It's that time a year when winter storms begin causing havoc across the United States, and when "rotating outages" are common to help sustain the electrical grid during intense cold periods. That means pretty much anybody with snow and ice in their backyard can succumb to power outages. And no electricity means no electric heat.
If the weather is so cold that it's causing power outages, then it's cold enough to chill your house down to unlivable conditions in mere hours.
And those of you who think that natural gas can save the day, it won't. At least, in most cases. Most gas heaters—even gas stoves—require electricity. If you gas heater doesn't require electricity, it may still require power to circulate the warm air. If you're gas water heater has electrical controls on it, you won't be able to operate it. If your gas stove has a electric ignition, well, you could still get it to work with a match or piezo lighter.
If you're here to learn about keeping warm during a power outage, just keep on reading...
Hopefully, some of you will find these tips useful. If you do have a power outage, chances are it's too late and you're not reading this, because... you know... computers require electricity. Even if you have a laptop, your internet router still needs the juice (though some do have battery backups now). But most of the population has surrendered to smartphones these days, which means you may be reading this on your phone, and hopefully staying warm with these tips.
Yes. It's the obvious answer. Fire has been used for heat since the days of the Paleolithic. Only, these days it's a little easier for us to create and control it. But in a power outage, it's time to get the brain a brewing.
If your home is equipped with a fireplace (lucky) or wood-burning stove, then you're all set. Simply gather up a good supply of wood and set the whole family around the warming flames. Just make sure there is adequate ventilation for the smoke. If you have a gas fireplace, it may not light due to electric controls, but hopefully a match will do the trick.
You can never have enough candles, and they serve two purposes—heat and light. Just fill up the room you plan on staying in with candles and light them all up. Scented candles should be avoided. Non-scented won't overpower you're sense of smell, nor give you massive headaches. But again, make sure there is some ventilation.
- Kerosene / Propane Lamps
- Kerosene / Propane Space Heaters
This is obviously the best choice, if you can get your hands on a few. If you have them, great. If you don't, maybe a trip to the local hardware store is due (if of course, they aren't experiencing a power outage, also). But remember, these do use up oxygen, so make sure you're not completely sealed off.
- Gas Stoves / Ovens
This should be used sparingly. Though gas stoves and ovens can produce a good amount of heat to keep your family warm in the kitchen, prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can cause carbon monoxide gas buildup. Perhaps turn it on for five minutes every hour to keep your fingers and toes free of frostbite.
If you can make some heat with gas or wood, then great. But if you can't, or need more warmth, properly insulating your home is the way to go.
Make sure all of your windows a properly closed and sealed. If you have storm windows, make sure you've installed them outside. But if the sun is out and the weather outside just happens to be warmer than inside, it's probably a good idea to open them back up.
Having some removable caulk around the house could help you seal aggressive, windy cracks. If you don't have caulk, tape some thick plastic over the cracks, or stuff them closed with towels or clothes.
Also, having some cheap, thick, clear shower curtains around will help during the day. Place them over the windows and it will keep the cold air out, while letting the sun come through and warm the place up. Any kind of plastic will do, though.
Put up thick curtains. If there are any drafts getting in, the curtains could shield their fierceness.
Besides the windows, you also should seal your doors. Weatherstripping could do the trick. Maybe a door sweep. But if you don't currently have those, a towel or some some clothing will do the trick. Blankets, too, but you'll probably want those for yourself.
You can use thumbtacks to hangs thick blankets over the doors to add even more insulation. You should also do this for doorways without doors.
- Unused Rooms
When trying to stay warm, it's a good idea to consolidate your bodies in one room. The heat from your bodies alone will raise the temperature in the room a notch or two. But you need to properly close off and seal those unused rooms.
Make sure any heating vents are sealed shut in those rooms. If you have magnetic register covers, great. If not, use something nonflammable and tape it over the vent.
Also make sure the windows in that room are properly sealed as described above. Just because you're not in that room, doesn't mean it won't help. Everything counts. And seal the door as described above, also. Remember... another barrier between you and the frigid cold outside is a good thing.
- Attics / Crawlspaces
If you actually have the time and supplies on hand, add some insulation to these areas. Again, every bit counts. Also, make sure they are properly sealed.
If you have hardwood floors, add a carpet or rug, even a blanket. The hard flooring only makes things colder. Adding whatever you can underneath your feet will help significantly. If you have carpet, but it's thin and you can feel coldness just by touching it, add a blanket on top.
Perhaps the best tip for staying warm during a winter power outage is layers. Lots of them.
Obviously, the first thing to think of is what you're wearing. The largest amount of heat loss comes from the head, so start off with a hat or beanie. Something warm that can trap the heat.
Scarves are great for keeping the neck warm.
When layering, it's always best to start off small and increase layers gradually over time, especially with wool and cotton. Start with just a tee. Then add a long-sleeve tee. Then add a sweater—sweaters are great. Turtleneck sweaters are even better. But make sure you have something underneath. Just always make sure you don't go overboard. If you need to go outside, you're going to need to add another layer, so save the jacket for emergencies.
Make sure you have one a good, thick pair of socks. Ones that cover your whole calf are recommended.
Opaque tights can be used on the outside of your clothing to help trap warm air against your body. Men and women can both benefit from this.
Bathrobes are also great to have nearby, because they're kind of like a mini, wearable blanket!
And if you need gloves... if it's that cold inside your home... don them—quickly! The last thing you want to succumb to frostbite are your fingers and toes.
When you've reached your clothing allowance, move on to the blankets. Any will do, but the thicker the better. Surround and submerge yourself in them.
Also, sleeved blankets (snuggie; snuggy) are a great alternative for those wishing to move around. And again, bathrobes are great, too.
Sleeping bags are also imperative when it comes to sleeping in the extreme cold weather. It's always good to have some on hand.
Not, not move as in leave the state—move as in move around!
If you're not one to exercise, or just never seem to have time for it, this power outage has given you the perfect opportunity to get some fitness in. Ten to twenty minutes of vigorous exercise can warm you up immensely, not to mention keep you warm for some time after.
Plus, a healthy body is more resistant to cold conditions, in general.
Play active games. It's just like exercising, but you can get the whole family involved. Charades is a perfect example. Also, play a thinking game like Scrabble to get the mind warmed up (your brain is important, too!).
- Just Be Active
- Whether it's exercise, games or another activity, like pacing back and forth, waiting for the power to come back on, just moving around and staying active will help you stay warm. Moving around produces body heat! And the more you move around, the better your blood circulation is, which means a better chance for warm blood to reach those fingers and toes.
These are other important aspects to think about when trying to stave the coldness inside your home.
- Hand Warmers
Have a good supply of hand warmers. These could be store-bought or hand-knitted hand warmers. Or you can go with the chemical reaction ones. These things are cheap and are extremely pleasant when your hands and feet start feeling numb from the icy winds creeping in your home. You can stuff them inside your gloves and shoes and you've got instant warmth! Just make sure to adhere to all instructions and warnings on the packages.
This is the perfect time to use those gas stoves and ovens. Only keep them on while cooking and you should be fine. Plus, you'll stay active while moving around the kitchen. And you'll produce a hot meal the whole family can enjoy.
- Warm Drinks
Body warmth is actually your best bet. Blankets and clothing can only trap your body heat in, but snuggling up to another warm body provides an instant heat source! Any warm-blooded being will do. If you have to—even snuggle with your cat—until it claws you, of course.
Hey, if your house is cold... your car or truck has a heater in it. Just hop inside and start her up. Turn the heater on and your golden. Also, go out. Don't just linger in your automobile. Visit friends or family. Go have fun. Take your mind off the cold and keep active! And...
- Find HEAT!
Some may not be without electricity. Which means you can crash their party and steal some of their warm air. If you don't have any friends or family to steal warmness from, visit the local library, church or other public building.
- Stay in smaller rooms. The smaller the room, the less the heat will dissipate.
- Try to stay in one room. The more you leave the room, the more warm air escapes. Choose a room next to the bathroom and make a insulated tunnel to and from for easy bathroom trips.
- When dealing with any kind of heating (gas, propane, kerosene, wood), make sure to have proper ventilation. These do use of oxygen, so not only do you have things like carbon monoxide to worry about, you have lack of oxygen to be concerned with (aka hypoxia).
- Let as much sun into your home as possible!