Normally we think of heat needs in simple terms. Are we warm enough? Most people depend on some sort of fuel to heat their homes during the winter. A principle of self reliance is to consider what you would do if that heat source was cut off, through lack of fuel, machinery breakdown or even if you are injured and can’t do the maintenance (put wood on the fire).

Heat issues need to be addressed before an emergency, where normal heating methods or the means to deliver heat are at risk. If you plan in advance, you can avoid the extremes of cold and the property damage that could result.

Heat Issues

• staying warm • purifying water (if applicable) • cooking food • preventing your home’s water system from freezing (and bursting) • preventing stored water, food and other supplies from freezing

Personal Space Heating

Reduce the need for personal heat: stock additional warm clothing, woolly footwear, bulky sweaters and insulated bedding.

Minimize The Need For Heat

Preparing to live without normal sources of heat requires organized steps that begin with minimizing the need for heat. Think in terms of heat-wise choices.

You can minimize the need for heat, no matter where you live, by carefully attending to every heat sensitive detail of your home. Renters and high-rise dwellers won’t be able to modify their homes much, so they will have to develop more of a camping lifestyle during any crisis.

Identify Freeze-sensitive Products

Reduce your supply of products that could be damaged by freezing by storing products in alternate forms. Example: choose dehydrated fruits instead of canned fruits. Store water in containers that will allow it to expand without splitting (water expands 10% when it freezes).

Store everything that could be damaged by freezing (paints, foods . . .) in a space with a heater that is independent of all outside power and fuel. In the country, a root cellar is ideal; such a room can be built into most homes.

Determine which rooms will be heated and block off the rest of the home. Arrange heat sources for area heating and for cooking that are independent of outside power. Use eco-fuels if possible.

Freeze-proofing Your Home

Analyze all the water lines and sources of water in your home. The freeze-proof quick fix, is to put heat tape on sensitive lines and install a generator to ensure electrical power. This is good if you’ll still have general home heat and running water in a power outage. If you won’t have water coming in anyway, the most effective way of protecting your home from freezing, in a power failure, is to drain all water from everything – quickly, before it freezes.

Draining the water from everything means methodically going over all your plumbing and installing manual (or electrical) drains at every low spot in your pipes. Any place water can accumulate and freeze is a potential split in the pipe when the heat comes back on.

Sometimes people can use an air compressor (alternatively powered) that allows them to use air pressure to blow the water out of their lines.

Besides the water pipes, you’ll need to drain the water pump pressure tank, the water heater, the sinks, washers and tub traps, toilet bowl and tank (use a sponge), the dishwasher and clothes washer.

In any case, practice and perfect your own water drain techniques. Make them easy enough for a child to carry out in the cold. Teach everyone how to drain water so that whomever is home can do what’s needed.

Another note is ‘antifreeze’ solutions. These are usually not drinkable, so it is usually not a good idea to put them in water lines that you expect to drink out of. But it is an option that will prevent water from splitting your pipes.

Non-electric Heating . . .

A number of reputable companies make portable space heaters; catalytic radiant heaters; cook stoves; barbecues and lanterns that are powered by alcohol, kerosene, white gas or propane. Look for units that are designed to used indoors and do not require electricity to operate (no fans, electrical thermostats ..).

At -30°C an average 1,000 square ft. house can be kept warm with a 60,000 BTU/hr heater rating. (portable non-electric space heaters are not usually available in more than 40,000 BTU each.) It is usually better to use more, smaller capacity units, than a larger one. It is not advisable to move units from room to room.

It is also possible and commonly done, to either convert the home’s heating system to low voltage DC and provide a battery backup, or to install an inverter and provide a battery backup. This allows homes that burn a fuel to maintain their heating system pumps, fans, thermostats, automatic disconnects, etc…

Storing Fuel

Extreme care needs to be taken in deciding how to store fuel for heating. For apartment dwellers this will be a challenge that will have to be discussed with your landlord. Enlist the advice of your fire department in determining which fuels are most appropriate for your situation.

Indoor Fire Safety

Non-electric heaters, lighting and cooking devices each have a flame. Indoor fires require careful fire prevention practices. Consult your fire department for guides and follow their recommendations for evacuation plans.

• Never leave an open fire unattended (particularly candles) • Do not place hot appliances on or near anything that can burn • Make sure hot appliances will not fall or get knocked over. • Install battery operated carbon monoxide monitoring devices. • make sure you have adequate ventilation.



  • Get rest

  • Eat well

  • Stay dry

  • Stay active

  • Avoid perspiring

  • Avoid wind

  • Avoid cold

  • What is hypothermia?

A drop of 1° or more in the body’s core temperature.

Stage 1: shivering; difficulty speaking; memory lapse; become indecisive; can not think logically

Stage 2: shivering decreases, but muscles become rigid; thinking impaired; cannot speak; can still walk; heart beat low

Stage 3: actions become unco-ordinated; person is lethargic; pulse slows; irrational

Stage 4: uncon-sciousness; core temperature still drops even if body is warmed; must have medical aid to recover.


Fuel needs for a winter’s use will depend on the severity of the cold. To heat half of your 1,000 square ft home (500 sq, ft.), you would use approximately 1L /0.25 gal. per hour. At that rate you will need 112 L / 30 gal. of fuel every 5 days.