How to Stay Warm During a Winter Power Outage

Now that the winter months are upon us, we need to be prepared for power outages. How do you stay warm if the power goes out during a cold winter storm? Here are some points to consider:

Move to One Room
Instead of trying to heat the whole house, focus your attention on heating just one room of the house. Everyone’s body heat in one room is a great help to keeping everyone warm. Try to pick a room that gets a lot of natural sunlight and has a heating source. Ideally, you would pick a windowed room on the southwest side of your home.

“We’re Not Heating the Neighborhood!”
Like your parents yelled at you as a kid, “We’re not trying to heat the neighborhood!” Try to plug up all those leaks where the heat is seeping out of the room. Stuff towels and small blankets into window sills, door frames and other areas where the heat is leaking out.

Winter Power OutageShower Curtains Over Windows
You’ll want to keep heat in your room but still allow natural light to enter the room from a window. A great way to help you do that is with a shower curtain. Remove the shower curtain from the bathroom - without power no one is going to want to take a cold shower anyways. Carefully tape or attach the clear shower curtain to the wall so that natural light can come through the curtain but it prevents hot air from leaving through the window.

Rugs or Carpet
Make sure that heat isn’t escaping through the floor either. Take rugs and mats from around the home and lay them down in your room. Add a few layers between you and the cold floor.

Tents in the Living Room
A great idea that we have seen is to set up tents inside your living room. One family had a tent for the boys and a tent for the girls. This trapped in the heat to an even more confined area inside their living room.

Put on a Hat
“[The] reason we lose heat through our head is because most of the time when we’re … in the cold, we’re clothed,” said Richard Ingebretsen, adjunct instructor at the University of Utah School of Medicine. “If you don’t have a hat on, you lose heat through your head, just as you would lose heat through your legs if you were wearing shorts.”

Leave During the Day
You don’t want your home to become a cold dungeon. Make the family go outside and soak up the rays during the day. Obviously, if there is a winter storm, you’ll have to stay indoors. But make the house a warm location to return to at the end of the day instead of a cold jail.

Eat Before You Go To Bed
By eating before you go to bed, your body will be digesting during the night time - keeping you a little warmer than normal as you sleep.

How Do You Stay Warm?
When the power goes out, what do you do? Provide your comments below to tell us how you stay warm during a power outage.

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134 thoughts on “How to Stay Warm During a Winter Power Outage”

  • Chilblain

    You do not mention any clothing except hats. Please check out the science at for the great usefulness of synthetic thermal underwear (not cotton, it does not wick and can kill you in cold weather because when wet it lets body heat escape). Note: the clo-value is a US measurement unit

  • Susan

    Lucky for us we have a fireplace. We can seal off the livingroom and gather sleeping bags for everyone. We can cook over the fire, play games(until dark) and then it's bedtime for all.

  • Lloyd

    I wear as many layers of clothes as necessary inside. Sometimes that is a t-shirt, a heavy shirt and 3 wool sweaters; and long underwear, heavy trousers and wind pants over that. The wind pants work wonders. Of course, heavy wool socks in shoes that are not too tight, or down or fiberfill booties. About 5 blankets on the bed at night. Dressing this way, I don't need to use the heat at all. My electric bill is about $30 a month. You better be a loner, though. Friends won't tolerate such a cold house.

  • Doug

    Our kids really enjoyed the winter we had to set up the tent inside the house. Stayed comfortable, but even more important to them was it was fun. They loaded it up with their stuffed animals, and played. Making the time pass without computers and/or television.

  • Diane

    Layers of lightweight cotton clothing is one way that I have kept warm during the winter months. When I was a child, my mother and grandparents also had wool and thermal blankets for sleeping. I live in southwest Texas where it doesn't get cold for very long, but I still use lightweight layered clothing and a sweater when we do get a cold snap.

  • Daniel

    I have an inverter for my car that I got off of and I can connect little heaters to it. I also have a mr heater it runs of little bottles of propane.

  • J K

    When the power goes out, we stay warm by going into the den. We have a gas fireplace there.Having it on low does a great job. We profer to cook outside on the gas grill, which we keep several extra 40lb tanks of fuel in storage.

  • Rebecca

    So this might be an obvious thing, but isn't it true that 9 months after blackouts, power outages, etc. that there is a spike in babies being born? :)

    I suppose that it would be hard to get all "lovey" with kids around, but it sure keeps me warm! (We don't have any kids in the house).

    Another idea is to cuddle up with your dog/cat. I tell you, even in the middle of winter I don't need to sleep with covers if I have my dogs and cat up on the bed with me. They are 100 lb boxers and LOVE to cuddle. My cat is just a 13 lb long haired tortie and her favorite place is laying directly on my chest. Her purrs put me to sleep while I can almost guarantee they have heat emitting cells in their body. Awesome in the winter, not so awesome in the summer.

  • kr105

    I use mylar emergency space blankets between the drape and it's lining to keep the heat inside the room and not escaping through the window.

    Inside storm windows (using plastic and double sided tape) also help.

    Put foam insulation behind the electric and light switch faceplates to help with those little drafts. You can buy a package of pre-cut inserts.

    A rolled up towel at the bottom of the entry door is a great, cheap draft stopper.

  • JOAN

    This is always been my greatest fear. I have no fire place in my home and often wondered what i would do in a situation like this. I have a basement and found that it is actually warmer down there than upstairs during a power outage. I purchased a severe weather sleeping bag at WalMart for $40.00. I like the tent idea inside a room, so that will be my next purchase.

  • Ricardo

    Our house has an old inefficient wood burning fireplace. However, there are some fairly inexpensive ways to increase the efficiency of a fireplace like ours. Last year we purchased a new wood grate called "The Grate Wall of Fire". Our fireplace now throws out much more heat into the room. In the case of a winter power outage, we'll close off the room that has the fireplace and use that for our "warm room". We have a stash of firewood seasoned and ready to go!

  • Susan

    Candles. Stock up on cheap candles and burn them around the room. It generates both heat and light and cheers the atmosphere.

    • Lisa

      If you take small flower pots and put them upside down on the candles it throws off quite a bit of heat. The terra cotta pots soak up and transfer the heat quite well. I have heated my horse trailer up to comfortable with 4 votives like this in 19 degree weather.

  • Cathy

    I think my favorite idea is the tent inside the house. That makes things fun and contained.

  • gwynmarilyn

    The candle idea must be used careful but if you do use candle put up your mirrors as well it spread the light around.

  • mrs julie a neary
    mrs julie a neary December 6, 2012 at 4:00 am

    echo all of those but plumbing problems is the risk if you dont frost stat the rest of the house...taking the chill off kitchens and bathrooms and runs of pipework but tenting the main living area and any small amount of body heat and a flame free heater and hot drink help during a power outage..prey for a short while only

    those prone to the problem are those that make do without the plumbing...but drain down over winter months isnt so common

  • MrsP

    We have a wood-burning stove that does double duty as a cook top. It was the only reason we were able to stay in our home during a 10-day outage due to an ice storm.

  • Sue

    I recently saw an article about using 3 planter pots put together with a steel dowel rod and turned upside down over a candle to make a heater for a small area...has anyone tried this? Does it work?
    It looked interesting, and like it might work. My friend just looked at me like I was crazy. I'm going to purchase the stuff and try making it anyway, but just wondered if anyone else saw this and maybe has tried it.

    • Md

      Clay pots work great. Use a pie pan or something under the candle then prop the clay pot over the candle. Needs to be up high enough to get air. The candle heats the clay pot and the clay holds the heat very well. We've done this for years when camping, power outages, etc. a 3-wic candle works even better. Be sure not to touch the clay pots or allow kids or pets to touch it. :) placing it lower to the ground helps too. Heat rises. You can blow out candle once pot is really hot. It will hold hear and continue to warm the room for hours. Stay safe and warm this weekend.

  • Camp-Runamuk

    Your outdoor solar lights can be brought into the house at night too

  • Kyle

    The three pot planter does work. And if I had three pots laying around I would use it in a pinch. But if I were going to be getting prepared for an emergency situation I would start collecting "Soap Stone" It is quick to heat up and radiates the heat hours after the heat source is gone. All your doing is heating up XX and getting bonus heat from that object, might as well heat up things that will retain heat better than clay. At least in my opinion.

    I would also get some magnifying glasses and some stone or metal and use the sunlight magnified to a point to create additional heat sources, for slow cooking and radiant heat. This too a stone could be used as a cooking surface/ heat source.

  • TLS

    We have a wood stove and keep well supplied with wood over the winter. The stove will just about cook us out of the huge room it is in so we don't even have to close it off. It will heat a good portion of the rest of the house as well. We can also cook on it, so it can do double duty. A fireplace comes in second to a wood stove as the majority of the heat from a fireplace goes right up the chimney, although it's certainly better than nothing!

  • bre

    We get out our emergency candle. It is smoke and smell-less so it is safe to use indoors. We move to one are of the house, bring in all the blankets and put on our sweats. We have had the power go out in snow storms and our room stays toasty enough we can usually move throughout the room without a chill. We do all of the things listed, but we add the emergency candles.

  • Candace

    We purchased a Kerosene heater that can heat up to 1000sqft. It was about a 100 bucks on amazon, and the kerosene is fairly inexpensive, about 10 dollars a gallon at Lowe's. It is safe for indoor use, and the fuel is stable enough for storage. So that is our plan, plus things mentioned above, like sealing off doors and windows, pulling out our 0 degree sleeping bags, and closing off rooms not being used.

  • Irishladyliz

    we install bubble wrap in our single pain windows in this old 1921 house and it sure helps...

  • Liz

    Warm bricks in your fireplace. Carefully wrap in many layers of old blankets or towels to avoid burns to skin.

    Cuddle with wrapped brick in sleeping bag or place at bottom of bag to keep feet warm.

  • Larry Q

    I have wall sconces in every room that hold candles safely up out of reach.

  • Julie

    The hand warmers are great too, put them in your shoes.

  • gigi greene

    I read all the comments on how to keep warm during a storm outrage BUT no comment about using the bathroom when needed. Say water pipes are frozen and can't get water in the commode. Help

  • Dawn

    We use hot hands toe, body, hand and insole foot warmers.
    Also ThermaCare back/hip wrap. Also their neck warmers.
    We keep these items in our cars also. If your stuck in trafic , you won't freeze.

  • sawman

    We have lived off the grid for 20 years, we heat our 1200 sq ft house with a wood burning cookstove, its great to cook on, [chech out Bakers choice] Lehmans is a non-electric catalog for the Amish and us. For a bathroom you can use a 5 gal bucket with sawdust and a seat or you can use you toliet with a shopping bag and tie it up and dispose of it.

  • dlynne

    i have the things to make the terracotta pot warmer thing. i forgot the name, found it on fb. am curious about the soapstone. i'm on the top floor, of an apartment. i plan on sealing myself in and hangin' out in one room (w/4 cats). kinda freaked about how i will really keep warm for long term "bug in". looking into those little cast iron stoves. i can rig that up safely. can only do what i can...

  • Dave

    We rely upon redundant backup electric generation/storage systems. A whole house propane generator with 500 gallons of propane on the property is the first line of defense. Secondly,an older gas powered generator can provide power to all critical household support systems; pellet stove or gas furnace for heat, refrigerator, freezer, water heater and water pump. Finally, I use a 600 watt DC to AC inverter with a pair of deep cycle batteries when it's not appropriate to waist fuel on a generator, like during the early morning hours while sleeping.

  • Kenny

    During our week long outage after Sandy, my wife and I would heat up a big 5 gallon pot of water on the propane burner. We'd take the hot water into the shower and just use a cup to shower with the hot water. Any water left in the pot, we covered, and then wrapped the pot with towels. It would keep a small room ,(bedroom or bathroom) warm for up to 8 hours!

  • Thomas-E

    Candace check at your nearest airport for Jet Fuel!
    You would want straight Aviation Jet Fuel without any additives. As good or better than Kerosene.

    The stores here in California charge about $10.00/Gal. for kerosene The Automotive service stations that have kerosene charge $7.00/gal.

    At the Airport, Jet Fuel goes for $5.55/gallon!!!

  • John


    Really depends on how your home and plumbing is laid out. Might ask a trusted handy-person friend for suggestions.

    I'd try to shut off and drain (or at least remove the pressure) from any taps you wont need - that might save some burst pipes later. Leaving a tap dripping water helps keep it from freezing. RV antifreeze in the commode tank and bowl will keep the standing water from freezing solid. Put a little down the sink drains too.

    One possibility to prepare now, if your circumstances allow, might be to "T" off a new water line near where the water main enters your home using a burst resistant water line like PEX. Wouldn't have to be fancy or expensive, just a piece of flexible PEX pipe and a shutoff valve at the end. An indoor garden hose basically. That way, you might be able to keep one source of clean water available, and carry buckets/pails to the bathroom to flush.

    If nothing else will work, then store lots of 5-gallon buckets and fill the bathtub. Add RV antifreeze to both, and use that for flushing water until it runs out. Good luck.

  • John


    Sorry if this is a duplicate...

    Really depends on how your home and plumbing is laid out. Might ask a trusted handy-person friend for suggestions.

    I'd try to shut off and drain (or at least remove the pressure) from any taps you wont need - that might save some burst pipes later. Leaving a tap dripping water helps keep it from freezing. RV antifreeze in the commode tank and bowl will keep the standing water from freezing solid. Put a little down the sink drains too.

    One possibility to prepare now, if your circumstances allow, might be to "T" off a new water line near where the water main enters your home using a burst resistant water line like PEX. Wouldn't have to be fancy or expensive, just a piece of flexible PEX pipe and a shutoff valve at the end. An indoor garden hose basically. That way, you might be able to keep one source of clean water available, and carry buckets/pails to the bathroom to flush.

    If nothing else will work, then store lots of 5-gallon buckets and fill the bathtub. Add RV antifreeze to both, and use that for flushing water until it runs out. Good luck.

  • CAPT Mike

    Eating before bed is a great idea in cold weather, as your body needs fuel to generate heat. During cold weather survival training in the military, we would have "hot wets" including hot soup, hot chocolate, etc. before bed. It provides not only energy, but the heat of the liquid warms you as well. Also, we would fill our canteens with hot water and throw them in the bottom of our sleeping bags to warm them up and keep us warm longer. Layering is very important for warmth as well. We would start with silk or polypropylene which breathes and keeps you from trapping moisture next to the skin, then a layer of fleece, and then a Goretex windshell to keep us insulated from the chill wind and rain or snow. Layering indoors can be done in a way to allow you to be comfortable in lower temperatures as well. Finally, candles can provide a surprising amount of heat, along with light for a small space. Just make sure you have enough ventilation.

  • emergency response monterey
    emergency response monterey December 6, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    During winter power outage can create a problem for anyone.But you really shared well tips to handle the power outage in winters.

  • Dominic

    Daniel. I hope you are not using propane heaters in closed rooms. They produce CO (carbon monoxide) which is deadly. If you are using any combustible, pay very close attention to CO levels. Watch for headaches, pinkish skin, confusion (a final stage), etc.

  • High voltage girl
    High voltage girl December 7, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Don't forget about your pet and livestock, if a storm is coming make sure all your buckets and waterers are clean and full. I keep 2 250gallon water tubs in the horse barn and i have 2, 5 gallon buckets in each stall and fill all of my extra buckets too. I do the same in the chicken house and use 5 gallon water bottles like they use in office water coolers. Usually the water buckets in our bank barn don't freeze when the animals are in they have good body heat. Last year I was working out of town (working in power restoration) and heard about a gentleman who was running out of water for his horses, he had been using snow but by the 9th day of the power outage the weather turned warm and the snow had all melted. So don't forget about your animals! And have extra feed on hand because if the stores are out of power you can't buy anything, and don't wait till the last minuet to buy a generator, all the tires near me were sold out of generators 4 days before Sandy hit us in Pa. Also trim the trees around your house to lessen your chance of power loss! If you are the only one out on your power line you will probably be one of the last to get power back on. Single service calls are usually the last on the list.

  • Karen Lee

    GREAT TIPS everyone, thanks for sharing!

    My tip is to use some kind of a "reflector panel" behind your fires, candles, and lights to nearly double/tripple thier output! This is especially important during storm, winter, emergency etc. when your access to supplies may be limited/hindered. In most situations much of your heat/light is being absorbed into the environment, instead just redirect it so you can use it!

    Same goes for absorptive materials, don't waste them... When cold weather camping, we place various size round stones around our fire (not in the fire) to absorb heat; then we put them into a lighlty insulated bag and put it inside our pockets and sleeping bags; it acts like a portable heater and keeps our hands, butt, bellys and/or feet warm for hours! I made our "hot stone pouches" out of fire resistant material I bought (cheap) at the fabric store.

  • KO

    You all gave great suggestions. One that everyone missed is the bathroom issue. Don't waste good water flushing the toilet. Wait until it starts to become foul (urine only)it will flush easily. Collect all your gray water and use that to flush your "duty". Conservation of good water is really important if there is no electricity at the water plant to pump water to your homes. You don't know how long the power will be down.

  • Passerby

    One day pretty soon I'm going to try this: The drill thing...

    Invite everybody over you think is going to show up during a power outage...children, their friends, next-door neighbors, mother-in-law?...for a cookout or something. Get the conversation started about what to do in a power outage. Secretly siphon all the gas out of all the vehicles...about 6:00pm, cut the main breaker.

    Then you'll find out how to make it during a power outage...all the way around.

    Praying "I" don't fall apart!

  • kaytee

    We're in a "warm winter" area-- rarely gets below 40F, but for those of us who consider 70F to be "freezing", that's still too cold for comfort. Two of the best things we've done, are to install double-paned windows and a tile roof. Both have, essentially, insulated the house-- not just to keep out the cold of winters, but also, the heat of summers. As a bonus-- they also have reduced the level of "outside noises"; we rarely here traffic now, unless we have the door open.

  • CherylOfTheNorthwoods
    CherylOfTheNorthwoods December 10, 2012 at 3:29 am

    I live in the northwoods of Wisconsin. I have been through power outages of a week or more in 20 below zero weather. My water system (pump and pipes) are in the basement. I have hooked up a wood burning kitchen stove down there. When it's cold and power is out, it warms the basement so well that the pump and pipes don't freeze. Enough heat goes up through the floors that the toilet and pipes upstairs don't freeze either. It keeps the floors warm and provides a house temp of about 56 degrees average. Only drawback is that it has a really small firebox so someone has to keep it going.

  • Chris

    Highways closed, trees down from 2ft of snow & 13 days w/o power from snowicane sandy. Hauled water from our nearby creek to flush toilet. Car charged kids portable dvd player for nightly movies. Cozy fireplace. Bar-b-q food, snacks, roast marshmallows, camp soup. Wait, we're supposed to be suffering? Just like camping! We did this in July after the windstorm, except 5 days no power & it was very hot! Thank God I live in WV!

  • Christine

    We use the 3 "C"', carbs, and chimney. Layers upon layers of clothing, loading up on carbohydrates, and using our fireplace to cook, bake, boil water for hot drinks, and for heat. I guess that you could add a 4th c.....cuddling!

  • Grimey

    Good ideas. Do be careful about 'sealing off' a room if you are burning fuel in a fireplace or (especially) if you are thinking of a portable gas or kerosene fire, people die from this! A BBQ inside could do the same.
    I like the idea of getting outside during the day. We were stuck at home last year for a few days but the walks in the snow were magical.

  • Gene

    You DO NOT want to use aviation or jet kerosene in a kerosene heater REGARDLESS of cost. Aviation kerosene or Jet A, contains more sulphur than K-1kerosene. It does not burn as clean as the K-1does. Go to the service station and get K-1 from the pump.

  • mike

    heat up water over candles a humid room is warmer then a dry one

  • Neva

    I printed out the instructions for draining my pipes (there would be no internet if there is no electricity) and bought a couple of gallons of antifreeze to pour into the toilet, washing machine etc. Make sure you get the kind suitable for houses -- not cars.

    Then I bought two Kandle Heeters. It is amazing how much heat they provide. You can use 5 oz jar candles or 50 hour liquid paraffin lamps, available at restaurant supply houses. The liquid paraffin lamps work better. I bought a case of them on line.

    I bought a solar panel but it didn't work and the company wouldn't refund my money. I wish I had a fireplace!

  • GreatDepression
    GreatDepression February 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    One of my favorite things to help keep warm is by using newspaper. Layer newspaper in between your layers of clothes. Another is to take house bricks that have been placed in your fire while cooking. Once your done cooking remove the bricks and wrap in tinfoil being careful because they are very very hot. Then I would nest the tinfoil wrapped brick in some newspaper and place inside a cast iron pot with a lid. Bring inside the tent to keep warm will throw off heat for hours.

  • Paula

    I can tell you, having been building on a house over 2 winters with no heat in it, that if you have south facing doors/windows, you can build a temporary "greenhouse" off the South and or West face of the house w/ boards and heavy plastic sheeting (a local greenhouse gave us some when they replaced their covers). Even in temperatures below freezing, it will get upwards of 80 degrees in the "south porch", so we open up the doors and windows on that side and let the heat flow in. The trick is to find a window on the opposite side to effect a draft through the house, and it can be a challenge, depending on the wind direction. We can heat a huge space on some days, just by capturing "sunlight"!

  • Jolly

    Kerosene heaters are much safer than gasoline and unvented propane heaters; far less carbon-monoxide is emitted. Naturally, you'll want to crack a window or door for ventilation.
    For fuel - in the US, you can substitute diesel fuel for kerosene. Modern diesel has virtually no sulphur. However, some heaters don't like it, or the wicks clog prematurely. The wick problems also are frequently caused by dyed kerosene. If available, you want "clear" kerosene.
    As for heaters, I recommend those that use all cotton wicks, which run both dyed kerosene, diesel, and dyed diesel. These heaters include Omni-15, Kerosun "Rainbow", any Perfection, and Aladdin "Blue Flame" heaters.
    We heat about 50% with these heaters, and they are very safe. Kerosene / diesel is not volatile in the same manner as gasoline. If you throw a lit match in a bowl of kerosene, the match will extinguish.

  • Donna Brown

    I like the fact that you've suggested things that were not bought specifically for the purpose of a power outage. A word about my experience with fireplaces is that fireplaces work fine when temperatures hover just below freezing, but if the temperatures plummet, a fireplace will draw heat from the room in order to keep the fire going. Also if using a propane or kerosene heat source, having a monitor to carbon monoxide levels may mean the difference between life and death. Candles may be cheap, but they also can lead to oxygen depletion. Plants inside your home and in the room will literally improve the atmosphere in that room both to help deplete the carbon monoxide and will also help keep the humidity up in the room and therefore making it seem even warmer.

  • Zoe

    Go to a motel.

  • Sarah R

    A lot of great tips. One thing about candles. Don't use your scented candles for light and heat. They are intended for short term use only. The scent can cause headache and nausea if they are used for more than a little while. Emergency candles are the best for light. They are unscented, burn longer and often with less mess from melting wax. As all ways, use caution with any open flame.

  • moma rox

    Have some solar outdoor lights you can bring in for lighting inside. Saves on batteries and will charge through a window.

  • mallardhen

    I save cat litter jugs and store water in them for toilet flushing I usually wash and clean them using a little clorox in them so you could even use them for drinking water they are easier to manage then a bucket. Layering is a good thing but since we heat our home with a wood stove and have a propane cook stove we are covered for just about anything. I also have knitting needles that light up so they help to pass the time and do something productive.

  • Matt

    I have a few stand alone heating sources that don't require electricity. Vent free gas fireplaces and Kerosene heaters are always a good option. I also have some dual fuel natural gas/propane fireplaces and a ethanol fireplace( get one that uses liquid not gel) you can make your own fuel them. Another good option is a military surplus m 1941 multi-fuel heater. you'll need to prefab a simple hearth(brick pavers work well) for it and build a flue pipe that will let you vent out of a window. cut a hole in a peice of 3/4 plywood 4 inches larger than what you need for the flue and then flash it with metal and fire proof foam(the orange can).

  • Steve

    We just survived two days of the blizzard of 2013 here on Cape Cod with no power or heat. Those two indoor 40 degree days, cooking over a fireplace or butane burner, are it. Kerosene indoors illegal in MA and too dangerous IMO. Down sleeping bags and jackets all day, no hot showers. Writing this note from clean, warm, wifi-enabled, cheap off-season motel room, last one in town full of freezing, in-the-dark, tired, dirty folks. Not fun here. You have to know when to hold and when to fold. Will stay here until power returns and heat available.

  • Robert

    There are handy propane heaters by Mr Heater. I have the "Big buddy" it runs off the smaller propane tanks (2 for $6 at big box stores) or with a hose a 20 lb tank. It has a pilot light that will go out if the oxygen content gets too low in the room, when the pilot goes out a thermocouple gets cold and shuts off the gas. You can also put 4 D cell batteries in it and it will blow out hot air in addition to the radiant heat. If you have a fireplace consider that a fire burning in the house sends the majority of the heat up the chimney, and warm air, that warm air has to be replaced from somewhere, and that somewhere is likely from outside where it's already cold. If you're going to burn, consider purchasing a fireplace insert, the ones with fans in them won't work if you have no source of electricity but at least they send less heat up the chimney. A small generator or inverter system will run the fans even if they don't have the power to run your home heating system. If you have an electric range consider a small "coleman" type stove either liquid fuel or gas. Cook in a sun room or in another room you can crack a window in and make a hot meal with hot drinks. That warms you a lot more than eating cold food.

  • AT

    I tried to figure this out after Hurricane Sandy. What I came up with is 1. buy a minus-zero rated sleeping bag for winter camping. 2. buy hot water bottles. 3. buy a high quality winter parka like something from Marmot or North Face. Put all of this together in one room and you will stay warm. The sub-zero sleeping bag is really, really warm. Make sure to have plenty of food and water. Sandy was a huge wake up call for us in the Northeast.

  • All American Shelters
    All American Shelters October 9, 2013 at 3:29 am

    Or get a Underground Shelter that maintains the same temp. year round

  • Jessie Lauver

    Well we heat with wood! House is under ground on 2.5 sides and maintains great heat(70 to 80). but I like the idea of the quart paint cans with a roll of cheap T-paper stuffed inside then fill with denatured alcohol then you light the alcohol the TP doesn't burn! makes a nice cheap little heater in a pinch I sit mine on a terracotta saucer! Nice to heat small areas, can be refilled TP never needs changed!... just an Idea!

  • Barry

    Fire up the generator and run all major appliances and pellet stoves. I keep enough fuel on hand for a week.If your area is prone to black outs this is the only way to go. You can a small generator to run electric heaters pretty cheap.

  • Janet

    A car battery, an inverter, and an electric blanket will keep you toasty for weeks!

  • Rod H

    Use a gas oven and bake cookies, bread and your meals while leaving it on, gas ovens and gas fireplaces can run without power!

    Run your gas hot water heater, gas water heaters do not take power and can heat the whole house if you let it run a little in each bathroom, tub, sinks etc...

    Make hot chocolate with the water! Hot water bottles for your bed!

    Save the water until it gets cold and has given off its BTU's to below room temperature!

  • Robert Albany, NY
    Robert Albany, NY November 18, 2013 at 6:04 am

    Generator? Propane heaters? Childish article.

  • lynne

    Is the Mr.Buddy heater ran on the propane tank safe in the home, if the house is well sealed off? I bought one last year, but many people have told me not to use it, because its not safe indoors. Very conflicting all these different opinions.

  • Jon

    Be sure to have a good carbon monoxide detector. It is the #1 killer during a disaster!
    Remember the Boy Scout motto "Be prepared!"

  • KO

    Special note!

    If you want to bake with a gas stove be sure it is not digital. Digital ovens need electricity. Found out the hard way during the blizzard Atlas. Tried the decorative candles and before long the scents do give you a headache. Remember some candles have lead wicks. Please do not use these because of the poisonous effect to your body. If you have a good supply of batteries you can use the lights advertised on tv. Flashlights pointed to the white ceiling will provide more light than just pointing at something in the room.

  • Jason

    Hard alcohol, beef stew, everything else everyone said plus hanging foil on the walls to reflect heat in.

  • tom

    ive been using kerosene heaters for over 35 years to heat my home. when we were doing renovations, and had no insulation or ceilings, the kerosene heaters were used exclusively to heat our home. we do leave them on all night..obviously, in a safe location. now i supplement the oil furnace hot water heat with kerosene. i have 8 heaters ranging in all different sizes and heat output. we run the small 8700 btu heater at night. the big 23000btu heaters will heat my 1400 sf home to 85 degrees on the coldest day of the year. no power, no problem. no shelters for this family during a winter power outage. i store about 250 gallons of kerosene for my winter heating needs..not too sure about the diesel fuel in these heaters, as someone mentioned..heard it can clog up the wicks pretty quick..keep plenty of spare wicks handy, keep them clean and they'll last forever. many good deals on these heaters on ebay...

  • PaulaP

    It's not cold here yet, but we are making one of those Clay Flower Pot heaters that works with candles. If it works, we may make several to put in cold spots around the living room.

  • tim

    if you dont have a fireplace and your heating is electric or gas and they go out if you can light a fire outside you can heat rocks by putting them in the fire for an hour then bring them in,in cloth. a pile of rocks in the middle of your room will heat it for a while.

  • hick@hart

    we actually did not have power for the first year and a half in our house and often miss the peace and quiet we had! things would take longer, but we have a wood cookstove in the kitchen and woodstove in the livingroom. both would have fires, provide cooking, heat, hot water for washing bodies/dishes, etc. would like to have about a three day snow-in;)

  • Von

    I live in Indiana and we just had tornadoes this past weekend and had no power for several hours. We put ourselves in one room and I set up 3 clay pot heaters just like you had an article about here on this site. If any of you don't know what they are, do a youtube search 'pot heater' and you'll see. Ultra cheap heat. You won't be normal-day warm, but it sure takes the chill off and makes the room comfortable!

  • Idda

    No one has mentioned the use of solar generators. Has anyone ever used one as back-up? I am thinking of getting one. Someone did mention using a converter for the car battery. Anyone have experience or ideas?

  • Jason

    Actually in process with company. I live in northeast they let you lease the panels to make it more affordable. They are merging with tesla to make back up solar generators bc they direct Line converter would mean have to cut off ui which would not help in winter. Kinda build a credit during summer and use to pay electric in winter.

  • Dan

    I don't have experience with solar panels but from I've read, they are not suitable to providing effective (electric) heat in colder climates. Electric heaters drain battery banks very quickly. I have two deep cycle batteries constantly charged with a trickle charger so that they are ready for use in emergencies. I use a power inverter to power LED and CFL light bulbs charge phone and power fans. The batteries can be discharged to 20% hundreds of times and recharged without damage to them. These two batteries last up to two weeks before they need recharging.

    Now, for heat I don't have a fireplace or stove. I plastic all the windows up anyway to save money during the winter. The doors have seals in good condition and the windows are double pane. My home is 1900 S.F. two floors. So my solution is to use a 10k btu kerosene heater to add heat to the home. It's light enough to move from front to back of house and it keeps the house warm ( 70's ) with no problem in the coldest Chicago winters when I have lost power. I also have a 23k btu kerosene heater that just gets too hot and I have to cycle the heater on and off which becomes a hassle. That's why I use the smaller kerosene heater and just let it run. It's also use less fuel than it's larger brother. I keep 20 gals of clear k-1 kerosene at all times, it last a long time in storage. I do rotate it out every 3-4 yrs. I also have the MR. Heater Big Buddy heater that runs on propane. I keep four 20lb tanks on hand for what if. I could use the propane to cook on an outside grill if I have to.

    I also have an assortment of oil lamps and a few gallons of lamp oil. These also give off a good bit of heat that I place around the house to add heat and light.

    What I would like to do next is install a transfer switch to the electric panel and be able to run my powermate generator in the summer to keep the fridge and freezer cold. Be able to cool off a few bedrooms and be able to sleep in comfort.

    I know some of you are going to say these are short term solutions. But it's better than not being prepared at all.

  • Carol

    A wood stove is a must have. I live in AK so not having one is not an option. The power goes out frequently in the winter here with feet of snow on the ground. Or put in a wood stove insert in your fireplace. My three bedroom house stays toasty in sub zero temps. Plus you can cook on the top of it.

  • Kathy Ebert

    ****Someone asked about keeping pipes from freezing, my solution to this is we have taken everything out of the kitchen cabinet and put a couple candles in there with the doors open , the bathroom the same way. My tips are, make sure you have plenty of water saved, plenty of canned foods, chips, those type things, boxed juices, etc... we have an old bidet in this house and when theres no water we put a trash bag in it and use it like a toilet.Also do our cooking on a portable 2 burner propane grill. We use a generator when the electricity goes off, works best for us. If we had a couple fireplaces we would use those instead.

  • Al Searsa

    I will throw in a few suggestions that I know work.

    Have on hand chemical body heating pads like one would use when hunting, etc. They'll last for hours.

    Heat soup, etc. in the can by running hot water over them (need gas water heater). This works best if you turn up the water temperature and place the soup can in a small pot and run the water to keep it heating. The contents will reach the temp. of the water.... eventually.

    Place an small LED flash light in the center of a roll of TP. With the light directed to a white ceiling you'll have a lantern that will fill an area with light for hours (depending on the strength of the batteries)

    Keep canned heat on hand for cooking. It is safe for indoor use. You'll either have to have a stand or devise one from available utensils, etc.

    If you have a gas outdoor grill in a covered area you can use it for cooking all sorts of things.

    And easy emergency stove can be made by removing the center of a roll of TP and stuffing the roll into a metal can. This is then soaked with alcohol. Wood alcohol would be best but even 90% rubbing alcohol will work in an emergency. I have even done this by stuffing a partial roll in a green bean can.

    For safety I'd use any alcohol, etc. stove in a really fire safe place. I have used the kitchen sink.

    Even in the South, it is a good idea to have some cold weather clothing available for extended survival periods. By this I mean that even if you seldom would wear insulated underwear, it is a good idea to have some on hand.

    And, it is a good idea to give some thought to summer survival, also. If a wide area loses electrical power in summer you have a major problem. Have experienced that twice during the last few years due to storms.

  • Jason

    For pipes they do sell variations of foam to wrap pipes. Can also uses towels. If frozen can boil water n soak towels in them but not so the towel is dripping then wrap towels. Also things like body warmers even thermacare can wrap pipes.. Can use to wraps for body too. But taking steps for prevention is always better then doing reaction. Insulated also helps in summer to cool house. Saves money after about 3years from cost of install. Did do clay pot heaters just to see worked better then expected. ANY TIPs for a warm bath besides boiling water?

  • J-S

    The best investment we have made is a kersone heater for indoors that is potable it will run for 5day solid on 5gal of kerosene and forget a room its 11000btu it will heat a majority of a single floor home they cost about 100$ the best investment i ever made and u can take it anywhere it weighs about 5lbs empty and hold 1/2 gal of fuel for about 13 hrs of heat time

  • Chris

    When the power goes out at my house in the winter, I gtfo out of my house.

  • Joe

    Best way to deal with winter power outages is to PROPERLY PREPARE and do practice runs without power.
    Sorry, candles, portable propane and kerosene heaters are not the answer nor are the plethora of cheap chinese trinkets ranging from novelty solar panels/lights to inverters, heaters, etc. Get and install professional grade products, insulate, weatherstrip and prepare your home BEFORE the outage. A wood pellet stove along with a kilowatt solar array, charge control, battery bank and inverter will go a long way toward keeping you warm. An added bonus is the system operates during normal times reducing your heat and electric bill. Be certain that the solar system is a off-grid system as the grid-tie systems shut down on the loss of the grid for safety reasons so that the grid is not "backfed" creating a shock hazard for linemen. Again, avoid the cheap chinese novelty crap such as what is sold at Harbor Fright Tools. It's going to cost a couple of thousand dollars to do but it will produce some $$$ return in the form of reduced power bills.

    • Northwoods Cheryl
      Northwoods Cheryl December 29, 2015 at 2:03 am

      This all sounds nice, but VERY expensive. Very few folks I know can afford such amenities. Here, in northern Wisconsin, I do well with a wood burning kitchen stove hooked up. Solar panels do not work well in the winter in northern climates. My pocketbook is not so well filled as this would all require.

  • Carrie

    Regarding bathroom needs, you can get a 5 gallon bucket and a seat for it for toilet use. Amazon has a few to choose from. In a pinch, a big bag of Feline Pine cat litter to use as your saw dust if you have none handy. Double bag the bucket with kitchen wastebasket liners and discard when full. If the saw dust doesn't cut the smell enough, then baking soda should be okay to help with that as well.

    For showering, get a solar camping shower and find a sunny flat spot to let it lay out most of the day. It will heat the water so hot you might have to cool it down to use it. It works by gravity, so if you have a place to hang it in your shower, go for it. I lived several weeks without running hot water (during the spring in California) and about a week when the gas water heater was flooded in the winter. The solar shower is very much worth the money.

    I can also vouch for the tent idea. If it's super, super cold, do a tent within a tent. Did that for a couple of days up in the mountains of California. It definitely works. Also makes it so you can get to clothing, etc, within the first tent, but leave only blankets, etc. in the inner tent. Also gives those larger tents that are imperfect (have a rip in them) a second life.

  • Namepatricia smith
    Namepatricia smith December 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    4 tea light candles,a loaf pan,and 2 terra cotta clay pots. put candles in loaf pan cover with clay pots (small hole up)...there you have an instant heater for any room.

  • Debbie

    Tent, sleeping bags, foam mattress (keeps heat), dogs that sleep with you, cook on grill outside. Genius husband built solar generator (my idea) that uses two solar panels, inverter and two batteries. Can run the refrigerator on it. Silent too. Went camping last week and used it to run electric blanket at night (hooked into motorhome). Can sleep in motor home if needed, it has propane furnace and solar power, kitchen, propane refrigerator and a three beds and TV. I have plenty of LED battery operated lights. Have fireplace and know how to build a rocket stove using bricks, but that is for outside only. I suppose you could use it in the fireplace. Also have wind generator that charges batteries. We also have a piss pot my grandma had. Works in a pinch. Good luck all.

  • John

    The basement. We stayed in our basement for 5 days. The temp was 60 degrees. The man cave is there. The bar has running water and is always stocked with beer. Also, we have a half bath down there so we only had to go up for showers. We keep our camping gear in the basement too, but brought down extra blankets and pillows.

  • chris

    along with these excellent ideas, when you don't have a portable heater, the tea candles and pottery is the easiest cheapest way to go. Also get cheap imitation fleece blankets from costcos or any wholesale store for about 10 -15 dollars. two per person will keep you warm when you sleep and don't forget fleece leggings. excellent insulation. once your face is warm and feet you will sleep warm and peacefully. heat hands throughout the day. and cover you ears and neck. keeping the wrist and neck warm will help keep the rest of you warm. those are pressure points.

  • emily

    Also if you have a fire place, try to get a good supply of firewood of time. If you lose power, the firewood will help the house warm or a room warm. It really helped during the October 2011 snowstorm.

  • JohnnyL

    If you're in an area where power outages are common, you might consider using a generator. Just don't set it up indoors under any circumstances. As suggested in this article the generator produces poisonous carbon monoxide gas, which is odourless and invisible. Actually, it might be for the best to leave the installation to a professional electrician.

  • Stan

    Re:the mention of jet fuel for a heater. Jet fuel is nothing more than super refined kerosene. I'm retired from an Int. Airport.

  • Cat

    Tennessee does not get too many snow storms, but ice is another matter and the power can be off for days. Besides wearing the correct clothing, insluating,led lighting, etc., I do have a living room with a south facing glass porch, the obvious room to use. I would also stock up on gas since I have a 2500 continuous AC inverter (I usually use with a solar panel)I can connect to a car battery via small cables to run a small heater. My camping gear, general knowledge gained after studing what to do if the power goes off for a long time, and a 2 dog night (2 border collies who love to snuggle)should take care of the rest.

    Unfortunatly, we all need to think about if a terrorist group targets the power grid during winter. I plan to be ready.

  • sharon

    I got all of my biggest pots, filled them with water and heated them to boiling (lucky to have gas stove) and then had some radiant heat.

  • Name jennie

    So many comments! For both camping and emergency, our "toilet" is a big huge Tupperware container-I think it was the 10 pound flour container. It has (always) a roll of hefty heavy duty bags inside. In an emergency, use a bag as a liner, and the container as your port-a-potty. The seal (airtight and liquid tight) contains any smells, and when it gets full, tie off the bag, store in the tub you won't be using, and put another bag on. You can even use your own toilet seat.

  • Dj

    A few years back I ran across a sale of 4 b 8 ft half inch (rigid) foam insulation for $5 a sheet (they are about $12 retail). I cut pieces to fit our windows. They weigh nothing and go into place quickly by hand in the frame between the window and the blinds. Wherever I wanted to have a window I can open or just let some extra light in on a nice day, I cut the foam panel about 6 inches too long, then split them in two. These two pieces overlap 6 inches and they slide open very easily to partly expose the window. In the spring they come out and store easily behind a door (be sure to mark the room/wall in the inside upper right corner of each panel so they go back to the right window next year.) Installation and removal takes less than an hour. I don't what my $40 investment saves us per year, but I do know the house is much cozier the day after I install them than the day before.

  • MerriAnn McLain

    We use thermal weave blankets, rather than flannel sheets. The blankets are less expensive and we stay toasty.

  • Passerby

    So many good ideas! Thanks everybody for sharing! Can't add hardly anything; we got the wood stove at the tail end of last winter when we realized the fireplace insert wasn't going to 'get it' anymore. Layered clothing, warm blankets, porta-potty, oil lamps, solar shower, water and food stockup, etc. 'They' say this winter will be as bad if not worse than last winter. Take care!

  • Steve

    We have a 6000 watt generator connected to the house wiring with a transfer switch which will run our natural gas fueled central heat and air. Enough gasoline preserved with Pri-G to last a few day stored out in the storage building, not in the dwelling.

    If that fails we have gas logs in the fireplace which give enough heat to make the whole house at least livable.

    Should the gas go out, and it never has, we have a propane space heater that can heat the whole house using 20 pound grill tanks. Of course with that you have to open a window some and we have a CO alarm.

    Also we have alladin kerosene lamps which give off a lot of heat, much more than regular lamps but we have some of those too. I don't like candles since years ago I backed into one and set my shirt on fire. Many thanks to my roommate for his quick action!

    If you have no heat be sure and leave all your faucets running at a trickle. They can still freeze if just dripping if it's cold enough. You can adjust the float in your toilets so that they continuously run over into the pipe so they won't freeze. It's not likely that we would lose water service but we are overdue for a major earthquake so I store water and have 5 gallon buckets with toilet seats and liners.

  • Reid

    I have a blue flame NG heater 30,000 BTU it's able to operate without electricity and can heat 1000 Sq ft.

  • Tyler

    I go outside and plug in the generator so I can run just about everything in my house as normal. Including the outdoor wood burning boiler. Also make sure there is plenty of food in the house all winter long.

  • Tilas

    In 2009 we were with out power for about 7 days. My son 3 @ the time didn't have the confidence in my decision to stay in this cold dark house. The warmest place was in the bathroom after the shower. I remember when I was a soldier going to the field I slept with my clothes in the sleeping bag so they would be warm the next day. So slept on our clothes. When this was over I had to think what I could do so this wouldn't happen again. Later I had a professor he talked about different energies and mention a wood stove was a good source. Since investing in the stove we haven't had a bad storm. We now have a wood stove for heating and cooking, oil lamps, candles, flash lights with extra batteries and extra bulbs. I also almost always have wood. People are always cutting trees down and will give it away. And a lot of times I can find the wood on the side of the road. But if I'm missing something please let me know.

  • Name Foy

    What a wonderful bunch of hints and ideas. I am a 70 yr old woman wondering what is coming our way. These ideas have been a great help and I intend to use all that my pocketbook will allow....thanks to all who took the time to write.

  • Cherie Lynnae Whitaker
    Cherie Lynnae Whitaker January 15, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    I have a Goal yeti 1250 and i love it. its a solar panel generator that will keep my freezer frozen, the fridge cold and the rest of the household needs, just switching it for what ever needs I have. I have many solar lights, the one i like most is the Apollo Solar Inflatable Camping Lantern they are great!! I also have a gas generator. I have done great research for whats workable for me, and prepared incase of another earthquake or something. We even have to deal with a drought now so Im studying up on what I can do and sustain a garden of food organic to eat with a drought... its worth the education and research. Sharing is important too. we teach each other. I will share , the most important thing in any emergency..water. It becomes something money cant buy.. its more valuable than gold. Be prepared!

  • Katherine

    The tea light w/ empty plant pots do work if you google this on heat / heats up a10 by 12 room // blocked off. Also little sterno is for heating food, also delivers heat / get quit a few heat water / makes humidity in The air feel warmer!!!

  • NameJoyce Powell
    NameJoyce Powell February 24, 2015 at 5:19 am

    Few years ago was in ice storm that parts of county without power for 6 weeks. My electric off for week, in my mobil home to keep sewer lines from freezing 2 toilets I placed a couple metal baking pans with 3 lit multi wick candles 2or3 in each pan, then returned daily to check on them, since bathrooms could be closed off the heat from candles kept rooms warm and kept water from freezing sewer lines. This worked as neighbors had frozen sewers. Make sure nothing around that could catch fire for safety.

  • Gigi

    Great ideas, folks! Thanks for sharing. I had read about the flower pot/candle heaters, but have not tried them yet. Will now do so. Also, good to know about solar items which really will work. I have been unimpressed with solar yard lamps. Perhaps, I just bought the wrong kind.
    Happy Spring, everyone.

  • Judy

    Just a couple suggestions that I have used in the past during emergencies. For the toilet, when water isn't an option, remove the water from the bowl and then line the bowl with a white kitchen garbage bag and place the seat down in the normal position and pour some kitty litter in the bottom so you can use it several times without having to remove it and it won't smell real bad. When you do remove it you can dispose of it by tying up the bag and place in the garbage, just like you would baby diapers. Also so when preparing your room for living in for any length of time, tape heavy duty aluminum foil over the windows and anywhere you can to reflect the body heat back into the room. ^This works real well. I used this in a bedroom and the kids were as warm as toast even though the windows were jalousy windows that leaked a lot of cold air and were on the north and west side of the house. I simply placed plastic bag over the windows and taped the foil to the plastic. I had to use garbage bags at the time as that was all I had but you could plan ahead for this possibility and use clear plastic and pin the foil to the curtains. Hope this helps.

  • Paul F.

    I have only an infered heater. It stayed around 32 at nights. I have the cold weather sleeping bivey bags, with the green and black one's with the bivey. I over dress in layers. Will evan wear my coat to bed if necessary. The heat only keep the pipes from breaking. I can feel wind blowing into the house. Old mill homes were not insulated. I also use the cold weather suits made up of fleece. Hope some of this helps. I use a blanket too.

  • scott

    when the power goes out here and its cold everyone in my house comes up to the second floor, because heat rises and goes into one room.

  • CS

    Having a wood burning fireplace is a life saver. You can cook in it, and heat huge stockpots of water for bathing. Always have candles/tealights for light/added warmth. Hot water bottles (those red ones) will generate heat for 3 hours under blankets keeping u toasty. If no fireplace, u can still still candles to cook - 4,5,6 tealights under a frypan u can make grilled cheese sandwiches, eggs soups etc. Keep ur pantry stocked especially with munchies/seeds/nuts. Longjohns, heavy sweats, wool socks, sweaters, toques, bathrobes, etc. And heavy duvets. You could even heat dry beans in a frypan (using candle power) and put them in a sock to use as hand/feet warmers. If you have access to outdoors, you can make a "fireplace" with 3 cinder blocks shaped like a "U" and use that as well.

  • tobi

    A great way to warm food and make hot drinks is to dig out your old unused fondue set...I can handle no heat but would die without my coffee! ;)

    • Dorrie

      I have read several comments about the flower pot/candle heaters. I was going to try making one when I saw an article from a man who used them and they started a fire. He warned people that if you are going to use them, watch them carefully. Don't go to sleep with them lit and don't leave with them lit. He said they can be dangerous. Apparently you can make a solar heater with a wood frame and soda cans. It would probably only work in a house, because some of it has to be outdoors, but it looked interesting. There were a few of them on youtube.

  • Monica

    If you don't have a tent you can make a lean-to with your mattress on the floor against an inside wall. Prop the box springs up against the wall and fill the area with blankets, foam insulation, etc., for your sleeping area. You can also use trash bags filled with leaves or extra clothes or newspapers for added insulating materials. Always keep at least one box of hand warmers around. As a child, I remember a relative piling up stacks of newspapers against a wall to cut down on heat loss.

  • RKM

    I have 6 large cats and 4 Chihuahuas. Staying warm at night with or without power isn’t really a problem.
    My wife and I lift the sheet and blankets and in they go.
    One big happy WARM family.

  • Dan Kidder

    I have a glass wick kerosene heater and about 40 gallons of kerosene. This will heat a large room for a long time and kerosene stores well for a very long time. It is also less dangerous than anything propane powered as it gives off much less carbon monoxide.

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