Don’t Freeze to Death in Your Own Home? Learn How to Live in Just One Room

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If the heat goes out in your house, how will you stay warm? By trying to heat the whole place? Try picking one room and following these tips instead. - The Survival MomMost of us live in new or new-ish homes with large, spacious rooms. Even if your kitchen is small by today’s standards, your great-grandmother would have loved it! If you’ve ever been in a home built in the early 1900s or earlier, you know how tiny every room was in comparison with today’s homes.

Well, it turns out that when an emergency hits and there is no power or you need a new furnace, those tiny rooms can be your friend and help you stay warm. It’s far easier to keep a 12×10 room either toasty warm in the winter or cool enough in the summer than a luxuriously huge room found in modern homes.

So, there’s your survival strategy for when the power goes out and you’re either freezing or sweltering: pick one of the smallest rooms in the house (probably not the bathroom, though!), and plan on making that your living quarters until life returns to normal.

Quick Tips to Stay Warm or Keep Cool

If this happens to you, try these tactics to stay warm or keep cool:

  • Select a room with a very small window. The largest percentage of summer heat and winter cold comes directly through windows, so your Survival Room should be one with a limited amount of window area, or at least some good thermal curtains.
  • Stock up on extra blankets and quilts. You’ll use these to cover windows and doorways, again, limiting the amount of outside air that enters. You can even tape up inexpensive mylar emergency blankets instead.
  • If you’ve experienced power failures in the past due to weather conditions, be sure to have proper clothing ready and accessible. You’ll likely stay bundled up from head to toe on cold, wintry days or wear nothing but shorts and tee, or even just a bathing suit, if the power goes out during the summer.
  • Be sure that your heat source is safe to use indoors and have a carbon monoxide detector installed in the room you plan to use for these types of emergencies.
  • Even if you loathe camping, watch for sales of sleeping bags and even small indoor tents. On the coldest of nights, you could always pitch a tent indoors and have everyone sleep inside it. Again, a much smaller space for temperature control.
  • For an inexpensive heater, watch this video.
  • Make sure this room has a phone jack and you have a corded phone. Cordless phones go out in a power outage, and you might need a way to get in touch with emergency personnel or worried loved ones.

More Tips

Remember: When the power goes out, the much easier strategy is to plan on staying in a single room, with access to a bathroom, not to keep the entire house cool or warm. The kids will probably just feel like they are having a camping adventure inside!


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I'm the original Survival Mom and for more than 11 years, I've been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more with my commonsense prepping advice.

9 thoughts on “Don’t Freeze to Death in Your Own Home? Learn How to Live in Just One Room”

  1. Couple more tips:
    If your house is going to get really cold, protect your plumbing…
    Turn off the water at the main entrance. Open your faucets at the highest point in your house, and the lowest point. E.g. upstairs bathroom, and a lav sink in your basement… This way you will drain the water from your pipes.

    Take extra towels and bedsheets and hang them over your windows. The extra trapped airspace will help cut down on drafts.

    Use bedsheets to close off hallways that dont have doors so you can partition your rooms. (I have a family room, with a pellet stove, but is connected by hallways to the front room/front door and dining room. By closing off these hallways, I can concentrate the heat in my family room.

    Buy a diverter for your clothes dryer. If you need to do laundry anyway, it seems a waste to send that warm humidified air outside!

    If you have a newer home with a basement that doesnt resemble a dungeon (like the old houses), you may be best to take refuge there. Basements have a consistent temperature, and can sometimes be easier to heat than your drafty upstairs rooms.

  2. If you have propane fireplace on the wall(that mantle thingy), and you are not using your central heat…cover those vents.
    Ours have enormous cold air coming from underneath the house.
    Cereal cardboard boxes and masking tape.
    Fixed that!!! 🙂

  3. Here in the north east most housing was built with smaller rooms, the exceptions being in new developments and more affluent areas. In this case, keeping to one floor could conserve heat.
    Many homes also have finished basements, but these tend to run extremely cold in the winter. Keeping to the first or second floor would be a better idea… but in the summer, the basement is often the coolest part of the house.

    Finally, around here most people have their phones in a bundled package with cable and internet. If this is the case, having a land line won’t matter if the power goes out. As we learned after Hurricane Irene, your landline and corded phone is only good as long as your modem battery lasts. Once it goes, no more land line. You’re better off making sure your cell phone has a strong battery and is fully charged before a storm strikes. If you’re anticipating a long-term power outage, turn the phone off to preserve the battery life, and turn it on in cases of emergency.

  4. Don’t forget to dress in layers. You’ll be much warmer wearing several articles of clothing than with one thick coat. Same goes for bedding. I love a thick comforter, but for winter power outages, we stay warmer by layering fleece, wool, and homemade afghans. Don’t forget that aluminum foil, mylar emergency blankets, and even flattened mylar balloons (surely my kids aren’t the only ones who keep them after they deflate?) can be used as reflectors for candles and lanterns if safely secured to the wall with tape.

  5. Often a frozen water pipe will break damaging more than just the plumbing. So it is important to protect your plumbing in the cold but draining your pipes may not be the way to go if you are “bugging in.” If you do choose to drain your pipes you need to be aware that the hoses running washing machines and dishwashers as well as some parts inside them will not drain completely and can freeze and break. In addition drain pipes and even toilet bowls and tanks can freeze and break this is something that can be fixed with RV antifreeze, NEVER use the antifreeze made for car engines in your house. It took us one attempt of draining the pipes when we were out of the home due to a fire to learn this the hard way. If we ever have to leave our home in winter again it will be winterized, the same way you would winterize an RV.
    As in alternative if you are “bugging in” I suggest that you leave the faucets running to a steady stream and set in the middle, 50% hot and 50% cold. Make sure to run water through the appliances ever hour or so if you don’t just discount and winterize them. Flush the toilets often as well. This will leave with much needed facilities.

  6. Years of taking mass transit in the dead of Minnesota winter has taught me the glory of hand warmers. You can find packs of disposable hand warmers in big box stores or specialty camping stores, and there are reusable ones kicking around as well.

    Most of the ones I’ve used have lasted around 8 hours. Just be sure to put at least one layer of clothing between them and your skin to avoid minor burns.

    Great post!

  7. Close off all the rooms from your living room area with drapings of some sort and invite friends over for games or something. Every body you can get is another 75-100 watt heater. In extreme cases build a fire outside and heat rocks or other heavy objects and bring them into the room to cool off. His trick also works if you are stranded in a car and has been known to save lives.

  8. Pingback: Safe Energy Emergency Plan – Invest in the Health of our Planet

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