Alternative Heating Solutions

What to do when your power goes out?

There are many aspects of prepping and homesteading that occupy my mind on a fairly regular basis. A couple of biggies are – Does my family have enough food to survive a long term disaster and what will we do if we lose power.

In our current setting in California’s central valley area, I am not terribly worried about freezing to death, but more about being comfortable. When we move to the homestead however, freezing could be a real issue. Because of this, I am always interested in alternative methods of keeping warm when you have no electricity.

Warm Clothes

Seems simple, but many people don’t have clothes for keeping warm without subsidized heat source. If you are unfortunate enough to have an electric furnace, you might know what it’s like when your electricity is cut off.

Articles of clothing to consider:

  • Wool sweaters
  • Wool Socks
    • Wool is important because even when/if it gets wet, it maintains its warmth. This is due to the structure of the wool fibers, wool can absorb about 30% of its weight in water and still maintain its warmth because of its ability to hold air pockets. Air-pockets, or trapped air, is necessary for insulation.
    • Cotton does not maintain any air-pockets when wet, because of this it increases its rate of heat transfer when it is wet.
  • Down coat or under-layers
    • Down is extremely insulating because it has the ability to trap air. However, this is lost if the garment gets wet, or otherwise compressed.
    • It is important to monitor your activity levels when using down for this reason. Sweat can get into your down clothing making it wet and neutralizing its warming ability.
    • I find this happening in my down sleeping bag, the underside doesn’t have as much ability to insulate where my body flattens it to the ground, therefore I need an insulating padding underneath me.
  • Long underwear/Base layers
    • Baselayers are useful in adding another layer to trap air, and also, in the case of synthetic “tech” materials, they wick moisture away from the skin, which helps to maintain warmth.
  • Warm hats and gloves
    • We lose as much of our body heat through our extremities as the rest of our bodies, but these parts are usually the most exposed.
    • Head and hands should receive as much consideration as keeping feet warm.
    • Gloves that let you remove fingers temporarily can facilitate work while still retaining as much body heat as possible.
  • No matter what clothing you choose or have, dressing in layers is important to keep from overheating during activity and to keep from sweating into your clothing.
    • Wet clothes are not good for maintaining insulation.
    • You want to be able to remove or add clothes to regulate your body temp.
    • Don’t want to add overheating as a problem.

Fire Sources

  • Wood burning stoves or fireplaces
    • If you can equip your home with either of these two items that’s great.
    • You need fuel to burn so keep a handy supply of seasoned firewood in a wood shed.
    • If possible, you can create your microclimate around your fireplace.
  • Candles
    • You can use candles inside your microclimate to help with heat.
  • Propane heaters
    • Please make sure you have a ventilated area before using this option. I know it seems counter-intuitive to use a heater with a cracked window, but you need airflow to keep from asphyxiation.
    • Be sure to follow these safe heating tips:
      • Always read the manufacturer’s packaging and operating instructions for proper use and handling. Be sure to look for, and read information about indoor safe use and safety features.
      • Heaters identified as “outdoor use only” burn fuel at a high rate and must never be used indoors or in tents, campers, residential garages, trailers and other enclosures.
      • Know the symptoms of CO poisoning (e.g., nausea, dizziness, headache, etc.) If you think that you may be affected, immediately turn off any possible source of CO and move to an area with fresh air.
      • Remember that portable gas-fired generators operate on fuel combustion and should never be operated indoors. When operating a generator outdoors, place it away from windows and air intakes.
      • No matter how cold, no fuel-burning appliance, including indoor-safe appliances, should be left unattended or operated while sleeping.
    • Check here for more info on indoor vs outdoor heaters


In this context, a microclimate is a space you create in your home to trap heat. It is much easier to heat a 10×10 space than it is a 27oo square foot home. Or, if you are stuck in your car during a snowstorm the car’s interior just became your microclimate.

Creating your microclimate requires some preplanning on your part.

  1. Determine where you will set up your microclimate.
    • Pick a room or area of the house that you can easily section off.
    • Think about water sources and bathroom facilities if possible. You want to leave your space as little as necessary to preserve precious heat.
    • Stock your space with food either before or after you have it established.
  2. Think about what your current temperature variations are in your area.
    • Maybe you only need to use the space during the night when temps can fall below freezing in some areas.
    • Maybe you will need to remain in the space until help arrives or until the temps increase again.
    • Stock accordingly.
  3. Have plenty of blankets and plastic sheeting on hand.
    • Use plastic sheeting over windows and cracks to keep heat in. If you can insulate these spaces with blankets as well, this will help keep heat transfer to a minimum.
    • Cover doorways with blankets that can be moved aside for entry and exit.
    • Try to keep movement in and out to a minimum when heating your space.
  4. You may need a heat source besides body heat.
    • Remember to consider ventilation for your space. You can asphyxiate because the combustion heat sources such as candles consume oxygen and create CO2.
    • Not to mention the fire risk if candles or propane heaters get knocked over in the cramp spaces of your warm zone.
  5. Some more info on heating your vehicle in a blizzard.

Physical Activity

  • When possible, stay active.
  • Remember clothes layering during active times.
  • If in considerably cold weather, try not to sweat into your clothes.
  • Take breaks during activity so as not to exhaust yourself.
  • Your body temp can remain elevated for as much as 20 minutes after physical activity.

Here’s another print-out on how to winterize your home and keep warm in emergencies.

If you have any other ideas for keeping warm in an emergency or grid down situation, let us know in the comments below! 🙂 I LOVE to hear from readers!


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