by Texas Homesteader ~
How do you stay warm when the power goes out? What about keeping water pipes from freezing? Protecting septic lines?
Are generators, propane grills or gas stovetops good to use for heat in the home? Here are a few tips for keeping warm in winter’s freezing temps when the power goes out.
(Note: Some links in this post will take you to other related articles for further information. But links preceded with * are affiliate links. If you click and buy something I could receive a tiny commission.)
Be Prepared for Emergency Power Outages
I’ve written important posts about dealing with power outages:
If you get the chance, I encourage you to read those posts and take steps now to be prepared BEFORE you lose power!
Don’t wait – Be prepared!
Our Historic Severe Texas Winter Storm
It was a bad one. Texas was hit with a prolonged dangerous polar vortex winter storm. At one point the entire state of Texas (every county in the whole state) was under a winter storm warning. That’s one for the record books, y’all
Millions of people found themselves without power. Some for only an hour or so. But many were without power for much longer – several days.
It’s a dangerous situation, y’all. How do you keep warm when the power goes out?
Folks up north are equipped to handle such frigid weather conditions. Their home’s construction and design usually takes into account how cold it will get during a typical winter in their area. Citizens have all the necessary clothing and transportation aids for such cold blasts because they happen often.
But here in Texas, we’re not accustomed to dealing with such bitterly cold weather.
On this occasion there was actually such a brutal & prolonged polar vortex blast that the power grid was under emergency ration. Power companies were forced into rolling blackouts to try to keep the grid from crashing.
Here’s how we kept warm even when the power went out.
Layer Clothing To Retain Body Heat
The first thing you’ll want to do is try to keep your body heat close. You can help trap heat close to your body if you add layers in your clothing.
When the power goes out and we’re trying to stay warm, I’ll pile on several layers of clothing.
I’ll put on leggings and then sweat pants over them. I’ll put on a lightweight long-sleeve shirt covered with a sweatshirt, and then a sweater. If it’s still cold I’ll even add a hoodie on top of it all.
Shoes & socks are necessary to keep the feet warm. And I even have some adorable homemade fingerless gloves for my hands!
If You Have A Gas-Powered Cooktop
If your home has a gas stove you’re in luck! That means you’re typically able to heat food and water even though the electricity is out.
We have to use a lighter or matches to actually light the stove because the electronic ignition is electric powered. But it’s been wonderful to have this cooking option!
NOTE: It’s not recommended that you use your gas cooktop to try to heat your home. According to the Office of Tenant Advocate, cooking fuel can burn incompletely and over time build deadly carbon monoxide inside your home.
So use your cooktop for typical short-duration cooking only!
If Possible, Eat Hot Food To Stay Warm
But if you have a gas cooktop, now’s a good time to do some cooking. Heck simmer up some Hot Soup or something.
Not only will the act of cooking add a bit of welcome heat to your living area, but eating hot soup will help warm you from the inside as well.
Plus, eating food gives you energy, and energy is heat.
Will Hot Drinks Warm Your Body?
Yes, sipping hot liquids helps too. It’s important to stay away from caffeine & alcohol so decaffeinated hot tea or just hot water flavored with lemon slices are good options.
I like to drink hot tea. And although we have a gas cooktop in our home, I’ll often fill a pot or tea kettle with water and place it on the top of our cast iron freestanding wood-burning fireplace to heat it for free.
Once the water’s hot I can pour it into chunky mugs and steep some hot tea for RancherMan & myself to enjoy. Aaaahhhh…
Keep Cold From Coming Through Window Glass
The chill hitting that window glass will transfer right into the house, adding cold air to the very area you’re trying to keep warm.
So be sure to close the blinds and pull heavy curtains over windows to keep as much of that cold as possible from entering your living space.
Maybe even further cover windows with sheets or towels. Anything that can cover the glass & add some insulation from the cold window and keep the inside warmer.
But if the sun is shining through some of your windows you can open the blinds/curtains (on sunny windows only) and let the sun shine in. That will radiate some of that welcome sun-heated air into the house.
To further capitalize on the sun’s heat – you can lay a dark-colored sheet or towel on the floor where the sunshine can shine on it.
The dark fabric soaks up that incoming heat even more. That will add additional warmth to the area to radiate into the house.
How To Keep Cold Air Away From Doors
You want to block any air infiltration from beneath your exterior doors too. It’s easy, you can just use rolled towels pressed up against the bottom of the door to block any cold air from coming into the house from the threshold of outside doors.
Also, try not to open & close those exterior doors unless absolutely necessary. Each time you open that door to go outside, some of the warmth you’ve worked so hard for goes out.
And worse yet, cold air comes streaming inside. Plus since the power’s out it’s even harder to replace that warmth.
But if you must go out, try to exit through a passage door in an attached garage to keep that cold outdoor blast from coming directly into the house when the door is opened.
Fireplace Warmth Is Twice As Nice
If you have a fireplace, now’s the time to put it to good use! Be sure to practice proper fire safety of course, but having a fire burning will certainly help heat your living space.
We have a vintage Franklin cast-iron fireplace and that bad boy will put out some heat that’s for sure!
When we get the fire going we’ll often close off the inside doors to any extra rooms (that don’t share a wall with an outdoor faucet) so we can concentrate that heat to a more confined area. That helps even a little heat to go a long way.
Other Things We Keep In Mind During A Cold Snap:
- Protect Exterior Water faucets
Those exposed water faucets outside your home will freeze easily when the temperatures go down. Luckily it’s super easy to protect them with inexpensive insulated *Faucet Covers.
By covering them with insulated covers it will help the faucet and any water inside the pipes to withstand the cold air.
It’s an easy, inexpensive and important way to protect those faucets when the weather turns cold. And it’s typically the very first step we take when we’re expecting freezing temps.
- Rooms Sharing Walls With Outside Faucet
As I mentioned, we close up extra rooms to concentrate heat in a smaller space. But we’re careful to keep doors open to any rooms that share a wall with an outside faucet.
We want those rooms to at least have enough radiating heat from inside to help keep outside faucets from freezing quite as easily.
- Keep Kitchen Or Bathroom Sink Pipes From Freezing
If you have kitchen or bathroom sinks with plumbing that goes through an exterior wall, you’ll want to help prevent those pipes from getting too cold.
We open the cabinet doors beneath the sink so the heat we’re keeping inside the house can also help keep those pipes warmer and (hopefully) keep them from freezing.
During this record-breaking sub-zero freeze, RancherMan actually took it a step further. He removed the doors completely from those under-sink cabinets.
During the short periods of time when our power was on during the blackouts, he placed a lamp containing a heat-producing *incandescent lightbulb next to the cabinet opening until the rolling blackout shut down our electricity again. Just a little extra heat going to a problem area to further help protect from frozen pipes.
- Moving Water Is Harder To Freeze
It’s recommended that you allow a faucet which has plumbing on exterior walls to drip. According to the American Red Cross, water moving through those pipes just makes it a little harder for them to freeze up.
You don’t have to have the water actually running, Just a trickle will do. I’ve read you only need it to be dripping about 5-10 drips per minute. But we often have it dripping about once every 3-5 seconds.
- Capture Dripping Faucet Water For Use
RancherMan & I capture that dripping water into a large pitcher. That way when our county water system goes down due to widespread prolonged electric outage, we’ll at least have some water for drinking, cooking or even flushing toilets.
Plus it keeps that dripping water from just being wasted.
- Keep Excess Water From Septic Lines
Also, since we live in the country we’re on a aerobic septic system. So RancherMan wants as little excess water as possible running through the septic lines to reduce the chance that our sprinkler heads in the leach field will freeze.
So reserving the dripping water for emergency use instead of just allowing it to run down the drain is another way of protecting our pipes.
Ways NOT To Heat Your Home!
- Do NOT Run Generators Inside
Please, please, PLEASE y’all – don’t ever run a generator inside – or even outside close to a window or door! So many tragedies happen when whole families are killed from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is an invisible odorless gas and it’s deadly! Generators should only be run outside and also a safe distance away from doors & windows so wind can’t blow those fumes into the house.
- Propane Heaters Not Made For Indoors
Those fun tower heaters powered by a propane bottle are great for outside patios. But it’s dangerous to run propane heaters inside that are not specially made to be run indoors.
- Use Propane-Powered Gas BBQ Grills Only Outside
And gas BBQ grills burning inside for heat? Just NO. Not even in a garage. They’re dangerous to use as a heat source.
- Propane or Gas Stove Burners For Cooking Only
And as mentioned, never attempt to use your stove’s gas burners to actually heat your home. Only keep stove burners on long enough to cook food, never as an actual room heat source.
It’s important to stay warm but even more important to do so safely for you and your family!
These are just a few things that we try to keep in mind when the weather turns cold and the power goes off. What are your best tips for staying warm when the power is out?
Links In This Post
- Fingerless gloves
- *Faucet Covers
- 10 Delicious Hot Soup Ideas
- Using Blinds To Warm A Room
- *Heat-producing incandescent lightbulb
Other Preparedness Posts
- How To Stay Warm When The Power Goes Out
- Easiest Self-Sufficiency Steps To Take
- How To Prepare For An Electrical Outage Emergency
- Temporary Power In An Emergency Electric Outage
- 3 Rainwater Collection Systems We Use
- Emergency Preparedness With A Solar Oven
- Is Food Past The Expiration Date Safe To Eat?
- Simplify Your Estate – Document These Numbers NOW!
- Safety From The Storm: Underground Storm Shelter
- What To Stock In Our Underground Storm Shelter
- Spring Maintenance Tips For A Storm Shelter
Our Weather-Related Preparedness Posts
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- Office Of Tenant Advocate: Don’t Use Cooking Appliance For Heating Your Home
- American Red Cross: Winter Storm, Preventing Frozen Pipes
Good tips! Up here in the “Frozen Tundra” of Wisconsin, we are always ready for cold weather, but I feel for you all in Texas. It’s been below zero (and was down to -25 this week) here for a couple weeks. Here most people have an alternative heat source like a wood stove or fireplace. We heat our home exclusively with our free-standing wood stove in the living room all winter. When it gets really cold, we have another wood stove in the basement that we light up to make sure the pipes don’t freeze. Praying for you all!
If your home has a fireplace you’re certainly in a better position when the power goes out than a home without one. Our fireplace has been a lifesaver during all our power outages. We anticipated the coming weather and spent several days cutting/stacking/splitting wood to make sure we didn’t run out, although we’re going through a lot of it with this artic system. But so blessed to be able to use these tips (and especially our fireplace) and at least stay warm. My heart goes out to the many who are suffering in the prolonged cold. ~TxH~
We’ve done all of these. We’ve been lucky that we haven’t yet, lost power. We have a propane fireplace that we’re using to heat with. We do have the central heat on, but not as high as usual.
One thing about the generators if you’re all electric, get some electric heaters when or before you get the generator. One of our children bought a generator, but they couldn’t find any heaters. Since they have horses, they can’t just leave them. They are sticking it out. Not sure how, though.
A cold Texan
Ug, I think we’re all *SO* over this winter blast Deborah. Thanks for your tip. Y’all stay warm & stay safe! ~TxH~
I’m a New Englander, & these are great tips! We had a giant ice/snow storm one October a few years ago, & we lost power for a week. Because I have parrots, I had my poor husband heating landscaping rocks on the grill to put in their cages to keep them warm, & I didn’t lose any. That said, you should only use fire bricks, because they’re less apt to explode from the heat (we’re stuck with an electric stove >:-(
That’s awesome that y’all found a way to care for your parrots, Laurinda. Necessity truly is the mother of invention, right? ~TxH~