How to Keep Warm During a Power Outage

winter storm - by elycefeliz cc Extreme winter weather events almost always cause power outages at some point.

It may be just a few isolated locations or it can affect a large area, plunging millions of people into the cold and dark – possibly for several days. And the frequency and impact of extreme weather is expected to get worse in the coming years.

Emergency Preparedness organizations recommend that everyone should be prepared to be self-reliant for at least 72 hours after a storm.

Are you prepared or will you be left out in the cold?


I’m a big fan of planning for the worst and hoping for the best. Our situation here in Atlantic Canada is very similar to the New England states where winter storms invariably take down power lines.

We assessed our emergency heating options and concluded that a portable generator and transfer panel made the most sense for our home.  If electric baseboard heaters aren’t your primary source of heat,  portable or standby generators are one of the best options for detached or semi-detached homes, since you also have the ability to power lights, refrigerator, and small appliances as well.

Other installed alternative heating sources:

  • Gas fireplace (with manual start capability)
  • Airtight Wood stove

Big Buddy Portable heaterWhen planning for emergency heating, make sure they can operate without electricity or safely operate within the capacity of an emergency generator if you have one. All these alternative heat sources should be installed or inspected by qualified technicians.

Adequate insulation and air sealing are key factors in reducing heat loss and should be included in your emergency heating plan.

Emergency heating sources

These portable units can usually produce enough heat to warm a small room for short periods of time. Remember, any alternative heat source requires you to have fuel on hand to be of any use.

  • Propane Heaters rated for indoor use
  • Catalytic Tent heater with Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS)
  • Ethanol Fireplace (ventless)
  • Candles
  • Bricks heated on a gas BBQ (outdoors)

firstalert carbon monoxide detectorWhile heated bricks aren’t an efficient way to heat a large space, they can be wrapped in a towel and used to keep pets warm, put your feet on, or pre-heat your bed before crawling under the covers.

Safety First

Anytime you use an alternative heating source that involves combustion, fire and carbon monoxide are the two greatest risks. Take the proper safety precautions to keep you and your family safe.

  • NEVER operate a generator indoors or in a closed or attached garage
  • NEVER use a charcoal or gas BBQ inside
  • keep a fire extinguisher handy (options: sand, water, salt, baking soda, heavy blanket)
  • use battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • open a window when using any emergency heating source
  • extinguish all flames and turn off heaters when you sleep
  • place candles on fireproof surface (ie. cookie sheets)
  • always have someone on fire watch

Other ways to keep warm

Maintaining body heat is crucial to surviving the cold for extended periods. A small space with few windows away from the wind is easiest to heat.

  • reduce heated space to one or two rooms
  • use blankets to cover windows and doorways
  • wear a hat at all times
  • multiple layers of loose clothing help retain heat
  • foil “space blankets” are very effective
  • use chemical hand warmer packs
  • eat food that’s high in protein, carbohydrates and fats

mylar space blanketsThese are just a few of the ways to stay warm in an emergency. Check out the links below for more details on these and other stay-warm tips.

Emergency Preparations: It’s Cold Outside

How to Keep Warm in a Power Outage

Emergency Heating Do’s and Don’ts

Staying Warm in an Unheated House
Related posts on Stonehaven Life:

Are Longer Power Outages the New Normal?
Extreme Weather – 5 Home Protection Tips
Clean Emergency Generator Power

Images: elycefeliz

Related Posts