Short-Term (?) Survival Without Home Heating

In December, people along our alley lost partial power for several days. In our house, we lost electricity to the 2nd floor and half of the first floor. One of our neighbors lost the use of his furnace (even gas furnaces use electricity, at least for the blower fan that takes the heat throughout your house). It was below freezing. It got me thinking about what we would need to do – temporarily or in the longer-term – to live in our house without a gas or electric furnace.

a winter's viewMost of is living in the frigid north know the first step:

1. Turn off your water and drain all water from the system! You need to turn it off near the wall where it enters the house. Then run some faucets and flush toilets to remove existing water in the pipes that could freeze.

So, without heat you will also be without the use of city water.

2. Choose a safe alternate heat source. We don’t have a fireplace so that’s not an option for us, though it is for many in our century-old neighborhood. However, old fireplaces are not very efficient. If you have one, you might want to check out our nearby fireplace store on 31st Avenue and Franklin – Woodland Stoves & Fireplace – to see what you can do about improving its efficiency so you’re actually benefiting from heat gain, rather than losing household heat up the flue.

When we were vacationing last year, we saw some Swedish ceramic stoves. These are really cool and I found a nice tutorial on building a Swedish ceramic heater.

Were told not to use our natural gas ovens for heat because it can contribute to deadly carbon monoxide build up. The same goes for burning charcoal indoors. It seems an oil heater or kerosene camp heater or lantern might be the only option.

But you can’t heat your whole house with that, so…

3. Use less space. Pick a room to keep warm. My grandmother used to do this in the summer in her 1900 bungalow. They put up a heavy wool blanket over the door to the bedroom area and used only one window air conditioner to keep the two bedrooms and hallway cool. She called the blanket the Great Wall of China and it really did work. In case of winter cold, a basement room would be best because it’s more protection by being underground. Block any drafts into the room(s).

4. Move or sleep: Moving keeps you warm, and likewise snuggling under lots of blankets – with one or more good friends 🙂 – will also keep you warm. You’ll want to wear a hat in bed, or create a tented area so the blankets totally surround you, keeping warm air in.

So what would we do? We have none of these things… but we do have a perfect spot in our basement family room for a wood-burning stove or ceramic stove. I think I’ll put it on the list of things to do.

About thinkofitasanadventure

We are a 50-something couple living in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. We attended a sustainability conference at our local high school in November 2010, with keynote speaker Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute. What we heard shocked us deeply. We finally understood the need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. We immediately began to change the way we live. We joined together with other folks in our neighborhood to learn more, to do more and to have fun doing it! We're part of Transition Longfellow. We're choosing to change now and to "think of it as an adventure." If you are on this journey too, we'd love to hear from you.
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