Record cold temperatures have settled over parts of the Midwest, reminding all of us once again that Old Man Winter is not just the kindly old gentleman of folktales and children’s stories — but a determined killer for those who are not prepared to deal properly with him.
Hikingware.com recommends you consider some alternate heat sources for your home in case the electricity in your area is compromised during the cold weather. Remember, it may not always be possible to get out to find emergency shelter right away due to circumstances beyond your control — so have a plan for staying warm when the power goes off.
One easy way to stay warm is to have a supply of emergency candles on hand; several people can sit under a folding card table (especially children, who might actually find this fun) that has a blanket draped over it, with one or two candles burning. This can provide a surprising amount of heat for up to six hours at a time.
Many homes still have fireplaces, although they are more decorative than anything else. Gas fireplaces are purely decorative, but a wood-burning one will produce some heat. A fireplace really isn’t a very efficient heater, as most of the heat goes right up the chimney. To be efficient, some means to capture the heat and distribute it into the room are necessary.
You can buy inserts to put in a fireplace which draw cool air in from the floor and return it to the room as hot air. Essentially, the insert is a series of metal tubes, which surround the fire. These either work by a blower motor or by convection. The best ones for an emergency situation are the ones which work by convection, as you won’t need electricity to run the blower. However, the convection models don’t move as much air as the ones with blowers do.
Benjamin Franklin vastly improved the efficiency of the fireplace by the invention of the Franklin Stove. This is a metal fireplace which allows the fire to be placed closer to the center of the room. The metal stove radiates heat from all sides, as well as from all sides of the metal tube chimney, making it much more efficient than a fireplace.
Another very effective option is to use a kerosene heater. These heaters are relatively clean burning and produce quite a bit of heat. Like the wood-burning stove, they will radiate heat from all sides, allowing you to gain the maximum possible heat out of them. There is no chimney, so the heat isn’t lost out the chimney.
The problem with any of these heating methods, whether using wood or kerosene, is that you have to have an adequate supply of fuel on hand. When your fuel runs out, your heat does as well. Fortunately, both wood and kerosene store well for prolonged periods of time, so you can stockpile fuel without a problem.
There is another option that doesn’t require stockpiling fuel. Using a natural gas “catalytic” heater. These heaters are highly efficient and burn very clean. They use a ceramic element to provide a bed for the gas to burn in. The burning gas heats the ceramic element, which then radiates heat into the room. These heaters are available in a variety of sizes, intended to be used as room heaters in both small and large rooms.
There are two huge advantages to using this type of heater. First of all, they don’t need electricity, and secondly, you don’t have to stockpile natural gas. Natural gas pumping stations provide their own power, so they will probably still be operating even if there is no electricity. About the only way that they can go down is if the gas pipes are damaged.