5 Emergency Heat Sources Worth Considering

Like most of you, I enjoy being warm.  I live in southeast Idaho where its common to have 6 months of snowfall so staying warm is not always easy.  As a dutiful Prepper, I am constantly on the lookout for affordable emergency heat sources (my first source is central heating).  Below are five off-grid options that I have used over the years and are worth considering.   

1.  Portable Heaters

Propane Heater
Emergency Heat - Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Propane Heater

Mr. Heater Portable Buddy is an indoor approved propane heater. The larger model called the Big Buddy, produces between 4,000-18,000 BTU heating up to 300 sqft.  It is equipped with a low-oxygen shut-off pilot system, accidental tip-over shutoff, and is clean burning.  It’s useful for camping trips, cold outdoor activities, power outages, or bug out locations. It fits two small 1-lb. propane cylinders or you can purchase an attachment hose which allows it to connect to 20-lb propane tanks. Click here to see the list of items in my power outage kit.

Kerosene Heater

Another great option is the Dura Heat Kerosene Heater. It produces a whopping 23,800 BTU, heating up to 1000 sqft.  This heater is not only popular for the high heat it produces, users also like the flat top. A cooking pot can be placed on top of the metal cage to boil eggs and cook food (although that is not what it was designed for). You’ll need to be mindful of ventilation. It’s been recommended by reviewers to turn on and off outside of the house. That’s when the smell of kerosene is strong. You should keep a carbon monoxide detector in the same room with any off-grid heat source to warn you of unsafe levels of carbon monoxide building up in the air. If you plan on running it as a main heat source throughout the year, it’s recommended to replace the wick yearly.

2.  Candle Heater

Candle Heater - 5 Emergency Heat Sources to Consider

A candle heater or terracotta heater is an inexpensive way to add some warmth to a cold day. The first time I tried this heater was on a windy day that was just below 60°F. Since the bathroom is the smallest room in my house and has the least amount of combustibles, I experimented there to see if I would notice a difference. The temperature in the room did not increase. The pots got too hot to touch and I could only keep my hand over the terracotta hole for 5 seconds. However, it was just a nice hand warmer but that’s about it.  I tried the candle heater again when the temperature outside was a calm 65°F, there was a noticeable difference in the room temperature.  I had a light jacket on and removed it after being near the heater for 30 minutes. Both times the tea light candles needed to be replaced after four hours.  It would not be my first choice as an emergency heat source but it would be better than nothing.

For this DIY project I used:

  1. large terracotta pot
  2. small terracotta pot
  3. two very small terracotta saucers
  4. larger terracotta saucer
  5. five tea light candles

Click here to view different ways to construct a candle heater.

3.  Kotatsu
Emergency heat - Kotatsu

Kotatsu is a short wooden table traditionally used in Japan.  Below the table is a source of heat (burning charcoal or an electric heater).  Draped over the table is heavy blanket or futon to trap the heat.  You won’t find central heating in most Japanese homes so this is an area in the home that provides warmth for the family.  Click here to view step-by-step instructions on how to build a Kotatsu.
Secondary Heat Source - Kotatsu


4.  Heating Rocks

When I was a child, my parents would heat stones on our fireplace and then tuck one into bed with me.  There are a couple of creative ways to use rocks as a source of heat.  The one I just mentioned is the most common. Another way is to make a quick sauna, click here to see how.  If you plan on camping, click here to see how to use rocks to stay warm all night long. Note: There are many rocks that can explode if they get too hot. Do some research before trying this method.

5. Fireplace
Emergency Heat - Fireplace

A wood-burning fireplace insert is one of the best purchases my husband & I have made.  It has saved us quite a bit on our electric bill each month, based on prior electricity usage our insert paid for itself in just two Idaho winters.  It produces about 65,000 BTU.  We loved having an open stone fireplace but wanted it to be more efficient.  Fireplace inserts have an efficiency rating of 60% to 80%; open face fireplaces have about a 15% efficiency rate.

Bonus – Capturing Body Heat

You probably know, that wearing extra layers of clothes can provide additional warmth by trapping your body heat. But do you know the right combination of layering can improve your comfort and protection in cold climates? Here’s the combination that has worked best for me over the years.

First Layer – Spandex 

Underarmor makes a great spandex winter blend called Coldgear. It’s designed to compress tightly against your skin trapping body heat. It also transfers sweat away from the body. My husband & I start our first layer with a sporty long-sleeve undershirt, leggings, and socks made of a mix of nylon and spandex.

Second Layer – Cotton

Cotton is the next layer because it’s a good insulator. Most thermals and jeans are made out of cotton. It is comfortable, form-fitting, and also moisture wicking.  My second layer usually consists of a thermal top, jeans, and cotton socks.

Third Layer – Wool 

The final layer is wool because it is thicker and is the best at blocking cold air. Wool blocks air movement, trapping warm air and blocking cold. It can provide warmth even when wet. It’s also the last layer because it can be itchy so it’s great to have other layers protecting your skin. My third layer is usually a wool sweater and socks. I’ll add a wool cap and gloves when I’m outdoors.

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