Depending on where you live, a winter power outage can quickly become a life-threatening emergency.
Winter storms with heavy snowfalls, high winds, and a coating of ice are a threat to our vulnerable power grid. Making winter even more of a threat recently is the current economic upheaval. In economically depressed places like Detroit, many residents have had their utilities shut off due to an inability to pay their bills. With temperatures in the negatives, people could quite literally freeze to death in their homes. You don't have to be a prepper to realize that secondary heating systems, some specialized skills, and a frigid weather plan could be vital to your survival in the winter.
Are you prepared for a winter power outage?
No matter how you heat your home, it's vital to have a backup method. Even if you have a non-grid reliant method as your primary heat source, things can happen. Chimney fires occur, wood gets wet, furnaces of all types malfunction…while these scenarios could be unlikely, you have to remember, "Two is one, one is none."
Here are some options for heat that doesn't come from a thermostat on the wall.
Wood Heat: Everyone's favorite off-grid heating method is a fireplace or woodstove. The fuel is renewable and you have the added bonus of an off-grid cooking method. Unfortunately, if your home doesn't already have one, it can be a pretty expensive thing to install. If you rent, it's probably not going to be an option at all to add wood heat to someone else's property. If you have wood heat, make sure you have a good supply of seasoned firewood that is well-protected from the elements.
Propane Heaters: There are several propane heaters on the market that do not require electricity. I own a Little Buddy heater. These small portable heaters are considered safe for indoor use in 49 states. They attach to a small propane canister and use 2 oz. of fuel per hour to make 100 square feet extremely warm and toasty. A battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm provides an extra measure of safety when using these heaters indoors. If you have a bigger area to heat, this larger unit will warm up to 200 square feet. Be sure to stock up on propane if this is your backup heat method.
Kerosene/Oil Heaters: Kerosene heaters burn a wick for heat, fuelled by the addition of heating oil. These heaters really throw out the warmth. A brand new convection kerosene heater like this one can heat up to 1000 square feet efficiently. When we lived in the city I was lucky enough to have an antique "Perfection" oil heater, which was a charming addition to our decor that was called into service during grid-down situations. Click here to read more information about the different types of kerosene heaters that are available.
Natural Gas Fireplaces: Some gas-fueled fireplaces will work when the electrical power goes out – they just won't blow out heat via the fan.
Pellet Stove: Most pellet stoves require electricity to run, but there are a few of these high-efficiency beauties that will work without being plugged in.
What if you don't have a secondary heating method?
Sometimes things happen before we get our preps in order. If you don't have a secondary heating method, you can still stay relatively warm for at least a couple of days if you are strategic. Even if you do have a secondary heat source, in many cases it's important to conserve your fuel as much as possible.