Winter is the real test of our emergency preparations. In our area winter can be very unforgiving. A power outage that lasts just 1-2 days can be more than an inconvenience. If you do not have alternative power or heat sources, it could be dangerous. At best, you might lose a water pipe (or two or three) to freezing. But poor heating could lead to serious injury or illness. When choosing an alternative for heat, keep in mind the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. You must have proper ventilation if you are going to use a fuel-based heat source. Anything that burns fuel—a propane heater, kerosene or wood stove—introduces carbon monoxide into your home. If you plan to burn fuel during an outage, be sure to have a battery operated carbon monoxide detector.
For people living in town, in a small house or apartment, a kerosene heater, like Mr. Heater,
is a good choice. If you have a larger house or several rooms you want to heat, these small heaters can be moved around and they are inexpensive enough that you can have two or three to use at the same time.
If you live in a rural area or have a large home, you may want a wood burning stove. Not only will a wood-burning stove generate good heat, but it can also be used to cook meals. The biggest disadvantage to a wood-burning stove is that you need to have a place to store wood. You’ll want at least one cord of wood for emergency use, and another cord just to have a nice fire going on a cold winter day. A cord of wood is a stack that is 4X4X8 feet or 128 cubic feet. Firewood that is stored properly will last for several years.
A generator is a big investment for something you may only use a few times, so think twice before you decide that that’s what you want. But when there is a wide-spread or long-term power outage, a generator can give you peace of mind. It can save food in the freezer and give you a hot shower or two. An un-opened freezer will stay cold for about two days, but a
refrigerator that gets opened and closed several times will quickly warm up. That’s where a generator is a great thing to have on hand. That and to run the hot water heater. A hot water heater will consume a lot of generator power, so you may want to restrict your hot water use during a prolonged outage.
A rocket stove is compact, uses very little fuel and heats up quickly. There are several models you can buy (like this one or this one) or you can make your own. More DYI plans here.
How to choose a wood-burning stove.
You may find that an ethanol heater is perfect for your home.
Here is some good information on how to heat your home without electricity.
No matter what you choose, I hope you will be prepared for the worst that winter can dish out. Stay safe. Stay warm.