The Texas Freeze of 2021 was a wake-up call in my household. As prepared as we thought we were, those days and nights of temperatures in the teens and 20s were something to behold. With the power out and our house getting colder by the minute, we looked around for every way possible to stay warm without power.
We started at the skin level and dressed as though we were headed out into the Yukon for a bit of hardcore tent-camping. The more you’re prepared at the skin/body level for cold temperatures, the less you’ll have to rely on other measures.
To get you started to stay warm without power, here are my best tips.
Use Low-tech Equipment
- Set up a tent in a room that connects with a bathroom and spend time/sleep inside the tent. No tent? Drape blankets over a table for a similar effect.
- Make a Buddy Burner for light and a small amount of heat. Be sure to vent the room to allow fumes to escape to the outside and not accumulate inside your home.
- Keep hand and feet warmers inside pockets, gloves, and/or shoes. For some high-tech ideas to help hands and feet stay warm, check out some of the ideas in this article.
- Use an indoor-safe portable stove to cook small meals. Hot food helps boost morale.
- If you have a fireplace, maintain a good-sized fire throughout the day and night. If you can’t use your fireplace, be sure the damper is closed tightly to block cold air from entering your home.
- Make an alcohol stove from an Altoids tin to keep hands warm.
- Wrap yourself in one or more blankets.
- If you have a gas range, boil/heat water and then pour it into a hot water bottle. (Learn now how to start the pilot light of your gas range.)
- Make an Apple Box Stove to cook food and as an off-grid method for staying warm without electricity.
- Spend the day inside the warmest sleeping bag you own.
- Put bricks or large rocks in your fireplace, heat them, remove safely using tongs, and then wrap them in blankets to warm beds and bodies.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
- Wear fleece-lined pants and/or fleece-lined tights. It’s amazing how this one strategy will help you stay warm without electricity. These are the pants I own and love.
- Wear wool socks and a wool cap throughout the day and night.
- Wear layers of clothes, including long underwear. You can read about my own clothing layers in this article about our camping trip in Iceland.
- Wear socks and shoes in the house, and never stand or rest your feet on a bare floor (tile, concrete, etc.) Either wear socks or place your feet on a rug or blanket. This minimizes conductive cooling. If you have bare floors and not enough rugs, put blankets or even towels on the floor in areas where you’ll be walking and spending time.
- Shop now for cold-weather clothing in second-hand clothing stores as well as from outdoors/sporting goods stores and, of course, online.
Keep your house warm without power
- Cover uninsulated vinyl or hardwood floors with throw rugs or blankets. Estimated heat loss through floors is about 10%.
- Hang heavy blankets over windows and exterior doors, especially glass sliding doors.
- Spend most of the day and night inside the warmest room closed off to the rest of the house.
- Cover windows with bubble wrap as an insulator.
- Block drafts under doors by cutting the legs off of a pair of tights and stuffing socks into it. Lay at the base of any door you feel cold air coming through. Or plan ahead and order them.
- Avoid pipe freezes by wrapping vulnerable pipes with a heating cable.
- Heat rises. If possible, spend most of your time upstairs as long as it’s also well-insulated.
- Sit in your car with the heater on. NOTE: This is a short-term solution and should only be done with your car parked in a well-ventilated garage or in an otherwise open area. This also allows you time to charge your phones and electronics.
- In a dire emergency, check with your town/city to see if there are any public warming sites available.
Other Ways to Stay Warm Without Power
- Cuddle up with your cats and/or dogs.
- If you have babies or toddlers, keep them warm with your body heat by carrying them in a sling or other baby carrier.
- Do a workout to a YouTube video or make up a routine of your own to increase body heat.
How to Plan and Prepare for Seasonal Power Outages
Don’t let the next power outage catch you off-guard. My guide, The Family Power Outage Survival Handbook, will prepare you and your family for surviving without electricity whether the next outage happens in summer or winter weather.
What are your favorite ways to stay warm without electricity?
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