Winter months present a unique challenge in many parts of North America due to freezing temperatures. In fact, no other season is as deadly if the electricity goes out. So how do you prepare to survive the cold season? What should you stockpile? And if you’re tied to the electric grid, what do you do if the power goes out?
Heat is the Key
If there is no electric power you can always assume you’ll have gas. But many gas appliances from furnaces and water heaters to gas ranges have electric components. They also have compressors that are electric powered to force the air through your home. You could always light a gas range cook top with a match or flame, but don’t assume for a minute it can serve as a heat source unless you’re absolutely desperate. You can put some cast iron over the gas range cook top to act as a heat conductor after you have switched off the gas, but it’s not going to add much heat to you home.
If you have a fireplace, it can certainly help you stay warm. But be forewarned. Ninety percent of your heat is going up the chimney with the smoke. A fireplace will heat a room, maybe two. It will not heat a whole house. You can close-off sections of your house, but you’ll discover very quickly that a fireplace is a highly localized and inefficient heat source.
Buy a small cast-iron stove that you can quickly install into your fireplace. You’ll have to attach a stove pipe that exhausts up the flue, and some heavy duty aluminum foil affixed with foil tape to seal off the flue. Once you’ve done that, your cast iron stove will be a heat exchanger that will add significantly more heat than a traditional fire in a fireplace.
You could also have a wood-burning stove installed in your home to not only supplement your heating while on-the-grid, but to serve in an emergency off-the-grid.
Keep in mind that just because you have an efficient word-burning stove it doesn’t mean it will heat your entire home. It’s all a question of square footage and the design of your home, as well as the size and number of wood-burning stoves inside. While some people have installed “whole-house” wood-burning solutions, most people have just one wood-burning alternative.