Freezing to Death in Your Own Home? Learn How to Live in Just One Room!

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Most of us live in new or new-ish homes with large, spacious rooms, great rooms, we call them. 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, great rooms are great, that is until you’ve lost power and need to somehow stay warm. Then, trying to heat that big space? Not so great.

However, there’s a simple solution to this. Read on…

image: snowed in homes in a blizzard

What’s the survival strategy to not freeze (or swelter?)

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 scenario 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. (See our last tip if you do have a great room.)
  • 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. Here are more reasons to stockpile blankets. 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 a tee, or even just a bathing suit if the power goes out during the summer. In the cold, dress in layers, keep socks and slippers on your feet, and wear a hat.
  • Be sure that your heat source, like a Mr. Buddy, 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. Read about more ways to use a tent indoors.
  • Keep a healthy stock of chemical hand, foot, and body warmers.
  • Make sure this room has a phone jack and you have a corded phone that doesn’t require AC power. (Many newer corded phones do.) 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. In addition, you’ll want to be sure your landline is a Plain Old Telephone System (POTS), an analog system that derives its power and connectivity from the telephone provider’s central switching system through copper cables, not electricity. If you’re getting a package deal with internet, phone and cable bundled, you may have Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP.) VOIP requires electricity. Best to check so as to not be caught off guard.
  • If you do have a great room-style home, reader Dave offers this tip: Use bedsheets to close off hallways that don’t 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. Thanks, Dave!

And remember that these tips aren’t meant to be used in isolation! Use as many as you need to. Layer them up!

Even More Tips For Keeping Warm When There Isn’t Power

Read more ways to stay warm without power here.

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!

Have you ever had to stay warm by living in just one room of your home? What would you add to this list?

Originally Published October 6, 2017; updated and revised by Team Survival Mom.Save

11 thoughts on “Freezing 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

  9. We lost power for 6 days in the recent ice storm in Michigan. I stayed with a friend for a few days but went home and found that candles heated up one small bedroom quite nicely and the bathroom was warm enough to take a shower (gas water heater). I was by myself so no children or animals to worry about the dangers from candles but it is a suggestion for others who find themselves in a cold house. Fortunately, the temperatures didn’t go real low and there was no danger of frozen pipes this time.

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