Can you heat your house even if the electricity is out?
At the time of this writing, many states (especially Texas) have suffered through immense blackouts during a record breaking cold period (“polar vortex”). About 5 million were without electricity. Some for many, many days, a week, with very cold temperatures in regions not accustomed to this degree of cold.
The question is, how do you deal with that? Can you heat your house even if the electricity is not working?
I wrote an article about a portable propane heater that I had purchased some time ago. I still think it’s great. It won’t heat your entire house… But it will heat a fairly large space (especially if you have the 18,000 BTU unit). It will certainly work well heating a typical room (or two).
Some of you may have a wood burning stove. Problem solved. Got wood? Wood is the biggest problem if you haven’t stacked enough ahead of time. That said, most everyone who regularly heats with a wood stove will already have a winter’s supply of wood. Right?
Most fireplace’s are there for appearances. Special occasions – lighting a fire. NOT for heating a house. An open fireplace is very inefficient at heating a house (chimney exhausts a lot of heat). But of course they do provide some heat. People in Texas and elsewhere were desperately using their fireplaces for heat. But their big problem was wood! Not enough. So they’re out and about – gathering what they can.
Maybe you have a pellet stove. Do you have a means to power it without electricity? That’s important!
SLEEPING IN A SMALL TENT IN THE ROOM
Some people have taken to sleeping in a small tent in their living rooms in the wintertime as the area inside will be warmer than the rest of the house.
Here’s a thought for a stop-gap, light-duty solution. Fire up a few of your Aladdin Lamps, they provide heat and everyone needs adequate light during a power outage. CAUTION with any open flame, especially with children or pets!!
FILL YOUR PROPANE TANK
Got an external propane tank for your furnace? Should go without saying to keep it on the fuller side of empty! I feel much better when I top off my propane before the winter.
The simplest way to get your heat back on is to use a generator (assuming a safe method to integrate your furnace). If you have a generator ‘transfer switch’ integrated into your home’s electrical panel, you’re all set. Maybe you should look into that for next time. You don’t need to have a whole-house transfer. You can get them for just a few critical circuits.
Otherwise, the issue is that your furnace isn’t like an appliance that has a plug which you can simply ‘plug in’ to an outlet (your generator). The furnace is hard wired into your electrical system.
The following does NOT apply if you have ‘electric heat’ (e.g. electric baseboards) because the power requirements are almost always too high for a typical backup generator to handle:
If you are electrically inclined (caution is advised), you could potentially rig up a ‘plug-n-play’ for your furnace such that you intercept the power source and insert a plug and receptacle between the furnace and electrical panel.
A furnace will be on it’s own electrical circuit (a designated circuit breaker in your electrical panel). If you install a typical 15 Amp plug on your furnace, you could then alternatively plug it directly into a generator. Just a thought.
This is intended to get you thinking about possible power outage during the winter, and how you would deal with the resultant cold.
Any further ideas?
(This article has been updated / re-posted given the current event situation in Texas and elsewhere)