As a general rule of thumb, you will need to have at least 2 different types of heating sources if you are preparing for a power outage during the winter. I would go even as far as to recommend you to get a third as a backup, as you will never know when the power will come back.
The alternative heat sources during a power outage are alcohol heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces, propane heaters, kerosene heaters, gas catalytic heaters, butane heaters, candle heaters, solar heaters, wind turbine heaters, hydropower heaters, space heaters, hot rocks, hand warmers and if you have no other alternatives you can always use other people’s bodies heat to warm up.
One of the easiest ways to heating your home during a power outage is with solar heaters, these do not need any electricity or fuel and they also function during wintertime Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
There comes a point in any prepper’s life when they start seriously thinking about what alternative heat sources they could use during a power outage. Some only think that you only need some firewood to keep your house warm, unless you have a fireplace this isn’t a viable option. Trying to heat a room with an open flame and no ventilation is extremely dangerous. Luckily there are a lot of options when it comes to alternative heating sources without electricity.
I won’t get into specific brands as it is rather pointless, although there is a link above to my personal alternative heater I am currently using. During an SHTF situation there will be a lot of chaos and you might even be forced to bug out to an unknown location, this is rather dangerous on of itself but it could be potentially deadly during the wintertime. For people who are considering to hunker down during an SHTF, I have written an article about the cons and pros of Staying home during SHTF ( Can you? ).
While you might think that these are dangerous to use in a small room but most alcohol heaters use denatured alcohol which is safe to be burned indoors. Alcohol heaters are usually made for use in trailers or while camping and hiking, but you can use them to also heat a small room with it during an SHTF situation. One important fact with alcohol heaters as these do not directly burn the alcohol, they burn the alcohol vapors.
You have to be very careful when extinguishing the fire as most alcohol heaters have a small recipient which holds the alcohol, in this case, you do not want to blow the flame out as it will only fuel the flames even more. There are plenty of alcohol heater manufacturers, and you can even find alcohol heaters in canned form, my suggestion is to go with the military surplus ones, just check them carefully if they are damaged and if the type of alcohol they are using is readily available.
If you are a thrifty person you can also make your own alcohol heater. One of the main benefits of using an alcohol heater is that the alcohol does not freeze and it has an unlimited shelf life. Just be careful to not let the bottle of alcohol open as it tends to be one of the fastest fuels to evaporate.
People have been using wood stoves for hundreds of years for cooking and heating. During that period of time, the entire function and layout of the houses were around the wood stove’s heating capacity. Modern houses are no longer built with the idea that the owners will be using a wood stove. One of the dangers of using a wood stow is the carbon monoxide, you definitely need good ventilation which pulls the carbon monoxide out of the house.
On the other hand, wood stoves can propagate a lot of heat and if you have ample amounts of firewood you can use it as long as you want.
There are a lot of modern houses built with a fireplace, and not all of them are functional some of them are only for decorative porpuses. Even if your fireplace is a functional one make sure you test it out, sometimes the actual chimney might be blocked if you have never used it. In addition to this how and with what material is your home insulated will also be critical, most companies building houses use the cheapest materials as possible, and even if they are fireproof this fireproof protection expires in a couple of years.
Why I am mentioning this is because I do have a friend who decided to light his fireplace a couple of years ago as a romantic gesture for Valentine’s day. While the fireplace and the chimney were operating as intended, the insulation in the actual wall caught fire after only a few hours.
Not all propane heaters are meant to be used indoors, make sure you buy an indoor propane heater. One of the big problems with propane heaters is that you need to store the propane canisters outside to avoid any leakage. You should also hook up the heater to the propane tank outside to avoid any potential leakage. Depending on the manufacturer some propane cylinders might even freeze, after several freezing and unfreezing cycles the propane tank will leak.
One thing to keep in mind before purchasing any propane heater is how high the BTU is, generally speaking, the higher it is the better it is. But this is not true in an SHTF situation as in addition to heating a room your second priority is to stretch out the fuel for as long as possible. High BTU propane heaters tend to use a lot more fuel than what you would want in an emergency situation.
Most people do not recommend kerosene heaters as these are quite dangerous. However, there are still a lot of 3rd world countries using them every day. In an SHTF situation, a kerosene heater could end up saving your life. Never keep a kerosene heater unattended if you are preparing to sleep either use some other flameless alternative heating source or simply turn off the kerosene heater.
Gas catalytic heater
Gas catalytic heaters use chemical reactions to produce heat than radiate it to the surrounding area. One of the great benefits of using a gas catalytic heater is that you can either use natural gas or propane to fuel it. Not all gas catalytic heaters are good for heating your home during a power outage as some of them need 12v to operate. Even if the power goes out you will still have access to natural gas as most gas pumps have their own electrical generators.
Generally speaking, most butane heaters will work with either butane or propane. Some might even claim that butane is a lot safer than propane, although both are extracted from petroleum, and generally have more or less the same characteristics. If you ask me I would definitely go with a propane heater than a butane heater, for the fact that generally speaking propane is a lot cheaper and more readily available.
I have already explored how effective candle heaters could be in an SHTF situation, so check out my recent article How to heat a room with a candle? ( In 3 Easy Steps ). While you could definitely use candle heaters to heat up a room, do not expect a lot of heat from them. Generally, candles do not have enough power to heat a room to a comfortable level, but it could keep you from freezing. You might think that candle heaters are a cheap heat source, the problem is that these candle heaters are not that efficient in heating a house.
Solar heaters are by far one of my best investments for my house, not only they do not need any electricity to generate heat but they also work fine during winter temperatures. Solar heaters use the power of the sun to heat up the water, this, in turn, is stored in a well-insulated container than it is cycled through the house. The only downside for solar heaters is the cost, but there are smaller solar heater kits with which you can easily heat a room.
What I like most about solar heaters is that it is a hands-off approach, you do not need to fuel it or constantly babysit it. In addition to this, most heaters that use an open flame will also produce dangerous fumes, but the solar heater does not rely on an open flame to produce heat. You can also find some solar heaters which have additional solar cells incorporated into them which generate electricity, while this won’t be nearly enough to power your entire home they can still power your smaller devices.
Wind turbine heating
This is a more situational alternative source of heating as you need more or less constant wind in your area. While most people think of giant wind turbines when thinking about wind power they are some smaller products that do offer a more limited amount of heat. In addition to a wind turbine, you will also need an electric heater, electric heaters generally use a lot of power. Make some calculations before buying a wind turbine, make sure that it can produce sufficient energy to power your electrical heater.
Even if the wind is not constant the electric heater could radiate heat even after it is not functioning.
Same as in the case of wind turbines this is a highly situational method of creating heat and electricity. Hydropower uses mechanical forces which come from a nearby stream, creek or river. If you are one of the lucky ones living near a river having a hydropower system will ensure that you have heating most of the time. As the body of water is constantly flowing, the power output will also be constant.
One of the downsides of using hydropower to generate heat and electricity is that in particularly harsh winters the local river might freeze. In this case, the hydropower system will simply stop to function. Same as it is in the case of the wind turbines you will also need a good electrical heater in which the hydropower system is powerful enough to power it.
Emergency space heaters are great to use as a backup if any of the above heating sources fail.
Most houses are not suitable for an open flame heater, or you might not have any heat generating devices in your house. However, you have still options to heat your house even without any indoor heaters. All you need is some wood for the fire and some rocks which will be your heat source. Simply build a small fire outside and surround the fire with rocks, once these are sufficiently heated bring these rocks back into the house in a blanket.
You can see when the rock is sufficiently heated up by dropping a few drops of water on it or simply by spitting on it. If the water evaporates instantly and forms fast bursting bubbles than the rock has absorbed a sufficient amount of heat which you can use. As a side note, bigger rocks are much better at radiating heat for a longer time, although they also need a lot longer to absorb sufficient heat.
Just keep in mind that not all rocks are good for this method, cracked or porous rocks tend to contain water, once the water turns into steam it will crack the rock and in some cases, the rock might actually blow up, but this depends how much water is trapped in the rock.
Rocks can radiate heat for hours, some survivalists which have survived in extremely cold climates used this exact strategy. The only difference was that they used these rocks as a heating source putting them below their bed or shelter. I have written an article about people surviving extreme situations some of them have survived extreme cold environments without any food, water or shelter Famous survivalists ( Top 22 ).
There are specially designed hand warmers which will warm your hand in a cold environment. Once the human body is not getting enough external heat your body will start to shiver, this will be most noticeable on your extremities like hands and legs. Once the shivering starts it will be extremely hard to do any work with your hands, this is especially dangerous if you only have a few matches to light your fire and your hand is shivering violently.
The human body generates a lot of heat, most of this escape through the head. If you have ever wondered why your mother always said you should put on your hat during wintertime is because most of the heat escapes through the head and if the difference between the outside temperature and your core temperature is fairly high then you could get water droplets condensed on your head which will eventually freeze and you probably going to get sick.
There are countless people surviving in extremely cold conditions with something as simple as a space blanket, this insulates and reflects back the warmth. In extreme situations where there is no source of heat and not even a blanket, you can use other people’s heat to warm up. For this, you need to come in close contact and simply hug them, remain as motionless as possible in order to preserve the precious heat.
This can also work with pets, the only exceptions are cold-blooded pets and fish. Exercise is also a good way to keep warm during the winter, but the heat generated from exercise dissipates rather quickly. On the other hand, the heat which you can generate while mowing around could be enough to keep you from frostbite.
Should I heat a room or the entire home?
When it comes to alternative heating sources during a power outage your best option is to only heat one room. Your main goal is to use as less fuel as possible and to still keep a comfortable temperature. If you are planning to heat your entire house during a power outage then I have bad news for you, you will run out of fuel in no time, and depending on the scale of the SHTF event it could take days if not longer to get the power back up.
When choosing which room to heat my recommendation is to find the smallest room in your house and use that, the smaller the better.
Heat propagation is when the heat gets absorbed by different materials and eventually, they will start to radiate heat. While most people when choosing a room which they would heat up choose a small mostly empty room so everyone fits in. In theory, this is a good idea, as the human body also radiates out heat, but not nearly as much as furniture does. If you have a lot of rugs in your home make sure to put them all in the room where the alternative heat source will be.
Most people do not take this into consideration but your main goal is to also insulate from the cold coming from ground level or from below the room. If you have ever walked barefoot in a home even in summer temperatures the floor is fairly cold, but once you step on the carpet you will feel a major difference. Common household furniture also propagates a lot of heat, although I would not put any metal furniture in this room as metal furniture radiates a lot less heat.
Insulating your home
Before deciding which alternative heater source to go with it is imperative that you check if your home is insulated properly. Without proper insulation any heater will have to work extra hard to keep your home warm while doing this it will also use a lot more fuel than in a well-insulated house. You should also check for any drafts occurring, for this my favorite method is to use a candle.
Go to one of the rooms in your home, close every window and every door, and light the candle. Let the candle burn for a couple of minutes, during this time try to remain still as not to produce any air currents which could affect the flame. Watch the flame closely and see if it is flickering if it is there is probably a draft. In this case, put one of your hands next to the flame to “shelter” it from one of the sides, do this till the flame is no longer flickering.
Remove your hand and if it starts to flicker again you have a direction from where the draft is coming from and just fill the gaps with whatever you have on hands. In addition to this, you should also put some towels next to the windows and right below the doors, usually, doors have a small space between the floor and the actual door.
Tent inside your home
While you might think that this is a joke it is not, actually setting up a tent in the heated room is an excellent idea. It doesn’t even have to be some high tech sub-artic survival tent, any old tent would do, just think of it like you are camping. Most tents are made to keep heat inside and to insulate against the outside temperatures. Although my recommendation is to be extra careful when using a tent that lies in close proximity to the alternative heater.
Some alternative heaters no matter if they are using open flames or not they do produce dangerous fumes, most of these heaters are not meant to be used inside a cramped small room without any ventilation. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be quick if you fell asleep and there is carbon monoxide building up in the room you might never wake up. My suggestion is to come up with some form of ventilation which vents out the dangerous fumes out of the room.
There are a lot of companies coming up with clever fuel names, while most of these are harmless no matter what kind of fuel you use if it is using an open flame, especially it will use the surrounding oxygen to burn. Without the oxygen, the flames would die off, even if the fuel type is harmless the flame will still consume the surrounding oxygen creating carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide which are both poisonous.
There are a lot of alternative heat sources during a power outage, as for which one you choose is up to you, your needs, and your budget. I personally would also have an emergency supply of food and water for two weeks, odds are if you do not have power, that your local businesses also do not have power. I would try and avoid open flame heaters and go with other alternative heaters as these do not have such a big risk factor to them.