get supplies if the power went out. Now it's below zero and the power just failed. What do you do for emergency heat during a power outage?

This post contains ideas for winter storm survival while sheltering in your home, but many of the ideas could be adapted for elsewhere, especially the section on cold weather clothing.

Plan NOW instead of trying to remember all this when you are freezing and the power is out.

emergency heat during power outage

Before the Winter Storm Arrival

  • Electricity
    • Ensure you have fuel for your generator. If you don't have a generator consider a dual fuel generator.
    • Test your generator
  • Heat
    • Add extra heat before you lose power. If you have some warning that the power will go out, set the temperature higher for your heating system. The warmer it is to start, the longer it will take to cool. This could include warming normally unused spaces in your home to create more thermal mass.
    • Get an indoor propane heater, such as a propane fueled Buddy Heater. Buddy Heaters and other similar propane heaters are safe and designed for indoor use. Remember to stock up on propane canisters for it also.
    • Make sure your propane tank is full for the winter. Make sure your heating system, fireplace and other auxiliary heating are in good working order.
    • Reload firewood so you have a full stock before the storm
  • Windows. Consider improving your windows by controlling heat loss.
    • Honeycomb insulating shades are a good option to consider. Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, and numerous websites and stores will allow custom orders. We have Bali insulating cellular shades and open and close them with the sun.
    • Consider Insulating Curtains to reduce your heat loss.
    • If it's time to replace windows, consider adding storm windows.
  • Make sure each family member has
  • Make sure you have a few extra very warm blankets and comforters, buy them on sale.
  • Water
    • Fill bathtubs and sinks with hot water before the storm, more heat and water to drink or flush toilets if the power goes out
    • Fill drinking water jugs
    • Make sure you know where your Berkey or Sawyer water filter is and that you have filters.
    • Flush all toilets
  • Cook. Bake bread, cook food, roast chicken or beef. Basically prepare easy to make meals.

Emergency Heat During a Power Outage

First Eliminate Heat Loss, Then Safely Add Heat

#1 – Eliminate Heat Loss

  • Avoid opening and closing exterior doors. We don’t think about it much when heating is working but a blast of cold can easily drop the temp 5 to 10 degrees with no easy way to get that heat back. If you need to go outside, go through a porch or garage or other area that can act as an airlock to prevent colder air and wind from entering the home. You can even use the open area of your home as a portal, and keep a room closed for sleeping and living till the power comes back on.
  • Close all the doors inside the house. This keeps unused exterior rooms from cooling your main living/survival area. If you have forced air heat, close the vents once the power goes out (don't let the cold into your warm room, or your heat out). Remember to open them when the power returns.
  • Block drafts. Place rolled up towel at the base of a front door or other drafty door to keep heat in and cold out. Hang blankets over windows and doorways to block out even more cold. If you have time to order them, you can get heavy duty draft blockers that lock to the door.
  • Insulate Windows. Close your blinds/curtains to insulate the windows (reduce heat loss).
  • Consider moving to the basement. – Even though basements are normally colder, they can be “warmer” because of the insulating quality of the ground. 45 degrees ground temperature is a lot better than 20 below zero air temperature, especially with high winds.

#2 – Safely Add Heat to the House – Indoor Heaters and Alternative Heat Sources

Here are alternate ways to heat your home:

  • Wood stoves – If you have a wood stove, fire it up and keep it burning. If you have a limited amount of wood, burn at regular intervals, letting it get quite cold between burns.
  • Indoor Propane Heaters. My friend, CJ Harrington, reminded us that Buddy Heaters (that burn propane) are safe for indoor use. Check and double check to make sure any combustion device you choose is rated for indoor use and stock up on propane.
  • Open FlameUSE WITH CAUTION**Do not burn anything larger than a candle inside your home without providing adequate ventilation to the outside. Keep a fire extinguisher right near whatever open flame heat source you are using. Carbon monoxide and fire can be deadly. Pay special attention to kids and pets with any open flame.
  • Use the sun for heat. If it’s a sunny day, open the blinds on the windows on the sunny side of the house. Place dark blankets on the floor, furniture or bed in direct sun to soak up the sun's heat. As soon as the sun goes down re-insulate the windows best you can.
  • Run a bathtub of hot water. It will add heat to the house, and you will be able to drink it if needed (probably filter it if you have a water filter). If the temperature drops too close to the freezing point you can allow it to drain.
  • If you charcoal grill or gas grill food, consider heating bricks (such as firebricks), if you have them. Then carefully bring the heated bricks inside.

Make sure you have a battery powered carbon monoxide detector if you are using open flame inside a home.

Unsafe Emergency Heating Options

You might be tempted to use a Coleman pack heater or Alcohol Fuel heater, but these can quickly build up dangerous levels of combustion products in confined spaces. The terracotta pot candle heaters (in all their variations) do help to trap the heat given off by a candle and slowly radiate it into the room. Don't leave open flames unattended.

I've heard from two friends who know someone who had a flower pot heater catch on fire. In one case, the pot itself ignited due to wax buildup, in another case, they had the heater on a table and the table varnish ignited. If you cook outside on a grill and bring the warm pots in, that will safely add some warmth inside indirectly.

cold outside

Conserve Heat by Living in One Room

When faced with an extended power outage, living and sleeping in a single room will help conserve heat. Select a room away from the prevailing winds. If you have a room in your house that normally stays warmer than the rest of the house, that's probably a good choice.

Hang blankets over the door to your “warm” room, and insulate the window with blankets if possible. Use painters tape, duct tape or other tape to seal the blanket over the window.

Pillows function well as insulation. If by chance you have fiberglass insulation, bubble wrap, or Styrofoam sheets, those can be used to cover windows, too.

If you have pre-warning, the 3m window insulation kit is a good way to reduce heat loss thru windows.

Heat may also be lost through the floor. Put blankets, rugs, cardboard or pillows on the floor to further insulate the room. Having everyone sleep in the same room. Everyone's body heat will warm up the area.

Use the “Camping Inside” Trick

Set up a tent in the house to trap heat. The tent can also keep kids distracted. You can sleep in sleeping bags on a mattress in the tent to share heat and warm a smaller area. Again a layer of cardboard underneath adds insulation.

Choose the Right Clothing to Stay Warm

Layer your clothes – include wool and/or Thinsulate if you have it. Loose layers will keep you warmer than tight layers. Wear gloves under mittens to trap more heat around your fingers.

Remember, extremities are in the most danger from intense cold. If you have no gloves or they aren’t warm enough, wear socks over gloves.

Look for a Higher Thinsulate Gram Count – When considering winter clothing, get 100 gram (Grams per square meter of insulation) or higher if possible. Higher gram counts provide more warmth.

Traditional wool, down and fur jackets, hats and gloves are also good options. When you are active, it helps to have a wicking layer close to your body to draw excess moisture away so you don't end up cold and clammy. More on this in the post, “Emergency Underwear and Socks“.

From the 3M website, recommended grams of 3M™ Thinsulate™ insulation for footwear:

  • 200 grams for cool conditions or high activity levels
  • 400 grams for cold conditions or moderate activity levels
  • 600 grams for very cold conditions
  • 800 grams for extremely cold conditions with light activity levels
  • 1‚000+ grams for extremely cold conditions with light to minimal activity level

Use chemical hand warmers in gloves, footwear or pockets – but be careful because they may be too warm to place directly against the skin. These warmers can be purchased almost anywhere.

Hand warmers are inexpensive and work fast. The heat can really make a difference for comfort and keep you from getting frostbite. Many gloves and mittens have a pouch for the warmers. Putting them in by your cold feet in a sleeping bag can really make a difference.

For more info, see The 4 Layers of Winter Clothing Everyone Should Know.

Keeping Warm While You Sleep

A bulk of your heat loss is through your head, so put on a light comfortable hat or other headcover to sleep. (“And ma in her kerchief and I in my cap, had just settled down to a long winter's nap.”)

Use a sleeping bag if you have it. Wool is an amazing insulator, so combining a wool blanket, a cotton sheet and even a mediocre sleeping bag can give you a very warm bed. If wool makes you itch, layer a wool blanket with a cotton sheet above and below.

Use fur or fleece if you have it. Both are great insulators and can add some comfort. Put on warm socks/slippers or even boots. Watch those extremities!

If you have your indoor tent set up, this is the perfect time to put it to use. A calorie dense bedtime snack will help you to be your own natural source of heat.

Eating and Drinking for Warmth and Safety

Your body will need more calories just to stay warm. If you are active (which will also help you stay warm), your calorie needs will increase even more. Eating raises your metabolism, which generates some additional internal heat.

Make Sure to Keep Hydrated

Drink plenty of liquid. Hot beverages such as tea or hot chocolate can act as hand warmers while you drink and warm you from the inside out. They also add variety to emergency meals.

You can melt snow for water if needed using one of the emergency cooking options. You may want to filter the water before drinking. Avoid large amounts of alcohol! A sip or two is one thing, but some folks think that if a little is good, more is better.

The “warming effect” of excess alcohol is a false one. It can impair judgement and put you at an ever greater risk. Just ask the people that the cops found drunk outside the Packer stadium during the last playoff game. Not good!

Personal Hygiene – When the Toilet Won't Flush and Washing Gets Tricky

We take toilets for granted. When the power goes out, most of us no longer have running water. You should have emergency water storage and filtration as part of your basic preparedness supplies.

If you have warning that the power may go out, you can supplement these supplies by filling a bathtub and sinks with warm or even hot water. Portable storage containers like the waterBOB that attaches directly to your faucet and comes with a pump to make it easy to get the water out when you need it. This water can be used for washing, drinking and toilet flushing.

Note: You may or may not have running water when the power is out, but you can still flush a toilet by dumping a bucket of water in. Use melted snow if needed, since it won't need to be sterile.

When water is scarce, the “mellow yellow” rule should apply. Don’t flush the toilet unless you *really* need to. (If its yellow let it mellow if its brown flush it down). If you have no water for flushing, use a 5 gallon bucket and paper or sawdust to absorb liquid and odor. You could also cover a bucket tightly or use a garbage bag. A separate wet bucket for urine and dry one for feces is best.

See Portable DIY Toilet instructions here for more information

Burning Waste

The farmhouse I was raised in had no running water when my parents started their family.

If you have a wood stove and don't mind getting a little primitive, you can do what my older sisters used to do. Instead of running out to the outhouse in winter, my oldest siblings would poop on several sheets of newspaper and burn it in the wood stove.

It was primitive, but it worked.

I was very glad we had indoor plumbing by the time I was born, as I have used the outhouse when there was a minus 40 below zero wind chill one Christmas and the septic system froze. It was not pleasant.

No Power Often Means No Hot Water or No Water at All

If you have a well pump, a power outage means no water without a backup generator. If you're connected to city water, you may or may not have water, depending on the area affected by the outage and whether or not the city has backup pumps.

In either situation, there may be enough pressure in the plumbing to fill a sink or two for washing, but you should have emergency water storage. (See – Emergency Water Storage and Filtration for more info.)

Even if you have a gas or propane water heater, odds are that you won't have hot water for very long without electricity. Most gas and propane water heaters have electric ignition switches to light the fire to heat the water. You have the hot water in the tank for as long as it stays hot, and that's it.

Don’t bathe unless absolutely necessary. Getting wet is a quick way to get really cold. Keep some baby wipes on hand for water-less cleaning. If you still have running water, protect faucets that are at risk of freezing by turning on a pencil size stream of water.

Cars, Cards and Food Storage

Your car can be a refuge. If you seriously cold, you can start car up and use it for an emergency heat up for a brief period. Bring blankets and other things that will get warmed up and bring them back in the house all toasty.

**Never run the car or truck in an unventilated area. Carbon monoxide can be deadly.

Have something to help pass the time that doesn't require power. Get a couple of decks of cards and a card game book, or some print books. Board games are great, too.

Use the cold to keep food fresh. If the power is out and it's warm enough inside that food in the refrigerator or freezer will spoil, move food to an unheated porch or garage or outside to take advantage of natural refrigeration. Statistically, here in Wisconsin, January is the coldest month (on average).

Stay safe and warm!

winter storm emergency

Don't forget to check out our other Cold Weather Preparedness posts.

Originally posted in 2015, updated Nov 2022.

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  1. if you have a grinder pump, it will not work. do not flush or let any water run down the drain unless you want a basement or crawl space full of raw sewage.
    my family is pretty well set up for a power failure. first, our community’s wires are underground
    so unless a tree falls on the main road, we are usually ok. it’s a mobile home with propane heat and well water. i catch the water that runs while you wait for it to get warm and save it in empty, rinsed kitty litter jugs. i currently have about 100 gallons saved. we have a large supply of non-perishable food. our stove is propane with a pilot light, so we are pretty well set up for a power failure.

    1. I’ve never heard of grinder pumps, but that’s good to note. Sounds like you have a plan for power outages, which is good.

      For others unfamiliar with grinder pumps (from Clark Regional Wastewater District):

      When a residence is at a lower elevation than the sewer main, it requires the use of a pump to force the wastewater up to the gravity sewer main. A grinder pump works like a garbage disposal – it grinds up wastewater from a home (i.e. toilet, shower, washing machine) and pumps it into the public sewer system.

  2. Thanks for this, found it searching online after the oil company forgot to deliver our oil and we didn’t realize and they made us freeze in 4 degree weather for 8 hours. One other time the electricity went out for days in the winter…. so I’ve decided to become independent of utilitiy companies. I was looking for electric blankets to run off a small generator but every single one sucks, they don’t get hot enough or they burn your house down. My solution is now to use your tent idea with a couple of small space heaters (250w) running off a small 1000w generator, that way we can also charge phones and run an LED lamp from the same generator. Thanks for the idea, I feel safer already and I’m off to buy a tent.

  3. In case this was not mentioned…many rural houses have a septic system. Often forgotten is the fact that most modern systems use mounds with electric pumps. If this is you, be prepared to not use the toilet with a bucket and trash bags etc..

  4. Car camped in early Spring/woke up comfortably in 29F degree weather. I had reflectix on the windows (one window cracked), dog but wasn’t a snuggler, battery operated CO alarm & when I got in, I ran the car/heater for 10-15 minutes & didn’t have to turn it on the rest of the night. I was surprised at how comfortable I was.

  5. My daughter and I just “survived” a furnace shutoff issue for two weeks using two of the ‘My Buddy’ heaters inside. Outside temps were in the 20’s. They were on the 1# propane bottles, as the instructions said that the 20# propane tanks could not be used unless they were outside. We both had several layers of blankets at night; each of us had a wool blanket as well as other material. We slept with wool knit hats on, and of course all of the layers of clothing as well. We did fine. I am glad that I was able to use the heaters in a situation before having to use it in a real severe situation. (The furnace was accidentally shut down and could not be re-started…there were a couple of lights that also did not work and a couple of outlets, but most of the house still had power…interesting situation….I blame the previous owners who moved from L.A. in the 1980’s straight to the “boondocks” of rural Oregon, and did many “improvements” themselves, without knowing ANYthing!)
    But a nice introduction to ‘survival’, giving us a bit of experience without the whole “no power at all” issue to deal with.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. Yours is a perfect example of “every day” emergencies that we try to help people prepare for. The Mr Heater propane heater is excellent for emergencies, camping, warming a garage for a project and many other uses. I am glad your situation turned out ok. I hope repairs allow you to not need your preps again. All the best.

  6. I haven’t read all the comments so if this has already been mentioned forgive me. If you have a tent use it in your livingroom along with anyother camping gear such as sleeping bags. You will stay way warmer than without it.

  7. We’ve lived in both extremely cold climates (rural Utah at near 5,000 ft elevation) and extremely hot (SoCal) and some of our preparations for either extremes remain the same: We keep a supply of “painter’s plastic drop cloth” on hand.

    It is very thin, and comes in a very small, flat package, easy to store….but when opened, can cover a HUGE area. We’ve taped it over whole outside -facing walls/windows in either extreme hot or cold, while we hunker down in ONE room or one small area of our home through extreme conditions when we’ve lost heat or air-conditioning…..we tape this also over hallway openings, openings without a door that closes, etc….to limit our area that we strive to heat or cool.

    For heating, we’ve used candles inside of coffee cans or other conducting containers….if we have electricity, a small heater (ideally, with a thermostat cut off so you can keep it on at night).

    For cooling, in our plastic-restricted area, we have a small electric “swamp cooler” that we can wheel around in the room.

    In our cold climate, which had only one gravity heating vent in a 2-bedroom upstairs….we routinely slept under an unzipped arctic-rated sleeping bag as our “bedspread.” Sometimes we slept with our insulated boots on, and ran a trickle of water in our tub all winter long to keep our lines from freezing up. We checked out water lines and, in an area in the basement that was beneath the front door…and so, often got hit with a blast of cold air, we wrapped water lines for that 3-foot distance with heat tape.

    For either climate, we invested in Levolor window blinds. They keep heat out. They keep cold out. I don’t really love them. They are heavy. They get dirty fast and often. They make me feel like I’m living in a cave most of the time….BUT….they reduce my heating or cooling bills like crazy. In either climate, they pay for themselves in a few months. And, in our cold climate, we took full advantage of our passive solar—routinely opening blinds & drapes on South & West-facing windows throughout the house….Never underestimate the power of the sun, even in passive situations…..

    I do NOT run a dehydrator to dry my garden produce at any time of year….I arrange it on a grate and put it in the back window of my car—one I’m not going to drive for a day….and my produce dries perfectly for storage/keeping, without any electricity or oversight. And, if it’s tomatoes and basil…my car smells really good for a long time.

  8. It would help if more homes were built with some of this in mind. My sister’s home, built 40 some years ago, came with a built in generator that runs the furnace fan, the refrigerator and a few lights. They also have a wood burning fireplace, natural gas cooktop, furnace & hot water tank. Their water is gravity feed. Now this is in W. Washington, so it isn’t that cold, but they do lose power every year, some times for days. Yes, they do have to keep diesel on hand and a time or two they’ve run out before the power was on. As the issues are usually downed trees (along with power & telephone lines. This last time also a cell tower.) or mud slide, they can’t always go get some, either. The entire subdivision was built that way, but I haven’t heard of any others, ever.

  9. Used Little Buddy Heater for 2 1/2 days during ice storm in N.C. Kept three rooms of house warm for three days all with one 20lb tank of propane. No sign of CO. Kept heater in bathroom off of two bedrooms. 65-67inside, below freezing outside. Can also cook inside with Coleman L and another 20lb tank. Propane lights give great light warmth, much safer than kerosene lamps or candles.
    Many people use Buddy Heaters safely in RV’s

    1. It’s true that a catalytic heater doesn’t emit CO (much). but it does emit CO2 and consumes oxygen, which is why they cannot be advertises for indoor use in Canada and the state of MA, and have to be ventilated.

    Who needs PROBLEMS so badly??????? We’re 85 & 70 on a Paradise Island near Brisbane – look it up – where it is seldom cloudy, bananas ripen in mid winter when sun heats the house to 30C = upper summer temp. Food trees grow food all year. No radiators or costly warming needed, only slow ceiling fans for summer – sometimes. Long winter swim OR stuck in the car in remote bush & you won’t freeze to death = very civilised. in Cornwall UK, the big glassed-in veranda heated entire home for hours all day + after sunset. Nobody needs guns. We have about the most self-sufficient solar 12volt home nationally & thrive on 5% pension + all free medicals etc. Far more Civilised- – – In this country You can have everywhere from your freeze or sizzling TROPICS. New Zealand same tho slightly cooler, Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, New Caledonia etc = mountain coolness, tho largely tropic.

      1. ADAPT, Change, Migrate & no point in suffering needlessly. Nobody mentions putting triple thickness cardboard under carpets, in ceilings + on walls where possible; especially on walls that face outside but behind cupboards, book shelves etc. I found in Cornwall – the warmest county in UK winter – that wellington boots + long socks are perfect for outside. I also sleep with socks on my feet + on hands that go up my arms; never heard of anyone doing that.

        1. Not everyone has the option to move.

          While I appreciate your enthusiasm, I can’t agree with your suggestions, unless there were no other alternatives. The layers of cardboard you suggest would be ugly, minimally insulating and and attractant to rodents and insects.

          Who said anything about suffering?

        2. There are 7.53 billion people in the world. Are you really suggesting we all “migrate” to a few places on earth that are like where you live? That should be fun. No problems at all.

  11. This is a really good list, Laurie (and August)! We haven’t really had any significant power outages or nasty cold spells since moving, and I can’t help but feel like our luck will run out soon enough. I think I need to spend some time this week getting the last of our winter prep done!

  12. Ty all for these tips! When I was a girl scout and we went camping in the cold months of the year, we used newspaper in our cots( under the matress under sleeping bags) to keep warm. A natural insulator.

    1. Absolutely! Newspaper, evergreen boughs, and leaves are all good insulation (under or around you). When I was in the boy scouts we used leaves as a base, then evergreen boughs as a bedding layer and then the sleeping bag and then leaves and boughs on top of a lean-to. We were warm and dry, the rest of the group was in tents and the driving rain soaked everyone else, but we were good. The rain and wind actually pushed down the boughs and created a barrier because we wove the branches together.

  13. My electric was out for five days due to an ice storm. I took a round cake pan and added unscented tea light candles and lit them. I covered the cake pan with the rack from my toaster oven. I used this to cook on, I boiled water for tea and coffee and used a small skillet, 10”, to fry bacon, sausage and eggs. I put the cake pan on the large burner on my stove when cooking in it. I do not use it for something that needs to cook a long time.
    I keep a supply of tea light candles at all time.

  14. I have a 2500sq/ft 2 story house in the country. I cannot afford propane. Even if the I had lost power my propane furnace will NOT turn on, nor my water since my it is driven by a pump! I use a Kerosene Heater that uses K-1 fuel. 1 fill lasts 12 hours. I use electric heaters when I’m asleep, but in the morning the Kerosene Heater takes about 30 minutes to get a +15°F difference. I get it to run the temperature up to 82°F. It will heat the bottom of the 2nd story floor, thus turning it into a radiator all with NO electricity!

  15. I keep a box of thermacare back pads around. We lost power for 16 days in NO with hurricane Sandy and those made sleeping much easier.

  16. Hi Guys,

    We don’t get much snow this side, but plenty power outages and in winter, so I love making use of new innovations, Bio-Oil counter top fire places. You can buy a years supply of Bio-Oil, its fume free and all natural material, it will never smoke or harm by inhillation. They keep a room warm very easily with basically no maintainance, only in recent years the winters have been producing snowed up cars, windscreens and with a country of little knowledge of what to do – you hear sad sad stories of people using boiling water on the car windscreen.. But our “wardrobes” are also ill equipped, so the camping stores are getting plenty visits for their thermal wear range. Winter is approaching and we are all stocking up..last years snow and deaths due to freezing was quite the ugly lessons South Africa learnt.
    Thank you for all the input.

    1. Hopefully this year people will be better prepared. Snow and bitter cold is a regular thing for us here in Wisconsin, but areas to the south struggle when they get hit, too.

    2. Marina
      Burning any fuel consumes oxygen and results in emissions of combustion byproducts including carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide both of which can kill you if allowed to build up. Just because Bio-Oil is “all natural” does not mean it is fume free or cannot harm you by inhalation. If you are using Ethanol gel fuel, it is cleaner burning than other fuels like kerosene, and in ideal burning conditions produces less CO2 but you still have to provide ventilation especially in smaller rooms.

      ‘Bio ethanol fireplaces use the oxygen found in the air and for this reason, you should either use it in a sufficiently open space or if using it in a smaller room, always have a door or window to the room slightly ajar (at least 25mm). If you experience any headaches, stuffiness or discomfort whatsoever, then there is not enough air circulation in the room. While bio ethanol is clean burning and the main by-products are heat, water vapour and a small amount of carbon dioxide, incomplete combustion can occur if there is inadequate ventilation, resulting in air pollution.’

      ‘According to Dr. Michael Wensing, quoted in Science Daily:

      These stoves do not feature any guided exhaust system whatsoever, so all combustible products are released directly into the environment.. …On a case-by-case basis, precisely how the course of that incineration runs really depends on the quality of the fuel and other factors – like the type of fuel, or the incineration temperature. As a rule, ethanol does not burn out completely. Rather, the incineration process results in CO2 – along with poisonous gases (like carbon monoxide, a respiratory toxin), organic compounds (like benzene, a carcinogen), and irritant gases (like nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde), as well as ultrafine combustion particles.‘

  17. Well, we just got 15 inches of snow in less than 12 hours here in W Va. Power not a problem yet in this storm, probably worse on the east coast. We finally got a Generac back-up generator 18 months ago, had a little Yamaha before that. Gas stove/furnace/big wood stove.

    Using newspapers, wrapping waste up and burning it is a great idea. We have a 300 gallon tank in a sub-basement, not likely to ever freeze, I hope. Don’t intend to drink it, but flushing and washing up with boiled water is the plan.

    Nice article. Keep up the good work!

    1. We had about that much the Monday/Tuesday after Christmas, but not much since. The boys and I put up the last section of snow fence in the neighbor’s field that morning, just ahead of the storm. (He has steers in the field a week earlier because the grass was still green.)

      It started getting “interesting” around 3pm, but thankfully my husband made it home from work while the road was still passable. It snowed like crazy overnight, but by early morning it let up, and the plows were out early because we haven’t had much snow this winter so they still have plenty of hours and salt left.

      The winter of 2013-2014 was another matter entirely. It just snowed and snowed and snowed like I haven’t seen since I was a little girl. I’m glad we haven’t had to deal with that this year.

      Stay safe, and thanks for your kind words.

  18. My mother used to cook food on the car engine and tucked near the heater outlet on cold car trips. We used to get stuck in the snowy mountains frequently. Pets are good for warmth too. My Chihuahua has a temp at least 3 degrees over main.

      1. My father, a carpenter, would cook roasts in the engine of his truck. He simply wrapped the meat and veggies in aluminum foil (these days I would use heavy duty foil not the cheap bargain foils). The foil would lock in the heat and lock out the smells. They smelled WONDERFUL when we opened them after a hard days work and an hour or so drive home. If it wasn’t a long enough trip he would simply transfer it to the oven when we got home and voila!

  19. Just found this article, and I am a year late, as it is now February of 2015. Writing from around the Boston area and we are BURIED in snow. Three storms (one was a blizzard) over three weeks has left over 100 inches of snow on the ground. Temperatures have been averaging in single digits – sometimes 0. I would HATE to lose heat/power at a time like this. Makes me think that everyone should have a generator. I know they are expensive, but buying one generator will bring peace of mind. Great, peace of mind. I have a small, electric fireplace stove that heats very well for it’s size. So, even if one must save up to do it, buying a generator and electric fireplace stove is a reasonable purchase. They can found for as low as under $100 each and you never have to suffer like that again. God bless.

    1. We have not yet had to use it during an emergency, but we do have a small generator that’s set up to run home essentials, and I’m glad to have it. I wish we had had one at our last house when we lost power for three days.

  20. Good information especially on the Buddy Heater which i wasn’t familiar with. One thing though… scientists are saying that it’s a myth that we lose most of our heat through our head. That’s probably only valid if you aren’t wearing a hat in the winter lol.

    1. You can make the numbers say anything you like, but keeping your head covered is a known survival technique. Because the brain demands such a large supply of blood, it can’t be allowed to cool like other extremities. Sure, it’s a relatively small body area, so percentage wise if one were to run naked you would lose more hear from the rest of your body overall – but most people don’t run around naked, and do run around with bare heads.

      One of the comments on the “No More Cold Feet in Bed” backs this up:

      One method I didn’t see in the post or the comments is what I would call the Infantry method – wear a hat. I have heard this one from lots of armed forces guys. Even when you have to get into the sleeping bag with your boots on, your feet can get cold at night. Wearing a beanie or other kind of winter hat traps the heat, and your head is usually the only thing sticking out of the covers at night to lose that heat. Trap it with a hat and your feet will get warm and stay warm.

  21. Just a note. The heat loss via the head is not because the head loses more heat but because it is neglected as a source of heat loss. The wear a hat to need works. Years of sleeping in-40 tempatures in tents and snow scrapes in the military has taught me that. Also keep dry and change your under clothing including socks.

  22. If you decide to set up a tent IN the house, I suggest covering it with a quilt. It will make it MUCH warmer inside the tent!

  23. We lose our well water when the power goes off; so I keep gallons of water stored in old milk jugs in and under the house. If we need to flush the toilet, we pour a gal into a large pan or bucket so we can dump a large amount in the toilet at one time. This will flush the toilet. I was really intrigued by your sisters use of newspaper and the stove. Aren’t you sorry you missed out on that!

    When my gramma was little she said that bathing consisted of “We washed down as far as possible, up as far as possible and then (little giggle from her here); we washed possible.

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy your blogs.

  24. Excellent advice, the “go to the basement” has kept me safe and reasonably warm with a cot down there to sleep off the floor and an extra weight sleeping bag.

    Today’s post has a link to your blog, the post unrelated, but I just wanted more people to wander over here for such great articles as this.


  25. Great tips! Hope though we do not have to use them. But it is better to be prepared. We live up north, so cold and frost is normal, the wood stove runs a lot.

  26. Thanks for the fantastic article with the great life saving information! It reminded me of the first Christmas on Whidbey Island after my parents retired and moved there. We were stuck in the new house without furniture ( the moving van was delayed ) and had an amazing adventure as a family. We lived in the living room with a wood stove and hung blankets, sleeping bags and comforters over the windows and the opening to the hallway. Thank goodness for all of the camping vacations because we knew how to survive in style. The new neighbors were shocked when they braved the snow to check on us. They thought the Californians would be frozen and we really surprised them when we invited them in for hot cocoa around a roaring fire. Thanks for bring up such wonderful memories for me!

  27. also a nice tip is to use sheets to keep all air drafts out from the one area and to make tents for futher warmth. we lived off propane and the truck could not reach us for a week in the bad, winter of 1997 here in colorado. we had a gas hearter also. it was cold ! we put all the carpets on the floor to warm them up and made sheet tents. they let the light in so it was’nt dark durning the day. hope everyone gets to read your advise.