How to Keep Warm in a Winter Power Outage
This article has been contributed by Anne Marie Duhon. Anne Marie is a wife, mother of six and a full time off-gridder. She and her husband currently live in a totally off grid 200 sq foot “tiny home” and are in search of (again) that elusive perfect spot to call home. Besides being a wife and mother she, and her family, have raised many different animals on their various homesteads and have lived and loved being off the grid and many miles from the nearest paved road. She would like to share her first hand experiences and help others to learn to live and love living off grid and being as self reliant as possible.
Winter is upon us again and with it comes storms that can cause wide spread or localized power outages. Losing power in winter does cause many more deaths than a power outage in the summer.
So how do you protect yourself and your loved ones during those cold dark hours? Read on and I will share some of the ways we do it…
The Ideal: Preparing for a Winter Power Outage
My husband and I never notice power outages anymore because we have removed ourselves from the grid so we have keeping warm without electricity down pat!
First, you HAVE to think about winter power outages long before winter gets here. Take a look at your home. Is it big and roomy with lots of open areas or small and compact? If it is large, can living areas be closed off to make smaller areas to heat? Does it have lots of windows and which direction do those windows face? North facing windows will let in lots of cold while south facing windows can be used for passive solar heating. Is your home well insulated and does it have any fireplaces or wood heating already installed? How will you be able to cook during a power outage? What about your water pipes?
So now you’ve inventoried your house. You live in the typical three bedroom brick house on a slab with windows all around and a porch on the south side. How to make it winter ready?
Check all windows and doors for leaks of air. If air can come in warm air can escape. Caulk or seal the leaks. If the windows are old and drafty consider putting plastic sheeting over the windows or making insulated drapes to hang during the winter (the drapes would work to keep the house cooler in summer too!).
Close off unneeded or unused areas during the power outage. This is where you are going to see just how fast family members can get on your nerves! Make just one or two rooms be used.
Inspect already installed fireplaces/woodstoves or install a small woodstove in a main room. You would be amazed how much one small woodstove can do! And of course have on hand a cord or so of cut, seasoned firewood for that stove and MATCHES!
Look into enclosing your south-facing porch for the winter and buy in advance the necessary supplies to do so. Enclosing your porch will give you some heat from the sun during the day and an outside place to cook if you have to use a grill.
If for some reason you cannot have a woodstove in your home look into getting some other heating source like Little Buddy camp heaters and a supply of fuel for them or a kerosene heater and several gallons of kerosene.
In a pinch, lanterns and candles do put off a bit of heat and can warm and light a small area. These choices are dangerous and should only be used in an emergency with all necessary precautions. But they are better than freezing to death.
Wrap water pipes to keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Look into storing several gallons of water incase pipes do freeze or your well isn’t working.
All the above can be and should be done and ready long before the first cold snap.
How to Survive a Winter Emergency Power Outage
But what if you get a surprise and are not ready? During an emergency power outage you need to:
- Move all family members to one area and close off all the other rooms.
- Select a space on the “warm” side of the house, away from prevailing cold winds. It’s best to avoid rooms with large windows or uninsulated walls. Interior rooms, such as inside bathrooms or closets, probably have the lowest heat loss. Your basement may be another great option in cold weather, because of the heat gain from the earth.
- Isolate the room from the rest of the house by keeping doors closed, hanging bedding, heavy drapes, blankets or towels over entryways or erecting temporary partitions of cardboard or plywood. Hang drapes, bedding, shower curtains, and such other insulating items over doors and windows.
- Drip your faucets to prevent them from freezing or shut off the water at the main and drain the pipes. Store that water for drinking and cooking.
- Let the children make a fort to sleep in to help retain body heat.
- Dress warmly and EXERCISE! It will help keep your core body temp up.
- Eat and drink warm things like soups or coffee/hot chocolate. Heating up water on a small sterno can is easy, safe and does add some warmth to the room.
- Don’t forget your pets! Many animals can and do make it through the cold months just fine as long as they are used to living outside but for those pets that are not make room in your warm spot and in your plans for them! A warm dog or cat is great to snuggle with on a cold night!
- Turn off all electricity except for maybe one light to protect against a possible power surge when the power does finally come back on.
- If all else fails and this power outage is going to last for a while contact your local Red Cross or church and they can probably direct you to a shelter in your area or you can contact out of area family or friends for an impromptu visit!
- After the lights come back on take stock in how it went for you and take steps to improve on your ability to provide for yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you had to evacuate to a friends or a shelter consider this a wakeup call and make it a goal to do better the next time because there WILL BE a next time.