Staying Warm in an Unheated
Coping with a Power Outage in Winter
During severe winter storms, your
home heating system could be inoperative for as long as several days. To
minimize discomfort and possible health problems during this time,
conserve body heat by dressing warmly; find or improvise an alternative
heat source, such as a fireplace or electric space heater; confine
heating to a single room; and keep safety a foremost consideration.
While chances of freezing to death in your home are small, there's a
greater danger of death by fire, lack of oxygen or carbon monoxide
THINK "SAFETY FIRST"
Safety is of extreme importance in a
Follow these precautions:
- Do not burn anything larger than candles inside
your home without providing adequate ventilation to the outside.
- Any type of heater (except electric) should be
vented. Connect the stove pipe to a chimney flue if at all possible.
(Many older homes have capped pipe thimbles in rooms once heated by
stoves.) Or hook up your stove to the flue entrance of the
non-functioning furnace pipe. If no other alternative exists,
consider extending a stove pipe through a window. Replace the window
glass with a metal sheet and run the temporary stove pipe through
- If you use a catalytic or un-vented heater,
cross-ventilate by opening a window an inch on each side of the
room. It is better to let in some cold air than to run the risk of
carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do not use a gas or electric oven or surface
units for heating. A gas oven may go out or burn inefficiently,
leading to carbon monoxide poisoning. An electric oven was not
designed for space heating.
- Do not burn outdoor barbecue materials such as
charcoal briquettes inside - even in a fireplace.
- Do not try to use bottled gas in natural gas
appliances unless you have converted the appliances for such use.
Also, flues and piping suitable for gas burning appliances may be
unsafe for use with higher-temperature oil, coal or wood smoke.
- Have one person watch for fire whenever
alternative heat sources are used. One person should also stay awake
to watch for fire and to make sure ventilation is adequate. If the
designated person feels drowsy or has a headache, it may be a sign
of inadequate ventilation.
- Keep firefighting materials on hand. These may
include: dry powder fire extinguishers, a tarp or heavy blanket,
sand, salt, baking soda and water.
CONSERVE BODY HEAT
Put on extra clothing. If cold is severe, your bed
may be the warmest place. Use extra blankets and coverings to trap body
heat; this is an especially good way to keep children warm. Farm
families might consider taking refuge in the relative warmth of the
FIND OR IMPROVISE AN ALTERNATIVE HEAT SOURCE
You may have alternative heating resources around
your home. Possibilities include:
- fireplace, space heater, catalytic camp stove
- wood, gas or oil heater
- gas-fired hot water heater PROVIDE FUEL
Some common materials that could be used for fuel
- firewood, newspapers, magazines
- camp stove fuel, kerosene
- wood chips, straw, corncobs
You can burn coal in a fireplace or stove if you
make a grate to hold it, allowing air to circulate underneath.
"Hardware cloth" screening placed on a standard wood grate
will keep coal from falling through. Tightly rolled newspapers or
magazines can be used as paper "logs." Stack them as you would
stack firewood to allow for air circulation. If the heating situation
becomes critical, consider burning wood, including lumber or furniture.
SELECT A ROOM TO BE HEATED
To increase efficiency of available heat, close
off all rooms except the one to be heated. When selecting a room,
consider the following:
- If using a vented stove or space heater, select
a room with a stove or chimney flue.
- Confine emergency heat to a small area.
- Try to select a room on the "warm"
side of the house, away from prevailing winds. Avoid rooms with
large windows or un-insulated walls. Interior bathrooms probably
have the lowest air leakage and heat loss. Your basement may be a
warm place in cold weather because the earth acts as insulation and
minimizes heat loss.
- Isolate the room from the rest of the house by
keeping doors closed, hanging bedding or heavy drapes over
entryways, or by erecting temporary partitions of cardboard or
- Hang drapes, bedding or shower curtains over
doors and windows